Everyone loves a good ghost story, especially if it involves legend and lore. As a rule, the creepier, the better. Ghost stories take on a whole other meaning when you move them away from the conversational setting and immerse yourself in the experience. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, here are some of the scariest ghost tours and haunted walks in the U.S. that will leave you spooked (and highly entertained).
There are loads of ghost tours available in Salem, MA- and it’s no wonder; this town is absolutely rife with unsettled souls. The scene of the infamous witch trials that unfolded during the 1690s and saw numerous people tried and executed for witchcraft. While many modern day historians would classify this snowball effect from mass hysteria, those with more paranormal leanings insist that these violent events have lured these restless spirits to remain. Some famous sites visited by organized haunted walks: the Witch Dungeon and Old Salem Jail and Old Burying Point Cemetery- the burial spot for Witch Trials Judge Hathorne, who sentenced many young girls to die for their alleged involvement with witchcraft.
What more authentic way to experience a ghost tour, then riding in the back of a real, live hearse? Savannah’s Hearse Ghost Tours offers guided tours around the older parts of Savannah, with visitors riding in converted hearses. These hearses are the real deal, having been in use for 15+ years with funeral parlors. As they advertise, these converted hearses seat “eight bodies, dead or alive”
A battleground (especially when it is home to one of the most bloody and important battles in the country’s history) is like a cradle for ghosts with a vendetta- and who are only too happy to linger in this world (at least for the purposes of a ghost tour). There are a number of haunted walks in Gettysburg, depending on your interests. Some specialized tours include: “the Live or Die tour” which recounts real-life stories and human interest details of some Civil War soldiers, “Battle cry Tours” which visit battlegrounds, alleyways and other sites of violence when the “streets ran red” during the Civil War. Other tours visit private homes which allegedly did double duty as gravesites for fallen soldiers.
A place where shoot outs were common place (like at high noon on Main St.) and where lewd saloons begat violent behaviour should have its share of ghosts, right? Tombstone, AZ is just about as gun-slingin’ as it got in the old Wild West, and this small town has its very own Gunslinging Ghost tour to celebrate its history. The tour leaves from Big Nose Kate’s Saloon (you know it’s going to be good). Visit the OK Corral and the Birdcage Theater (a live theatre which was home to not one, but a series of gunfights).
New Orleans, LA
You can kind of sense the ghosts in a town like New Orleans, especially when wandering through the French Quarter. With cobblestone streets, authentic gas-fired streetlights from centuries gone by, and a history steeped with legends, romance gone wrong and a strong connection to the practice of Voodoo, New Orleans is primed for a ghost tour or two. In addition to that, there is an above ground cemetery at every turn, as they are unable to bury their dead below ground in New Orleans. There is an abundance of tour companies that lead visitors on haunted walks, whether you’re interested in the ghouls of the French Quarter, Vampires or Voodoo.
Catalina Island, CA
You may have noticed that one of the common factors in a bone-chilling haunted experience has much to do with its geography. Namely, how many ghost stories have you heard, where a house built on top of a cemetery or burial ground riles the rancour of the spirits buried there? Such is the case with Catalina Island in California. The village of Avalon on Catalina is actually constructed on an ancient burial ground. Catalina Ghost Tours are all about ghost sightings, and says that it has a “local” ghost that appears regularly on its tour. They’ve been vetted by paranormal researchers, and claim that efforts to communicate with the dead via séance have been called off, because participants were freaked out by the intensity of the spirits.
Gangsters, violence, illicit crime and prohibition: when you combine all of these factors, you no doubt have tons of motivation for restless spirits and haunted spots. There are tours that take you to visit gangster “hot spots and hit spots.” You’ll also learn about the exploits of some of the more infamous gangsters, like Capone, Moran and Dillinger. This city has one of the bloodiest histories in the U.S, with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, as well as numerous murder scenes.