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Haunted Statehouse tours share, not scare

Kaitlyn Lyle / Lantern reporter

Halloween might be a few weeks away, but the Haunted Statehouse tours at the Ohio Statehouse have already begun.

The tours give a ghostly version of some of Ohio’s political history. Visitors are led through the Statehouse by lantern light and guides in 1880s attire into rooms with various historical recreations.

“While it’s not a goblin, ghoulish sort of scary tour like you typically see in haunted houses, it lends itself to this time frame.” said Gregg Dodd, deputy director of communications for the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

The CSRAB is the managing agency for the Ohio Statehouse.

The Ohio Statehouse is the only statehouse known to hold such an event, Dodd said.

The Ohio Statehouse has been holding the Haunted Statehouse tours for 13 years. The idea for the tour was originally created jointly between The Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Statehouse, Dodd said.

This year’s tours were sold out in about a week. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, as the tours have sold out for the last six years, Dodd said.

The Haunted Statehouse tour is held Friday and Saturday for two weekends this October (Oct. 14, 15 and Oct. 21, 22), with tours departing every half hour from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Each tour lasts approximately 35-45 minutes, and has a limit of 40 visitors per tour, with this year’s sold-out tours bringing a total of 800 people through the Statehouse doors.

Most of the expenses for the tour are staff pay, Dodd said. The entire event costs about $500 to put on each year. The revenue made from the event goes into funding educational events at the Ohio Statehouse.

The tour changes almost every year, with certain stories being added or dropped from the program. The stories are based on handed-down legends and historical facts about Ohio or the Ohio Statehouse itself, according to Dodd.

This year, there was no new story added, Dodd said, because of staff cuts and last-minute cancellations. Special effects with lighting and smoke machines were added to the tour to make the experience new for this year’s visitors.

One of this year’s stops during the tour was a visit to a replica of former President Abraham Lincoln’s coffin. Visitors walk around Lincoln’s coffin, situated in the rotunda in the Statehouse, as history is given on the event.

This part of the tour is based on the actual showing of Lincoln’s coffin in the rotunda at the Ohio Statehouse on April 29, 1865, which 50,000 people from Franklin County attended.

Other stops on the tour include a visit to Victoria Claffin Woodhall, who ran for president against Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 and claimed to have psychic visions and see ghosts. Visitors also encounter President Lincoln waltzing at a dance with Kate Chase, daughter of former Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase, in the Senate Chamber.

Although the tour is child and family friendly, Dodd said the majority of visitors tend to be adults.

“For the most part we see adults. The tour’s not geared toward small kids or even teenagers per say… (mostly) people that love history,” Dodd said.

Volunteers make up many of the actors and tour guides each year. The statehouse recruits some volunteers, while others return each year.

“Many of them are theater-minded individuals, people who love the theater, because they become the character,” Dodd said.

Though planning for the next tour won’t start until January, students interested in volunteering for next year’s tours can contact the Ohio Statehouse.

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