Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Riverside Cemetery Tour - Cancelled by City of Wichita Falls

     It’s been a whirlwind week for me, starting with booked up reservations for my Riverside Cemetery tours and ending with the cancellation of anymore tours ever again at night. The city decided to cancel my tours based solely on a Facbook and email campaign to ruin my business because of a false rumor started by ONE person in Wichita Falls who is connected with a well known family business. This rumor spread all over the country and complaints came from New Mexico, Dallas, Ft. Worth and even as far away as Washington, D.C. because these friends were urged to write letters based on this false rumor. This “campaign” was finally admitted to me by the woman who started all of this and in her own words she said an e mail, "was sent to everyone in this town, schools, banks, and businesses. Principals, presidents of banks, business owners and employees." After allowing me to explain, the friend of hers from D.C. didn’t see anything wrong with it with the tours at all! This was all started because we, as guardians of the cemetery at night, wouldn't let her into the cemetery after dark to sit by her sisters grave. We we terrified of a protest by the way she threatened me on the phone and she was told that if she broke the law by being in the cemetery after dark, we would call the police. We had no idea who she was at the time. If she had explained herself, I would have reassured her. But her threats to come to the cemetery, frightened us. Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
     I have been harassed by emails and telephone calls for the past week. The false rumor which this person started was that I was going to tell the story of her relative's death that happened about ten years ago. First of all, I didn’t know the circumstances about her death, however since this got started, plenty of people have told me the details. Secondly, I would never talk about something like that in my tour because it was not the nature of my tour which was based on heroes, history and stories from my two books, “How Did They Die? Murders in Northern Texas.” There were no heroes, no historical value and I didn’t write about her death in my book. 
     Once her campaign blew up all across Facebook, someone from another local well known business ran with it. Both of these well known businesses had a whole lot of pull with the powers that be at the City of Wichita Falls and those powers believed what their emails had to say without ever verifying it for themselves. Not one city official, the mayor, the city council, the city manager or those in the parks department ever took my tour. Nor did anyone from the city manager’s office or the city council ever call me to talk to me personally. They took the word of people who contributed to a smear campaign, without ever checking it out for themselves. I am appalled that any small business in this town would ever try to wreck another small business. We all struggle to keep our small businesses going. Now, my business will never be the same thanks to their network of contacts. I will lose a considerable amount of income because of them and the city will lose a percentage of my income that I paid them to do this. These fees went back into the parks and cemetery fund.
     In my advertising campaign, I tried to “ghoul” it up for Halloween, and it worked! I had SO many people interested in the Halloween tour. I was amazed and excited to get to tell my stories. On my website I said:
I think that we will have a good mix of horrible accidents involving children; there will also be car wrecks, drowning, murder, suicide, fires, explosions and even a plane crash. We also have a story of vandals removing a body from a mausoleum." Intriguing? Of course it is, but you had to take my tour to get the real stories. Lots of people did take the tour and they left the cemetery with a deeper respect for the citizens of Wichita Falls.
     Since my Halloween tours are now over, I will reveal the stories that were told. All of the people who spread the lie that ruined my business should be ashamed of themselves. People have been running to me all week long to tell me what businesses were involved in this campaign to destroy my business, my how rumors fly!

1.) 1967- CAR WRECK INVOLVING CHILDREN - The Lily family. The car of a mother and two children plunged into an irrigation canal and sunk to the bottom. While everyone else stood around and watched, two police officers risked their lives to dive into the canal and down to the bottom to try to save the lives of this family. They are heroes in my book and I am sure they got a commendation for their live saving efforts. Pictures of their bodies were on the front page of the paper.

2) 1943 – DROWNING - The Shakleford twins – 3 children fell into an iced over pond in 2 degree weather. Without a second thought, City View Grocery store owner J.A. Vernon and another young man ran to the pond, across the thin ice to try to save the lives of the 3 children. One boy was pulled to safety thanks to the bravery of Mr.Vernon. The young man wouldn’t give up until he pulled the other two boys from the water, but it was too late. These men were HEROES to me and I hope they were recognized for their bravery.

3) 1921- MURDER - John Ragan was shot by Sewell Fields at the Hearn Hotel on 8th and Ohio which is now our farmers market. This is a story from my book. But, his headstone was stolen a few years ago and was found in a teenage boy’s room by a police officer and returned to his resting place. This story is about horrible vandalism and is hopefully a lesson taught to parents and children alike.

4) 1925 – MURDER – Herbert Griffin murdered a man and then he was killed also. This is a story from my book. He was the largest land owner in Archer County.

5) 1931 - CAR ACCIDENT, MURDER AND SUICIDE – Lon Hammond was a wealthy oil man in Wichita Falls. He killed a man, had a wreck that killed his son and later committed suicide. This is a story in my book. This mausoleum was involved in a horrible vandalism in 2004.

