‘Murder, Mischief And Mayhem’

‘Murder, Mischief And Mayhem’

Things go bump online for RHM Ghost Walk


Ask Serena Barnett, director of the Rogers Historical Museum, her favorite ghost story, and you’ll get an unusual answer: Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”

“I read it for the first time back in high school, and it’s been my favorite ever since,” she says. “I’m not a fan of the new mushy romance vampire stories.”

But Barnett also spent two years as a seasonal park ranger at the Pea Ridge National Military Park, then managed the museum store at the park while she earned a Master of Arts in museum studies from Johns Hopkins University.

Jared Pack, playing a Frisco Railroad engineer, tells the story of G.W. Blaine’s death in 1908 during a previous Ghost Walk hosted by the Rogers Historical Museum. This year’s event moves online for one night only, Oct. 29.
(File Photo)

“Although I never personally saw anything ghostly, I’d hear stories from the re-enactors that have slept overnight inside the Elkhorn Tavern,” she remembers. “They say they’ve seen the red glowing eyes of the dead soldiers staring out at them from the dark woods that surround the house. Whether really true or not, it definitely gives me the chills!”

There are ghost stories in Rogers, too, and this year, the museum is going to tell them in an online presentation for one night only Oct. 29. And they’re not really ghost stories, Barnett clarifies, but more “true tales involving murder, mischief and mayhem.”

The annual Ghost Walk event began in 2013, when former Director Gaye Bland came up with the idea and “did everything that first year,” Barnett says. “We’ve hosted it three other years since — 2015, 2017, 2018 — [so] this will be our fifth year for this event.

“In the past, groups of 12 to 15, led by a guide holding a lantern, would begin at the museum and walk around downtown, encountering our five or so costumed storytellers on the trail,” Barnett explains. “We’ve also served refreshments at the end.

“Due to the pandemic this year, we decided to instead host this event virtually on Zoom for one night only. The nature of walking tours limits the amount of participants to small groups. That is why we usually host this event for multiple nights throughout October. Offering the tour virtually allows us to have all registrants touring together at the same time.”

As for the stories, “you’ll just have to wait to discover what ghosts we have in store for this year,” Barnett teases. “We sift through hundreds of old obituaries when choosing our ghost stories. What we look for is a connection to Benton County or nearby counties in Northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri, something that happened around here or something that happened to someone from here. Any unusual happenings resulting in an untimely death and detailed murder stories certainly make for interesting ghost story retellings.

“Each ‘ghost’ actor is given the obit and maybe a bit more information, and they write up how they want to portray the incident after doing research and figuring out the angle they want to take it from,” she explains. “They then dress in character for the time period and tell the story.”

Previous Ghost Walks have included tales of death by poisoning, murder, accidental death, weather-related death, death by injury and even murder by a gang. But one story from a past event sticks out in Barnett’s mind.

“I don’t think any of them are all that locally famous except for B.F. Sikes, one of the founders of Rogers, Rogers’ first postmaster and brother to Rogers’ first mayor, J. Wade Sikes,” she recalls. “We had Sikes telling the story about his son-in-law, Will Dalton, who was the town marshal in 1891 and was killed in a shootout while trying to arrest two wanted men at Escalapia Hollow.”

Jason Engler plays A. D. Callison, a funeral director and coroner for Benton County in the 1920s through the 1950s, during a previous Ghost Walk hosted by the Rogers Historical Museum. This year’s event moves online for one night only, Oct. 29.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette File Photo)

Barnett points out that the regular $5 ticket has been waived, and registration is free, “as we will not be limited to the number of tickets we can offer.” Registration is open at eventbrite.com or call the museum by Oct. 28. Registrants will be emailed a Zoom link by noon on Oct. 29.


Virtual Ghost Walk

WHEN — 7 p.m. Oct. 29

WHERE — Online via Rogers Historical Museum

COST — Free

INFO — Register at evenbrite. com or call 621-1154



Lend A Hand

There are many ways you can show your support of Rogers Historical Museum during the pandemic, says director Serena Barnett.

“Join the Friends of the Rogers Historical Museum, share and preserve your local history by recording an oral history or donating objects for the collection, make a charitable gift to the Rogers Museum Foundation and become one of our generous volunteers.”

Email museum@rogersar.gov or call 621-1154 to learn more.

Categories: Family Friendly