When she went back home to Austin, she announced to her friends that she was going to leave her job as an Executive Director for a culinary school, move to New Orleans, and become a ghost tour guide, which she did about 6 months later.
Two months into her stint as a tour guide, she was offered the position of General Manager – which she held for 6 years until she decided to move back to Texas and start her own ghost tour company – Spell Caster Ghost Tours.
Gretchen spoke about her thoughtfully curated ghost tours and why paranormal tourism is gaining traction in my recent interview with her.
An innate gift and immense passion for the paranormal
As a young child, Gretchen had encountered supernatural occurrences and was fortunate enough to have understanding parents who never doubted her ability to see things that others could not.
“As time went by, the sightings never really stopped. And I continued to seek answers by way of the esoteric arts.”
Storytelling is what she loves the most about running Spell Caster Ghost Tours. Her love of storytelling stems from her past experiences as an education and program director for a film school.A town with great potential for paranormal tourism
In Georgetown, she saw the potential of paranormal tourism. It is also where her parents lived.
“After about 3 months of living in Georgetown, I began to think about all the different industries I had worked in and what I enjoyed most. That’s when the idea of ghost tours dawned on me.”
Georgetown is only 30 minutes from Austin. It has grown rapidly over the past 4 years. Her research on the area of Williamson County unraveled many great stories and interesting historical facts, all of which spurred her to create Spell Caster Ghost Tours.
“The Chisholm Trail ran through downtown Georgetown. It was very much the Old West. Fast forward to the 20th century, our jail held one of America’s most famous serial killers, Henry Lee Lucas. The historical dots connect rather unexpectedly – Lucas was arrested in Montague County, Texas, and then transferred to Georgetown. Montague County is where most of the cattle on the Chisholm Trail were being gathered at the end of the Civil War.”
“Georgetown is not Savannah or New Orleans, but it has a safe, quaint, and sought-after charm like no other.”
Family-friendly and adults-only ghost tours
Spell Caster offers 2 tours in Georgetown: The Ghosts of Old Georgetown ( family-friendly ghost tour) and The Ghost Maker Tour (adults-only ghost tour).
Both tours explore the history and hauntings of downtown Georgetown; however, Ghost Maker Tour weaves in a bit of true crime for a spicier experience.
In addition, there is a monthly adults-only tour named Taylor’s Spirits After Dark that takes place in the neighboring town, Taylor.
“Taylor is very different from Georgetown, but equally as interesting and notoriously haunted!”
“I’d love to perhaps get a few investigations/ghost hunts on our 2023 calendar. There are many other towns that I have been considering opening tours in this summer.”
Good ghost stories spice up a potentially tedious history tour
“People seem to be genuinely interested in the paranormal – skeptics and believers alike. We are in a time where history is so controversial, to the point that it is being rewritten. I think many people want to be fed historically accurate information so they can better understand our current climate.”
Straight-up history tours can be a bit dry. Gretchen believes that a good ghost tour satiates both interests – history and hauntings.
“Spell Caster delivers historically accurate information, with some good ghost stories thrown in for good measure.”
Gretchen believes that the best thing any ghost tour can offer is personal experiences.
“Whether it’s from local business owners, staff at an establishment, or a guest on a tour, being able to share a personal experience creates a more dynamic story.”
You don’t have to be a “believer” to enjoy a ghost tour. It’s a great way to learn about the town/city while getting entranced by some spooky stories.
Gretchen’s advice for the tour participants – Wear comfortable shoes (Tours are about a mile-long walk) and dress for the weather or bring an umbrella. Show your guide some appreciation if you find the tour intriguing.
Every ghost tour company has its own formula
“Some tour guides are in period costumes and really focus on the era, while others may attempt to elevate the spookiness of the stories with some embellishments.”
“Our Ghost Maker Tour is basically History + True Crime = Hauntings. We paint a picture of the dark history, then weave in the tragedies or traumas that have each tour stop inevitably ending with a ghost or two.”
“Most of the locals realized they had no idea about some of the history of their hometown. And out-of-town visitors like hearing the sordid secrets that aren’t available in the visitor center’s brochures.”
The best take-home souvenir
The best takeaways from the tours? Gretchen hopes the tours will bring a wonderful experience to all the participants and inspire them to start doing a little research on their own.
Gretchen hopes that the memory of a Spell Caster Ghost Tour can be the best souvenir a visitor takes home with them, as well as a great night for the locals.
“Of course, I hope folks talk about us with enthusiasm and fondness.”
Tours for everybody, irrespective of your beliefs
Gretchen has never encountered any negative comments or accusations of promoting superstition, though there have been people broaching those topics with concerns.
“Beliefs are personal. I consider myself a skeptic around believers and a believer around skeptics – but I respect all beliefs.”
“If someone believes that they are putting themself in a precarious situation on a ghost tour, then I respect their fears and concerns. Nevertheless, I am more than willing to convince them otherwise.”
Hauntings are neither good nor evil
“I don’t see hauntings as good or evil. Most hauntings are probably the result of residual energies. As a woman, I know what it’s like to feel invisible, so I have compassion for active spirits – even the naughty ones.”
Gretchen does not expect everyone to share her thoughts or beliefs. She wants people to find the tours both exhilarating and informative – without fears or worries of supernatural consequences.
Ghost tours, as is self-explanatory, are nothing short of an eerie experience. Gretchen had experienced her fair share of spooky incidents.
“On one of my tours in New Orleans, we were standing on the corner across from the LaLaurie Mansion under a streetlight. When I said the name Lea, she was the little girl who died in the mansion, the streetlight suddenly went out.”
“We all looked at each other for a few seconds, some with goosebumps, and then I carried on. About 1 minute later, I said “Lea” again, and the light came on.”
“When the stop and story were over, I walked the group across the street to stand directly in front of the LaLaurie Mansion. As I stood before my 28 guests, I felt something tug on my messenger bag. I looked at my bag, then backed up at my guests, and decided to keep that part of the tour to myself.”
More recently, on one of her tours in Taylor, the experience was even more startling.
“I had about 12 guests with me, and we were in an alley off Main Street. The guests were all against the wall of an abandoned building as I was telling them a story about the location behind me.”
“In the middle of the story, to my right, I saw something move about a foot off the ground. I slowly glanced over, and there was an oddly shaped shadow moving in between the ankles of one of the women on my tour. It then floated to the legs of another woman and disappeared.”
“My facial expression must have changed because a few of the folks asked if I was OK. I smiled and said, “yep! I just saw a shadow figure move between you gals,” as I pointed to the women. It took a moment for the guests to process what I said, and I hoped they didn’t think this was a deliberate act of smoke and mirrors.”
“As we approached the next location, another woman, who was standing at the opposite end of where the shadow was, approached me. She gently grabbed my arm and whispered, “I think I saw it, too.”
Join the tours for a wicked good time
When asked how she hopes to see the tours will evolve in coming years. Gretchen said she would like to see an organic growth in her tours, and that could be an expansion to other cities and towns, ghost hunts, more partnerships with ghost storytelling events etc.
“I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I will always explore all the options available to me and open to new opportunities that come our way.”
If you’re ever in or around Georgetown, come and experience Spell Caster Ghost Tours for a night of history and hauntings on “The Most Beautiful Square in Texas!
Photos by Spell Caster Ghost Tours