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Haunted Parkersburg tours to continue

PARKERSBURG — The spooky history of Parkersburg has been shared with people from around the country by Susan Sheppard for 25 years and despite her passing earlier this year, her legacy will continue to live.

This October, Lynn Stone, a friend of Susan’s, will carry on presenting local facts and folklore as Susan Sheppard’s Haunted Parkersburg begins its 25th year.

When Susan and her daughter Scarlet Sheppard attended a ghost tour in New Orleans when Scarlet was 5 years old, the idea sparked to create something similar in Parkersburg.

Scarlet said Susan felt Parkersburg’s history was interesting enough to appeal to people from any community.

The first Haunted Tour of Parkersburg began in 1996 and Susan devoted her time working with local historians and spending several hours in the basement of the library to dive deep into Parkersburg’s past.

“She took a really long time with the research process. From the time she had the idea, she just worked tirelessly until that first season began,” Scarlet Sheppard said.

Susan also made several trips to Doddridge County, where she grew up, to hear eyewitness accounts about Mothman sightings.

“She got that local folklore firsthand, some of it she had been hearing since she was small,” Scarlet Sheppard said. “She was really fascinated in the history. She was interested in the paranormal and she thought it was going to get people interested in the history.”

Since the tours started, Scarlet has never missed a season.

“There hasn’t been one season that I haven’t come home. I would come home for Halloween season instead of Thanksgiving,” she said.

A story about a banshee sighting on Marrtown Road is one of the Scarlet’s favorites. Banshees are derived from Scottish and Irish folklore and are considered a “bringer of doom.”

“It ties in the cultural heritage of Parkersburg and how many people who have grown up here and whose families grew up around here,” Scarlet said. “I think that was her favorite to tell.”

For the past seven years, Stone joined Susan on the downtown streets to help guide tour goers and light the way. This year, she will view the tour with a new perspective and she tells Susan’s stories.

“I know that mom would be thrilled at Lynn’s excitement to start leading the tour. Lynn is doing a lot of heavy lifting and she knows the stories,” Scarlet said. “The only person I can think of to do that is Lynn, she’s going to do great.”

Stone said it’s kind of funny to be doing the tours without Susan but she’s excited to get started. About four years ago, Stone said Susan would randomly ask her to tell a story and now, Stone understands why she did that-she was helping to prepare her for the future.

“The little things she (did) makes me realize today why she did it. She’ll be there, even though she’s not there in person,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from this women, I understood things in life better. She was a really good friend.”

The tour will follow the same route beginning at the Blennerhassett Hotel on Market Street and extending through downtown.

Susan’s books serve as a study guide for Stone to further learn the stories and even add a few twists of her own.

“I’m adding a couple of little stories along the way (and) adding a little twist here and there to make people think. I just like to make people think and try to scare them,” she said.

The tours kick off Friday, Oct. 1, and run every Friday and Saturday in October with a special Halloween tour. The group meets at the Blennerhassett Hotel at 7:30 p.m.

For the first time, people will be able to purchase tour tickets online or pay with cash or a credit card at the door. People who book online will be entered in a drawing and the winner will be chosen on Halloween. “We’re going to be giving away a gift basket with one of her books in it to tourgoers who book online,” Scarlet said.

Masks are required inside the Blennerhassett Hotel and are encouraged to be worn outside throughout the tour. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children.

For more information, check out the Susan Sheppard’s Haunted Parkersburg Tours Facebook page or hauntedparkersburgtours.com.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

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