‘Trail of Terror’ ghost tour mixes history and horror

Graham Shapley

Halloween may strike some as a good time to go out looking for spirits, but for the uninitiated, a ghost-hunt may be intimidating.

The Fort Collins Ghost Tour takes guest through haunted underground venues throughout Old Town. (Collegian file photo)

What sorts of equipment do you take? Where do you even go to find ghosts? What’s the history behind these ghosts, and why are they here? Luckily for the brave few who want to track down centers of supernatural phenomena but don’t want to go it alone, Fort Collins is home to an assortment of tours that share both history and horror.

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Dressed in a Victorian-style black dress and matching hat, local writer, tour guide and historian Suzy Riding leads the Trail of Terror Fort Collins Ghost Tour, a walking tour through some of the haunted hotspots of Old Town.

“The best way to teach history is through ghost stories,” Riding said.

Riding has spent an estimated 10,000 hours of research on her tour, trying to pick out the horrific bits of Fort Collins’ history and present them to her tour-goers. The tour visits four haunted basements around Old Town, including Walrus Ice Cream, where Riding did work to figure out the identity of their ghost, and Beau Jo’s Pizza. Walrus Ice Cream even promotes their ghost story with a plaque on the wall and an image of their ghost on the door leading to the basement.

The Trail of Terror Tour is Friday and Saturday evenings in Old Town starting at Happy Lucky’s Tea House. $15 tickets available at www.themagicbustours.com

From the basement of the Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, formerly the municipal jail, to the spooky connection between Fort Collins and Disneyland, it feels as if Riding has a ghost story about every building in town. This is fitting, as she believes that nearly every building in town is haunted by one ghost or another.

“I’ve shown business owners pictures of people who used to live or work there,” Riding said. “They’ve often said something like ‘I’ve seen that guy, that’s my ghost!’”

The tour also incorporates the tools of ghost-hunting: electromagnetic field detectors, which will blink rapidly when held up to either copper and other metals or in the presence of ghosts, and a ghost-radar app which gives spirits a way to communicate by providing a list of words to be read out.

“I’ve shown business owners pictures of people who used to live or work there. They’ve often said something like ‘I’ve seen that guy, that’s my ghost!’” -Suzy Riding, Fort Collins writer, tour guide, and historian. 

Unfortunately, the tour can’t guarantee a spectral encounter. Riding suggests that only about one ghostly experience happens per week of tours, and there is no way to predict it. These moments of otherworldly occurrences range from the feeling of a hand on one’s back to having your leg grabbed by something outside of perception.

Should you go on the tour? If you’re interested in the history of Fort Collins.

I didn’t experience anything personally, but Riding is a good enough storyteller that you want to believe even without proof. At the very least you’ll come out of the tour with some new bits of history and information to share with friends on your visits to Old Town. For those who are looking to meet a ghost, it’s possible, but don’t get your hopes up.

Collegian reporter Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham.

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