Wednesday, October 25, 2000

Waynesville haunts sought

Some say ghosts in records number among antiques

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WAYNESVILLE — They lurk in parlors and old shops, waiting for the annual return of Dennis Dalton and company. It's a long wait, but they don't have a lot of options. They're ghosts.

[photo] Dennis Dalton, dressed as a town crier here at Golden Lamb Restaurant in Lebanon, conducts “Not So Dearly Departed” tours in old homes to search out ghosts.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        On Friday night, Mr. Dalton will escort three groups around town on his “Not So Dearly Departed Tour,” now in its — gasp — 13th year. The tour has become a favorite in this Warren County village, better known for antiques than ghosts — until now.

        “Oh, they're around,” he said. “I started this thing right after I did the "Haunted Hot Dog Roast' in Springboro years ago. It has grown every year. I have to turn people away.”

        Friday's three tours sold out quickly, with 40 people signed on for each.

        “We could have sold 8 million tickets,” said Pam Allen of the Waynesville Chamber of Commerce. “We were swamped with calls. We're the most-haunted town in Ohio, but we've never played up that point. Then earlier this year, one of our members suggested it.

        “Maybe next year we'll add a second day of tours. Dennis is a good storyteller, and he knows his ghosts.”

        He said he has counted 36 “haunted” places in the town of 1,600 living souls. That makes Waynesville the most haunted town in Ohio, according to Chris Woodyard, author of Haunted Ohio.

        Some brave tour guests stay the night in the Hammel House, allegedly haunted by a murdered salesman. Other people dress in costume as they accompany Mr. Dalton, a local historian, on rounds of 13 of the haunted sites.

        They appreciate his theatrical approach, Victorian top hat and colorful cape. “People thoroughly enjoy being scared,” he said. “They come to town for what I call a scare thrill — like going on a roller coaster. They have fun with it — and it's meant to be fun. But I won't scare children and I won't do this on Sunday.”

        Mr. Dalton said townspeople have reported seeing ghosts in the stores, hearing ghostly vocal music and catching glimpses of translucent people.

        The Stetson House is reportedly haunted by Louisa Stetson Larrick, sister of the maker of the Stetson hat. An innkeeper on the Underground Railroad supposedly haunts another building — and walks through walls. And then there are the ghosts of three women killed by an ax murderer in 1879.

        “I make the tours historical,” Mr. Dalton said. “I tell about the times, the buildings and the town. So people leave here with more than just tales of ghosts.”

        During the daytime, Mr. Dalton is the activities director of Cedars of Lebanon retirement home in Lebanon. But his passion is history, and for years he has researched the subject — including Warren County's ghosts. He is planning a special “Not So Dearly Departed Tour” for Lebanon next year.

        “The Golden Lamb reportedly has three ghosts, two of them small girls,” he said. “People have seen a small girl, dressed in a nightgown, watching them. Then she suddenly disappeared.”

        Waynesville's ghosts are less scary.

        “The ghosts are prankish,” Mr. Dalton said. “I've read about malevolent ghosts, but as I always say, "It's the not the dead you should be afraid of, it's the living.'”


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