6) 1922 - CAR WRECK – Reese D. Allen was a student at Princeton University. His father was a very well known oilman in Wichita County.

7) 1918 – VANDALISM – Pat Carrigan died in WWI in France. People are able to look at the brass plaque on the wall of this mausoleum that was put there to commemorate his history. I also tell a horrible story of vandalism where a body was removed from this mausoleum in hopes that it impacts those on my tour. Teenage kids have walked with me after this story and told me of their disgust over this vandalism. That’s why I tell it.

8) 1946 – MURDER, SUICIDE, FIRE AND HEROES – This couple committed a murder/suicide but two regular men, risked their lives to break into the burning house to try to save the lives of this couple. These men were HEROES to me!! I am not sure what I would do in that situation.

9) 1945- PLANE CRASH – The McConnell’s were flying to Wichita Falls and crashed on the Dale Ranch in Petrolia. Next time you are downtown, look at the top of the building that is now part of the Wichita Theater and used to be Noble’s Hardware to see this family’s history!

10) 1932 – DROWNING AND TINY HERO – Two of the Pautsky boys drowned in a ditch by their home near Charlie Rd. Well know family in Wichita Falls. The family stated in the newspaper that they were very certain that the 6 year old was a hero because he gave his life trying to save his 3 year old brother.

11) 1949 – EXPLOSION – Albert Lowe died in an explosion caused by former Sheriff Ham Vance. (I just know that some of you old timers who are reading this are probably smiling at the mere mention of Ham Vance!)

12) 1921 – MURDER – George Gentry. A story about a hard working, well liked man who was killed because he was known to carry cash with him. This is a story from my book.

13) FIRE AND HERO - 1952 – The Abraham children were left home alone while the mother went to the store. A neighbor rushed into the house which was fully engulfed in flames without a second thought, to try to rescue the children. He was able to get to the little girl but the fire dept. wouldn’t even go into the house to rescue the little boy until they put out the fire. This man is a hero in my book!

     The “GHOST RADAR” explanation – There is an app that you can download on your smartphone that speaks words and pops up supposed “spirits” while you use the device. Is it real? I don’t know, however it has produced some very interesting words that correspond to a story that I am telling. But, it is a teaching tool. Educators have long said that “hands on” experience is the best way to teach. How does the Ghost Radar teach people? It keeps them interested in listening to the story; it makes them absorb more of what I am telling them. If a word pops up on their cell phone that relates to the story, it allows me to expand on my story and gets people more involved in each story. Here is a link to the Ghost Radar and what it does. I can just see people now grabbing their cell phones and going to their Market Place or App Store to download it. Try it, its fun!

     So, now you know the stories of my horrible, ghastly Halloween tour. Every single person who has taken the tour has left with a little more knowledge about Wichita Falls and a deeper respect for those that came before us. It also provided some entertainment in this town that is fun, safe and educational for family nights out or date nights. It doesn’t matter to me whether or they were rich or poor, famous, not so famous or infamous. They all have a story to tell about their time in our wonderful town. Not one single person that I am aware of, who has actually TAKEN a tour, has complained to the city about my tours, I have only received praise from them and applause after the tours. Some people have judged me based on what they READ, not what they experienced.
     The complainers have fed into a false rumor that was started and certain people were determined to see yet another business would fail in Wichita Falls.
There’s an old Jewish Proverb that says, “What you don't see with your eyes, don't witness with your mouth.”


  1. Joshua Wayne White said... I am so sorry Julie. I enjoyed your nightime cemetery tour and found it to be insightful, informative and innovative (because of the included use of the "Ghost Radar"). I left the cemetery with a newfound respect of Wichita Falls, which I have now lost due to the carelessness of our city officials. I shudder to think how many biased and careless decisions have been made by the city of Wichita Falls in the past, if this is an example of how quickly they are made. Shame on them for making a very uneducated decision based on something a third party read on the internet. I, and many others found your wonderful tour to be one of the many treasures of this small city. I urge the city officials to go on the tour, then make an educated decision based on what they see and experience.

    With warm regards, Joshua Wayne White

  2. Now I am receiving e mails from concerned people who want to know who the businesses were who helped to spread the rumor. I will not reveal that, I will not stoop that low. But, if people told ME who it was, the rumor is running rampant in our fine city and eventually it will get around as to what the businesses are. I am sure that my blog will soon spread to many people across Wichita Falls and someone will slip and tell.

  3. Well, Julie it doesn't matter who started the rumor. Rumors are always a bunch of lies. People just trying to hurt someone. I feel it is a bunch of BS. I bet the city didn't even ask you about the rumor, they just listened to one side of the story. Listen up City of Wichita Falls, there is always TWO sides to a story. You should get the information from both sides, then make a decision. I really enjoyed the Historical Tours at Riverside. I learned a lot about the true history of Wichita Falls. It is very important to continue educating the public about the history of Wichita Falls. I sure hope the city will reconsider the tours at night again.