By Lisa Marks
It started innocently enough. In July 2009 Ken and I were living at Rockcliffe Mansion, working to preserve the house’s legacy as a museum and giving tours of the history of Rockcliffe and the Cruikshank family. Occasionally tour guests would ask if the house was haunted, and we would share with them some of the strange occurrences we’d experienced while living there. Invariably the conversation would then turn to other “ghost stories” — experiences of guests in their own life, and stories that Ken and I had heard about other locations around Hannibal. It was fun to share these stories.
Thus, Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tours were born.
Now at the end of our eighth season of Haunted Hannibal, when I look back on the experiences we’ve had, it’s hard for me to be skeptical about whether or not ghosts exist. I’ve simply had too many things happen during our tours that were truly unexplainable. Further, after hearing literally thousands of stories from guests on the tours, I don’t know one could somehow dismiss their personal experiences as anything other than genuinely paranormal.
Before we go any further, please note two things that I always mention on our tours:
First, the word “paranormal” does not automatically mean “ghost.” The literal definition of the word is simply “not normal.” Unexplainable. You cannot figure out how or why it’s happening.
Secondly, if anyone ever tells you they have all of this ghost stuff figured out, it’s hogwash. No one really knows the truth; it is all just speculation. We’re all just guessing as to what we think it all means, or where these experiences are coming from. I always tell my guests that it is not my job to convince them that ghosts are real, or that paranormal activity exists; everyone has their own theories based on their personal experiences.
But it’s fun to tell the stories and to wonder about the “unknown” and that’s why we enjoy presenting the stories of Haunted Hannibal. Most importantly, we are able to share with our guests the history of Hannibal and of the locations we visit during our tours, which, of course, is our main focus.
But as the years went on, the experiences began to mount up. For example, someone would claim to see a ghost in a particular location during the tour. Two weeks later, someone else would also claim to see something in the exact location. Maybe a month later, a photo would be taken by a guest on our tour that would reveal what looked like a face in the same window as the previous two sightings. After numerous people see the same thing, without knowing about the others who had similar sightings, you start to consider the possibility that there really is someone there, whether you can see them yourself or not.
We have remarkable photos that have been taken during our tours with unexplainable faces, orbs and silhouettes that suggest paranormal activity. We have posted these photos on our website, HauntedHannibal.com, and Facebook page, Haunted Hannibal Tours, so guests may look them over and decide for themselves what they believe.
We also frequently have mediums and psychics on our tours, as well. It may be the nature of our tour that attracts a higher percentage of these gifted people than are in the general population, but it is really striking to us how many people taking our tours claim to see ghosts, have premonitions or consider themselves “sensitive” to those in the spirit realm. Further, what is truly intriguing to us is that, over the years, these people tell us very similar information that we’ve heard countless times by others, completely unprompted by us.