By day, the Augusta Trolley takes visitors on a trip through Augusta’s past.
From former President Woodrow Wilson’s home to the Augusta Canal, visitors see the sites and hear stories of the illustrious people and events that shaped Augusta over the course of its 276 years.
At night, however, the trolley takes visitors through the spookier side of Augusta’s history.
For instance, as it stops in front of the Old Medical College, a costumed tour guide will tell about Grandison Harris, a slave purchased for the college whose job was to dig up bodies from the graveyards, and the medical student he may or may not have buried alive.
This is the Augusta Ghost Trolley.
Its purpose is to tell the history of Augusta through ghost stories, legends and lore, and to be frighteningly entertaining, said founder Michael Wolff, who is the costumed tour guide.
The story of Grandison Harris is part fiction, part truth. In the Medical College of Georgia’s early days cadavers really were dug from graveyards for anatomy students to study.
And that’s what the ghost tours are all about.
“We have a lot of people that have been in Augusta all their lives that come on these tours and go away saying, ‘I never knew that,’” he said.
Wolff loves history and enjoys the mystery of a good ghost story.
So he gets excited when he tells about stories like Isabella, the ghost who haunts the Old Cotton Exchange – now the Georgia Bank and Trust on Reynolds Street.
“The Cotton Exchange building itself was basically like the stock market for the cotton industry,” Wolff said.
He said employees of the bank told him they had to remove a typewriter from its longtime spot on the first floor because, even unplugged, it would type on its own.
Chairs spin when no one touches them.
A printer goes off by itself.
Guests will hear all the eerie details on the tour.
A new feature to the tour this year may allow visitors to see if “ghosts” like Isabella are trying to communicate.
Guests can download a Ghost Radar app on their iPhones or Andriods and available for download on the Ghost Trolley website. The app is an adaptation of a popular Ghost Radar app and is specifically designed for the Augusta Ghost Trolley.
“The focus on the tours now is to make it more guest interactive,” Wolff said.
He also emphasized that the app is for entertainment purposes only.
The Ghost Radar like an electromagnetic field meter, such as those used on shows like Ghost Hunters on the SyFy network. The app interprets whatever it picks up into words.
In other words, guests can do some ghost hunting on their own during the tour.
“It’s going to be fun to see what (guests) come up with,” Wolff said.
The app costs 99 cents to download, but it includes a coupon for $1 off the ticket price.
To add entertainment between stops, Grovetown magician Chad Crews or “paranormal entertainer” Michael Thornton may tag along and add a little mystery of their own, Wolff said.
Wolff emphasized that the tours are not overly scary and are suitable for children, though he advised against bringing children younger than 5 to minimize distraction.
Oh, and don’t think Ghost Tours are just for Halloween. The tours run year-round, primarily on Fridays and Saturdays. Other special tours are a Christmas tour will be held through the holiday season and focuses on the spirits of Christmases past, and a Valentine’s tour, which focuses on couples.
“We continue to look for and develop other themes and different types of tours so that visitors can come back again and again,” Wolff said.