Chestnut Square’s Ghost Walk Tours have been so resoundingly successfully, they are expanding in 2011 to include a trolley tour of Pecan Grove Cemetery. Tickets are expected to be sold out by the end of this week. An interview is scheduled with Channel 33 sometime soon and should air either Thursday or Friday morning.
I was lucky enough to ride along on the dry run and I have to say that I’m impressed. The 57-acre cemetery is gorgeous and I don’t need much excuse to ride the trolley anyway but the trolley creeks and groans along the narrow paths inside the cemetery in just the perfect way for a spooky cemetery tour. The branches scrape along the top and sides and I can just imagine how it will feel in the dark of the autumn evening with someone spotlighting the tombstones of interest from within the trolley. There will be no hokey ploys to spook people. Not only would that be dangerous for the pranksters but it’s entirely unnecessary. Many of the graves here are the resting places for the people whose ghosts are said to haunt the historic downtown and neighborhood just a stone’s throw away.
I am a fan of ghost & cemetery tours and I’ve been on a few. I think other fans of these types of tours will be happy with this one. It easily has as much history as the Saint Louis #1 walking tour in New Orleans without the drama that you find in some of the other haunted tours. Although, I have to admit that I did enjoy the dramatic tours in the French Quarter too. One tour guide wore a morning coat made of a material that looked as if it was once a black raincoat, sported black polished fingernails and made constant jokes about his ex-wife. Although he came off as more of a wrestler than a Victorian tour guide, he was an excellent storyteller and even had me seriously speculating about the possibility that there were vampires in the Ursuline Convent. (I don’t actually believe in vampires. Except for possibly Nicholas Cage).
The big difference I see between tours like the one of Saint Louis #1 in New Orleans and Pecan Grove is in the people that rest there and the reasons why they are interesting. Beyond the gravesite of the famous Marie Laveau, the New Orleans tour is more about cemetery practices in a region where Catholics and Protestants had different burial rules and the water table required above ground mausoleums, thereby restricting available space and causing immigrant populations came together to cope with that. Pecan Grove is the primary resting place for the founders of McKinney. They knew each other. They were soldiers in just about every war and conflict from the struggle for Texas independence to the present. They lived in the houses nearby and owned the stores downtown. They lived the stories and left incredible legacies.
In fact, I think that there is a definite possibility that the Chestnut Square tours, to include the new Pecan Grove Cemetery Trolley tour, could potentially become a mainstay of the McKinney tourism scene. If you’ve ever made your way out to St. Petersburg, Florida, they have a tour somewhat more similar to what we have here. The Downtown St. Petersbug Ghost Tour has a focus more on the history of their downtown and the stories of the buildings there. In fact, our guide there said that their daytime tours were actively promoted by their Chamber of Commerce and were more focused on the history of the city than the ghostly inhabitants. He was a dinner theatre actor who just enjoyed the opportunity to spin a tale. No black fingernails.
The Legends of McKinney Ghost Walk has many storytellers. There are no jump-out-atcha characters. The storytellers are stationed at the many stops in downtown and you decide your own order, walking from storyteller to storyteller. The trolley tour will be a wonderful extension of the Ghost Walk, tying the stories to real people and the monuments left to them by loved ones.
The Trolley tours are scheduled for the evenings of October 22nd and 29th and tickets, while available, can be bought in conjunction with the downtown walking tour or on their own. If you miss the Ghost Walk, Chestnut Square also regularly offers 2-hour tours of the hauntings of Chestnut Square every third Saturday of the month and private guided Ghost Walks that include downtown are available for groups of 12 to 30 people year round.
Happy Trails Carriage Rides offers horse drawn carriage tours of the residential Historic Disrict throughout the year as well. There was a fantastic article in the McKinney Courier recently about a speech given by Shannon Cole, the owner, to the local Owl club. Ghost stories abound in the district, both commercial and residential, as well as history.
The photos below are posted with the permission of Pecan Grove Cemetery and have been resized to fix within the space available. Scott H Photography did an excellent job of catching the cemetery’s unique feel.
More of Scott H Photography’s shots are posted on the Pecan Grove Cemetery’s website.
Until next time,