AUSTIN (KXAN) — As spookiness descends upon Austin, small local business Austin Ghost Tours said it is struggling.
With Halloween on the horizon, this is a time when it should be booming. Owner of Austin Ghost Tours Jeanine Plumer said she and others in her line of work are living a real-life scary story.
“What has happened is the concept of the local ghost tour has become a national franchise,” Plumer said. “They spend a ton of money advertising, but the thing that they’re doing is using our name… nobody cares.”
This spooky tale is nearly identical in at least three other cities: Fort Worth and Galveston, as well as Washington, D.C.
“With these national chains… I’ll get phone calls from people confusing my company with theirs,” Gin Keel, owner of Spooky Galveston and Ghost Tours of Galveston, said.
David Besgrove, of Cow Town Winery in the Fort Worth Stockyards, said they do ghost tours in the stockyards weekly, and they have also noticed an increasing problem with national ghost tour companies.
“They don’t hesitate to just kind of plagiarize our stories,” Besgrove said.
Christopher Robin owns National Nightmares in Washington, D.C. He echoed plagiarism concerns and said there are a number of things about national tours that are eerily familiar to original ones.
“They use the same route,” Robin said. “They’ll walk their group right through my group; there’s no etiquette.”
Outside the quirky gadgets that ghost tour leaders use, there is a lot of historical research done beforehand.
“I have hours and hours of material,” Austin Ghost Tours guide John Maverick said.
Many local companies, like Plumer’s, tell first-hand accounts of haunted places throughout a city or tell stories of other ghostly encounters.
“We pride ourselves on factual history,” Maverick said.
Maverick said some stories are being retold without their permission.
“I have walked by a tour standing outside of a building, and a tour guide telling a story of something that personally happened to me,” he said.
According to Austin Ghost Tours, in some cases, national companies are using the same images as a local ghost business and linking back to national pages that have none of the local businesses’ contact information. This all confuses customers, Austin Ghost Tours said.
“I’ve had numerous incidents with people [coming] up to my tour, thinking that I am their tour guide,” Maverick said.
It’s a bone-chilling, new reality. Plumer hopes to at least make more people aware.
“It’s just, it is a matter of money,” she said.
KXAN reached out to a couple of the national companies who have ghost tours in Austin and haven’t heard back yet. Some local businesses around the country are ready to take legal action, according to the group of owners Reporter Jala Washington spoke with on Wednesday.