As the temperature drops and the days get shorter, many of us celebrate by drinking pumpkin spice lattes, sporting a cozy sweater and taking a hike through the woods to witness the splendour of autumn colours.
Others of a different persuasion celebrate the impending chilly air and longer nights, by drinking blood red wine, donning a cape and seeking out eerie locations in search of supernatural spectacles. Most of us lie somewhere in between. It is this third bunch that make the Halloween Ghost Tours at Fort George a popular attraction year after year.
Kyle Upton, ghost tour founder, is usually the one wearing the cape. His guests are the ones that have usually enjoyed a bit of local wine and donned a sweater to hike around Fort George to dip a toe into the realm of the paranormal. Upton himself is not the menacing or sinister character his role as ghost guide might suggest. In fact, he is very upbeat and excited about the upcoming Halloween ghost tours. “The happy news,” he says enthusiastically “is that with the changes recently, we are able to have slightly smaller group sizes than we had last year, it is still at reduced capacity for the ghost tours, but we have access now to the interiors of both the soldier’s barracks as well as the officers’ quarters.” He goes on to explain that in 2020, the summer historical tours were cancelled, but they adapted the Halloween tours to a modified story format.
No new stories have been added, but Upton was happy to note, “for 2021, we are back to more or less the same format of Halloween tours as pre-COVID, other than smaller group sizes and certain protocols just to provide those safeties to our guests.”
About once again donning his cape and guiding guests through the grounds with his lantern, Upton says, “oh my goodness, it’s so good to be back, on multiple levels, just getting back onto the grounds, just the vibe of the fort.” He continues, “to a certain extent for me, it is a partial return to normalcy. I’ve been doing ghost tours since I was 19, so a summer without ghost tours just does not feel like a summer.” It is a return to his familiar stomping grounds and a reunion with his friends and colleagues, whether they be flesh or phantom. “So just being able to share the stories, to reconnect with the atmosphere of the fort, the smells, the tones, the feel of the place and being actually able to look at people in the eyes, maybe you can’t look at their faces entirely, but being able to tell the story and get that vibe back.”
Wearing a mask in public is still a reality for the foreseeable future and Upton says that at least 50% of the guests have been masked for the summer outdoor tours. While not required for the outdoor tours, masks will be required as per provincial mandate for the indoor sections of the tour. Even with masks on, Upton looks forward to watching the faces and body language of the guests as his stories unfold as he makes connections with people. The feedback he gets might come as a widening of the eyes over a mask or a furtive glance over a shoulder into a dark corner of the soldier’s barracks. It is that connection to the stories and the atmosphere of Fort George that Upton says he is happy to share with an attentive audience on a chilly autumn evening.
Since the tours are limited to 16 people, there are fewer tickets available, but Upton says there may be tickets left for a few sweater-clad ghost hunters. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased in advance. Please visit the online store at friendsoffortgeorge.square.site for availability.
Regular tour dates left are Oct. 1, 2, and 3.
Halloween tour dates are Oct. 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, and 29, 30, 31. For tickets visit https://friendsoffortgeorge.square.site/halloween-ghost-tour-tickets.