Voices from railroad's past haunt Halloween house tour

Special to The Black Mountain News

Just a few hundred feet beyond where the man-made fountain, known as Andrews Geyser, sends water spewing 80 feet into the air lies the Round Knob Lodge. Built in the 1930s by Southern Railroad executives as a rustic mountain retreat, the 6,500-square-foot lodge replaced the ritzy Round Knob Hotel, which served railroad passengers and employees from the 1880s until it burned in 1903.

Actors at a previous museum Haunted House Tour re-enact scenes and conversations that may have preceded travelers' trips from Old Fort to Asheville.

During the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center’s fifth annual Historic Haunted House Tours Friday-Saturday, Oct. 28-29, the lodge will be the backdrop for the compelling story of North Carolina’s quest to lay track up the steep grade from Old Fort to Asheville.

During the two-hour guided tours that start on the half hour, costumed tour guides will escort guests from one lavishly decorated room to another to eavesdrop on actors re-enacting historic scenes from before, during, and after the coming of the railroad.

There will be stairs and some uneven surfaces (an elevator is available). Admission include refreshments. Pre-registration is required.

The dining room of the Round Knob Lodge has been the site of many suppertime conversations about railroading to Black Mountain and beyond.

Before the railroad carved its steely path to the crest of the Blue Ridge, the mountains had to be conquered by foot trails or by mule and horseback over rough roads. Despite difficult conditions, tourists flocked to the region from the southeastern Charleston area, seeking a respite from sweltering temperatures, biting insects, and tuberculosis. But the mountains often deterred visitors from eastern North Carolina from making the trek.

The haunted house tour’s first stop inside the lodge will feature a few early travelers plotting their trip up the mountains on a tourist excursion. Antique railroad items adorn the walls, ledges and mantles throughout the lodge, nicely complementing lavish seasonal decorations and setting the stage for dramatic retellings of some of the spookier aspects of area railroading and tourism history.

As guests make their way from room to room, they’ll enjoy roaring fires, roving spirits and floating orbs surrounded by original Pullman sleeper car benches, antique lanterns, and vintage telephone boxes.

The tour of the lodge will continue down an antique cast-iron spiral staircase (or interior elevator) into the rock-walled basement below for refreshments served by a ghostly bartender where guests can relax and imagine what it would have been like to be a railroad executive vacationing at the lodge in the 1930s. Guests will then journey down a narrow passageway to listen to more historical stories before venturing down the “haunted" hallway, where several of the lodge’s past guests have photographed ghostly orbs, often thought to be the souls of people.

Round Knob Lodge cuts an imposing figure on the ridge  above Andrews Geyser.

More historic than haunted, the museum’s Historic Haunted House Tours are lively, entertaining and educational.

Not so spooky

What: Historic Haunted House Tours

When: On the half hour 5:30-8 p.m. Oct. 28-29

Where: Round Knob Lodge, Old Fort

Cost: $25 museum members, $35 nonmembers

Register: 669-9566, info@swannanoavalleymuseum.org