Ghost in the machine: Historical society takes scares online

Traditional spooky tours go virtual in Moorestown on Oct. 17 and 24.

If 2020 hasn’t been terrifying enough, those who want to get in the spooky spirit can do so from home thanks to the Historical Society of Moorestown.

Every October, the society conducts guided ghost tours, but in light of COVID-19, the festivities will be online. There will be two ghost tours via Zoom, with tales that haven’t been heard in more than a decade. The first tour will take place on Saturday, Oct. 17,  and the second on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Mickey DiCamillo, president of the historical society, said the ghost tours are its most popular event, but given there are typically between 30 to 40 people led down tight alleys and packed into small spaces, the group knew there was no way to safely conduct in-person tours. 

DiCamillo said the prospect of not having any kind of tour was “heartbreaking” to  members, so the society began brainstorming different ways to share ghost stories. DiCamillo, along with society storyteller Joe Wetterling and board member Julie Maravich, will take virtual attendees along with them as they explore the haunted corners of Moorestown.

DiCamillo said the virtual format has afforded the society a unique opportunity to tell new stories. Year over year, the tour is typically similar. Given the size of the tour group, places to take attendees are limited, the stories are usually the same. 

This year, the society will offer new stories. Given it’s just the three of them, DiCamillo, Wetterling and Maravich can take the virtual tour along some of the more residential areas of Moorestown without creating  a disturbance in the neighborhood.

The tours are Maravich’s brain child. She moved to Moorestown in 1998 from Charleston, South Carolina, where ghost tours were a popular and profitable venture for the local historical society. So when she became the principal fundraiser for the Moorestown Historical Society, Maravich decided to research any haunted places around town.

Maravich walked into every store along Main Street, asking people if they knew of any strange or unusual stories about Moorestown. From there, she got the ball rolling on the tours. DiCamillo said in addition to oral history, the society also researched historical records such as death certificates and police reports to create its tour.

In the beginning, the society hosted three separate tours: one that went along Chester Avenue, one down the east end of Main Street and one that went along the west end of Main Street. At some point, it was decided to host just one tour that would start and end at the Historical Society’s Smith-Cadbury Mansion location.

The virtual tours will revisit some of the tales Maravich researched more than 15 years ago that haven’t been heard in recent years. Coincidentally, a lot of the featured ghosts on the tour were victims of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic because the disease swept through town “like lightning” at the time, according to Maravich. 

DiCamillo said residents may be surprised to find out who’s buried around town. He said the tour gives residents a new way into some of Moorestown’s history.

“Ghost tours are a good opportunity to really get connected with Moorestown and get to know the place where they live,” he said.

Each ghost tour begins at 7 p.m. and each will feature different destinations. The cost to view is $10 per device (computer, tablet or smartphone) with all proceeds supporting the Historical Society of Moorestown. To learn more or to register, visit https://moorestownhistory.org/fifty.