Local Tours that Tell Tales of the Macabre
Written by Jenny K Gilman Photos Tia Crabtree
“They’ve promised that dreams can come true —but forgot to mention that nightmares are dreams, too. — Oscar Wilde
The autumn season has a way of bringing the ghosts and goblins out in surprising places. Perhaps a walk down the street, bright orange and red leaves are underfoot, and you wonder, are those only my crunching noises I hear, or is there someone, or worse, something following me?
Mark Iverson has a tale or two to tell about the macabre history of Boise. If you want to satisfy your spooky autumnal quest with real history, he knows a thing or two that can send some chills up and down your spine. Together with his partner Jeff Wade, they run Idahistory Tours. The macabre tour is not for the faint of heart, nor for children.
Our premier event is “A Macabre History of Boise: A Walking Tour.” It’s a great time if you are a fan of true crime, the occult, and strange medical devices used in places you wouldn’t expect.
Mark is a historian. He graduated with a master’s degree in history from Boise State University. He then traveled to Bosnia, where he studied the ethnic tensions that led to war, violence, and genocide and started to look specifically at the violence against women. Eventually, he landed back in Boise. He worked as an administrator for the city cemeteries, including Morris Hill Cemetery, the Pioneer Cemetery, and Fort Boise Cemetery.
Mark took an interest in some of the people who were interred there and began researching them. He then started giving tours to the public for the Boise Department of Arts and History, and eventually, his interests collided. Mark said this of the people to whom he would give tours: “These fine folks would ask me all types of interesting questions, and I’d tell them so many other strange, creepy, scary, gross, and just plain odd stories I had found in the old papers of Boise and in the old memoirs of long-gone residents.” His idea for starting his own tours grew from there.
By starting Idahistory, he combined his natural interest in the macabre with actual historical research and transformed it into a tour. Mark said, “It is full of contextual elements at the core of American history —while also being fun and entertaining.”
My tour is unique in that it covers the development of Boise but from the gutter. Too often, we are taught an overly sunny history of our local towns. We learn about the do-gooders, the achievers… but we do not learn so much about the darker elements. Much of the sunny stuff is true, but in teaching only the positive, we leave balance out of what most people learn about the towns, areas, regions, and nations they belong to. I endeavor to add balance.
Idahistory has grown to add tours in Nampa, and Mark has been learning more about his hometown of Eagle. The small town had its own share of bloodshed, run-ins, disputes, and violence. It was startling enough that the United States Calvary had to come in and set up camp long enough to bring it back into some semblance of order and control. Eagle, Mark said, was formerly referred to by Boiseans as, “That violent place downriver.” Idahistory expects that soon they will be bringing Eagle into their scheduled tours of the macabre.
Currently, Idahistory is running tours in Boise on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The tours are two hours long, and visitors should expect to walk over two miles. Masks are recommended, and the tours accommodate smaller groups to allow for the safety of everyone during the pandemic. Children are not recommended for these tours. You can book a tour on their website: Idahistory.com.