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Residents experience chilling past through guided history tour

It’s 8 o’clock on a Friday night in downtown Ithaca. Wispy grey clouds surround a half moon as burnt orange leaves fall through the brisk autumn air to the sidewalk. A high-heeled foot crunches the leaves and stops in front of the Clinton House. It’s time to hear Jessie Bonney-Burrill tell the story of one of Ithaca’s most evil residents.

Ithaca native Bonney-Burrill is the guide of the Haunted Ithaca Tour, a tour through downtown Ithaca that covers all things mysterious and grim, from ghost stories, to the city’s most evil characters in its paranormal past. Tickets range from $6-14 and tour-goers experience Ithaca’s eerie past firsthand stopping at eight locations in the city.

The Haunted Ithaca Tour is one of many tours offered by the Ithaca Historical Tour Company, which has partnered with the Ithaca History Center. The History Center receives a percentage of every ticket sold, but the tours themselves are the brainchild of Bonney-Burrill who launched the tours for the public this past June. She researched and prepared for them for a year.

There have been other haunted Ithaca tours in previous years during the Halloween season, but Scott Callan, director of the Ithaca History Center, said Bonney-Burrill’s tours differ from previous years’ guides.

“The best way I can describe it is that these are more historically researched, the others were more dramatic…these are a little more informative I think,” Callan said.

A list of these tours includes a haunted Ithaca tour, a haunted lake tour and a historical Ithaca tour. Bonney-Burrill is also researching a new Ithaca women’s history tour as well as an arts and literature tour. The Haunted Ithaca tour was one of the most popular since the tours’ initiation in June, with the historical Ithaca tour close behind, but with the Halloween season approaching haunted tours have been the main attraction.

“I think it is the best way to experience local history,” Callan said. “And that’s the great thing about local history it is literally right outside your door so this is a good way of getting outside, walking around and seeing things first hand.”

Natascha Yogachandra, Tompkins County local who went on the Oct. 11th tour, enjoyed her experience.

“We’ve been around for so long and I had no idea about everything she said on the tour,” Yogachandra said. “And I’m glad it wasn’t too scary.”

Tours will continue this month at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18 and 25, departing from the Dewitt Mall.

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