BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The City of Good Neighbors isn’t always so neighborly.
This Halloween season, two men named Joel have paired up for an artistic, historical endeavor to entertain Buffalonians with some of the most frightening stories in the city’s history. It’s aptly named “Evil Buffalo.”
“My goal is to be interesting. If you learn something along the way, that’s your own fault,” content creator Joel Dombrowski, tongue-in-cheek, told News 4.
A former TV news producer, Dombrowski is a tour operator and murder mystery writer nowadays, sharing his vast knowledge of the City of Buffalo with participants on a double-decker bus. Charismatic in his approach to telling stories, Dombrowski makes sure to add a bit of humor to his sightseeing adventures.
But his newest venture in “Evil Buffalo” gets a bit darker.
“What I’ve done is I’ve curated eight horrible things that have happened in Buffalo’s history,” Dombrowski said.
In his words, Dombrowski said he and partner Joel Murphy “have transformed an abandoned grain silo into a living graphic crime noir novel.” They’re doing this through a series of guided, one-hour tours through the abandoned grain silos at Buffalo Riverworks.
During the tour, with guides dressed in era-appropriate costumes, people are taken on journeys through the past, showcasing eight chalk murals.
“A lot of people don’t know that Buffalo disappeared in 1813. It was burned to the ground. If you were here when the Brits came during the War of 1812, you were dead,” Dombrowski said. “They burned our city to the ground, and not many people know about it.“
Murphy was approached by Dombrowski to be the man behind the murals. With rich color and detailed additions for the keen eye, Murphy’s art sets the scene for Dombrowski’s stories.
“Within a panel, I had to try to think about where the focal point was and how the eye was going to move throughout the story,” Murphy said. “But also, how I approached them was thinking beyond what’s literal. I tried to think about the feeling of the story, as well, and try to ingrain some metaphor within the visual layout.”
Murphy said his background in animation, with storyboarding and figure drawing, helped him create these murals.
“I’m just really excited,” Murphy said. “I hope people walk away filled with thought.”
It took weeks of research for both men to put these stories together, some of which took place before the dawn of photography. Historical accuracy was of utmost importance, down to the details of the clothing and hairstyles of the time.
“I like entertaining people and making them aware of how rich Buffalo’s history is,” Dombrowski said. “Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, just like every city.”
It’s rewarding for the tour operator, who calls the project “a celebration of Halloween, history, things that shock people and also good storytelling, and really, really good art.”
“My favorite is when people say ‘I didn’t know that,'” he said.
Some examples of the stories that may result in that kind of reaction include the following:
- A Ouija board-inspired homicide involving a topless model love triangle.
- How a drunken grain scooper inspired the invention of the electric chair in Buffalo.
- How a Western New Yorker is a suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders.
Tours are taking place Thursday through Sunday evenings throughout October, and spots appear to quickly be booking up. To reserve your spot for $25 per person, click or tap here.