What’s the best way to take in all the chills and thrills that downtown Lawrenceville has to offer this Halloween season?
One step at a time.
The Lawrenceville Haunted Ghost Tours have been a community staple for nearly two decades and have expanded over the years to include the Lawrenceville Haunted Cemetery Tour and the Lawrenceville Haunted Pub Crawl, among other spooky happenings.
Hosted by guides from the venerable Aurora Theatre, the Ghost Tours and their auxiliary events kicked off on Sept. 10 and will continue through Oct. 31.
Timothy Whitson, director and manager of the Ghost Tours (which is advertised as “free of gore or jump-scare startles”), said the event has evolved to incorporate more of Lawrenceville’s eerie history.
“It’s changed a number of times throughout the years,” said Whitson, whose involvement with the 90-minute tours began in 2015. “At the beginning it was quite fictional – basically ghost stories loosely based on the history of the town. But as it progressed, Cynthia Rintye, the previous tour director, brought it much closer to historical accuracy.
“Instead of having ghost stories of things that happened kind of around Lawrenceville the stories started to get tuned into the downtown area. Cynthia brought it into very local history, which was very exciting. Currently, every story we tell is rooted in some historical fact or newspaper article or personal experience that is within a mile of the downtown area.”
Whitson added that the Cemetery Tours attract those who want to take a deeper creepy dive into the city’s past. The cemetery is considered a paranormal hotspot and – like most cemeteries – is a rather unsettling place to be, especially after dark.
“I think people want to poke around and see what paranormal things might be there,” he said. “They enjoy coming down, and a lot of people just enjoy the rich history we’ve got down there. There are a lot of well-known names from Lawrenceville there, the names we see throughout downtown. It’s an opportunity to explore the stories around them and an opportunity to discover something.”
Noting that the two tours “build off one another,” Whitson added that the Ghost Tours include walking about one mile with opportunities to sit, and that the Cemetery Tours are a bit more rigorous, with more walking and fewer places to sit.
“If you’re looking for the easier walk and sit and relax, take the walking tour,” he said. “If you’re ready to really dig into it, take the cemetery tour.”
The pub crawl, referred to as “Brews and Boos,” will take place Sept. 22 through Oct. 27 and includes entertainment and drinks from Exhibit Al(e), Cosmos Pizza + Social and McCray’s Tavern on the downtown Square.
“The haunted pub crawl is for the folks who want to leave their kids at home and go out and hear some pretty spooky adult-themed stories and have a drink downtown and have a good time,” said Whitson of “Brews and Boos.”
In connection with the Ghost Tour, an event called “Spirits and Spirits” will be held Oct. 29.
“It’s definitely an adult-themed event, but in the same vein as the Ghost Tours,” Whitson said. “For the folks who would enjoy the pub crawl, this will be held in the new courtyard at Aurora. We can fit a couple hundred people and we will have a bar, storytellers and comedians. It’s going to be fun, and quite frankly, the stories may be too scary for me.”
In light of the current COVID situation, thrill-seekers who want to avoid crowds can book a private Ghost Tour and Aurora also offers a self-guided virtual tour, which includes walking directions and digital map.
There’s even an at-home version of the tour available. Also, for all outdoor performances, those not full vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask and masks must be worn at all times in the theater lobby for ticket pickup or to use the restrooms. All Aurora staffers and volunteers will be masked.
“We’re bringing things back more full force,” Whitson said. “We had some tours last year, but with all the restrictions we really scaled back. This year we’re stepping into a more full schedule of what the ghost tours have been.
“Something we are making more accessible this year, we learned from COVID lockdowns from last year, is we’ve adjusted pricing on a private tour. If you have a group of at least six people, it’s pretty much the same price to do a private tour as it is to buy everyone a ticket.
“For folks who just want it to be in their own group or are concerned about size – because there are as many as 25 folks for a tour – can call the theater and ask about a private tour. We’ve got a bunch of guides on deck who are ready and excited to step into that.”
Whitson, who portrays Ellijay expatriate Eli Loveless when he leads Ghost and Cemetery tours, said he still gets a kick out of the scary scene, which attracts several thousand visitors each year.
“As with everything, there’s stuff you’ve got to push yourself to do but once you start doing it, you start to realize why you loved it,” he said. “I’m not taking as many tours has I have in the past but it’s because it’s been such a joy to see these guides, some of whom have been doing this longer than I have, really blossom.”
For more information on times and dates and ticket prices, call the Aurora Theatre box office at 678-226-6222 or visit www.auroratheatre.com.