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 Ghost Tour tells tales of downtown Shreveport

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PostSubject: Ghost Tour tells tales of downtown Shreveport   Thu Jun 21, 2007 12:47 pm

June 21, 2007
By Maggie Martin

In an upstairs window that won't stay shut.
In voices coming from an office in a 1920s skyscraper.








From stage lights swinging unexplainable on a stage.

Ghosts!

You might find them at: Noble Savage (the window), the Slattery Building (voices), and the Municipal Auditorium. (lights) Those are among places you might look for ghosts in Shreveport's downtown West Edge.

Kathryn Usher and Katee Fontane, owners of the new Shreveport Spirit Tours, will take you there.

During Shreveport Spirit Tours, they spew out intriguing tidbits about ghosts, local voodoo practices, the old Red Light District, and the history of the area.

The new 90-minute tours start at Caddo Courthouse and proceed in a circular walk up Texas Street, through Oakland, by Municipal Auditorium and back to the Courthouse.

Even longtime Shreveporters might be surprised at some of the facts and ghostly tales.

The two supply divining rods to help with ghost searches.

"I had done tours in Jefferson and New Orleans and a couple of other places. I have lived here since 1983 and was aware of its great history. So, I thought, 'Why can't we do something back here?'" Usher said.

In time, the two hope to expand the tour business.

"I would like to do a van driving tour of some of the cemeteries up and down Texas. And a Ladies on Fairfield Tour where we stop for refreshments at a bed and breakfast," Usher said.

But for now, it is Shreveport Spirit Tours.

Usher has come up with tidbits through research and some anecdotal information from locals.

During a recent tour, the two outlined for a group other places to find ghosts or hauntings:

n Caddo Courthouse. Haunted by a coroner who didn't want to leave.

n The old Rexall drug. At one time, bodies were kept on ice here.

n Oakland Cemetery. A man who was killed haunts one corner because his killer was pardoned by a Louisiana governor.

n Also in Oakland, a crumbling burial site cannot be repaired. "Every time they try to repair it, it crumbles again," said Usher of an unexplained mystery.

n Municipal Auditorium. Stage hands have trouble with lights and the stage light swing at unexpected times. Where do the ghosts come from? One answer: The basement of the auditorium was once the city morgue.

Tour participants tried out divining rods along the way. "Yes, it pulled together like a magnet," said Taryn Ferro, as she held the rod at the Municipal.

"It's creepy," added Charles Hilt.

But there are more than ghosts on this tour.

Did you know that the old Rexall drug store once sold voodoo supplies?

It was one of two voodoo stories Usher told. She related the story of a woman who kept seeing a trail of blood late at night in a downtown hotel where she lived and eventually discovered a man practicing voodoo.

Voodoo is still practiced here, Usher said. "Most very low key."

And, did you know that according to Usher:

n The infamous Bonnie and Clyde once shared dinner at the old Majestic Cafe on Milam where Panos Diner is now located. Shortly after they left, they were killed just east of Shreveport. What happened? The tour reveals the answer.

n In a row of gravestones at the eastern edge of Oakland Cemetery, one is from the same turn-of-the-century age as those it stands beside, but looks as though it was just installed. It is much smaller and the lettering is in Russian. It faces east, while the others face west. Why? Take the tour for the rest of the story.

n When the Slattery Building rose in the 1920s, it was the tallest building in Louisiana.

n A courtyard between the main sanctuary and the chapel of First United Methodist Church of Shreveport is the best kept secret in downtown Shreveport.

n Some graves in Oakland have both head and footstones and rails.

n The famous Shreveport madam Annie McCune is buried in Oakland. (At one time the local, legal Red Light District here had 1,000 prostitutes.)

n Because there are no back bays in Municipal Auditorium, musicians load and unload equipment up the steps in the front of the building.

n The Justin Gras building was built as a hotel in the early 1900s, but was actually operated as a brothel and casino. (Usher points out the information was printed in a "Shreveport-Bossier Historical Downtown Walking Tour" by Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau, but was left out of a more recent updated version, "Shreveort-Bossier Historical Tours".)

Taryn Ferro signed up for the walking tour because she likes to do different things around town.

Charles Hilt loved hearing Shreveport stories. "I had never heard them. Shreveport (history) is never the main discussion in class," said Hilt.
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