Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosts inaugural Haunted History Walk

Thursday, November 1, 2012 | 10:45 p.m. CDT; updated 7:29 a.m. CDT, Friday, November 2, 2012
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce held its first Haunted History Walk today. Participants took a ride with Tiger Trolley Tours and visited some historic locations believed to be haunted.

COLUMBIA — About 50 Columbia residents explored historically "haunted" buildings Thursday night in downtown Columbia.

The Haunted History Walk, hosted by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce with Tiger Trolley Tours, began at the Walton Building on 300 S. Providence Road, stopping at three historic locations.

The first stop was Launer Auditorium at Columbia College. Guests were greeted with a theatrical skit centered on two young women who lived in the 18th century and died — one by committing suicide, the other of fever — at Columbia College ,then named Christian College. The ghosts are said to walk in St. Clair Hall.

"Supposedly, their spirits are still alive and haunting people to this day," said Ada Buckman, co-chair of the Events Committee for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

Next, the trolley stopped at Senior Hall at Stephens College.

Over hot cider, guests were let in on the legend of Sarah June Wheeler, a Stephens College student who helped a wounded Confederate soldier and hid him in Senior Hall for almost two months. The story goes on to reveal that the two fell in love and, while trying to escape west, drowned in the Missouri River after their boat capsized.

Before visiting Senior Hall, Columbia resident Alan Larimer gave his version of the story, which he found online.

"One of the students at Stephens College, her boyfriend was a Confederate soldier, and she was hiding him out at Stephens College," Larimer said. "And when the Union army came to arrest him, he hung himself. That's the story I got."

After stopping at Stephens College, Larimer found the "real legend" much more plausible. 

"I don't know if there's a ghost or not, but it sounds like a true story," Larimer said.  

Emma McKinin, a Columbia resident since 1946, said she enjoyed listening to the stories, but she is not convinced they're true.

"I'm a skeptic," she said. "But it's fun."

McKinin was among others who frequently chimed in with answers to Columbia trivia questions asked on the trolley.

The last stop before Shiloh Bar & Grill, the final destination on the tour, was at the MU Museum of Art and Archaeology.

While there were no ghost stories here, the trolley led guests to the museum to explore.

The original plan was to tour the Residence on the Quad, but Chancellor Brady Deaton and his wife, Anne, were out of town, Buckman said. Instead, on the way to the museum, guests learned of the supposed ghost named Alice, who is rumored to still live in the chancellor's residence.

"When you've got a town with as much history as Columbia, you're bound to have stories with hauntings," said Matt Melton, co-chair of the Events Committee for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

Supervising editor is Simina Mistreanu.

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