Spooky fun for the slightly demented

A friend once told me that you can learn a lot about people by looking at what they read. She explained how our literary preferences reveal everything from political leanings to parenting styles. I nodded in agreement, praying all the while that she wouldn’t ask what was on my nightstand at the moment.

It was The Stranger Beside Me, a book about serial killer Ted Bundy.

I have always been fascinated with true crime stories and how a seemingly normal person can actually be living the life of a certifiable wack-a-doodle. While my own “questionable” tendencies are mostly limited to hoarding vintage Christmas ornaments and wearing socks to bed, it’s not like they go unnoticed. People make fun of me. My family often gifts me with fuzzy footwear. My husband asks how many “scary old wooden Santas we need” before they take over our house. My idiosyncrasies are quite public and they result in plenty of ribbing.

So how in the world does a person get away with stowing a body in a barrel in their living room for years without igniting the suspicion of a single neighbor?

Because I come from a long line of law enforcement personnel, I like to believe that my interest in crime and assorted sociopaths is simply genetic. When I visited London years ago and my buddy asked what I wanted to do first, I was ready:

“The Jack the Ripper Murder Tour! We go to the sites of all the MURDERS! And then we get BEER at the end! Weeeeee! “

I also love graveyards, ghost stories, and all things macabre.

This past weekend, my friend Susan posted on Facebook that she had an extra ticket for one of the Historic Ghost Tours of Naperville. You can probably guess who responded with the fastest “ME! PICK ME!”

We arrived in a minivan full of suburban cops, firemen, and their wives (are you starting to see a theme about who exactly enjoys this kind of stuff?). The tour started at Quigley’s Irish Pub where we gulped down ciders to put us in “good spirits.”

Christopher, our knowledgeable and slightly peculiar tour guide, gave each of us a handheld ghost-hunting device that would light up in the presence of “disturbed energy” (i.e. long-dead brides bemoaning their missing grooms). We were encouraged to snap pictures and report back on any eerie “orbs” (more evidence of spirits). The only thing missing was Vincent Price himself as we strolled towards our first haunted house in search of Casper.

Surprisingly, I found the tour extremely educational. I had no idea that one of the worst train disasters in history occurred in Naperville on April 26, 1946, leaving 47 dead. As we stood on the tracks at the site of the tragedy, the wind suddenly kicked up and Christopher commented, “That always happens when we get to this spot, even on still, calm nights.” Cue spooky music.

The evening was one-half silliness and one-half commentary on the sad, the deranged, and the dead. It provided a rare combination of conflicting emotions and experiences.

In other words, it was right up my alley.

Some of the bus-stop moms have asked whether the tours would be appropriate for children. It really depends on the kid. My oldest son, who is 8, would have loved it. My younger boys would have required therapy afterwards. Christopher did admit that several Girl Scouts left the tour in tears recently. Yet if you have a child with an appreciation for a good ghost story (or a child who seems destined for a career in police or fire work), this may be a great way to spend an unworldly autumn evening.

For anyone interested, visit http://www.historic-ghost-tours-naperville.com.

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