DULUTH – The city's Haunted Ship attraction will return this fall after three years away due to major maintenance and pandemic restrictions.

The William A. Irvin ship museum reopens for normal tours on May 21 for a second season with COVID-19 precautions in place. In October the ship and its employees will be transformed for the annual floating haunted house that brings thousands of visitors to the area and was last open in 2017.

The news was met with applause from the attendees at Tuesday's Visit Duluth annual meeting. The tourism bureau recognized Irvin manager Steve Rankila, director of internal operations at the DECC, with its top tourism employee award.

"Captaining the floating museum through COVID-19 was no easy task," Visit Duluth said in a news release. "Rankila coordinated getting the ship operational for clean, safe, self-guided tours with just seven days notice."

The ship was carefully guided out of a narrow slip in the Duluth harbor and towed to Fraser Shipyards in Superior in 2018 for $504,000 in renovations to keep the 84-year-old vessel afloat. A grant from the Minnesota Historical Society covered the cost.

The ship returned home in October 2019 only to face a global pandemic that delayed its normal spring opening last year.

The museum attracts an average of 36,000 visitors in a normal year, and the Haunted Ship brings an additional 20,000 in October at a time when local tourism is otherwise slowing down.

Brooks Johnson