Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 11, 2010

Tour is chance to walk with Bramwell ghosts

BRAMWELL — Ghostly tales will abound in Bramwell when the town holds its third annual Ghost Walk, inviting others to get a sneak peak into Bramwell’s haunted history.

On Oct. 23, those who attend the Bramwell Ghost Walk will not only get a dose of unconventional local lore but will also benefit local children. Proceeds from the walk will benefit the Children’s Home Society’s WE CAN mentoring program as well as the town of Bramwell.

Bramwell Mayor Lou Stoker said the ghost walk began as a collaboration between the town and the Children’s Home Society.

“We sat down with Joanne Boileau and some of her co-workers at the Children’s Home and brainstormed about it,” Stoker said. “We thought this was just a wonderful setting for a ghost walk.”

Stoker said the ghost walk has more of a play-like atmosphere than a Halloween haunted house tour or ride.

“It’s not a haunted house or like the haunted mine they do in Pocahontas, Va.,” she said. “When you go to see a play, you sit in the audience. We take the audience to the different scenes in the play. The stage doesn’t change, but the audience moves to different scenes. Each scene is totally different from another, but they all create a scene from the history of Bramwell.”

Stoker refers to the ghost walk as a “painless history lesson,” since it allows audience members to experience local history in a fun way.

“We invite the spirits of past to come back and to tell us their story,” Stoker said. “If they can’t come, we ask that they send a stand in.”

According to Stoker, the most important aspect of the walk is who it benefits — local children. The town of Bramwell is using money they receive from ghost walk proceeds to build a public playground for local children, the first ever for the town.

“We’re earmarking our half of the money to use for our children here,” Stoker said. “The entire ghost walk benefits children. We’ve been fundraising for two years for this playground and we hope to start construction on it next spring. Since 1888, there has never been a public playground in the town.”

Joanne Boileau, director for the Children’s Home Society, said the walk will be full of supernatural stories about the ghosts who many say live in the more than 120-year-old town.

“Bramwell is known for its haunts, the actual ghosts that are there,” Boileau said. “Paranormal people love this town because the spirits are lurking about. The characters people will meet are based on actual ghosts. There are sentimental stories about children who left the earth before their time and come back to visit. We will also have the story of a coal miner this year.”

Other historical figures featured on the walk will include Bramwell’s first mayor, Colonel Hewitt, famed banker I.T. Mann, town eccentric Isabella Freeman, and others.

Boileau said those who have been on the walk before will be able to enjoy new features and new stories this year as the walk has expanded.

“For those who have come in the past, we have some additional historic characters this year,” she said. “We will have some new thrills and some new characters to meet. Bramwell is such a unique setting and the entire town is just a perfect stage. We’re planning a little street drama before the walks begin to set the scene for our storytelling.”

Groups of 10-15 will be led by “Spirit Guides” through the city streets with walks lasting from one hour to an hour-and-a-half. Boileau is hoping attendance increases for this year’s walk.

“Every year, we’ve had around 200 people attend and this year, we’re hoping to get around 250,” she said.

In addition to hearing spooky stories, those attended the walk will be helping benefit children in the Mercer County area. The profits of the walk are split between the WE CARE program and the town of Bramwell.

“The proceeds go to WE CAN mentoring program which will help mentors and kids go to the movies and go bowling, things like that,” Boileau said.

Brian Bradley with West Virginia WE CAN, said the program uses the ghost walk as one of its major fundraisers.

“This is a group effort between the town of Bramwell, particularly Mayor Lou Stoker, and my agency WE CAN,” Bradley said. “They’ve been very helpful to us, using this as a fundraiser. We share in profits and they let us have anything extra after the tour.”

Bradley said WE CAN also participates in the event by selling baked goods and providing information about their program. He said the event is always looking for volunteers.

“We may have some baked goods and try to disseminate information to the crowd,” Bradley said. “We’re always looking for sponsorships from local businesses to off-set the costs. We’re also looking for volunteers. It’s always difficult to find people willing to dress in period costume and act out the stories.”

In addition, Bradley said the walk provides information about Bramwell visitors might not otherwise get to know about.

“It’s a lot of fun with a lot of history about the town you wouldn’t know otherwise,” he said. “There are a lot of interesting things you get to learn about the town.”

Bradley said proceeds from the walk go to help the WE CAN program in a variety of ways.

“The most important reason to me is that this goes to benefit local kids,” Bradley said. “It takes care of the program expenses and helps us meet match goals. It also lets us talk about our mentoring program, foster care, and adoption. We’re all about helping kids on all levels to give them a safe and happy home.”

The ghost walk will be held Oct. 23 and starts at 5 p.m. at the train depot with music. Downtown Bramwell and the Bramwell Cafe will be open during this time. The ghost walks begin at 7 p.m. with tickets costing $10 in advance or $15 the day of and are available at a variety of locations.

In Bluefield, tickets can be purchased at the Craft Memorial Library, the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce and the Mercer County Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau. In Princeton, tickets can be purchased at the Children’s Home Society at 603 Harrison Street, the Princeton-Mercer Chamber of Commerce, the Ann Stafford Library, and the New People’s Bank.

Tickets can also be purchased at the New People’s Bank in Bluewell or at the Bramwell town hall.

Anyone wanting to learn more about the WE CAN program may contact the WE CAN Program Coordinators, Brian Bradley or Angela Fedele at 304-425-8738, extensions 2156 or 2157. 

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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