INDIANAPOLIS — Independent tour companies are among those in the tourism industry who've had to face the unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on businesses across the globe.
Now, one locally themed tour is back doing walks through central Indiana offering up a slice of spooky Hoosier history - Unseenpress.
"We tell our stories, tell our ghost stories and paranormal experiences people had. We tell about the history and the people involved and give people a good two hours to think about something else (other than the coronavirus)," Michael Kobrowski, the co-owner of Unseenpress, said.
Since 2001, Michael and his wife Nicole Kobrowski have written, spoke, and given tours associated with local paranormal investigations and ghosts. Unseenpress ghost walks span the likes of Westfield, Noblesville and Indianapolis, showing and telling intimate crowds haunting stories.
The Kobrowski's are serious history and paranormal buffs.
"It kind of goes hand in hand; our interest in history and ghosts," Michael said. "Both of us having had experiences ... believing in that kind of stuff really makes it different than lots of companies around the country, of course, and larger cities with lots of tourism."
"They have to hire people to keep the tours going, and do it for the money, and don't really do the research, but we do the research. We write the books - well, my wife mostly, but I help," Michael said, chucking. "We're really dedicated and behind it."
From underground haunted cemeteries to historical crime stories — Michael and Nicole investigate the ghosts and paranormal activity in real-time while a crowd of people follows along and learns.
The two shut down Unseenpress's operations for a little while after the coronavirus pandemic first struck the state, and businesses were forced to close. Soon after, the couple started doing online chats through Facebook Live to talk about ghosts, past investigations, and history, which they've continued to do.
Since late May, Nicole and Michael are back doing tours as the state continues to reopening. They're limiting the number of people on trips to about 25, including one tour guide. That's only about ten to 15 people fewer than what they typically host on their ghost walks.
"We're going to keep things like this for a while. That way, it's easier for everyone to hear, social distance in the groups of people they came with," Michael said. He also added that since the tours are outside, they do not require masks.
Another difference in the tours, at this point in the pandemic, is no longer utilizing laminated pictures and newspaper articles on trips. Although a critical visual element to each paranormal investigation, Michael says preventing the potential spread of germs is more significant. He is not sure if he will bring them back, but while figuring out another way to share the elements of these stories, he will provide the sources of his company's findings verbally.
Michael says, "the interest is waking up slowly."
October understandably is the busiest month for Unseenpress. As weeks and months pass, Nicole and Michael are both excited and nervous to see how their business ebbs and flows with the everchanging precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic. But for now, they're happy to be back giving historical ghost tours to folks who're looking for another way to get out.
Tours are currently $18 for anyone 10-years-old and older and $15 for seniors. The tours last about a mile-and-a-half, depending on the trip.