There are different types of ghosts out there. When the echoes of history are heard clearly into the present, we call those "the ghosts of the past."
That's the kind of ghost locals will get to enjoy at this Friday's Pulaski County History Walk Ghost Walk.
The normally active summer of the Pulaski County History Walk group encountered some hiccups this year, but the dedicated crew of amateur historians and actors are returning just in time for the spooky season. This year, the tour is combining two of its most popular annual themes — the "Ghost Walk," which focuses on local legends, and the Cemetery Walk, hosted in the Somerset City Cemetery — into one seasonally appropriate experience that promises to be both educational and entertaining — and all for a good cause.
"The first couple of years, we did a 'Moonlight Walk' in the cemetery, then we did it in the summer when there was more daylight," said Melanie King of the Somerset Junior Woman's Club (SJWC), which sponsors the event. But going "after dark" in the cemetery does have its own unique flavor. "When it gets dark, sometimes your imagination lets you see all kinds of things in the cemetery."
As a non-profit organization, the SJWC typically uses proceeds raised to help with their civic and charitable causes. In this case, the Stone by Stone Project, which is purposed toward restoration and upkeep of headstones in the city cemetery, is the beneficiary.
Five individuals whose spirits linger on in some form or fashion in this community — through whispered stories or the power of memory — will be portrayed by local individuals who have helped research that person from Pulaski's past and learned about their life, to present it in character.
"The stories we're doing are fairly well-known," said King. "Everybody pretty well knows (the Somerset City Cemetery) is where they were buried."
• Clara Morrow, whose name is associated with the soccer field behind Somerset High School. Morrow, who died at the tender age of 9 years old, is the subject of one of the area's more enduring local legends regarding whether or not she can still be seen in the area around the high school. Carly Neal, in her first History Walk appearance, will be playing Morrow.
"There are a lot of rumors about how she became a ghost, but she actually died of meningitis," noted King. "She was actually raised in the area where Oak Lawn is, and there was a family house where the (Somerset Independent) Board of Education building is now."
• Another individual to die tragically at a young age in represents one of the most popular ghost stories in Pulaski County. Mark Thatcher was 10 years old when he was shot by a bow and arrow. Gabe Urgelles, another newcomer, is portraying Thatcher.
While it may be disturbing to think of such young deaths, King notes that it wasn't uncommon in centuries past.
"The mortality rate was extremely high because there were no immunizations," she said. However, Thatcher's death was by accident, and took place while playing with a friend in the empty lot next to the current Carnegie Community Arts Center in downtown Somerset.
"His portrait hung in the Carnegie and at the Pulaski County Public Library," said King. "He probably travels back and forth and loves downtown."
• Thelma Ferrell was the society writer for the Commonwealth Journal until 1969. She'll be played by History Walk veteran Pam Scott.
"She resides at (attorney) Bruce Singleton's office," said King of the reported sightings of Ferrell's spirit.
• Longtime piano teacher Elgie Woods passed away in 2004, and hasn't inspired any real spooky stories in that time, but because of the Piano Park that bears her name at the site of her old home on College Street in Somerset, her spirit lives on in the hearts of the community, noted King. Susan Elmore, a History Walk regular, will portray Woods.
"It's a little bit different type of story," said King.
• Another different approach is the telling of the Sloans Valley Tunnel train wreck, which took place in October of 1890. The disaster was considered one of the worst of the kind in the state, after two trains collided, killing seven and injuring numerous others. The story will not be told in character, but rather King will tell it at the grave of one of the victims of the accident.
"The newspapers said that thousands of people came to the tunnel that night," said King. "I can't even imagine thousands of people coming to the tunnel. Sloans Valley (as a name) went United States-wide because of that crash."
Tickets for the history walk cost $5. They will go on sale at 5:30 p.m. Friday, October 11, at the entrance to the cemetery on West Columbia Street. The tours begin at 6 p.m. Small groups will go out in shifts; people are advised to wear comfortable shoes and watch their step.
Keeping up the traditions and lore of Pulaski County is one of the goals of the History Walk, and like every community, that includes ghost stories which are fun to tell this time of year. With Halloween on the way and the Pulaski County Walker Weekend tying in with the Ghost Walk, it's as good a time as anyway to revisit stories you haven't heard in a long time — or maybe never at all.
"These stories are dying. If we don't bring them back, they'll be gone," said King. "So many folk songs are disappearing because no one is carrying them on. I was talking to someone over the weekend who said (about something), 'I didn't realize that happened in Pulaski County.' A lot of things have happened here."