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Scouts find ghostly way to raise money for troop

The Girl Scouts of Troop 1094 are providing the spooks this Halloween season.  

Besides cookie sales and community service, the Sycamore School Juniors have a new focus: the paranormal. The girls are getting ghoulish this weekend with the city’s first community-wide Village Ghost Walk, showcasing Claremont’s local hauntings. 

The Sycamore scouts and their leaders, Leah Key-Ketter and Holly Pugno, have spent the last three months becoming experts in the ethereal, researching and interviewing Village folks who claim to have seen ghosts. The scouts’ work will be put to the test this Saturday and Sunday as they lead small groups to some of the hauntings, Bridges Auditorium and Colors 91711 among them.

While the apparitions certainly take center stage in their eerie expedition, the experience is about more than just the ghost stories.

“It’s a fun way of learning about Claremont’s history while hearing some great storytelling,” Ms. Pugno said. “You walk away with a better understanding of Claremont.”

This is the second year the Girl Scouts will be showcasing their storytelling prowess, but the first time the Claremont community is invited to take part. After limiting their initial showing to fellow scouts, this year the ghost walk is expanding. Joan Bunte of Stamp Your Heart Out and the Village Marketing Group have helped with that effort, eager to join in on the spooks.

“I have always heard about Ghost Walks/Tours and was very jealous when I learned that Riverside had one,” Ms. Bunte said.  “I kept my ears open and when [I heard] Leah had put one together last year for and with her Girl Scouts, that was the open door.”

Ms. Bunte and the Village Marketing Group weren’t the only ones on board with broadening the scope of the Ghost Walk. Within a matter of days, the event was sold out, with proceeds benefitting the scouts’ summer camp fund. It took Troop 1093 two-and-a-half years to raise money for last year’s Girl Scout Camp. With the success of this year’s walk, they might already have their ticket to this year’s summer excursion.

Putting together a haunted trek worthy of the crowds is a tall order. Thankfully Ms. Key-Ketter, who has helped coordinate the effort, is a sage when it comes to spooky storytelling. The Claremont mom has been leading her own ghost walks for her son and his friends for years. She is now sharing her craft with her scouts, much to their delight.

“It’s fun to be creepy for a night,” said 11-year-old Edyn Hawke, who will be serving as one of the tour’s docents.

The tour begins at the Claremont Depot, and slowly winds its way to Stamp Your Heart Out, where Girl Scouts—dressed in their gypsy finest—will be waiting to read palms, dole out hot cider and present a festive Halloween craft.

The Ghost Walk makes its first stop at Some Crust bakery, a local haunt in both senses of the word. Those who believe in the paranormal say that the longer a place has been around, the more chance it has to be haunted. Some Crust Bakery, one of the most venerable places of business in Claremont, is no exception to this rule. Owners and employees of the Village staple say they have experienced phenomena suggesting it is haunted to its very foundation.

While some of the stories feature seemingly sinister spirits, like Some Crust, not all of the tales’ phantom characters have a mean streak. The young docents have taken a liking to “Timmy” the ghost, a spirit who haunted what used to be a Fourth Street hair salon and is now Olga’s Underground Furniture, another aspect of the story that amuses 11-year-old Lilly Pugno. In addition to Timmy, the girls are partial to a giddy young ghost that features in one of the outings’ final accounts, a story provided by Ms. Bunte’s daughter, Beth Garvin, and 12-year-old grandson, Jack.

While convincing their tour guests that ghosts are real might be a bit of a challenge, the Sycamore docents weren’t a hard sell.

“I’ve always believed in ghosts,” declared Lilly Pugno. “I probably believe more now.”

—Beth Hartnett


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