There won’t be any jump-scares, blood or gore on this haunted tour through Downtown Cary. That’s because history itself is scary enough.
“The best ghost stories are the ones that reveal themselves in real time,” said Katherine Loflin, a Cary resident who has a passion for history. She has created the History that Haunts Cary Trolley Tour, which will take some brave guests to visit the homes and sites in Cary with documented accounts of paranormal activity.
“I thought, what if I created a way for people in Cary to learn the history of some of our historic homes that we are still lucky to have,” Loflin said.
Guests will visit two homes, one business and two landmarks in Cary, including the Cotton House, the Matthews House, Douglas Realty Group, a smokehouse behind the Page-Walker Hotel and the flagpole in front of the Cary Arts Center. The tours are scheduled over several days in October.
Loflin said a team of paranormal investigators — including an empath, or person highly receptive to other feelings and emotions, a historian and sound engineer — will join the guests on the two-hour tour.
Loflin and the team already have checked out the places themselves to see what traces of paranomal activity they might find.
“The owners of these places have reported things, but we wanted to see what we could get — and we got some stuff,” she said. “People will get a chance to be introduced to paranormal equipment that the pros use, try it out for themselves, bring their own. ... Then we will share what we find live, in real time.”
Each residence and business on the tour are privately owned, and guests will enter the locations to find the suspected ghosts.
Mingling with the ghosts
Loflin has taken people on other paranormal adventures before. In Holly Springs, she hosted a haunted tour and even dressed as one of the characters who once lived in the Leslie-Alford Mims House to try and stir up the energy for the paranormal investigators.
In Cary, the guests will first go to the homes and will use recorders brought by the investigators to listen for any activity such as footsteps, voices or movement. An audio file of what was recorded will be sent to the guests after the tour, Loflin said.
Usually, people don’t hear anything with their naked ear, but do when they listen to the recording, she said.
“Sometimes, its walking or breathing. Sometimes it’s words,” Loflin said. “On this tour, both at Cotton House and at Douglas Realty, we got audible word responses.”
The guests will also hear the stories of each place and personal accounts from the people who live and work there, Loflin said.
Loflin said at the Matthews House, built in 1915 on West Chatham Street, the spirits there were having a conversation with her paranormal team. There have been reports of a phantom piano playing in the house, objects being moved, disembodied voices, unexplained footsteps and feelings of being watched.
The original home mysteriously burned down but is now owned by a family who hosts weddings and special events.
Loflin said two tragedies that happened at the Cotton House still haunt the site that now operates as a brewery on South Academy Street. The home is listed as a historic site in Cary.
Built in 1900, the Cotton House was known as the Pasmore House and was occupied by William Pasmore and his family. Pasmore’s oldest daughters died tragically, one of typhoid and the other by setting herself on fire, in the home, Loflin said.
People have reported seeing ghosts, and hearing footsteps and voices.
The group is also stopping by the flagpole in front of the Cary Arts Center, which is the site of the gruesome death of a Cary High student in the 1950s who was electrocuted.
The tour is sponsored by Cary’s Douglas Realty Group, another site that has had reports of a ghost walking around moving artifacts on display and tapping on the front window of the business. The current owner of the group has named the ghost Henry Adams, after the former owner.
The paranormal team, in trying to detect paranormal activity, uses the “estes method,” which involves the scanning of radio stations, Loflin said.
“One person plugs their earphones or noise reduction headphones into the scanner while they listen, they put on a blindfold or turn away from the group, and the group will ask questions,” Loflin said. “Every once in a while in the scanning you get words.”
The person listening to the scan can call out the words and doesn’t hear the questions people ask the spirits. Loflin said the theory with the method is that ghosts can tap into lower frequencies that most people can’t hear.
The art of placemaking
As a native of North Carolina and Cary resident, studying the history of a place has always been a passion for Loflin, she said. Her family, the Loflins, date back in the state to about 1730.
“It’s in my blood,” she said. “I think Cary gets a bit of a rough rep. I don’t think people realize that there’s a lot of cool stuff that Cary’s had way before IBM showed up.”
Cary, founded in 1750 and incorporated in 1871, began as a thriving, small farming community and has grown into the second largest municipality in Wake County with over 174,000 residents.
The town was also the location of the state’s first county high school, Cary Academy in 1870, now known as Cary High School.
“Your relationship with your place is like your relationship with your partner,” Loflin said. “My background is in social work, I was supposed to be a marriage and family therapist but I found social offerings, aesthetics and openness is really a lot of what we look for in our partner.”
In her work as a placemaking consultant, Loflin, also known as the “City Doctor,” has written plays, shows and other projects to help communities in their pursuit to grow and attract residents.
Placemaking, a concept used by designers, architects, developers and city leaders, is the art of helping communities become places where people want to live, work, play and learn.
“I do a lot of research in what attaches people to place and what makes them love their place,” Loflin said. “With major cities getting so much influx, Cary being one and Raleigh, one of the things I’ve found is nothing really moves people to feel a part of a place quicker than knowing the history of the place.”
The work has taken her around the world, she said. This year, she founded her organization The City Doctor Production in Cary that offers trolley and walking tours, original plays and skits, plus Q&As with local historical figures.
Recently, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht played George Washington in a play Loflin wrote about Anna Strong, a spy for Washington during the Revolutionary War.
For the courageous individuals who want to go on Loflin’s trolley adventure and learn about Cary’s haunted history, Loflin said there will be “liquid courage” available at one of the houses.
This could also stir up some of the spirits, since Cary was a dry town until the 1960s, she said.
“So it should be what I hope to be a good fun time without jump-scares,” she said. “But I’m telling you, there might be nothing compared to the real thing is what’s going on with the tours.”
How to go
The History That Haunts Cary Trolley Tours are scheduled Oct. 12-13, 19-20, 25-27 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $37 and are available at thecitydoctorproductions.ticketspice.com.