A woman in a cloak and a bonnet makes her way down King Street, an antique lantern in her hand lighting the sidewalk. Her clothing and air of mystery contrast sharply with the boisterous atmosphere as laughing and shouting college students spill into the street from bars and a nearby art crawl. Some of them stop and stare—she looks like a lost time-traveler. In reality, she’s a guide on the Mountaineer Mystery Tour, a walking tour presented by Mysterium Escape Adventure in downtown Boone that explores local legends and spooky stories.
Shaun Cardwell, owner of Mysterium, started the tours in October 2017. They were so popular that he decided to do it again this year, and he now hosts walking tours every Friday and Saturday night until Halloween.
Cardwell said he’s always had a fascination with spooky things. A native of Wilkesboro, he said he loved Halloween as a kid and worked at haunted houses and trails before opening Mysterium in Boone.
“I enjoy the history and mystery, the creepy stuff, paranormal stuff,” Cardwell said. “I mean, why wouldn’t you love Halloween?”
The “creepy stuff” for the Mountaineer Mystery Tour took some digging: reading through old newspapers, chatting up locals and meeting with a local historian. Cardwell said some people weren’t eager to talk to him; they didn’t want to spoil the idyllic image of Boone. But he said nothing on the tour is made up.
After choosing the stories, Cardwell hired local storyteller Revonda Crowe to bring them to life. They fitted her with a historical costume, petticoats and all, and gave her a lantern crowned with tiny plastic skulls.
The ghost tour begins near Cafe Portofino and winds through downtown, stopping at Proper—which used to be the old jail—and several old buildings on King Street. The stories are a mixture of history, mystery and tragedy: the Durham family murders, a headless ghost dog from Daniel Boone’s trailblazing days, mysterious sounds in an old blacksmith’s shop. The tour lasts about 40 minutes and ends in the cemetery next to App State’s campus, where it concludes with well-known stories about hauntings in East Hall.
A self-proclaimed history lover and graduate of App State, Crowe said she likes to bring historical context to the legends she shares.
“I like spooky things, the story behind the story,” Crowe said. “There’s so much more than meets the eye.”
Cardwell said the tours last year were mostly made up of locals who wanted to learn more about their town’s legends and history. The first tours of 2018 were a mix of tourists and students from App State. Reactions to the tour were positive; one woman, a third grade teacher from Lexington, North Carolina, said it inspired her to start celebrating Halloween and share some spooky stories with her class.
You can check out the Mountaineer Mystery Tour online on Mysterium’s website, or on their Facebook page. Tickets are $15.
Story by Macon Atkinson