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In Gettysburg, ghosts big draw for tourists, biz

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GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gettysburg tourists are finding a new way to get an additional dose of a different history.

The popularity of ghost tours in Gettysburg, and other areas of Adams County, has grown leaps and bounds over the years.

"It's a popular thing to do here and it's growing. We have found that it has added something new to the Gettysburg experience," said Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau Media Relations Manager Carl Whitehill.

Some visitors have even come to town specifically for the supernatural activity.

"This town gets a lot of regional, national and international visitors. Many of them have said they come here every year for their research," said Jonathan Williams, executive director of The International Museum of Spiritual Investigations.

"I think that some people are making Gettysburg a destination for all of the different tours," said the owner of Ghosts of Gettysburg, Mark Nesbitt.

Not only has it become a trend for tourists, but also for many of the ghost shows on prime time television.

"A lot of it is the result of all the shows out there, and most of them have been to Gettysburg," said Whitehill.

Some people involved in the paranormal business do not find the television shows all that reputable. "The TV shows have become more of a distraction from the field. They don't really show you what all goes into a real investigation," Williams said.

One theory is that ghost hunts and tours have gained so much popularity because they are interactive.

"People want to do hands-on events now more than ever," said Gettysburg Ghost Tours Manager, Johlene "Spooky" Riley.

Another possible explanation for the rising ghost tour trend is that it gives people something to do in the evening hours.

"People have found value in these tours because it offers them something to do at night," said Whitehill.

The vast majority of the ghost-related businesses find a way to incorporate history. "We are happy this new product has come on board. We want people to still learn the history here and most tours work that in," said Whitehill.

"Of course there are history buffs who come to Gettysburg, but people love the paranormal," said Williams.

The number of people attending paranormal related events is higher during tourism months. "We get a lot of walk-in tourists in July, August and October," Williams said.

The popularity of these different ghost walks, tours and hunts help the local economy.

"This has helped exceed what used to be a season that ended just after Labor Day. Now we find that the fall months, especially weekends in October, are just as busy as July and August. Our trash cans are filled with empty bottles, cans and food wrappers. These are all things that I don't sell. Tourists use other businesses for retail sales," Nesbitt said.

Some ghost tour companies even find ways to help out other local establishments. "We support other businesses with dining and souvenir packages," said Riley.

Amusement tax revenue also gets put back into the community.

"We pay a 10 percent amusement tax. Five of that goes directly to the borough and five goes to (the) school district. I am confident in saying that over the past 14 years we have put in over $350,000 in taxes to the borough and district," said Nesbitt.

Even though the economy had been down in the past few years, people were still frequenting Gettysburg.

"Gettysburg is probably one of the cheapest vacations you can buy. Hotel, motel, food and entertainment prices are pretty reasonable," Nesbitt said.

The paranormal trend probably won't dissipate anytime soon. "We are constantly coming up with new and fresh ideas and special events," said Riley.