July 3, 2009 12:00

Ghosts of downtown Greensboro

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Ghosts of downtown Greensboro

The temperature hovers in the nineties on a recent Friday but Dan Riedel dresses in a shortsleeve white shirt, dark grey vest and a matching vintage style jacket with tails. A vintage brimmed hat tops his head. He stalks through the streets of downtown Greensboro toting a wax splattered lantern, telling stories of the dead. His real pleasure comes from screwing with passersby. He waits as an unsuspecting victim gets ready to enter a doorway and then announces loudly, “That is why I will never go into that building again.”

Strange glances find their way to his costumed stature but he revels in the attention and just points to a nearby window or inanimate object and screams in terror.

This usually leads to said glancer picking up the pace to get away from this strange character. Riedel owns and acts as tour guide of Carolina History and Haunts. He kicked off the “Nightmares Around Elm Street” tour last September with his wife Bridgette. The couple consider themselves history buffs and Bridgette works towards a history degree at Guilford College. Dan works for a printing company during the day. The Nightmares Around Elm Street tour leads ticket holders around the downtown

Greensboro area, stopping at about 12 locations along the way. Each stop holds multiple ghost stories and even more history of this historic city. “We worked on a tour in Lexington, Virginia and we’ve gone on lots of tours in Louisiana and Georgia,” Riedel said. “Since we’re both such history buffs we decided to start one here.” The tour stretches across a mile-long path starting at West Washington Street.

Nightmares Around Elm Street makes stops at Blandwood Mansion, the Otto Zenke estate, the Carolina Theatre, M’coul’s Pub, Ellenburg and Shaffer Glass Art Studio, Elsewhere Artist Collaborative, Jules Antiques and Fine Art, the Farmer’s Wife, Chakras Day Spa and the Biltmore Hotel.

Each of these places holds a special haunted story as told by the owner, managers and/or employees. “We spent about one and a half years researching and gathering stories of business owners in downtown,” Riedel said. “It would have taken a lot longer without all of the prior history and knowledge we already had of the area.” While walking the streets of downtown you can learn what haunts the halls of the Guilford County’s Sheriff’s Office; the story of the woman who wanders the balcony of the Carolina Theatre; why Chakras gives construction workers the willies; why you may want to research your room before staying at the Biltmore Hotel.

“A lot of people have lived here all their lives and have never even been to some of these places,” Riedel said. “If nothing else, this tour is a great way to get out and learn about your city.” Nightmares Around Elm Street finds itself in a lull, battling the ever-changing weather of this summer. With the last few weeks plagued with rain and this past Friday seeing record high temperatures, tourgoers are hesitating to purchase tickets.

Riedel says that business booms at Halloween however. During the weeks surrounding Halloween he says he was hosting three tours a night.

While Riedel possesses no personal stories about ghost sightings, he says that past tour members send pictures featuring questionable orb-like images. One tour member even claimed to see an apparition crossing the train tracks during one of the full-moon tours.

Tickets can be reduced by $2 if purchased online.

Dan Riedel leads the Nightmares Around Elm Street tour in Greensboro. (photos by Lindsay Craven)

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