By Charles Borsos
BU News Service
It was an odd group. There was a party of young professionals having a birthday party, a couple from Georgia in Boston for a work conference, and this young reporter with his notepad. We were all led through the narrow North End streets by their guide, Nichole Ferree, on a dark Wednesday evening.
As we walked, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. The only reprieve was the uneasy warmth of allegedly haunted catacombs and various pizzerias. This was, after all, the Haunted Pizza Tour.
The Boston Pizza Tours put on just three of these special Halloween tours this season, along with their usual slate of historical Pizza Tours city tours that depart daily from April through November. Winter Weekend tours depart Saturdays and Sundays only, from December through March.
Ferree had the idea. When she pitched it to the general manager of the company, Martin Elliott, he gave her the green light and she began to research haunted Boston. Ferree said she did 100 percent of the work in researching the neighborhood, but it was very easy: There are a lot of hauntings in Boston, and some are pretty famous.
Ferree is a Boston University alum, with a degree in archaeology. She moved to Boston to study at BU and has lived here ever since. She said that history “is a lifelong passion” for her, and she works the pizza tours as a side job to event planning . She added that it was a great way for her to explore that passion while getting to talk to lots of different people.
When I asked if she believed in ghosts, she responded, “I do believe, but I don’t think they are as common as people think.” She said she had never personally seen a ghost, but that she has felt weird feelings sometimes and that there are some unexplainable phenomena out there that could point to their existence.
Holly Gore from Georgia said that she believed there could be ghosts too, “they’re probably just as curious as we are.” Holly and her husband Philip Gore joked with Ferree about how topical their last name was on the spooky night.
Kara Kenney, celebrating her 26th birthday, was more definitive.
“(I) 100 percent believe in ghosts,” she said. Her boyfriend, Tyler Bennett, said they booked the tour because they knew Kenney enjoyed pizza and ghosts stories. The Haunted Pizza Tour was a perfect match. Whether one believes in ghosts or not, at the very least, “We all like pizza,” said her friend Kylee Donovan.
On the tour, each participant got one slice from each of the three pizzerias partnered with the tour: Regina’s, Pushcarts and Ernesto’s. I asked what constitutes a Boston slice and Bennett said, “It’s a combination of all things.” He pointed out that it isn’t the deep dish or the New York slice; it’s uniqueness was that it wasn’t uniquely anything.
As for how a Bostonian folds a pizza slice, Bennett said that was “hotly debated.” He said he usually folds it but that a lot of Bostonians do and don’t. Either way, Boston is a passionate place when it comes to how to eat pizza.
The pizzerias offered the chance to warm up after stopping outside cemeteries and former “baby factories.” Ferree said that, “It’s hard to keep up the momentum of suspense going into a well-lit sports bar,” for pizza. Kenney said that she really enjoyed the tour and said that Ferree was “great and really dedicated.”
One highlight was the Old North Chapel, the oldest church in Boston. While some other tours go through the building, the Haunted Pizza tour was allowed to go underneath to the catacombs on a tour within a tour led by church staff. We descended to the sound of the church’s pipe organ and heard all about the gruesome history of disposing of bodies in early America.
While the scheduled Haunted Pizza Tours for the season are over, Ferree said that if there was enough interest, the Boston Pizza Tours could continue. Throughout the year, Ferree and other guides hold less haunted tours of the North End. These focus more on the rich history of the area, but still feature the pizza. You can sign up for a tour HERE.
As for me, I don’t believe in ghosts. I do, however, believe in the power of pizza.