Guide knows path to Burlington haunts

Guide knows path to Burlington haunts
October 16, 2008
Burlington Free Press

hea Lewis remembers one of her first experiences with a ghost as if it happened yesterday.

Lewis was peeling potatoes for a stew some years ago and talking to her daughter in the kitchen when she felt someone flipping her hair. Naturally,Lewis began yelling at her son, who she assumed was behind the prank.

ï Gallery: Ghost tour

She turned to look at her daughter who was standing there somewhat in disbelief. Anthony, her son, was not in sight.

ìMom, Tonyís not here, but I just saw your hair move,î her daughter said.

The fact that Lewisí hair could have been flipped by a cheeky ghost didnít seem to bother the Burlington woman much. Others might have pulled up the stakes and skedaddled out of town, but not Lewis. She is at peace with ghosts, so much so that she has a business devoted entirely to them.

Lewis has been running the Queen City Ghostwalk for six years. In past years, the tour has onlybeen a seasonal gig, but this year, Lewis started the tours on Labor Day weekend, and theyíve been packed ever since.

The ghostwalk came about after Lewis and her family took part in a fairly uninspired haunted walk in Salem, Mass. The tour was interesting, but the guide was lackluster, Lewis said. By the time she returned to Burlington, she had her own ghostwalk concept and a name to go with it.

Lewis is the perfect tour guide. She embodies the role of a bereaved Victorian widow with panache. Her theatrical flair and silken voice sell the performance completely. As she strode to meet a recent Friday tour group at the stroke of seven in City Hall Park, she looked almost as otherworldly as the ghosts she talks about.

Tour-goers can expect to hear tales of hauntings that have been substantiated by multiple sources. Lewis said that when she started the ghostwalk, people started coming out of the woodwork with the most incredible tales.

Many people have had experiences with the ghost that haunts what used to be Carburs Restaurant where American Flatbread is now located. Apparently, the ghost of a man who shot himself in the basement continues to haunt the staff. Once a waitress reported that she put a load of glasses away only to discover that they had been rearranged into a pyramid when she turned her back for a second. Other waitresses alleged that they had been pushed into the walk-in freezer and locked in even though there was no one else in the basement with them.

People on the tour will learn not only about the ghosts that haunt the city, but theyíll also find that Lewis isnít shy about sneaking a little history lesson into her ghost tales.

ìI try to give people a sense of Burlington years ago,î Lewis said. ìI think the history in a way is just as intriguing as a haunting. This walk has made me appreciate the history in a way I never did in school.î

Lewis does not claim to have supernatural powers, but she comes from a long line of women who apparently were very in touch with the other side. Her aunt, sister, daughter and granddaughter allhave clairvoyant powers, she said. Her aunt could tell when someone was about to die, and her daughter has the same ability, Lewis said. When she was 3, she had a vision of her uncle dying right before he passed away.

Those powers seemed to have skipped over Lewis, but she makes up for it with her catalog of local lore. She is perhaps now the areaís foremost authority on Burlingtonís ghost tales.

The tours run every Friday and Saturday, though in the two weeks that precede Halloween, Lewis offers tours every night. For $13, people get an hourlong tour of the cityís finest haunts, including American Flatbread, the Flynn Theatre and Macyís at Burlington Town Center. The tour has drawn upward of 40 people a night who are looking for a little spookiness in their lives.

ìPeople want to be creeped out,î Lewis said. ìOr people are searching for something. This is one of the avenues they take to search for whatever is unknown to them.î
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