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By Kristen M. Dennis

The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society’s annual Ghosts & Legends Tour is one of our town’s most charming productions. The tour first began in the 1970s, when the stories of the ghosts who walk the streets of downtown San Juan, and especially Los Rios Street, became too commonplace not to share.

The Ghosts & Legends Tour has turned into a professional production that takes guests up and down Los Rios Street and back in time 200 or so years. The Historical Society hires seasoned actors to play the roles of the 12 ghosts, and the actors’ professionalism and skill in their craft come across in every tour, of which there are several each night. A few personal favorites are Magdalena, who appeals to tour guests through the very real jail cell from the 1890s; the enigmatic Lady in White, who is shrouded in deep mystery; and the singing pirates, a band that knows how to entertain. It’s easy to see why thousands flock to the tour each year, like the swallows of Capistrano.

And have you been to the pre-party? That’s always a good time. This year, with the desire to expand the tour and increase its collaborations with the local business community, the Historical Society brought on Charis Collaborative, a locally based experiential events company, to engage local residents and businesses. The response has been overwhelming, and it is heart-warming to see the support for old San Juan. The Ghost & Legends Tour itself remains the same high-quality production, a result of the ongoing hard work of Los Rios native Harrison Taylor, a Historical Society board member.

Here are some of the fun additions you can look forward to at the pre-tour festivities, which take place on the historic grounds of the Historical Society. (Not to digress, but have you been to the property lately? It’s shining!)

Additional food options. Charis Collaborative has brought in a handful of local food vendors to enhance the guest experience, including a custom candy apple bar (perfect for kids of all ages), small bites (think gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza by the slice), a coffee cart and more. Trevor’s at the Tracks has generally sponsored the two bars that will be running all evening, and Trevor himself created a few “spooktacular” drink options for guests to enjoy.

Curated gift baskets for raffle. We loved hearing about the ways the local business community is supporting the Historical Society, such as through donated gift cards (Heritage BBQ, Bad to the Bone, and Ciao Pasta to name a few!), wine (we’re looking at you, Rancho Capistrano Winery!) and additional creative offerings. The gift baskets will be on display both nights, with the winner drawn at the end of the second night, so be sure to purchase your raffle ticket!

Elevated VIP Experience. This year, the Charis Collaborative team got creative for the tour’s VIP Experience. Tickets sold out quickly, but thankfully additional seats were able to be added. It seems that ghost stories and a gourmet 4-course meal with wine is a hauntingly good combination.

We are so looking forward to this year’s Ghosts & Legends Tour and hope to see you there. As the Historical Society would say, “Join Us if You Dare.”

Kristen M. Dennis is the founder of Charis Collaborative. She consults with and connects corporate leaders, luxury hospitality vendors, small businesses and local professionals with their communities through curated experiential events that increase exposure and profitability for all. Kristen is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Business and the Pepperdine School of Law and is an SJC native. She now lives in Rancho Mission Viejo with her husband and two adorable children.

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