GALENA, Ill. — Ted Williams and Robyn Davis are true believers in the supernatural.
The married couple revel in learning of new ghost stories in Galena, historic tales of residents long-past meeting untimely fates and lingering on in spectral form.
For some, that fascination with ghosts might simply be regarded as a quirky personality trait, but for Williams and Davis, it was the basis for a business model.
“We love history, and we love ghostly stories,” Williams said. “We love that we are able to tell those stories to people that visit this community.”
Williams and Davis founded The Haunted Galena Tour Co. in 2016 as a way to deliver a unique ghost tour experience in the city.
Throughout the summer months, tour groups are led at night through Galena’s downtown. A guide dressed in period costume and bearing a candle lantern shares with participants a series of stories detailing supposed hauntings plaguing nearby structures.
The company’s owners were familiar with ghost tours long before the founding of The Haunted Galena Tour Co.
Williams and Davis started conducting tours themselves in 2001 as part of a program through Annie Wiggins Guest House. After working as tour guides for several years, the two moved on to other careers, but ghost tours in Galena remained, with new tour companies appearing in town every couple of years.
However, for Williams and Davis, these ghost tours were missing something.
“They were in large measure more focused on ghost hunting tools and things of that nature,” Williams said. “There was a straying away from good storytelling.”
Hoping to bring back the historic aspect of Galena’s ghost touring industry, the two eventually agreed to start a company, focusing on delivering stories of Galena’s history with a paranormal twist. Since its inception, the company has been a popular tourist attraction, particularly for those with a penchant toward learning about the past.
“We make sure we research these stories thoroughly,” Davis said. “There were real people, and it’s fascinating seeing what they had to deal with throughout history.”
Davis recalled a particular story that the tour shares involving a man named McCarty, who, in 1855, was killed in the street while walking a preacher home from his wedding.
“It’s those kinds of stories that really fascinate us,” Davis said.
Along with its standard nightly tour, the company has continued to introduce new tours through the years, including the Spirits and Spirits tour, which takes participants to local haunted buildings, while also providing alcoholic drinks.
Michelle Heurung, the owner of Lamberson Guest House in Galena, said she often recommends The Haunted Galena Tour Co. to her guests.
“I’ve been on their tours, and I love the showmanship and the stories,” she said. “It’s not over the top. They are local folks that know the town really well, and they know how to tell a good story.”
Williams said he intends to introduce even more new tours after the COVID-19 pandemic passes, which he believes will further spur interest in the supernatural.
And, although the research of new stories and development of new tours occupies much of Williams’ and Davis’ time, they still take moments to appreciate their love of the supernatural.
“We get pictures that were taken on the tour that show actual apparitions,” Williams said. “That’s always really exciting for us.”