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Spooking customers is goal behind tour

Volunteer A.J. Gonzales and Mary Bennett dressed as Madame Curry lead a recent ghost walk tour.

When Carson City decided to get out of the ghoul business, Mary Bennett stepped in.

For nearly 20 years, the city sponsored the popular Carson City Ghost Walk Tour through the capital’s historic west side. For nearly a decade, Bennett had been helping to craft the scripts and perform the part of Madame Curry, wife of the “father of Carson City,” Abraham Curry, and host of the haunted tour.

Three years ago, the city decided it was done with apparitions and turned to Bennett to take over.

“I was a Carson City resident for many years, and my heart keeps the ghost walk going,” Bennett said.

So do spirit-chasers and tourists who flock to the event. Bennett and volunteers will conduct 90-minute tours starting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday; July 20; Aug. 17; and Sept. 21.

“It usually goes about two hours because I can be a bit of a talker,” Bennett said.

She talks about the haunts along much of the Kit Carson Trail, the walk delineated by the blue line through the mainly residential streets west of the Capitol. They include the three-story, 8,500-square-foot Bliss Mansion, across the street from the Governor’s Mansion and now home to a bed-and-breakfast that is allegedly haunted by its former owner, 19th century millionaire Duane Bliss. Another stop is the Ferris Mansion, once occupied by George Washington Gale Ferris, the troubled inventor of the carnival ride named for him and now the location of several local businesses. Another site, the Rinckel Mansion, was built in 1876 by miner-turned-meat magnate Mathias Rinckel and is now owned by the Nevada Press Association.

Usually at least one house on the 15-site tour opens up its doors for refreshments and a little skit, Bennett said.

“I try to keep it a surprise,” she said.

Bennett said the scripts for the walk are continually updated when new historical material comes to light. Contributors include Guy Rocha, former Nevada state archivist, and Tammy Buzick, curator at the Bowers Mansion in Washoe Valley.

“It’s amazing how many people who have volunteered and worked on the walk,” she said.

Bennett also offers private tours for groups and leads a daylong walk in October. She’s looking forward to next year, when the ghost walk will be adapted to celebrate the state’s sesquicentennial.

Bennett knows how to diversify. Her main job is serving as Reno’s Brüka Theatre’s producing artistic director and sometime star, including the lead in its latest production, “Shirley Valentine.” But she says she’s leaving ghost walks elsewhere, including a long-established one in Virginia City and a new one starting up in Reno, to others.

“So much of the walk is kind of a loyalty and passion for the town of Carson City,” Bennett said.

The walks depart from the St. Charles Hotel, the location of Firkin & Fox Pub, one of the walks corporate sponsors. The Brewery Arts Center, one of the stops on the tour, is another sponsor. Tickets cost $15 in advance at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or $20 at the start of the walk.