Do you believe in ghosts? Spirits? Haunted houses? Whether you believe and want a chance encounter or just want to be spooked and learn some local history, the Murder and Mayhem Trolley Tour in Fort Smith is the perfect Halloween event.
The Murder and Mayhem Trolley Tour began over 20 years ago as a fundraiser for the Fort Smith Museum of History. Executive Director Leisa Gramlich explains, “Following the tornado in 1996, the museum had roof damage, and some bats got in. We had a terrible bat problem on the fourth floor which was going to be very expensive to fix. The Murder and Mayhem Trolley Tour began as a way to raise funds for those repairs, but it’s continued to be popular over the years.”
This year’s tours are offered October 25, 27 and 31 at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Beginning at the museum, guests are treated to hors d’oeuvres, drinks and stories of the museum’s resident spirits. Gramlich said, “We have a lot of action and mysterious occurrences. Just things you can’t explain.”
The museum building was built in 1906 as Atkinson Williams Hardware and has been home to several different businesses over the years. Whether the ghosts are from the people who passed through this building over the last 112 years or from the over 40,000 objects in the museum’s collection, they aren’t always sure. But there are many haunted stories to tell.
Next, guests head on a trolley tour of downtown Fort Smith and the Belle Grove Historic District, where they learn about local history and homes that are haunted, and they listen to entertaining true stories. “You’ll hear about gruesome murders, bloody love triangles, eerie local legends, and meet some characters along the way.” The tour is narrated by museum volunteers who portray local historic figures as well as some of the ghosts. “And the Indian Territory Pistoliers provide plenty of surprises as well,” Gramlich said.
The museum also offers a progressive dinner tour that takes you through the Bonneville House for dinner, the Clayton House for dessert and 21 West End (which was formerly the Hole in the Wall Saloon). The dinners are scheduled for October 26, 29 and 30, but are sold out this year. Mark your calendars to call early for next year’s event!
The Murder and Mayhem Trolley Tour isn’t the only holiday excitement! The Western Arkansas Ballet will gather on the street in front of the museum to perform Michael Jackson’s hit “Thriller” on October 27 and 31. It’s free with two performances each night at 7 and 8 p.m.
Along with entertainment, you might even encounter a ghost. “We have had people see things on the tours. One year, we were telling the story of a child who died young in a particular house. A guest saw a child peering out the window, but the tour guides knew that the people living in this house had no children.”
To reserve your spot, contact the museum at 479-783-7841.