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Ghost Tours of Cedar Falls' founder likes sharing history with a little mystery

Ghost Tour 3

Lauren Riensche recites some of the ghost stories she has been told as part of her Ghost Tour of downtown Cedar Falls.

CEDAR FALLS – Cold spots in warm rooms. Knocking sounds. Lights flickering on and off. An unexplained whiff of perfume. Footsteps down an empty hallway. Glimpses of shadowy forms. You don’t have to believe in ghosts or hauntings to get a jolt from such inexplicable occurrences.

Ghost Tour 1

Lauren Riensche is leading a Ghost Tour of downtown Cedar Falls.

Best-selling author Anne Rice said real hauntings have nothing to do with ghosts, but with memory. Haunted history buff Lauren Riensche has been mining the memories of her adopted community to create Ghost Tours of Cedar Falls.

“I love taking a lot of history and adding a little bit of mystery,” said Riensche, who grew up in Jesup and moved to Cedar Falls after residing in Boston for several years. “I’ve always been interested in the history of the places I’ve lived in. When I came back home, I wanted to find out about Cedar Falls history.”

Her series of one-hour, one-mile walking tours of downtown Cedar Falls began Friday and continue through Halloween. All the tours sold out within days of being announced and now there is a lengthy waiting list. Ten percent of proceeds from the tour will benefit the Cedar Falls Historical Society.

“When the tours sold out in four days, I added another one and it sold out in 48 hours. I’ve been blown away by the response. I’d say the history we explore on the tours is spooky, not scary. I love the magic of sharing these stories,” said Riensche, who carries a lantern on the tours. She is product marketing manager for Carbon by Indigo.

Tour participants can take photos, but no videos are allowed. She also recommends the tour for adults and children over age 12 because of the length of the walk and tour content.

Ghost Tour 2

Lauren Riensche recites some of the ghost stories she has been told about the Black Hawk Hotel as part of her Ghost Tour of downtown Cedar Falls.

She began her research in March at the Cedar Falls Historical Society, read a stack of books about the city’s history, delved into biographies and autobiographies of individual residents and explored the architecture of downtown buildings. At one point, she printed up fliers to distribute at local businesses seeking any tales of local hauntings and histories.

“I’ve heard so many stories. I’d walk into a place and ask if anyone had heard of unusual happenings in their building, and stories would just pour out of them. They welcomed me with open arms and really wanted to share their stories. I can’t say that no one made up a story, maybe they did, but lots of the stories sounded real. People believed their stories,” Riensche said.

She pulled together 10 to 12 of the most interesting tales for the tour, but doesn’t want to reveal too much, except to say one particular building, 315 Main St., seems to have a preponderance of hauntings. Formerly the location of Scratch Cupcakery, former workers in the building told Riensche about kitchen equipment starting on its own, unusual happenings in the building at night such as alarms going off for no reason and “a mysterious 911 phone call made from the phone next to the cash register when the store was closed and no one was there,” she said.

Her stories of the paranormal also include unexplained smells and sounds, a seemingly haunted room in the Black Hawk Hotel, the inexplicable breaking of objects, a cat meowing when no animals were present, a tenant who felt someone sit down at the edge of their bed, but no one was there – “but whatever it was left behind an indentation on the comforter in the shape of someone sitting.”

She may eventually write a book compiling the stories.

Riensche plans to offer the tours again and encourages people interested in future tour dates to follow Ghost Tours of Cedar Falls on Facebook or Instagram at cfghosttour, or email her at cfghostour@gmail.com. People can also sign the waiting list for this week’s tours.

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