American Ghost Walks buys Red Cloak History Tours
Over the last 15 years, residents here and in 11 other Maine towns have become accustomed to seeing lantern-carrying women in red cloaks leading walking tours – from downtown to the cemeteries. These docents illuminating the rich history of the people, places and ghosts were Red Cloak Haunted History Tours, and later, Red Cloak History Tours.
In recent history, Red Cloak’s owners Sally Lobkowicz and Greg Latimer began thinking about selling the business and starting a new chapter in their lives. And earlier this month, they did. They sold their business to Michael Huberty of American Ghost Walks/Chicago Hauntings. American Ghost Walks offers tours in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and, most recently, Hollywood.
“Fifteen years is a long time to put your heart and soul into something,” Lobkowicz said in a phone interview. “I loved every minute. I loved the towns. But, I wanted new energy for the company. A fellow tour operator knew Mike (Huberty) and about his tours in several states. I went to (American Ghost Walks’) website and saw how similar our tours were. By talking to him and his sister Allison (Jornlin), we learned we also had similar philosophies ... and we were prepared to go ahead.”
While the ink was still drying on the paperwork, Huberty was on the phone introducing himself to the Red Cloak guides, eager to find out if they would like to continue leading the tours.
Huberty and Jornlin’s plan is to have the tours up and running in April here in Boothbay Harbor, Camden and Bar Harbor and have the other locations – Damariscotta, Wiscasset, Bath, Brunswick, Freeport, Hallowell, Kennebunkport, Rockland and Portland going by fall, definitely before Halloween!
“As someone who loved visiting Maine as a child on family vacations and has always been enamored with ghost stories, I'm really excited to build on Sally's wonderful legacy by creating unforgettable haunted history experiences for locals and tourists alike,” Huberty said. “The best way to really get to know a place is by learning its secrets, and ghost stories and legends are the most fun.”
Jornlin, a teacher, researcher and author, founded Ghost Tour Milwaukee in 2008. In 2010, Huberty was looking for work. He’d just returned from touring with a band, and Jornlin suggested he start a ghost tour in Madison. He did. Huberty went to the historical society and to every bar, restaurant and hotel around the Capitol Square area, and the capitol building, where he asked if the place was haunted.
“I’d either get thrown out, or, half the time, get a story,” Huberty said. “I wrote a script and started taking people on tours. As I moved around in other states I started tours there. Allison’s tour became part of American Ghost Walks in 2018. And now to have the chance to work in Maine, to work with someone who has a great reputation, has done all of the research and has the real stories, written all of the scripts … that’s exciting! When I looked up Maine haunted history online the first thing that came up in the Google search was Red Cloak History Tours … and that’s a very good thing. It’s a known quantity and we can continue the legacy and have fun.”
Huberty and Jornlin are looking for people with a passion for their towns and the stories. Guides need to have a passion for the ghostly tales and history, deliver the scripts well and be reliable. Jornlin will be in Boothbay Harbor March 30 to meet with guides and walk the tour routes. And they are still taking resumes that can be emailed to Huberty: firstname.lastname@example.org
“This is perfect for performers, teachers, speakers,” Huberty said. “We have a policy: Let guides go with their creative instinct. If the guides are having fun, the people will be having fun. Guides will be able to dress in the red cloaks and carry a lantern or something else. We want guides to dress comfortably… be themselves. We have a few guides who dress Steampunk (style) and we even have a guy who dresses as a vampire. We have just one hard and fast rule: We don’t make anything up. I get disappointed when I go on a tour and look something up from it and it’s not real.”
Not too long ago, Huberty was in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin walking a tour route with two new potential guides. The three went into a gift shop after one of the trainee guides mentioned she had worked there when it was a different store. She’d heard the building was lively during Prohibition; there were gangster and ghost stories about it, supposedly.
The three went inside and asked the woman at the counter if the place was haunted, and did she have any experiences. She responded she was Catholic and didn’t believe in the ghost thing, but did they want to go to the basement? Sure! They started looking around – just looked like a regular old basement, nothing looked weird.
“And then ... we get to a corner, it’s eerie and dark, kind of like this shut-off part of the basement that may have led to a tunnel around the other buildings on the block,” Huberty said. “One guide stopped and said she had a weird feeling. I said ‘What?’ And then I turn around and the woman who works at the store starts crying. I ask what’s going on, is she alright? The woman says ‘Yeah ... I don’t know if it’s haunted, but every time I look in that (points) corner, I don’t know … I just start weeping.’ And then one of the guides says, ‘It’s the little girl in the corner … you see her.’ And the woman said, ‘Yes, yes, I do!’ and they hug! And I’m standing there going what? Whoa! That’s amazing! It was a powerful moment.”
And while the ghostly history tours are set to resume here in April, Lobkowicz and Latimer will be focusing on their magazine and website, Mysterious Destinations. The couple have had some remarkable investigations and are ready for new ones, including the menehune in Hawaii; and by other names in Tahiti and Iceland. Digging into the history of new places while being open to encounters with menehune, spirits and other guardians of those lands is exciting. “It’s kind of like the world is our oyster now,” said Lobkowicz.
For more information on American Ghost Walks, visit https://americanghostwalks.com