BATH — As the twilight shadows spread and a soft wind blew dry leaves along the street, the lady with the red cloak and lantern led her followers on a tour shrouded in mysterious tales from local lore.
“Most myths and legends are rooted in some kind of reality,” Kendray Rodriguez, the woman in the cloak, told the group of five Tuesday night. “And there’s no reason why the same shouldn’t be true of the stories that you’re going to hear here tonight.”
She is one of several guides with the Red Cloak Tours company, which offers walks focused on historical topics such as hauntings, the Maritimes, lighthouses and cemeteries. A “tidbit history” tour, with tastings and stories offered at a series of old restaurants, is also available.
A full schedule of the tours, held May-October in Bar Harbor, Bath, Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Damariscotta, Hallowell, Rockland and Wiscasset, can be found at redcloaktours.com or by calling 380-3806. Reservations are required.
Behind Rodriguez loomed the Winter Street Church, built in 1843; its annex followed a decade later. “There are so many stories surrounding Winter Street that we don’t actually have time for all of them tonight; it could be its very own tour,” Rodriguez said.
But one spooky tale, about a bathroom near the coatroom in the basement of the annex, offered enough spine-tingling twists to start the 90-minute tour off just right. A group of women interviewed by the tour company, who held meetings as Girl Scouts at the church 56 years ago, vividly recalled how adamant the Scout leaders were about the youths taking a buddy with them when they went to the bathroom, even though it was just a short distance away.
That’s because the coatroom door was said to slam shut and lock by itself, while the toilet flushes on its own.
Years later, a contractor with Sagadahoc Preservation, which owns and maintains the building, had worked many hours alone in the building, with all the exterior doors locked – until one final day.
“From the other side of the basement he hears that door slam, and the toilet flush,” Rodriguez said. “He said he ran out of the basement faster than he’s ever run in his life. And to this day, refuses to work there by himself.”
Interviews conducted with the contractor and the former Girl Scouts are part of the breadth of research into paranormal activities that goes into the Red Cloak Tours’ narratives, Marketing Director Greg Latimer said Tuesday. He’s written three books on the subject.
“We’re not telling ghost stories around the fire; we’re telling things that have been recorded in historical fact that we’ve researched, or that we’ve actually heard from people who’ve experienced them first hand,” he said. “… We’re very confident in the veracity level of the stories we tell.”
“We don’t believe in ghosts; we believe in anomalies,” Latimer added. “We believe in things that we can’t explain.”
So do Michael and Thomasena Leary of South Portland, two members of Tuesday’s tour, whose Red Cloak Tour in Wiscasset last year thrilled them enough to do another.
“I don’t believe it’s everywhere, and I don’t know if it’s intelligent or some sort of recording that science hasn’t explained yet,” Thomasena Leary said. “I think it’s too widespread not to be something.”
The tours host about 2,500 guests a season. Whereas many ghost tours have dark-colored themes, “we wanted something brighter and friendlier,” Latimer said, adding that the visibility of the red cloaks also makes for a strong marketing tool.
Plus, given that the tours often wind down shadowed streets with cars frequently passing by, it doesn’t hurt to have a person garbed in bright crimson leading the way, either.
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