When I was in New Orleans a few weeks ago, I went on a haunted tour of the French Quarter that was one of the highlights of the trip. New Orleans is, after all, one of the oldest cities in the US, and has a reputation for being kind of spooky with all the Creole superstitions and such. When I came back to Buffalo I wanted to find out if there was anything in Buffalo similar to this haunted tour I had gone on, and I was pointed in the direction of Mason Winfield (pictured here) and his Haunted History Ghost Walks, Inc.
Mason and his company conduct haunted tours all over Western New York, during the months when the weather will allow it, and Mason has even written a book entitled Village Ghosts of Western New York.
I accompanied a small group (it was a rainy day) of ghost seekers and fellows interested in the paranormal on Winfield’s “Theater District Tour,” which he conducts on Wednesdays at 7PM. After meeting at Spot Coffee on Delaware, Mason took us around the Theater District and surrounding area of Buffalo to tell us about many of the various haunted stories associated with some of the buildings in this part of town.
We learned about stories that indicate that Micheal Shea might still be hanging around his favorite theater admiring his work, even decades after his death. Mason also informed us about the ghost of former local champion boxer “Buffalo” Jim Slattery, who has been seen haunting the building where Brinks is now located on Chippewa, where the fighter once lived. So if you’re ever in Brinks and see you a ghostly image of a man dressed like he lived about a hundred years ago, don’t worry, it might not be the beer messing with your ocular vision after all.
For those who have never been on a ghost tour before, it’s not necessarily about getting spooked, although Mason did have a somewhat chilling story which occurred in the not too distant past at 325 Delaware Ave. Don’t expect to see any ghosts fly out at you; that’s not what these tours are about. They are more about a mixture of entertainment, story telling, history, and, in Mason’s case, architecture. These walks are as much about your tour guide as anything else, she/he has to be a great story teller, and be able to entertain the crowd, and Mason certainly fits the bill. These tours also involve a lot of history; after all, they are about people who have died. Buffalo has a lot of history for Mason and his team to use as a backdrop for their ghost stories, and history is an area of particular interest to him. He told one of the people in our group, “I’m really interested in history, but in order to get people interested in history, you have to tell ghost stories.”
Mason also talked a lot about architecture, something that my tour guide in New Orleans didn’t talk about as much. He spoke about how buildings that have a design that is heavily influenced by church and cathedral architecture are common sites of haunting ghost stories. Anyone who has taken a careful look at the architecture in downtown Buffalo knows that we have plenty of buildings with church-like features, and so downtown Buffalo is a prime site for some paranormal activity.
If there’s one thing that my tour in New Orleans had over Mason’s Buffalo tour it’s that New Orleans has the advantage of no open container laws, so everyone in the group was drinking as we were walking around. Let me tell you, it is one thing to go on a haunted ghost tour; it’s another thing to go on a haunted ghost tour when you have a few drinks in your system. I think I may have just made Mason a strong supporter of eliminating our open container laws in Buffalo; he’d certainly have some really great opportunities to mess with his audience.
So if you’re interested in learning about the paranormal or local history, hearing some excellent stories from a talented story teller, or just walking around and admiring our beautiful Western New York, I strongly recommend taking one of the haunted ghost tours conducted by Haunted History Ghost Walks, Inc. There is a list of the tours that they offer, as well as more information about Mason Winfield, on his website.