Do you love going on ghost tours and think about someday leading one yourself, but worry that there aren’t enough spooky stories to share where you live? Today’s guest used to feel the same way, until she honed her research skills and learned how to uncover ghost stories in the most unlikely of places.
Allison Jornlin launched Milwaukee Ghost Walks back in 2008, after a lifetime of interest in the paranormal. What started as a summer side hustle, has now evolved into American Ghost Walks, a hugely popular ghost tour ghost tour company that operates in more than a dozen cities and which Allison runs with her brother Mike. Today, she focuses on primarily on research and route development for new destinations. In this episode, Allison share’s her best tips for researching for a ghost tour, her method for designing new routes, and how she deals with the ongoing challenge of managing customer expectations. And with Halloween just around the corner, I had to ask Allison to share a ghost story with our listeners, so stay tuned until the end to hear that!
Ghost tour research methods
When looking for ghost stories in a new city, Allison explains that her “foundation is historical research of the area.” She never makes anything up and always sets her stories within a historical framework.
In terms of where she finds the spooky stories that feature in the tours, Allison says that “online availability of newspaper, archives has really helped,” but that she’s also used “all kinds of sources, books, and in-person interviews.”
Originally, she would search for the term ‘ghost’ or ‘haunted’ to uncover stories in different archives, but she found that those words were too broad. Instead, she searches for ‘ghostly’ or looks up harrowing events that have occurred in the area, in case there is a ghost story attached.
Developing tour routes
When developing new routes, Allison focuses on the most historic part of that city. “I’m usually looking at the most historic area of a city and then going from. I love an area that shows its history that has a lot of historic buildings, and then you can see if there’s hauntings also in those historic areas,” she explains.
Managing customers expectations
Allison admits that one of the most difficult parts of running a ghost tour business is managing customer expectations. “We don’t want people to look at these tours the same way they look at horror movies or paranormal TV,” she says. To avoid that, American Ghost Walks lists what to expect on their website, and advises guides to explain things again at the start of the tour. However, as Allison points out, you have to be prepared to deal with naysayers.
“You have to believe in yourself because there will be times where you will feel that nobody else believes in you or that there’s nobody out there who appreciates what you offer. But I encourage everyone to stand strong because there’s always someone out there who will appreciate what you have and what you’re giving. You just have to find that appropriate audience,” she says.
More from this episode
Want to learn what inspired Allison to pursue a career in the paranormal? What was her spookiest, paranormal experience? Tune in to learn more from Allison Jornlin!