LINCOLN CITY — Autumn is here, and what better way to welcome the season than to join a Taft Full Moon Tour or Haunted Taft Tour this October.
This is the third year for the tours, which started in October 2018 and expanded into a March through October schedule over the past two years. Twenty participants can attend each tour.
The next Full Moon Tour is Thursday, Oct. 1, and the last Full Moon Tour of the season is Saturday, Oct. 31, on Halloween. In between, Haunted Taft Tours are held every Saturday in October.
The tours start at 7 p.m., last approximately 90 minutes, and are suitable for ages 8 and above. Tickets are $20 each and must be purchased in advance.
A VIP tour package is also available for $45 and includes a choice of one of two styles of glow-in-the-dark Haunted Taft T-shirts, plus a bag filled with Taft goodies. The tours themselves — VIP and regular — are the same.
The tours involve just under a mile of walking on sidewalk, are wheelchair accessible, and include a stroll to the end of the dock at Siletz Bay.
Tours take place rain or shine, and heavy-duty rain ponchos are available to borrow. “We venture out in the rain,” said Shellie Stuart, executive director of the nonprofit Bay Area Merchants Association (BAMA), which sponsors the tours. “Some people tell us they find it spookier in the rain.”
Because of COVID-19, masks are required for all tour guests, and participants are asked to keep six feet away from others not in their immediate party. Guides are equipped with voice amplification devices.
All tours depart from the Sapphire Center shop, 4840 SE Highway 101, Lincoln City. Participants should arrive 10 minutes before the start time. Parking is on Highway 101 in front of the Sapphire Center or behind the shop on Southeast Inlet Avenue.
Ed Dreistadt, director of Explore Lincoln City, the tourism arm for the city, said — no pun intended — the Haunted Taft Tours have taken on a life of their own. “They’ve taken the historic waterfront area of south Lincoln City and brought it to life,” he said. “The tour is filled with wonderful characters and legends, and it’s a great attraction. And we try to have surprises — some of the things you hear about are suddenly behind you!
“It’s a really amazing operation,” Dreistadt added. “They’ve created an attraction without building anything. It sells out just about every time. It started at Halloween and has grown into something that is pretty much year round, and it’s a tremendous amount of fun.”
Dreistadt should know. When a tall person was needed to wear the Bigfoot costume, he has been persuaded to fill that role on more than one occasion.
Susan Wahlke was executive director of BAMA when discussions focused on revitalizing the Taft area in the evening. “We wanted to get more people out and about,” she recalled. “The more things you have happening in the evening, the safer a community becomes.
“We had some October events and wanted to expand on them and give people a reason to stay over more nights,” Wahlke added.
Wahlke said the tours are the result of a lot of people and a lot of groups coming together. “One of our stories is the Haunted Fire Truck,” she noted, adding that North Lincoln Fire District — the former Taft-Nelscott-Delake Rural Fire Protection District — brings out an old fire truck when that story is told.
The first year’s tours were run by volunteers, and volunteers remain the heart of the program. Tour guides are now paid, however, and the tours are funded in part by a grant from the Oregon Coast Visitors Association.
“We started with Haunted Tours in October and sold out,” recalled Wahlke, who is now president of the BAMA board. “Then we expanded the story repertoire, and we keep adding to it. The stories keep coming.”
Stuart noted the tour suggestion was presented as a way to make the Taft area come alive at night, and it’s worked. “It really took off,” she said.
Stuart said she has recently attended tour guide webinars and noted that the tourism industry has been shattered this year, although groups offering outdoor events such as the Full Moon and Haunted Taft Tours are doing well.
Stuart volunteered to organize the first year’s tours and in 2019 became director of BAMA.
Tour stops and tales arise from research done throughout the year. “We constantly get new stories to include on the tour, so every year we can change them out, and people can come back and hear different stories,” Stuart said. Many of the tales come from the North Lincoln County Historical Museum and from long-time residents of the area.
“People tell us ghost stories, and it’s really fun to weave the research that we find into a story for the tour,” she said. This year is the 100th anniversary of Prohibition, she noted, and the group has found a local legend to include from the rumrunner days on the coast.
Stuart said she has gone on ghost tours all over the world. “It’s a fun way to add to your knowledge of the place you are visiting,” she said, and finds they fall into two categories. One type talks about history and legends, while the other is more focused on the paranormal, she said.
“Ours are focused on the history and legends of the Lincoln City area,” Stuart explained.
Dave Gordon, of Lincoln City, attended a Haunted Taft tour a few weeks ago. “We knew Ed and Shellie, and a lot of our friends had gone on the tour and said it was really neat,” he said. “It was great, really entertaining, and very interesting.”
He said he bought the VIP package and found it well worth the price. “I didn’t know any of the stories before I did the tour,” Gordon said.
And would he go again? “Absolutely,” he said, adding, “it’s always great to support local businesses.”
Stacy Baiocchi, who said she is still learning about the coast after moving to Lincoln City from the Midwest about four-and-a-half years ago, went on a Haunted Taft tour about a year ago and said she would recommend it to anyone who wants a “really cool, fun time.”
She described the tour as “quite entertaining, light hearted, really creative, and with a lot of energy from the storytellers, who make you feel part of it. It was fun to see the places along the tour that they refer to in their stories.”
And she liked the added touch of carrying lanterns during the walk, and meeting people from a variety of places, including Portland and Coos Bay.
“I loved the stories,” she said. “It was a good time.”
Bottom line? If you want to learn about Whiskey Jack, Bigfoot sightings or the Ghost Schooner of Siletz Bay, the Haunted Taft and Full Moon tours are the way to go.
“The tours are very popular and a lot of fun,” Stuart concluded.
Visit hauntedtaft.com for tickets and more information. Sign up early, as all of the October tours are already more than 50 percent sold out.