CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The city of Charlotte dates back to the 1760 s. Sometimes amid the shine of what is certainly a newer uptown, it is easy to forget the Queen City s history.
Several tour companies are trying to keep the stories alive, including Carolina History & Haunts.
About 12 years ago my wife asked me to go with her on a ghost tour in Lexington, Virginia and I didn t know what a ghost tour was and I was making fun of her, Dan Riedel said as he waited for his tour group to gather outside the Hearst Tower in Uptown. We started planning out trips around it. Does this place have a ghost tour? We went on Lexington s tour so many times that the man looked at us and said, have you ever thought about opening your own tour?
The couple started their own company four years ago in Greensboro, and a little more than a year ago expanded to Charlotte.
On a recent Saturday night in center city, 30 people gathered in freezing temperatures to take Riedel s tour. The first stop was RiRa Irish Pub on North Tryon Street. It has a bar that dates back to early 1800 s Ireland, and workers say ghost stories abound.
Some workers in the basement notice cold spots in certain areas on the first floor. People notice men in period dress walking around then turn back and they re not here, Riedel told the crowd.
Just down the street, the 1927 Carolina Theatre is just a shell now. There are efforts to restore it, and Riedel found the stories of a caretaker inside intriguing.
The only lights on were shining down on the stage and that is where he was, he explained. He heard something up in the balcony. There was a man standing in the balcony staring down at him.
In addition, light bulbs just replaced would suddenly burn out.
Across the street, The Dunhill Hotel opened as the Mayfair Manor in 1929. It is one of uptown s oldest buildings, and Riedel claims some strange phenomenon heard from workers inside.
They said every time they would go in this one room, they would get this strange feeling. The best way to describe that feeling is if you ve ever had that feeling that runs up your spine, he described.
From there, the tour headed down the hill to the Settlers Place Condominiums. The building was finished in 1907 to house the North Carolina Medical College. There is an eerie tale to go with it.
What these medical colleges would rely on to get their cadavers was grave-robbing, he said.
Behind that building is Settlers Cemetery, where there are 300 plus headstones, but some estimate more than 2,000 bodies are buried there. For some on the tour, like Keith and Shannon Lutz, the trek through the cemetery was the highlight of the night.
I want to come in the daytime and read some of the headstones, Keith said.
I walk through it every day because I work here, and so it was interesting to find out the history behind it, said Shannon.
This tour is, at times, more history than haunts. But that s what Riedel set out to do.
Anyone can tell you the ghost stories, but what I m doing tonight is combining a lot of history with it, he said.
Carolina History & Haunts (www.carolinahistoryandhaunts.com) is one of at least three tours now focused on Charlotte s past.
Another is offered around Halloween by longtime tour company Queen City Tours (www.queencitytours.com). Charlotte NC Tours (www.charlottenctours.com) also has a ghost tour. This one is by foot or Segway.
And if you like a beer while you hear the tales, they started a haunted pub crawl, which of course stops at the above mentioned RiRa Irish Pub.