Programs offered free of charge
by Susan Mikula Campbell
Two Youngstown women plan to take their love of village history and give it a seasonal twist with "Youngstown Hauntings, Ghosts, Graveyards and Murders" on Oct. 11.
Gretchen Duling and Karen Noonan, both members of the Youngstown Heritage Tours and Tourism Committee and the Town of Porter Historical Society, plan to meet visitors at 6 p.m. at the Falkner Park kiosk off Main Street. As they walk past historic houses on Main Street, Duling plans to tell spirit-ful tales of former residents as gleaned from current Youngstonians and, when they reach the old Universal Cemetery behind First Presbyterian Church, Noonan will talk about families and veterans buried there through the years.
Duling has been pulling together ghostly tales from fellow residents for many years. "It's literally based on people telling us about it," she said. She may also add some stories she's written and her own paranormal experiences.
Noonan is looking forward to telling about the 19th century, 50-year-old gentleman buried in the cemetery whose wife was indicted for murder by a coroner's jury and a grand jury -- 12 years after his death. Was she guilty, or a victim of rumor, gossip and innuendo?
Neighbors and friends, Noonan said she and Duling are just local people interested in local history. "We've started calling ourselves 'the history detectives,' " she said.
The October hauntings walk is a brand-new creation this year for the Youngstown Heritage Tours and Tourism Committee, Noonan said. Regular historical walking tours in the village have been underway for several years. This year, they offered Main Street tours, a waterfront tour and an Underground Railroad tour.
"This (Oct. 11) will be our last one of the season," Noonan said.
"We will be offering these again next year, June to October, with a tour a month, which covers a different topic of the village's history," Duling said. "We do have so many different stories to tell."
The October walk won't be elaborate. Just the two friends telling tales.
"We'd love volunteers to help next year. We have costumes; we just need people who are interested in playacting," Duling said.
Walking tours aren't the only creation for the village that is proud of its history.
Last Dec. 19, on the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812's burning of Youngstown and capture of Fort Niagara, an all-day history program was held for more than 600 school children.
Duling and Noonan have also modified the adult walking tour for a fourth-grade local history tour.
The Youngstown residents also had a part in creating the book, "From the Mouth of the Lower Niagara River," released in 2011. It was a historical collaboration on the history of life along the Niagara River by the villages of Youngstown and Lewiston on this side and Queenston and Niagara on the Lake in Canada.
The new kiosk in Falkner Park offers points of interest in the village for a self-guided walking tour. Soon to be added to the kiosk is a second panel, offering information such as locations of restaurants, restrooms and places for medical assistance.
"We feel we haven't been tourist-friendly. We're working to change that," Duling said.
Reservations are required for this month's walk, and flat shoes and flashlights are recommended for walking in the cemetery. In case of rain, a modified version of the tour will be offered indoors after meeting at the kiosk. The walk is not recommended for children under 10 years old.
These programs are offered free of charge by the Youngstown Heritage Tours and Tourism Committee. Donations are accepted and afterward, participants are encouraged to visit local restaurants and business establishments, Duling said.