The Historical and Archaeological Society of Fort Riley taught community members about the history of the fort through its ghost stories Saturday at their 25th annual Ghost Tours event.
During each of their many tours through the evening, volunteers of all ages helped pass on the spooky stories of the fort’s past to the area families who attended. Many of the storytellers dressed up in historical outfits that correspond with the time period shortly after the fort’s beginning in 1853.
While storytellers explained the ghost stories to the tours that came by their eight stations, volunteers in ghostly makeup and dress helped to act out the paranormal stories. Children gaped with wide eyes, as the ghostly actors appeared from behind buildings or walked between the trees or along the streets.
“We have four books filled with stories, and there could probably be an additional three or four books written with more stories,” said Mary Teller, president of HASFR. “Some of the stories on the tour may not be in our books. They may be a new current story that tenants have come across as they have experienced it themselves living there.”
Volunteers at the event included about 30 JROTC Blue Jay Battalion members from Junction City High School, as well as around 50 other volunteers, from families of military personnel to HASFR board members to other community members.
Teller said the event continues to grow each year, but due to the pandemic, they only offered 240 tickets this year. Although that number is higher than last year, previous years brought as many as 400 or more people to the event.
“We sold out in two and a half days,” Teller said. “We’re happy to be able to participate this year, even with restrictions still in place.”
In addition to the storytellers and “ghosts” that were present, the Fort Riley Middle School Orchestra played at the event, and the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard allowed children to sit on their horses for photos.
Samantha Vogt, 12, of Fort Riley, attended with her grandfather, Rick Pankau, of Mountain Home, Arkansas. Vogt said this was the first time she went to the event. She said her mother gave her booklets with some of the ghost stories of the fort in them that she read before the event.
“I got to read a lot of the ghost stories about the places [at Fort Riley], so I was really excited to see them in real life,” Vogt said.
The stories told included reports of mysterious happenings, like objects that moved from one place to another, lights flickering on or off, doors opening by themselves and the sounds of footsteps in the old houses.
One story, which took place in 2003 at Quarters One, the home of the Commanding General, involved the 3-year-old granddaughter of the general at the time. She looked across the living room and asked, “Who is that man in the chair?”
The other family members in the room looked over, but there was no one in the chair. After one of the women threw a pillow at the chair, the little girl told them, “He’s gone now.” The place where the man supposedly was sitting was located beside a pair of pictures that were often displaced on the wall, despite no one touching them.
To learn more about the history of Fort Riley or to volunteer for or participate in future events, visit the HASFR website at fortrileyhistoricalsociety.org.