'Tis The Touring Season
October showcases the macabre, the hair-raising, the sometimes morbid and chilling and even the spritely spirits that may or may not be living among us. What better way to experience a city or town’s history than by taking a tour of their most haunted landmarks?
Ghost tours come in all varieties – cost, transportation, duration, audience – anything can happen. Many are offered all year long, not just around Halloween. The tour guides may be costumed or not, they may be dramatically trained or not or you may be led by an actual paranormal investigator.
Whatever you choose, here are some great tours to enjoy and some hints on how to fully enjoy the experience.
Photo credit: Euart
Open Your Mind
“Go with an open mind,” says Ron Kolek, co-author of A Ghost a Day: 365 True Tales of the Spectral, Supernatural, and Just Plain Scary!, and lead investigator of The New England Ghost Project. “You should also dress comfortably and carry both a camera and a recorder.”
However, don’t be surprised if you experience battery failure – that’s common around spirits.
Because the paranormal and historical go hand-in-hand, Kolek suggests researching the history of the place you plan to tour. See if what you hear from your guide could be valid and if it isn’t explained, ask why a haunting might appear at a particular location.
In A Ghost a Day, Kolek talks about Kells Irish Pub in Seattle. In the early 1900s the building served as an embalming room for the mortuary out front and is actively haunted today. You’ll see and hear all about it on Seattle’s Market Ghost Tour.
Photo credit: ryanriot
Market Ghost Tour: Seattle
Dubbed the second best ghost tour in the nation by Trip Advisor, attendees begin and end their explorations at the iconic Pike Place Market. And yes, Kells, a must-see on the tour, regularly hosts ghosts like the little red-headed girl with bright red ribbons in her hair. Sometimes she plays with other children dining in the restaurant.
At one point employees heard a mirror crash in the back room at Kells and when they went to see what happened, the broken glass was in a neat pile on the floor. Upon returning to work in the front of the restaurant, they saw a single candle burning on the bar that wasn’t there before.
The currently empty building, located at 1921 First Avenue, used to be the mortuary. But with its ghostly figures and crashing ceiling fans of late, businesses haven’t been very prosperous here. Is it the economy? Or, maybe, is it due to spirits from the beyond?
Photo credit: Mercedes Yaeger
P.A.S.T. Tour: Yakima, Wash.
During October, members of the P.A.S.T. is Present Paranormal Investigation Team, guide free walking tours in downtown Yakima, in Washington’s wine country. This group’s mission is to discover the truth about paranormal and spiritual claims by using scientific means of investigation. When they can rule out natural phenomenon, human interference and the environment as causes, what’s left is either scientifically inexplicable or paranormal activity.
Confirmed spiritual activity has been noted at the Yakima Valley Sports Center and the Depot Restaurant and Lounge. You might meet “Shorty” a former stage hand at the Capitol Theatre or experience paranormal activity on the third or fourth floors of City Hall, which used to be the city jail.
This one-hour tour circles Yakima’s downtown and makes about 20 stops along the way.
Photo credit: Mark Heard
L.A.: Scary Scavenger HuntHeld during the month of October, the hunt begins in a secret speakeasy that is closed to the public. Many tortured souls who were murdered, burned in fires or committed suicide continue to haunt Hollywood Boulevard today. Los Angeles claims to be the seventh-most haunted city in the United States.
In this interactive tour, hunters work in teams using flashlights to scour the streets to solve puzzles. No prior knowledge of Los Angeles or its many ghosts is needed. The winning team receives medals and a camera that puts a spooky ghost into photos.
Photo courtesy of Out of the Box Events
Independence, Mo.: Creepy Wagon Ride
Inmates in the 1859 jail where this tour begins included members of the Jesse James Gang and Civil War guerilla William Clark Quantrill. A local psychic says the jail hosts hundreds of ghosts – men, women, children and even cats.
Visitors have reported seeing a black and white cat even though no cats currently live in the jail.
After a look at the marshal’s home, you’re whisked into a covered wagon where paranormal ghost hunters will delight you with tales of hauntings in and around Independence’s historic square.
Previous attendees have reported lights and radios going on and off for no reason, a large painting falling off a wall and photographers say they see orbs in their photos that weren’t there when they snapped the shot.
Photo credit: Independence, Missouri Tourism
Oahu, Hawaii: 5-Hour Tour
Either Hawaii is home to many spirits or its residents just like to go bigger. Ranked number six by Trip Advisor, Oahu Ghost Tours offers three different tours to choose from. Honolulu City Haunts is a walking tour and Orbs of Oahu is a driving tour. The third option, the Sacred Spirits Cultural Day-Time Tour lasts five hours, and takes you to secret ancient spots even the locals don’t know about.
