As Halloween approaches, so does the Loudoun Museum’s biggest, and most popular, fundraiser of the year.
The Leesburg Hauntings tour, now in its 26th year, will take place over two weekends.
The Hauntings tour was launched by Leesburg Renaissance, a group devoted to downtown economic development, but was later taken over by the Loudoun Museum. Peter Kelpinski, a longtime member of the museum’s board of trustees, was an original participant.
“It was one of those things that Leesburg had a ton of history and a lot of ghost stories, so we said ‘let’s put it together,’” he said. “My theory has always been whether or not you believe in ghosts this is still part of the oral history of the town so it really needs to be preserved. And that’s kind of been the motto the museum has followed.”
The Hauntings tours wind participants through the downtown area, beginning at Town Hall, and share with their audience the ghoulish history of some of the downtown area’s historic residences and businesses.
Putting on the Hauntings tour starts with extensive work by museum volunteers, researching ghost stories reported around town and conducting interviews. Kelpinski has the duty of putting together the scripts for each site, where costumed storytellers recount the tale of each property. It’s a pretty labor intensive affair, with about 50 volunteers needed per night.
While each tour focuses on about six or seven stories, those who have been on the tour before may be surprised to learn that there are new facts to learn.
“Some of these sites we have to update the story because new things keep happening,” Kelpinski said. “We have active ghosts in some of these houses.”
Among the stories visitors may hear this year is the tale of Leesburg’s own Lizzie Borden-type tale. Emily Lloyd was tried for the poisoning of her young daughter, but was suspected of killing her entire family. There’s also Colonel Bert, a soldier who was wounded in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. He was brought to the Glenfiddich House on North King Street, where he died. Some say he never left.
The downtown also has a former banker who haunts his bank, and an organist who didn’t let her death stop her from showing up for choir practice. The Loudoun Museum has its own ghosts, one in the museum building and the other next door in the Log Cabin.
“Whether or not you believe in ghosts you’re going to walk away learning a whole lot more history about Leesburg,” Kelpinksi said. “It’s that mixture of history and the ghost stories. You don’t need people jumping out at you with chainsaws. We scare you the good old-fashioned way with good old ghost stories. That’s been the formula and it’s worked.”
The Hauntings tours are recommended for those aged 10 and older. The tours will run every 15 minutes from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, Saturday, Oct. 21, Friday Oct. 27 and Saturday, Oct. 28. Tickets for each tour are $25 each. The tours fill up quickly, so purchasing tickets in advance online is recommended. Go to leesburghauntings.org for more information.