Best Ghost Tours in the US to Take This Halloween
Wherever people have lived, so too have they died; and many believe that in some special places, their spirits remain. At least, that’s the promise of ghost tours across the country, which allow guests to explore the stories of those who have come before us, and in many cases shaped the places we visit.
True, you could take a ghost tour any time of year, but we all know they’re best during the spooky season, when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. Tales of terrifying hauntings and feeling a cold chill while tip-toeing through a graveyard are fun and all, but the chance for an actual ghostly encounter makes it that much more thrilling.
Whether you’re a true believer, a curious skeptic, or just someone who likes to be entertained, these after dark ghost tours across the US are sure to get your spine tingling.
Relive trials and executions in Boston
The amount of executions that have taken place in Boston are enough to raise a few eyebrows. Just take a look at the number of cemeteries in the city with old, jagged gravestones, or consider that witch hangings were happening in Boston for many years before the histeria peaked in nearby Salem. The advantage of ghost tours here is that they’re based totally on reality and don’t need much embellishment to make guests feel uneasy. You can hear about the many questionable deaths and torcherings on the Ghost and Gravestones trolley tour. The cast certainly go out of their way to get dressed up and create a mood, and the stories they regale you with will have you pondering death in no time. The tour is mostly experienced from the open-air trolley, but there are opportunities to get out and walk around various haunted sites, plus historical graves like those of John Hancock and Paul Revere.
Hear about vampires and voodoo in New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
There’s something about the above-ground tombs in New Orleans that’s hard not to stare at. Whether or not you believe 18th century vampires really did prey here or how effective the practices of Voodoo were in the city, there’s no denying the superstition in the foundation here. Witches Brew Tours has a four-in-one walking tour that takes groups of up to 28 people through the city’s considerable paranormal history, including the still-very-active vampire community here today. Fans of American Horror Story: Coven might recognize stories about the true atrocities committed by Kathy Bates’ character, the infamous Madame Delphine LaLaurie, as well as visit her haunted former home. Witches Brew also offers a two hour 18+ tour, New Orleans’ most “uncensored” ghost tour, to throw a bit of grim realism and sex into the mix.
Meet a haunted doll in Florida
Key West, Florida
Ask anyone in Key West about Robert and they’ll know who you’re talking about. Guests on the Key West Ghost Adventures tour get a chance to meet him in person for 25 minutes–and he’s completely locked up during the visit. Did we mention Robert is a doll? Which is – inarguably – the scariest kind of haunted object. Considered one of the top ghost tours in the country, this guided hunt through Fort East Martello also includes loads of Key West history and numerous other spirits. This is no hookey tour, as guests are given some serious equipment, like thermal imagers and electromagnetic field detectors. So expect some high potential for paranormal activity.
Run into some railroad-era ghosts
San Francisco, California
Ghost stories abound in San Francisco, with its hidden underground tunnels and old ships buried beneath the downtown sidewalks. Cynthia Yee, who was born and raised in Chinatown, takes guests on a haunting exploration of her neighborhood. For 90 minutes, she heads into the heart of Haunted San Francisco Chinatown, sharing the supernatural confluence of Chinese and American cultures and the true but chilling events that have taken place there over the years. While the tour is interactive and genuinely scary, it’s also an excellent way to explore the largest Chinatown outside of Asia.
Hear indigenous spirit tales
Bar Harbor, Maine
Repeatedly voted one of the top ten ghost tours in the US, this Native American-owned tour company offers a Bar Harbor ghost tour and a Monsters by Moonlight tour that focuses on Indigenous ghost stories. Guests on Bar Harbor Ghost Tours will hear over a dozen spirit and haunting stories in three different haunted hot spots, including the site of a former Wabanaki encampment. The Monsters tour shares stories of the Wendigo and Acadia, and it also takes place an hour later than the standard ghost tour, increasing the spooky factor.
Go back in time to a murderous wild west
Virginia City, Nevada
The state of Nevada has no shortage of ghost towns, and Montana also has a ghost town named Virginia City, but Nevada’s Virginia City stands out among them all. Bats in the Belfry Ghost Tours take guests through one of the most haunted places in the US, once the home of the largest silver mine on earth and all the wild-west characters it attracted. Take this tour and their American dream may just become your nightmare.
Over the course of an hour, Bats in the Belfry takes you back to the 1860s, when the West was at its wildest and anything went—including the kinds of behavior that produces haunted spirits (hint: murder). Plenty of original buildings like churches and opera houses remain standing in Virginia City, and continue to host the ghosts that go along with them. Just like in the olden days, this tour is cash only.
Find out colonial-era secrets in Newport
Newport, Rhode Island
Despite all the wealth and beauty Newport is known for, at 382 years old, the New England town has developed a few eerie legends. The Olde Town Ghost Walk on Newport Ghost Tours takes guests on a lantern-led walking tour through the oldest, most haunted Newport locales, spilling the town’s darkest secrets along the way. Visits include the Jailhouse Inn, the colonial district, and America’s oldest bar, the White Horse Tavern. What’s hiding behind Newport’s gilded facade? Take the 1.5 hour tour to find out.
Experience the oldest ghost tour in West Virginia
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Rated one of the top ghost tours in the United States, “O’ Be JoyFull” Historical Tours has been in operation for more than 50 years, making it the oldest still-running ghost tour in the U.S. Rather than ghost hunting or attempting to contact spirits, this tour carefully takes guests through inexplicable stories from Harpers Ferry’s history. This walking tour can take up to two hours, and explores the unique phenomena from the town, as well as its violent role in the Civil War. Though the tour may be spooky, it’s considered appropriate for children… and dogs.
Walk with the dead in Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a city dripping with dark history, having been home to historic poets like Edgar Allen Poe and celebrity pirates like Blackbeard and Anne Bonny. Even the first American female serial killer called Charleston home, so there’s some kind of odd presence going on here. Charleston Ghost and Graveyard Tour does a masterful job of showcasing Charleston’s spooky side, partly in thanks to the town’s numerous graveyards and the many notable people who died (and were killed) here. The company uses part of their profits to invest in preservation partnerships that keep the places visited on the tour alive—nearly $5,000,000 has been raised so far. This means Charleston’s scariest landmarks and sites will be around to scare tourists for generations to come.
Feel a chill down your spine in Alaska
Alaska’s dead come to life every night (except Mondays) in the Alaska city when the Ghost Tours of Anchorage begins. This 90-minute walking tour dives into the notable stories of people who’ve ended up in Alaska for one rough and tumble reason or another. This is less a ghost hunting trip than a wheelchair-friendly exploration of the violent and supernatural history of Anchorage, but it is sure to delight and frighten all at once.
Hunt for paranormal activity in Illinois
In the northwest corner of Illinois, close to both Iowa and Wisconsin, sits a small town with creepy happenings. Amelia’s Galena Ghost Tours welcomes guests aboard a luxury shuttle bus three times a night—the spookiest being the 9 pm departure—to several haunted locations. There’s the old cemetery, beautiful buildings with not-so-beautiful stories, and the historic home of Union Army general and 18th President Ulysses S. Grant. EMF detectors and ghost boxes are provided on every tour, so you can test your own ghost-buster skills. There are two opportunities to exit the bus and explore the scary sites yourself.
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Ali Wunderman is a contributor for Thrillist.