Fort Worth Ghost Bus Tour
Tickets are $25
Tours take place at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Say “Ghost Bus Tour” out loud and it sounds like the name of a certain group of people who get a call when there’s something strange in the neighborhood.
But neither Bill Murray nor Dan Ackroyd are involved in this Fort Worth venture.
“It’s just a happenstance,” said Jan Norton, chief financial officer of the Fort Worth Ghost Bus Tour. “I actually didn’t realize at the beginning that that was the way it was going to sound until somebody else told me.”
While the bus tour may not be sporting proton packs and battling giant marshmallow men as in the Ghostbusters movie, it is teaching visitors about the history and legends of Fort Worth, using the “haunted” aspect as the attention-grabber.
“We do focus on the ghosts because people find that very interesting and scintillating,” Norton said. “But we also talk about fires and floods and tornados and gunfights, and the history of Hell’s Half Acre. So while it’s a history tour, it tends to focus more on the legends and mystery side of the history.”
The hour-and-a-half tour begins at Grand Cru Wine Bar and Boutique, 1257 West Magnolia Ave. and stops include the Thistle Hill mansion, the Stockyards and the Log Cabin Village.
Norton said the Log Cabin Village has one of her favorite stories — the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman captured by Comanche warriors when she was a child. Parker grew to love the tribe and married a Comanche chief; their son became the legendary war chief Quanah Parker. However, Cynthia Ann was later recaptured by U.S. soldiers and taken to the Parker cabin, which is now located in the Log Cabin Village on University Drive. She eventually “died of a broken heart,” Norton said.
Running the ghost tour has been fun for the past 10 months, Norton said, but getting the business started wasn’t easy.
Norton, a retired financial executive turned angel investor, wanted to invest in her own business with her son, Charles. They originally planned to open in October 2014, around the height of Halloween season.
But the tour business was put on hold, Norton said, as “disaster after disaster” happened.
Norton’s father and the brother of her son’s best friend died on the same weekend. On top of that, other team members on the tour were dealing with various personal matters.
“It’s November, the holidays are coming, let’s just leave this,” Norton said. “We’ll start in January. We’ll all catch our breath by that time.”
January came, and Norton and her son finally launched the bus tour. But soon, the bus started having maintenance issues. The weather also made driving difficult, with icy roads in the winter and floods in the spring.
Despite the struggles, she said, they “stuck to it.” Things changed for the better when they pitched their business to the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau in May, she said.
The CVB liked the idea of the Ghost Bus Tour and also suggested that the Nortons start a walking tour, teaching visitors about the history of downtown Fort Worth, minus the ghosts. They started the walking tour in June.
“Jan and Charles have a strong devotion to telling the Fort Worth story and sharing an in-depth look at history,” said Mitch Whitten, CVB vice president of marketing communications. “They have studied Fort Worth history and have talked to a number of local experts to put together their tours. In Fort Worth, we really value authentic experiences, and they certainly share that value.”
The CVB offered to guide the Nortons in running their Ghost Bus Tour business, connecting them with professional bus drivers and Roadrunner buses to replace the old bus that was having problems.
“They have been just fabulous for us,” Norton said. “We very much appreciate the support they’ve given us.”
October has come around once again, and this Halloween season, buses are filling up. Earlier in the year, the tour typically averaged about 9 or 10 visitors on a bus. Now the tour is filling up its 24- and 37-passenger buses, Norton said.
For October, the tour is offering a combo ticket to both the Fort Worth Ghost Bus Tour and Hangman’s House of Horrors.
The Ghost Bus Tour is just one of the tours run by the Nortons. Along with the ghost bus and walking tours, they also began a bike tour in October, exploring the history and architecture of Fort Worth. The three tours fall under the Nortons’ umbrella company, Fort Worth Authentic Sites and Scenes.
“We’re just really proud of our city of Fort Worth,” Norton said. “Our tagline for our company is, ‘Sharing Fort Worth with the World,’ so we want to enable all of our visitors to be able to see and enjoy as much of the interesting city of Fort Worth as we can.”