Throughout the 2010s a Halloween tradition emerged in the city of LaFollette. Allan Miller and what has now at times became a full blown throng of people, can be seen walking around downtown LaFollette on those crisp October nights. If you ever wondered what that crowd was doing as you drove past it, they were listening to an oral history of researched fact and legends about the city.
It started years before for Miller, a teacher and lover of all things artistic. Storytelling is one of the arts and Miller often found his stories in demand around family bonfires each fall.
“I remember hosting friends for a night of scary movies back in the late 1990s, the evening ended around a bonfire with me telling a story I learned about years before. I had heard it when I used to go to a friends house in Whitman Hollow back in high school. It was a tale about a man gone coon hunting out that way and how he didn’t come back…well, he didn’t come back alive is a better way to put it.” Miller says with a grin.
He had heard that story along with a few others that aroused his curiosity. How much truth were in these legends? Miller began researching the history of the area and he found something both interesting and a little spooky. The LaFollette area had a history of real life violence along with a number of legends tied to the paranormal.
In 2009 he decided to have a Halloween event for friends and family. He would walk around downtown LaFollette and tell them what he had learned. There were tales of murder, mayhem, and it was things that have really happened in LaFollette in it’s dark past. He learned legends from the turn of the century or before that were tied to some of these violent events.
“I was amazed when I began researching the area. Several of the stories I’d heard over the years were lining up with very dark real life events that have happened in LaFollette.” Miller wove those into the tales he would tell that night eleven years ago.
“My friends and family loved the stories and legends. They wanted to go again and bring more people back with them. I felt then that I had hit upon something. Vocal history and storytelling make up some of our earliest known history and such tales were passed along verbally for centuries from before there were written languages in many cultures. I found that it still resonated thousands of years after those first story tellers came along.”
By October 2011 Miller had compiled enough tales to make the walk last just over an hour. He decided to share it with a larger audience and those people enjoyed it. They told their friends who also enjoyed it. The number of stories increased, often due to feedback he received on the Ghost Walk itself, from individuals who had their own haunted experiences or family legends. These days the Ghost Walk lasts around two hours and Miller has had single tours with close to 100 patrons before.
“Those big groups were tough and humbling. It is honestly hard to project your voice to a crowd so large, especially with the noise of downtown traffic at times. It wasn’t easy even keeping them on the sidewalk and out of the road. It was very humbling though, to imagine so many people at once want to hear your stories.”
Miller estimates that he has given his tours to several thousand different people over the last nine Octobers, with an occasional summer or off season tour thrown in for good measure. He also has many repeat customers. People have came to the Ghost Walk from 21 different states that he knows about. On a given October night it’s not uncommon to have people from three or four different states on a tour.
“It’s been a fun ten years. I’ve always enjoyed the people who choose to take the Ghost Walk and it’s been especially great when they have confirmed their own creepy experiences at several of the sites where the stories take place. We’ve even had odd experiences during the tour in the past, those are the most fun moments of all!”
Allan Miller’s Ghost Walk LaFollette returns to the area on Friday, October 2nd. The tours begin at Sergeant Park in LaFollette at 7 pm and at 10pm each Friday and Saturday night in October. Admission to the tour is $10 dollars. Follow Allan Miller’s Ghost Walk LaFollette Facebook page for up to the minute tour updates.