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As he led a previous ghost tour in downtown Wilkes-Barre, history buff Bill Lewis told participants about a mysterious light that appeared on a mansion staircase with no apparent earthly explanation.

The light reportedly moved slowly, at a point very low and close to the steps in Wilkes University's Weckesser Hall.

"An elderly woman on the tour started to cry," Lewis remembered. "She said she had been a secretary at Wilkes years before and worked for someone who had an injured leg who would crawl up and down the stairs."

Had a ghost returned to crawl to the office, perhaps to take care of unfinished business?

You're welcome to draw your own conclusion.

And you're welcome to hear more stories – some tragic, some humorous, no doubt all intriguing – on any of six Wilkes-Barre Ghost Tours.

Sponsored by the Luzerne County Historical Society, they begin tonight and continue through Oct. 27.

Other walks and tours, meanwhile, are planned for the Pine Grove Cemetery in Berwick, the Dunmore Cemetery, the lantern-lit streets of Eckley Miners Village and the Victorian-style streets of historic Jim Thorpe.

You're likely to find any of these events more fascinating than frightening. Still, true historical accounts can be downright gruesome.

"I had a number of friends who lived (in a Wilkes dormitory)," Lewis said. "They were all completely terrified. Nobody would go into the basement – I'm not making this stuff up – and no one could ever express why."

Lewis suggests there could be a connection to the horrific deaths at that site of Mrs. Charles Huber, wife of a coal-company executive, and the family chauffeur, Oliver Gibbons.

Even though she was quite wealthy, Mrs. Huber was working on a household chore in June 1923, cleaning the quilts before they would be put away for the summer.

"You and I would take them to the dry cleaners. Back then, to get the dirt out they would soak things in gasoline," Lewis said, explaining how that led to both Mrs. Huber and Oliver dying of painful burns. "She dies in agony that night, in the home, and the chauffeur apparently died at the Wyoming Valley Homeopathic Hospital on Dana Street at the stroke of midnight."

Lewis' tours will include facts about public hangings, the decapitation of a young elevator operator and the removal of bodies from a former graveyard near Public Square to Hollenback Cemetery in the 1800s.

His Wilkes-Barre tours won't meander through present-day cemeteries – leave that to the Dunmore Cemetery Tour at 2 p.m. Sunday and the Pine Grove Cemetery tour in Berwick on Oct. 20 – but mostly stay on the sidewalks through several blocks of the downtown.

Ghost tours in Jim Thorpe, meanwhile, center on Broadway and nearby Race Street.

"Our guides have a couple dozen stories about reported happenings in the houses along the way," tour manager Bob Stevenson said, hinting there are tales about former inhabitants of nearby mansions as well as starcrossed lovers who found themselves "on different floors of the Inn at Jim Thorpe, during a different incarnation of that hostelry."

At the Eckley Miners Village, the lantern walks are led by costumed "fright facilitators," who will guide you to the scenes of "10 silly, scary skits which will make you laugh or even sing along," programs coordinator Karen Esak said.

It's really not all that scary, Esak said, but she doesn't recommend the lantern tours for small children because they might find the walk, at nearly three-quarters of a mile, too tiring.


What: Wilkes-Barre Ghost Tours

When: 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 27

Where: Meet at Luzerne County Historical Society, 49 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre

Fee: $10

Reservations: 823-6244

What: Haunted Lantern Tours of Eckley Miners Village

When: Tours leave every 15 minutes between 6:30 and 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 27

Where: Highland Road, off Route 940, Eckley. Meet at the Visitors Center.

Cost: $10, $5

More info: 636-2070

What: Ghost Walks in Old Mauch Chunk. Reservations recommended.

When: Fridays through Sundays in October beginning at 7 p.m.

Where: Meet at the Inn at Jim Thorpe, 24 Broadway

Fee: $10

More info: 325-2346

What: Historical walking tour of Pine Grove Cemetery

Where: Meet at Jackson Mansion, 344 Market St., Berwick

When: 5 p.m. Oct. 29

Fee: $10 includes refreshments

Reservations: 759-8020

What: Tour of Dunmore Cemetery

Where: 400 Church St., Dunmore

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free

More info: 344-3819

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