You’ll learn about the Menehune (the little people), and the feared Night Marchers and you’ll stop at sites Pele, the fire goddess, visited and see the final resting place of Hawaii’s royalty.
All guides have had their own supernatural encounters. They’ve studied the sites and the stories extensively plus have their own stories to tell, as well. Nothing in this tour is scripted.
Photo Credit: Molechaser
Mystic Seaport, Conn.: Nautical Nightmare
Nautical Nightmare tours lure haunted women and deep secrets to the surface. After a short boat ride, you’ll feel a chilly breeze as you walk from the ships to the blacksmith to the printing office, and inside a boat shed to hear the ghost tales that took place at the Seaport. The ship rigs creak and groan in the wind as the ghost stories unfold. Edgar Allen Poe's poetry comes to mind.
Mystic Seaport used to be a whaling village and now is a replica of what it looked like during the 19th century. Actors of all ages tell the story in dramatic play form and as you move through the adventure some characters may just pass by you and stare. Their costumes look old world and even other-worldly.
Photo Credit: Dicktay2000
Atlanta: Bike Tour
Learn about Atlanta’s scarier side on an 8-mile, 3-hour guided bike ride past some of the most haunted sites in the city. The Haunted Bicycle Tour includes first-hand accounts you won’t find anywhere else. Watch out for the ghosts that stroll the halls of the Ellis Boutique Hotel on Peachtree Street and hear other stories from "Georgia Spirits and Specters", written by Beth Dolgner. The author may even appear on your tour.
Are the dead not resting in peace at the Oakland Cemetery? What about the ghostly girls that have been spotted at a popular nightclub?
Get tips on how to do your own ghost hunting and find out about Atlanta’s most popular urban legends. Hear stories collected from witnesses and paranormal investigators.
Photo credit: Bicycle Tours of Atlanta
Wilmington, N.C.: Wilmington Pub Tour
Besides participating in a hair-raising walking tour through Wilmington pubs led by local actors, you can also buy ghost-related, pirate-themed and other kinds of horrifying souvenirs at The Black Cat Shoppe. During each stop on the pub crawl, you’re given time to enjoy a beverage during the stories.
One story concerns Gallus Meg, an innkeeper who reigned over Paradise Alley centuries ago. Word has it that she’d grab non-paying customers by the neck and throw them into the alley. For particularly unruly cases, she ripped off their ears with her teeth and kept her stash in a jar on top of the bar. Her ghost still haunts the area. However, only men encounter Gallus Meg these days.
John Hirchak, the founder of the Wilmington tours, has gathered stories and published them in his book, "Ghosts of Old Wilmington".
Photo credit: Matt Seppings
Key West, Fla.: Haunting Hotel
Evidently people are dying to get into this tour – to see the “Chucky” doll from the horror movie that sits in a Key West museum, and Robert the Doll whose favorite activity is trying to prevent his picture from being taken. Robert might even tap on the glass of his display case for you or move his stuffed lion from one leg to the other.
In Captain Tony’s bar there used to be a mass grave where the pool tables now sit. Bones were uncovered during a remodeling. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the bar patrons’ photos reveal “ghostly images” in the background.
A bellhop once backed a food cart into the elevator shaft, and now he’s sometimes seen haunting the Hotel LaConcha. Not all spirits are evil and it seems the good ones inhabit the graveyard and give you goosebumps with a sudden chill in the air.
Photo credit: AndYaDontStop
Ohio: Haunted Hocking
You do the work on this Ohio tour by using Geiger counters, night vision lenses, cameras, crystals, divining rods, compasses and other tools to measure paranormal activity. Part of the tour takes you to the haunted Ash Cave. The lady in white might appear there, peeking around trees and following groups, but nobody seems to know who she is.
Spirits roam the woods at night and leave a trail of twinkling lights, a train brakeman haunts a tunnel and hounds howl at the night. Whether the phenomenon is spiritual or real is up to you to decide.
Besides being guided by professional ghost hunters, a naturalist comes along to offer scientific or natural explanations of what may be going on.
Photo credit: mpeirce
Eureka Springs, Ark.: Ozark Mountain Hotel
Because of high demand, three to four ghost tours a night are offered at the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Starting on the fourth floor, guests are introduced to “the lady in the mist,” a co-ed who fell to her death from the top floor. Another infamous entity you might see is Theodora, a lady who was hospitalized here when the place was a cancer treatment center.
The lowest level of the hotel, which used to be “the morgue,” houses the actual autopsy table where “Dr.” Norman Baker performed macabre experiments. Will you brave the walk-in cooler where Baker kept bodies and body parts?
On that same level you’ll find the locker where the SyFy Channels’ “Ghost Hunters” captured a full-bodied apparition on their thermal imaging camera.
Photo credit: Todd Hallock