Thayer Mausoleum

The Thayer Mausoleum in Thayer Cemetery in Ridgway will be opened to the public for haunted cemetery tours being planned by the Elk County Historical Society for next year.

RIDGWAY — They’re planning for the future of local history.

As part of efforts to appeal to new audiences and find new ways to spark interest in the past, the Elk County Historical Society is planning haunted cemetery tours beginning in spring 2019. Initially, tours are being planned at the Thayer and Pine Grove cemeteries in Ridgway.

“They’ve been looking at ideas and ways to freshen up the program,” Matthew Hileman, who has been serving as a consultant for the society, said. “They used to do a cemetery tour, but it was really just information about the people (interred) at the cemetery.”

The tours being planned are something new to the area that, according to Hileman, have been tried elsewhere.

“When I was a kid, I visited the cemetery in Baltimore,” he recalled. “They did a tour that included things about burial practices and some other history. It’s just a different way of presenting history — really getting people interested in history.”

The tours will focus on regional history, according to a press release, but will examine “the Victorian practice of body snatching, mausoleum and headstone design, and the historical origins of popular expressions ... which originated from technologies designed to save loved ones from premature burial.”

“These kinds of tours have become extremely popular at major historic sites around the country,” Kurt Hughes, historical society board president, said in the release.

The society floated the idea on Facebook and the “response was incredible,” Hileman said. “People are really hungering for something like this.”

He also noted the society has been granted permission to take people into the Thayer Mausoleum.

“It’s rare to ever get inside a mausoleum,” Hileman said.

Tours are being planned now to ensure proper safety and consideration for participants, he said.

“I have some concerns with safety,” Hileman said. “The slopes in that area are steep in places and we may have some older participants.”

He said the society is considering seeking a sponsor and running some sort of shuttle to sites to avoid the hills.

Hileman said he hopes the public takes advantage of the tours.

“I hope that everybody shows up,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of enthusiasm for it.”

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