By Marilyn Delk
Way back in the early 2000s, my husband and I visited the quite delightful southernmost spot in the United States—Key West. Among the many memorable experiences we enjoyed there was our first Ghost Walk, led by a marvelous actress who brought to vivid life the characters and tales she shared. I decided almost immediately that Darke County Center for the Arts could use a Ghost Walk not only as a vehicle for local citizens to fulfill their theatrical aspirations while sharing local historical lore in a fun setting, but also to raise funds supporting the arts. However, I didn’t know where to find the ghostly tales needed to create such an event.
At about the same time, Keith Rawlins, newly appointed Artistic Director for Darke County Center for the Arts, experienced a similar ghostly tour inspiring his desire to present a Ghost Walk in this community, but he also lacked knowledge of the stories necessary to make the desire become a reality. And then, Arcanum-area resident Rita Arnold published her first book enticingly revealing tales of the unknown and unexplained, Ghosts of Darke County. Voila! Here lived the stories needed to bring dreams of a local Ghost Walk to fruition.
After Rita generously gave permission to DCCA for use of her material, the stories to be used in a Downtown Ghost Walk were chosen. Next, Keith and I tentatively addressed the call for actors to volunteer as tour guides or characters in the eerie narratives as participants moved among the haunted sites. The ensuing enthusiastically positive response removed any doubts about the willingness of local aspiring thespians to participate in our fledgling plan.
As plans for the initial Ghost Walk moved ahead, the only thing remaining to worry about was—would anybody attend? (Well, we also worried about the weather, remembering our lines, and a few other things, but the main concern was attendance.) And yes, many anybodies did come out to our fledgling event, and have continued to do so as the Ghost Walk has evolved and expanded through the years while reliably bringing Halloween fun to benefit Darke County Center for the Arts. Among the changes, the Downtown Ghost Walk (on October 28) is no longer led from site to site by tour guides; instead ticket-buyers are given a map directing them to the sites where actors will share their amazing stories. Also, additional stories from a variety of sources have been added.
When the Ghost Walk moves to Greenville Union Cemetery on October 29 and 30, ticket-buyers will be led by tour guides to help navigate the wide-ranging path as they travel from grave to grave throughout that hallowed ground while learning about some of our community’s most renowned and/or notorious citizens. Among those who have participated since the beginning are Tim Nealeigh, Michael Bitner, and me; we will serve as those guides leading Cemetery Ghost Walk participants from one uncanny story to the next. Tim’s wife, Katheleen and my husband Larry Delk are also original cast members, and will serve as story-tellers at the cemetery.
Several first-time actors are volunteering this year to share the sometimes spine-chilling, always astounding tales, along with veteran participants of varying tenures; in addition to the afore-mentioned actors, Charlie Pope, Tiffany Pope, and CeCelia Rice are in the cast for the Downtown Ghost Walk. Additional actors at the cemetery are Melissa Clark, Ann Gibson, Kent Holmes, Adam Patton, Cate Patton, Adam Pohl, Isabelle Sommer, and Chastity Westfall.
Tickets for the Downtown Ghost Walk and the Cemetery Ghost Walk cost $10 each; advance tickets for the Cemetery Walk are available on-line at www.darkecountyarts.org and by contacting DCCA at 937-547-0908 as well as at Greenville Public Library. Tickets to the Cemetery Ghost Walk may also be purchased immediately prior to the event at the entrance to Greenville Union Cemetery. Tickets for the downtown walk are also available at Readmore’s Hallmark in downtown Greenville and at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall the night of the event from 5:30 till 7 p.m.; storytellers will spin their tales at 15-minute intervals from 6 p.m. through 8:45 p.m.