Haunted trolley tour highlights Manhattan places with scary histories

By Bethany Knipp

The chill of October weather made Manhattan a little spookier Wednesday for the 30 people who toured the city’s haunted locations via trolley that night.

Throughout the month, area residents have had the opportunity to visit ghostly places on the Haunted Manhattan Trolley Tour. (Tours continue next week, but they’re fully booked. If you were hoping to take one, you’ll have to live vicariously through this story.)

One of the stops was Delta Sigma Phi fraternity at 1100 Fremont St.

There is a story to go with it, of course: Delta Sigma’s house used to be the Saint Mary Hospital before the Riley County Memorial Hospital was built.

When staff members were in the process of moving patients, an elderly man named George fell from his bed and died, wedged between the bed and a wall.

A current resident of the Delta Sigma house, Austin Rice, 19, said he could attest to some of George’s paranormal activities.

“I’m a bit of a skeptic, but there have been some weird things around here,” he said.

Rice said that there was a time when he was hanging his clothes in his closet when he heard a loud thump from the room next to his: George’s room.

When he checked on the room’s current resident, there was no one there. The fraternity brother came up the stairs as Rice was knocking.

When the pair went inside the room, nothing was out of place, Rice said.

In another incident, Rice said one of his roommates woke up to chair rocking back and forth.

He said the fan wasn’t on to propel the chair, and once his roommate touched it, it stopped rocking.

It’s also widely known that George the Ghost loves “Star Trek.”

During a 1973 ice storm, power was out all over town, but at Delta Sigma, it would come on every day in the afternoon for “Star Trek” on TV— and then go dead, according to ghost stories from Kansas State University’s website.

Rice said the house also is haunted by a night nurse who died in an elevator shaft — now closed up.  He said some of the frat’s alumni have told stories that they heard her screaming at night.

But despite the ghosts’ morbid deaths, Rice said they aren’t dangerous.

“The ghosts overall are very nice. They just kind of like to mess around and have fun. There are no crazy, demonic things,” he said.

A guide on one of Wednesday’s trolley tours, Brittany Motley, 20, said she’s heard of paranormal activity at the Purple Masque Theater in Memorial Stadium, another trolley stop.

The story goes that a football player named Nick died at the stadium after injuries from a tackle.

Legend has it that Nick’s parents also died in a car crash on their way to see their son on the day he died — and that he roams the stadium looking for them.

“My friends always talked about hearing footsteps when there’s no one there,” Motley said.

She said the other odd things have happened, like the theater’s sound board going awry and props getting stacked in corners of the theater when they should be somewhere else.

“It’s a creepy place. Never go there by yourself,” she said.

The Haunted Manhattan Trolley Tour started last year after the vehicle’s co-owners, Scott Siben and Josh Runyan, bought the bright red caboose from Estes Park, Colo., and created MHK Trolley.

Siben, 29, said he and Runyan decided Manhattan would benefit by having a trolley go around the city for parties and events.

With the help of a volunteer to compile the ghost stories that have been told around Manhattan for decades, Siben and Runyan added the haunted experience to their trolley business.

Jenny Aggson, 37, researched the stories, using the Riley County Historical Society as a resource in an effort to make the tales as historically accurate as possible.

“It’s not hard and fast science. What you find is based on people’s experiences,” she said.

Aggson worked on the project for three months in the summer of 2012 — reading about the tales, comparing the stories to historical facts and talking with people who said they’ve experienced paranormal behavior.

Aggson herself said she has been on a lot of ghost tours, partly because it’s a fun way to get her children interested in history.

“I’m kind of open to the idea that there are things out there that we don’t fully understand,” she said. “I would say I’m a believer, especially after this research that I’ve done.”

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