They are the campfire stories that made you crawl deep into your sleeping bag at night.

They’re stories shared by family members in hushed voices late in the day when the little ones were asleep.

Stories of the mysterious, the macabre.

Ghost stories.

These stories will be celebrated for the 20th time at Laramie’s annual Ghost Tours of Laramie City.

The ghost stories tour at the Wyoming Territorial Prison site starts with a hayride and featured documented stories of the unusual, and sometimes frightening, past of Laramie.

The stories are presented by volunteers in period costumes as visitors pass through the dark stretches of the historical prison site.

Unlike typical haunted houses, the stories are rooted in history, said Lynette Nelson, one of the ghost tour organizers.

“There are stories told every year, based on Laramie’s early history,” Nelson said. “Laramie had a Wild West history, and not many people knew about the early days.”

Laramie’s early days had a strong element of lawlessness. It was positioned at the end of the railroad tracks, and mayhem poured out of the cars along with early settlers.

“People behaved like they wanted to,” Nelson said.

That behavior led to an abundance of stories involving untimely deaths, disappearing mail-order brides and the Bucket of Blood Saloon — the stuff ghost stories are made of.

“We take people back to the 1800s,” Nelson said. “The prison was here from 1872 to 1904. Laramie was here since 1868. Most of our stories start then. Back then, in Victorian times, there was a lot of belief in spiritualism.”

That belief was documented in letters, newspaper articles and other historical documents that Ghost Tours of Laramie City use to create an experience each year, explained Kristi Nelson, Lynette’s daughter and another Ghost Tours organizer.

“We don’t tell people what to believe. But some may conjecture about it, just as they did throughout history,” she said. “We present the stories and ask people what they have seen. ‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ we ask.”

The focus on historical stories are what sets the Laramie experience apart from other Halloween haunted houses, Lynette said.

“It’s not the typical haunted house. We don’t have the chain saw guy coming after you,” she said. “The stories we tell are intriguing. That’s what makes us different. We aren’t making these up. They are documented stories.”

In true ghost story form, the experience is not just a history lesson, but a walk through some disturbing parts of history, including some scares along the way.

The Ghost Tours of Laramie City’s annual presentation is the result of a team of organizers who work six months or more on the presentation, Lynette said.

Now in its 21st year, it returns after a break during the already-scary days of the 2020 pandemic.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” she said. “We’ve put it on for years and years. We have service opportunities, WYOTech volunteers, a real community effort.”

Money raised by the five-night event are returned to the community, she said.

Lynette declined to spoil the surprise of the evenings by offering clues into what stories will be shared this year.

“We want to make it a surprise. We will tell you the stories when you take the tour. It is part of the mystery the people are experiencing,” she said.

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