Savvy businesses use talk of the supernatural to have more than a ghost of a chance of success.
Oct. 30--Halloween or not, strange goings-on have long been rumored at Liberty's old Odd Fellows Home. As new owners convert it to the Belvoir Winery, they've also heard things they can't easily explain. So "who ya gonna call"? Certainly not the Ghostbusters.
These "supernatural" tenants are drawing in paying customers who want to hear their stories and perhaps see paranormal activity. There's "Ghosts and Grapes," a winetasting and tour for $25 a person, and Paranormal Tours, where for $50 customers can get their hands on the ghost hunting equipment. The fees are helping to pay for the renovation and will continue to add to the coffers once the winery opens in a couple of weeks.
"There's an excitement when they come in ... just the idea they might see something," said Jesse Leimkuehler, chief executive officer of the winery and son-in-law of owner John Bean.
Sometimes they do see something, Leimkuehler said.
Sometimes they don't, "so then they want to come back."
Hauntings might not seem the thing to advertise -- just watch "The Amityville Horror" and you don't need anyone to tell you 'Get out!' But a few savvy businesses are not only bragging about their ghosts, they're using them to boost the bottom line.
This year, Full Moon Productions -- known for its West Bottoms haunted houses (the simulated kind) -- launched "Kansas City's Ghosts & Gangsters Tour." For $25 a person, the bus tour travels by legendary paranormal places -- the Hotel Savoy (rumored to be haunted by Betsy Ward, who died in Room 505 but never checked out) and St. Mary's Episcopal Church (where Rev. Henry David Jardine died under mysterious circumstances).
"The response was more than we could have dreamed," said Amber Arnett-Bequeaith, vice president of Full Moon Productions. "It's a different audience than our haunted houses, a little older, who are interested in the history of Kansas City. The intrigue of the paranormal and the folklore adds to the excitement."
The Kansas City Ghosts & Gangsters Tour is nearly sold out through the end of the year. Full Moon plans to extend it year-round.
On Thursday, Full Moon announced plans for a deluxe paranormal investigative tour, the Full Moon Ghost Hunt, kicking off next Friday. It starts at $280 a person for a three-hour event to $700 per person for a half day.
A Civil War ghost and history tour probably will be added in 2011.
The Discovery Channel's Ghost Lab also shot a segment on the real hauntings at Full Moon's haunted houses. It will air in December.
Even nonprofits are making money off supernatural happenings.
The John Wornall House Museum in Brookside once temporarily served as a Civil War hospital. Over the years, many visitors to the house at 6115 Wornall Road have spied a blue-coated soldier still standing guard on the main staircase, gun pointed at the front door.
"We have a lot of sightings of soldiers, as well as members of the Wornall family," said executive director Kandice Walker.
Walker once glimpsed two little girls looking out the window when she knew no one was in the house. She blew it off, thinking there was a rational explanation. Then a neighbor of the museum stopped her to see if the little girls inside could come out and play with her young son.
Interest in the Wornall House spirits was so strong the museum started an hourlong "Lantern Tour" about three years ago.
In the weeks before Halloween -- and sometimes in the spring -- docents discuss the hauntings, members of the Missouri Irish Brigade of Civil War Reenactors tell ghost stories around the campfire, and the Missouri Paranormal Society sets up ghost hunting equipment and shows video of previous unnatural encounters.
Given the Savoy's long history -- 1888 for the building, 1903 for the grill -- you would think a ghost or two would still be hanging around. But owner Don Lee dismisses the idea, despite being on the Ghosts & Gangsters Tour.
"We're not in the haunted house business. We had an old lady who was living in the hotel who said she was seeing spirits. But I think they were coming out of the vodka bottle," Lee said.
See for yourself
Local paranormal investigators C.R.E.E.P.Z Ghost Commandos has posted videos of its findings on YouTube.
-- John Wornall House Museum: www.youtube. com/watch?v= XboJybOvXyM
-- My Granny's Attic Antiques in Lenexa: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=CHfwIqNvoH8
To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.