New tour business shows visitors the scary side

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 19, 2006

of downtown Natchez

By Julie Finley

The Natchez Democrat

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They probably arranged with the electric company for the streetlight to flicker.

And I’m sure that cat was trained to brush against my leg.

The tourists who saw the face in the window of an empty house probably had one too many at King’s Tavern before the tour.

I wasn’t scared. I only left all the lights on in my 100-year-old house for half the night anyway.

One of the newest historic Natchez businesses can capitalize on the fears of everyone else, but not me.

Three-week-old Ghost Tours offers locals and tourists a side of Natchez the hoop-skirted tour guides rarely delve into.

&uot;You just can feel that presence,&uot; tour creator Jacqueline Stephens said. &uot;I feel that here in Natchez.&uot;

Jacqueline and her husband Robert, pet store owners by day, call their tours Moonlight Productions not because of the lighting, but because it’s their second job.

&uot;The tourists kept asking us what is there to do at night,&uot; she said. &uot;And we’ve had so many local that love it.&uot;

So when the doors to Fydeaux’s Pet Company close at 5 p.m., the Stephens take a dinner break and return to the store &045; clad in all black &045; for 7:30 p.m. tours.

The idea for the ghost tours was something the California couple had two years ago when they moved to Natchez. Both share a love for ghost tales, haunted houses and supernatural stories and have traveled to various haunted sites.

&uot;We started collecting stories,&uot; Jacqueline said. &uot;It was just because of our own obsession. All the locals had so many stories.&uot;

The couple has been seriously researching Natchez ghost tales for two months, but said most of the stories come from word of mouth.

The stories include criminal hangings on the courthouse lawn, gruesome murders, tragic deaths and cemetery tales.

Robert, who tells the stories, incorporates his own experiences with ghosts and those of tour participants.

The Ghost Tours business is something the couple hopes will soon be a shared responsibility with other tour guides though.

&uot;We are hoping to do this to create jobs,&uot; Jacqueline said. &uot;We’d love to have a little enterprise going. We want the tour guides to get good money.&uot;

Guides must get tour guide certification first, but Jacqueline said anyone is welcome to apply.

Tours are given Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Special tours are available and groups of 10 or more receive a discount.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children under 12. Tickets are sold at Fydeaux’s on State Street.

The largest tour so far had 25 participants.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Natchez Downtown Development Association.