Sticking to the s-crypt

A Tour to Die For director Lewis Smith at last year's event

Stories buried in Lincoln City’s past will come to life this weekend when A Tour to Die For returns to the town’s Taft Pioneer Cemetery for more tales from the permanent residents.

The trips down memory lane begin at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, with participants then transported by Chinook Winds’ minibus to the cemetery. Handheld lamps provided for visitors for the walk through the graves, and live music provided by John Bringetto, head of the Lincoln Pops, will add to the creepy yet festive environment of the tour.

“We start with John Bones at the cultural center,” said Theatre West member and this year’s event director Lewis Smith. “He will talk about the history of the land that the cultural center is on. The rest of the stories will be told at the cemetery.”

To keep the tour fresh, new characters are added each year; this year includes a Finnish expatriate and a mother of 10 whose kids left a local legacy.

John Edmund “Strong Arm” Johnson, who died in 1958, but whose birthdate has been lost to time, was born in Finland and ended up on the Oregon Coast after working as a longshoreman. He lived with a group of bachelors in an A-frame on East Devils Lake Road until he was able to afford a 7.5-acre lot with a log cabin, on which he grew raspberries, strawberries and potatoes.

He earned his nickname by displaying feats of strength, like the time a friend was showing off by lifting two 100-pound sacks of flour. “Strong Arm” lifted the friend, complete with the flour, and did a few deep knee bends.

He lived and died simply, and is buried in the cemetery with no headstone. But that won’t stop the Tour to Die For crew from bringing Johnson’s tale to life from his graveside.

“It’s not a spooky haunted house, it’s more for people that love history,” Smith said. “Even though, visiting the cemetery at night, that’s still pretty creepy.”

Tickets, $25, include light refreshments at the cultural center, are available online at tourtodiefor.com. Evening shows will run every 60 minutes on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19 to 20, from 5:30 to 9:30 pm. Two matinée tours will run on Sunday, Oct. 21 from noon to 2 pm. The Lincoln City Cultural Center is located at 540 NE Hwy. 101.

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