The spirits of Hays City walked the streets once again this weekend, as the Hays Community Theatre presented its third-annual Haunted Tours.
Guided through downtown Friday and Saturday nights by such historical figures of Hays history as saloon owners Tommy Drum and Kate Coffey, the tourists learned about local history as portrayed by volunteer actors with HTC.
At the Volga-German Haus on the grounds of the Ellis County Historical Museum, a woman told the story of the settling of the area. Pioneers invited the tourists to join them around their campfire. A mounted posse warned them of Indians in the area, and later, the groups encountered two railroad workers who had been attacked and scalped. Burn victims from a hotel fire told the horrors of trying to escape the flames.
Dance hall girls, lawmen, “soiled doves” and gunfighters told their tales, and in keeping with the spirit of Halloween, the Haunted Alley scared up some ghoulish sites.
The production has become the theater group’s biggest fundraiser, said Sharona Fondoble, who organized this year’s event.
It also helps the group grow, she said.
“We gather our regulars and use them to reach out to other people. It’s a good way to grow the volunteers. It’s a fun thing that anybody can do. It’s not like you have to memorize a whole lot of lines. You just take on the persona and roll with it,” she said.
The haunted tours started as a fundraiser when the group purchased its current building at 118 E. 11th, said Pamela Grizzell. Her husband, Travis, drama teacher at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, took a group of students to London that year to see William Shakespeare’s home and did some extra sight-seeing with a walking tour of Jack the Ripper murder scenes.
“As we walked the sites of the Ripper murders, we said, ‘Yeah, we got better history at home. We could do this,’ ” Grizzell said.
The funds the first year were used to renovate the 11th Street space and add handicapped-accessible bathrooms. Money from this year’s tour will help do the same at the group’s new facility, the former Eagles Lodge, 112 E. Eighth.
“We’ve done the demo and we’re getting ready to start putting it back together,” said Lisa Brooksher, an architect and volunteer with HTC. On the Haunted Tour, she and her son Carson portrayed the railroad workers who had been scalped.
Brooksher said when volunteers removed the dropped ceiling in the Eighth Street facility, they were excited by the curved, open ceiling with exposed rafters and lattice work.
The new theater will feature a new stage that can be configured in different ways and can even be removed if needed. The group hopes to rent out the space for events such as wedding receptions when it’s not needed for productions, Grizzell said.