The 17th season of the Ghosts of Anoka walking tour has officially opened with sold-out groups. The one-mile loop through the city celebrates the history and mystery of generations past and present, led by volunteer docents.
The largest fundraising event for the Anoka County Historical Society each year, ghost tours are a vital part of our operating budget. Revenue generated from ticket sales helps pay staff salaries, utility bills and other general business expenses.
Each year we strive to add some twists to the tradition, whether that’s an unheard story, new stop or different method to consume the material.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the historical society added a virtual experience with a live docent as well as a prerecorded option with shareable password ticket. This year we are leveraging our new podcast, History 21, to bring more of the story to life.
The latest episode featured Jennifer Shoemaker, previous homeowner of 403 Van Buren, and docent Steve Florman. The two Halloween buffs chatted about Jenn, and her husband Scott’s, experience in the home with … previous occupants.
While painting in the house before their family even moved in, Jenn recalled: “Out of the corner of my eye I saw my first glimpse of what the house was hiding. A little girl peeked around the corner, kind of tipped her head over and looked out at me and then peeked her head back into the room. And I was like ‘Oh my gosh what did I just see?’”
Future episodes of History 21 will showcase QCTV Director Karen George reminiscing about her time serving as an Anoka Princess, and John Jost sharing some thoughts on growing up Halloween in Anoka and completing his Halloween button collection not once, but twice.
Both John and Karen also share the hard work it takes behind the scenes to bring the fun of Anoka Halloween to life. Karen’s first time getting Anoka’s float set up in 1979 didn’t go smoothly. “[We were] figuring it all out, and I’m getting up on the float, and my foot goes through, and my leg fell down through the float. And my dad was in construction and he goes, ‘Well, we’ll have to fix that.’”
In fixing it they replaced the decidedly un-Halloween-colored float with something more suited to the Halloween Capital of the World.
“I believe the float was debuted halfway through the summer at the Aquatennial. ... We took a prize for the float design at that,” Karen said. “And the good news is that ever since, that float has been a Halloween-themed float.”
Wondering what the colors were? Tune in to the episode, and visit the show notes to view photographs of both versions of the float. New episodes of History 21: The Podcast! drop on the first and third Friday of each month and are available on Apple and Google podcasts as well as our website.
In order to continue this pattern of growth, ACHS needs your help.
What spookiness have you experienced around the city? Do you share your home with others not entirely corporeal? Send us your own tales of history and mystery by clicking “tell your story” on our website, AnokaCountyHistory.org.