By Carolina Keating
When you think of ghosts, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Creaking doors, unexplained footsteps, or eerie whispers? How about an old, abandoned building with peeling paint and a mysterious back-story? What probably does not immediately come to mind is Bryan, Texas. Yet, one of Downtown Bryan’s most popular attractions is a ghost tour that explores the creepy history of rumored spirits in some of the historic buildings.
The ghost tours are not the only interesting tours available in the Downtown Bryan area. “We do just about anything – ghost tours, educational tours, architectural tours, shopping tours,” says Cindy Peaslee, one of the founders and leaders of the Downtown Bryan tours.
Debbie Jasek, owner of Brazos Glassworks in Downtown Bryan, came up with the idea for a ghost tour about five years ago because she knew other towns were successful at similar ghost walks or cemetery walks. “Smaller towns started doing it for fundraisers,” explains Jasek. “Tyler did it to raise money and another small town that has a registered historic cemetery used the tours to augment the cost for the upkeep of the cemetery.” To Jasek, it seemed like a perfect way to inspire interest in Downtown Bryan and raise a little money, too.
The first step was lots and lots of research. “We have gone back and we dig into the history and find out some of the cool stories about Downtown Bryan,” says Jasek. “All of the stories we have are from actual businesses and that actual business owners have told us, so we document those things and we take that and weave it into our tours.”
Peaslee says there is always an ongoing effort to learn more. “I probably spend 10 or 15 hours a week researching Bryan history at the Carnegie Library or on the Internet,” she says. It all pays off on the tours when people are intrigued by some of the interesting facts.
On the history tour, people always want to know about saloons and outlaws. “People are interested in the cool stories about all of the old saloons down here,” says Jasek. “In the early 1900s, there were 23 legitimate businesses and 23 saloons. I found out there was one saloon that was called the Royal Inn and they nicknamed it the Third National Bank of Bryan because of all of the deposits on Friday and Saturday night,” says Jasek. “There was another one that was famous for having a possum dinner – a barbecued possum dinner on Saturday nights. Doesn’t that sound appealing?” Jasek asks with a laugh.
The architectural tours are also a big hit. “Some people just go crazy over architecture,” says Peaslee. She works with local downtown business owners so that people on the tour can actually go into the various buildings.
When asked which tour is most popular, Peaslee’s answer is immediate – “The ghost tours. People would be amazed at just how many ghost stories there are and how haunted these buildings seem to be.”
For more information about guided walking tours of Downtown Bryan, visit tourdowntownbryan.com.
Jasek agrees, noting a particular story about people who have heard a little girl’s voice several times in several places. “The little girl has been heard in more than just one building,” Jasek says. Despite the inherent eeriness that comes with ghostly spirits, Peaslee insists the eerie stories are spooky but harmless. “It’s nothing mean or sinister – just haunted,” she says.
Most of the tours that Jasek and Peaslee give last approximately 40 minutes, although both noted the tours are very customizable. “We can go slow, and we don’t rush the walking,” says Jasek. “We always go at their pace,” echoes Peaslee.