Walking down the narrow steps to Prost Brewing’s basement is not for the easily scared.
Musty, fetid air engulfs a group of eight Haunted Pub Tour attendees as they sink lower into an earthen pit, the merry sounds of the bar’s upper level slowly fading away.
“Now, I brought you down here to tell you a tale of murder most foul,” says Shane Sheridan, the tour leader and publicist for Fort Collins Tours. He carries a small flashlight, illuminating the gravely floor and cobwebbed beams of the unfinished cellar.
He continues on to tell one of Fort Collins’ most famous ghost stories of James and Eva Howe.
In the 1880s, Mr. Howe apparently beat his young wife so badly during one of his characteristic drunken escapades that she decided she had had enough. She packed up her bags to leave the next day, but James came home early and was not too thrilled to find her escaping.
Sheridan enumerated the rest of the sordid tale.
“James calmly and quietly walks down the front stoop, stands over his wife, reaches into his pocket, produces a knife, opens the blade, bends down and slits open Eva’s cheek,” Sheridan said. “He then switches hands, takes the blade, and plunges it into the side of Eva’s neck. Eva struggles to her feet, staggers out the front fence and says but one word before she collapses: ‘murder.’”
This story was one of dozens Sheridan recounted during the two-hour Haunted Pub Tour.
Fort Collins Tours operates several different ghost tours that exploit the city’s occasionally ghastly history. The Haunted Pub Tour runs on Thursday nights from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. and takes its participants to several of many haunted establishments across town.
This tour began at The Copper Muse, a “house of spirits in more ways than one,” Sheridan said. In the back room of the distillery, various cocktails in hand, the participants quietly listened to Sheridan speak in a theatrical half-British, half-rich-Southerner (think Leonardo DiCaprio in “Django Unchained”) accent about why people have always been interested in ghosts.
“Well, my friends, since this is a haunted pub tour, I find it fitting and proper to ask yourselves one question: do you believe in ghosts?” Sheridan asked.“Now before you hasten to announce it, dear friends, I also find it fitting and proper to look at the origin of the word, ‘ghost.’
Sheridan explained that the English word “ghost” comes from the German word “geist,” which literally translates to “agape” or “a ghast.”
“You see, the ancients believed that when people took their last breath of air on this plane, and from their throat escaped a rather guttural death rattle, a veritable ‘ahhhhhh,’ Sheridan said, emitting a throaty croak, “the soul would exit through the mouth and exit either onto this plane or the next.”
It took a few drinks for people to really settle into the rhythm of Sheridan’s stories, but once they did, they allowed themselves to feel the giddy thrill of being scared in a controlled way.
In the basement of Prost, Sheridan handed one woman an electronic device used to detect paranormal activity and told her to explore the space. She crept closer to a dark closet, detector in hand, when suddenly an exuberant plastic skeleton leapt out from the doorway, its motion sensor apparently tripped. Beer was spilled, screams were emitted and the childlike sense of a Halloween night sent giggles through the crowd.
The tours are unscripted and change on the whims of the tour guides and guests. In addition to ghost tours, the company offers a Progressive Dinner Tour, a Dessert Tour and even a Christmas Shopping Tour. Participants range in ages, but a small group setting makes the tours feel conspiratorial and exciting. Made all the more thrilling by a full moon and a brisk evening, the Haunted Pub Tour made for a light-hearted, unique transition into the Halloween season.
About Haunted Pub Tour:
Hosted By: Fort Collins Ghost Tours
When: Thursday nights
Price: $15 per person
Collegian reporter Casey Setash can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @caseylovesbirds.