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Scottdale Historical Society offers borough fright nights

Mary Pickels
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Tribune-Review file
The Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale will show scary movies in conjunction with some October “Shadows of Scottdale” tours.

When darkness falls, even small towns that appear innocent by day can seem intimidating, full of shadows, dark alleyways, deserted streets.

Everyone remembers Haddonfield, right?

With Halloween approaching and imaginations heightening, the Scottdale Historical Society is planning “scary walking tours” in the borough.

The tours are set for 8 p.m. Oct. 5, 12 and 26 and 10:30 p.m. Oct. 18.

According to Aaron Hollis, historical society board member, “Shadows of Scottdale” tours are not about ghost stories, but rather “real, horrific events that happened in town.”

Admission to the one-hour walking tours is $15 per person, and includes a vintage horror film screening at the Geyer Performing Arts Center following the tour.

Beginning and ending at the arts center, 111 Pittsburgh St., Scottdale, each tour will feature classic movies including “Night of the Living Dead” and “House on Haunted Hill.”

The Oct. 18 tour is a partnership with the performing arts center. Following the 10:30 p.m. tour, the Geyer will perform the popular “Rocky Horror Show.”

A $20 ticket allows admission for both the tour and show.

The film on Oct. 26 is yet to be announced, Hollis says.

Tales participants can expect to hear include “The Self Butcher,” “The Fire Fiend,” “The Moonshine Feud” and “Trolley Tragedies.”

According to Hollis, all of the stories come from newspaper, census records and other data. Their historical accuracy means some stories contain graphic descriptions of deaths and tragic accidents, and may be inappropriate for younger audiences.

He suggests an age range of 13 and above.

Horrifying history

“Somebody said, ‘Why doesn’t Scottdale do a ghost tour? They are super popular, they get a lot of attention and it can raise money for the historical society,’” Hollis says of the tour he’s creating.

Hollis says such tours can “make a mockery of real history” or come across as “hokey.” Historically accurate and scary, he says, is another story.

Hollis is digging into Scottdale history to find “macabre” historical events people may not be familiar with. He also is working out tours that will include parts of the borough where the incidents took place.

Digitized newspaper stories provide plenty of background, and (sometimes) gory details.

There are two stories involving horrific trolley accidents; one precedes a separate tragedy just months later, Hollis says. “The Fire Fiend” is a still-evolving mystery, with a recent twist he has discovered.

“This story involves a person who tried as many as 10 times to burn down Scottdale between 1911-1912. One family’s house was set on fire multiple times. There are rumors about who is behind the fires (and possibly why),” Hollis says.

“Miraculously, nobody died in any of them that I can find, but the fires caused thousands and thousands of dollars in damage,” he says.

“The coolest thing to me is that the Geyer is showing these films. It’s a historic theater that’s the perfect place to do that. And it gets people into downtown Scottdale,” he says.

Tickets can be purchased in advance or on the day of the tour.

Details: scottdalehistoricalsociety.com

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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