|A couple of weeks ago I sent out a “Call for Ghost Stories” on this Blog and when I read the Akron Beacon article from Monday on the same topic, I thought it was worth reprinting it here. The local Kent folks behind this effort are hoping to ride the wave of popularity of ghost tours and storytelling to attract more people to visit Kent, so this is as much about economic development as it is the supernatural. If you have any doubts on the popularity of ghost tours just Google it and you’ll get 2,400,000 hits. I’ve shared examples of what other cities are doing to give you a flavor of what’s possible here. From big cities to small villages, everybody is cashing-in on haunted happenings.
Posted on Mon, Jun. 18, 2007
Conjuring hair-raising ghost stories
By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer
KENT – Spend a little time upstairs at the Masonic Temple and you might just see her.
The ghost of Kitty Kent, who was fatally burned filling an oil stove inside the house in 1886.
She makes an occasional appearance in a white flowing dress, unwilling for some reason to move on to the other realm.
Or so the ghost story goes.
Main Street Kent and the Kent Historical Society are documenting that story and others as part of an effort to gather tales about haunted houses and buildings in the city. They plan to turn those stories into a book and formal ghost walk this Halloween.
One problem. They need stories.
Now through June 29, organizers are soliciting stories from the public. Then, come Oct. 26, the best stories will be retold during the ghost walk.
“Everyone loves a raise-the-hair-on-your arms ghost story and Kent has dozens of them,” said Sandy Halem, head of the Kent Historical Society. “They’re part of the lore of the town and a fun way to learn about some of our local history.”
But Halem laughs when asked if she really believes in ghosts.
“I’m an open skeptic,” she said.
Ghost walks and tours are big business, said Chris Woodyard, a Dayton author who has penned the Haunted Ohio series of books and Spooky Ohio and runs the Web site www.invink.com.
“There are tours springing up all over,” she said. “There are more every year. I thought it would be a fad and would die.”
Some people have simply made up ghost stories and then started ghost walks or tours to take advantage of the fascination with the supernatural. It’s better when groups such as historical societies get involved, she said.
Woodyard is familiar with just one ghost story from Kent. Kent State University’s Van Campen Hall was haunted in the early 1970s by Nathan Richards, who contacted the living through a Ouija board. He claimed to have been born in the 1830s and hanged for murder in Dayton.
“The spirit created poltergeist-like activity both at Korb Hall, where the original Ouija session took place, and at Van Campen, where the two students moved the next fall,” Woodyard said.
As for the Masonic Temple spookiness, there are believers.
Treasurer and past Master Jerry Katzenmeyer recalled a story a few years ago when a group of Boy Scout leaders visited the building for an awards ceremony. One of the men, who had no knowledge of the Kitty Kent story, decided to take a tour by himself.
“He walked upstairs on the second floor and five minutes later he came back downstairs and he had a funny look on his face,” Katzenmeyer said. “He said, `I didn’t mean to disturb the house. I thought we were the only ones in the building.’
Katzenmeyer replied that they were the only people there.
“He said he was looking down the hallway and this woman in a white flowing dress walked from one room to another,” he said. “He witnessed Kitty.”
Katzenmeyer himself hasn’t had any encounters.
James Clark, a Masonic member since 1954, said he’s not sure if Kent really haunts the building.
“I never had any problems, except that once and a while you think you see something but it’s not there,” he said. “And you feel a little air moving.
“I wouldn’t blame Kitty for staying around because it’s a beautiful place.”
Here’s a sampling of what other cities are promoting — including many in Ohio.