ARCHIVES: ‘Scranton After Dark’ tour and ‘Trolley of Terror’ ride join forces to scare up downtown history
The only thing scarier than hearing ghost stories may be experiencing one for yourself, which is why the Lackawanna Historical Society is teaming up with the Electric City Trolley Museum Association this year to add a new twist to their previous Halloween traditions.
The annual “Scranton After Dark” walking tour will be combined with the “Trolley of Terror” on Oct. 28-30, beginning at 6 and 8 p.m. each night starting at the Catlin House (232 Monroe Ave., Scranton). Proceeds benefit both organizations, and space is limited. The tour is not recommended for children under the age of 12.
The LHS began their lantern-lit tours two years ago, their guides providing historical background while local paranormal investigators searched for evidence of mysterious phenomenon at local landmarks. As activities with ghost hunters increased throughout the area, the organization decided that rather than attempt to compete, they would instead try something new.
The Electric City Trolley Museum had seen success from their “Trolley of Terror” and haunted museum last year but did not have enough staff or volunteers to take on such a project a second time.
“We wanted to do something different. Last year, they haunted the Trolley Museum and did a little bit of a haunted trolley ride, so it made sense for us to collaborate and try to spruce up both activities, so that’s why we decided to join forces,” LHS Director Mary Ann Moran-Savakinus explained.
“They were looking for a way to continue something that had been successful, but was taxing on her staff, so it’s a good collaboration.”
“It’s a really unique thing to be able to ride the trolley at night. That really can’t be created anywhere else,” Lackawanna County Deputy Director of Arts and Culture Maureen McGuigan added.
“We didn’t have the resources to continue, but that’s what’s great about partnerships.”
Participants of the two-hour program will be led past the Colonnade, the Scranton Cultural Center, the Hotel Jermyn, Courthouse Square, and other places where they can learn what previous paranormal investigations uncovered as well as some scary facts they may not have known about their own hometown.
“Center Street, where the Casey Laundry Building is now, is near the site where the Imperial Underwear Factory was. There was a great fire there at one time. Because there wasn’t enough exits for people to get out, people died and jumped out the windows,” Moran-Savakinus related.
“From there, we’ll go over to Lackawanna Avenue and talk about the Radisson [Hotel] and Lackawanna Station. When it was the train station, if they had to move bodies at any time, there was a morgue in the basement, so there could be [paranormal] activity there.”
Even the trolleys have their own spooky history.
“We actually have a sign that was used in the trolley cars that says ‘Funeral Car.’ They used to actually use some of the trolleys to haul bodies. That’s something we don’t pull out year ‘round,” McGuigan noted with a laugh.
After the walking tour, the trolley tour guide will take over and tell “The Legend of the Black Diamond,” a fictional story created specifically for the tour by an LHS volunteer about a miner who discovered a cursed black diamond. The trolley will take riders past the St. Mary’s Cemetery and through the famous mile-long Laurel Line Tunnel while costumed volunteers add some extra scares.
“We’re sneaking in the history. We’re always trying to promote history wherever we can, so we’re using a very popular Halloween tradition to promote local history,” Moran-Savakinus said.
“I hope it leads people to want to learn more. During the season, if we can do something with the spooky lore or the legends of bad things that happened, then we can take that as a way to show people the importance of researching history. The legends wouldn’t exist if something hadn’t happened in the past. If you get interested in the legend, then you might be driven to go research something in the past.”
McGuigan also believes that it’s not just the scares, but the firsthand experience that will stick with tourists on this macabre yet educational experience.
“It’s experiential learning because you’re getting the facts and the history, but if you can walk and actually see a building where something took place and hear a story or actually sit on the trolley and learn about coal mining, it’s going to stay with you more than if you just hear a lecture. You get to take a ride through a 100-year-old tunnel in the dark. That’s something that’s going to stay with the visitor,” McGuigan said.
“Scranton has a depth to it. It’s an interesting place … and I think ghost stories are everybody’s favorite way of learning about history.”
‘Scranton After Dark’ walking tour and ‘Trolley of Terror’ ride
Location: Tour begins at the Catlin House (232 Monroe Ave., Scranton)
Dates: Oct. 28-30
Times: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. each night
Cost: $22 for LHS members, $24 for non-members
Reservations are required; space is limited. Not recommended for children under 12. Call 570-344-3841 for more info.
Photo of Scranton Cultural Center by Rich Howells/NEPA Scene