Halloween Ghost Cruise on Canal Boat: Spirited Fun Before 2 Years of Drydock
By November 2, 2023 2 592•
Halloween phantoms often mysteriously appear – then disappear – then return to spook again. In Georgetown’s stretch of the C&O Canal, the water upon which Georgetown’s new canal boat floats seems similarly ephemeral.
Last Sunday’s public tours on the canal boat – “The Georgetown Heritage” – will be the final ones until 2025, as the National Park Service (NPS) will be emptying the waterway for extensive and long-anticipated repairs of the historic canal bed, originally opened for boat use in 1831.
The “Georgetown Heritage” canal boat was christened in Georgetown on April 28, 2022, by Mayor Bowser and other dignitaries launching a new era of historic restoration and vibrancy for Georgetown. In October, 2022, however, news from NPS that the canal would need to be drained for two years for repairs came as a shock. Then, in April, 2023, another surprise: Georgetown’s stretch of the canal would open once again with canal boat tours starting up. Turns out, the NPS’s funding stream for repairs was not yet authorized, so why not leave the water in – despite leakage – until October, 2023, when it would normally be drained for the Winter? But, this time, it appears, the long term repairs will be starting in earnest.
According to Georgetown Heritage, the new canal boat tours “exceeded all expectations” as droves of visitors from around the world delighted in costumed historic reenactments while puttering at a 19th century pace from Thomas Jefferson St. and 30th St. NW under Key Bridge and back.
On the full-moon evening of Friday, Oct. 27, before Halloween, the non-profit organization Georgetown Heritage – which supervises the historical renovation of the C&O Canal in Georgetown and operates the canal boat – hosted a Ghost Cruise, perhaps to appease any restless spirits that might mischievously hamper the waterway’s healthful restoration.
According to Georgetown Heritage, guests on the cruise “took a spooky evening ride as they listened to chilling and true tales from the canal’s haunted history, delivered by Georgetown Heritage Director of Education and Partnerships Rex Carnegie.” The stories focused on “macabre murders and ghostly sightings that led local police officers to call the canal, the ‘Dead Man’s Beat.’ ” See our story on Rex Carnegie’s impressive historical re-enactment work for Georgetown Heritage here.
Guests on the Ghost Cruise also “enjoyed food and drinks, music, and a lively costume contest.” Proceeds from the event went toward “advancing Georgetown Heritage’s mission of restoring and revitalizing the C&O Canal National Historical Park in Georgetown.”
The Georgetowner spoke with Jasmyn Nash, education specialist for Georgetown Heritage, an historical reenactor aboard “The Georgetown Heritage” during the Ghost Cruise. Nash enjoyed the frightful party, saying that “most people seemed to be enjoying themselves” as hors d’oeuvres, wine and Halloween decorations were presented and “spooky stories” recounted.
Canal Boat tours have been highly successful in the past two years, Nash observed. “Last year, in 2022, we served over 20,000 guests, and in 2023, between [just] May and October, we served over 16,000 passengers.” According to Georgetown Heritage, passengers on the tours in 2022 “represent[ed] 52 U.S. states and territories, and 48 countries.” And WorkBoat Magazine named the “The Georgetown Heritage” on its top-10 list of Significant Boats of 2022, and as a finalist for their ‘Boat of the Year.”
Even though “The Georgetown Heritage” will be in drydock, Nash reassured, the Georgetown Heritage organization will still be providing walking tours for visitors, and hopefully continuing to host school field trips.
“The canal is a really important piece of history for the United States, and the District of Columbia, and Georgetown, specifically,” Nash said. “So anyone who can, should come out and see it.”
For more information on Georgetown Heritage go to Georgetownheritage.org and on social media @gtown_heritage.