Duluth—You may think you know all about Duluth’s not-so-pleasant past. The Glensheen murders? Check. The lynchings in 1920? Check. The sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald? Check.
It turns out, there’s much more we don’t know. That’s where The Duluth Experience’s Dark History Tours come in.
“Basically, [we cover] murders, gun fights, tragedies, disappearances, and some of the local hauntings,” said Dave Grandmaison, The Duluth Experience’s co-founder and CEO.
In 2012, he and Kris McNeal formed the small business after noticing a lot was happening in Duluth—between the growing craft beer scene, outdoor recreation opportunities, and development of the Duluth Traverse—but something was missing.
“There was no tour company in Duluth,” he said. “It was really strange that there wasn’t anyone doing what we are doing,” said Grandmaison. “Eventually we were like, ‘Maybe that somebody should be us!’”
Today, the company does exactly what its name suggests—gives an experience to more than 2,100 locals and tourists each year. Trips span from behind-the-scenes brewery tours to photography workshops to outdoor adventures like ice floe kayaking, with multiple options in between.
As far as the Dark History Tours go, it’s the third year The Duluth Experience has hosted these trips and its team has plans to introduce guests to new, scary stories this year, amid the popular classics.
“Things like Rat Avenue and the Red-Light District in Canal Park, and the Pirates of Park Point,” said Grandmaison, going on to list new topics including the hauntings in West Duluth and a deep-delve into the history of Blacklist Artisan Ales’ building.
The Duluth Experience has a core, dedicated team who conducts extensive research to find sordid stories we haven’t heard of, like the Duluth Dukes bus crash. Team member Kyle Chisolm leads the self-proclaimed “history geeks” among the staff including Nick Schutz, Tim Shorter, and Harrison French.
“They spend time in the library going through old newspaper articles looking for interesting things to add. Sometimes its serendipitous and you stumble across a cool story, other times you hear a story from someone in the community you’re talking with,” said Grandmaison.
The team weaves comedy into an energetic experience which engages guests, rather than lecturing them about local history.
“People are looking for something different to do in Duluth. And they want to do something where they can combine learning and fun, in a way that they can also have a memory of doing something really fun with their friends or their family,” said Grandmaison.
If you scare easily, the growing company has lots of other options on their website and are regularly adding new experiences.
“Essentially, our mission is really simple—our job is to connect our guests to the City of Duluth in more meaningful ways.”
Head over to The Duluth Experience Facebook page or website (theduluthexperience.com) for the latest tour dates and details on present and upcoming experiences.
By Kelsey Roseth