Tales of the supernatural world are fascinating at any time of year, but the Halloween season kicks the ghostly atmosphere into high gear in many places across the U.S. One of the best ways to celebrate the spooky season? On a bone-chilling ghost tour. Here are seven cities with some of the coolest, spookiest, and most illuminating ghost tours you can take in America.
It’s little wonder that Gettysburg — the site of a three-day Civil War battle with much bloodshed — is host to a plethora of ghost tours to choose from. During the day, visitors can take a self-guided audio tour around the battlefield — an excellent way to get one’s bearings and visit such ominously named locations as Devil’s Den, which feels spooky even in broad daylight. After dark, choose from the many walking tours that visit paranormal spots around town and share tales of the epic Civil War battle. The Farnsworth House Inn hosts several guided ghost walks, which include a presentation in its haunted cellar, a tour of the Confederate Hospital, and a visit to the old Union Cemetery. For a more family-friendly tour, try the Gettysburg History and Haunts Tour, which is also wheelchair-accessible and pet-friendly.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco has a vibrant history of immigration, innovation, and international trade, but it also has a spooky underbelly. To learn the city’s colorful stories, take the San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour. Local historian Christian Cagigal has led groups through the Pacific Heights neighborhood on these popular tours for more than 20 years. You’ll learn about the area’s fascinating history and architecture, but haunted trees, poltergeists, and a ghost bride also make an appearance on this walk — and there might even be a few spooky displays that your guide can’t quite explain.
With eerily long corridors and the echoes of iron doors clanging shut, the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield is the perfect setting for an after-dark tour. Built with the goal of reforming offenders, the penitentiary opened for prisoners in 1896 and shuttered nearly a century later in 1990. Since then, it has been restored and opened to the public for tours and events. It also claims to be one of the most haunted prisons in the country, offering ghost walks, supervised ghost hunts, and private hunts that range in length from one to eight hours. The guided ghost walk is suitable for ages 13 and up, but other tours are restricted to adults. Hear about inmates and their crimes and keep an eye open for strange shadows. If you’re wondering why the building looks rather familiar, it was the setting for The Shawshank Redemption and is part of the city’s Shawshank Trail.
Southern gentility has a ghostly past in Savannah, Georgia. Blue Orb Tours feature frequently on lists of best ghost tours in both the U.S. and around the world. Suitable for all ages, their 90-minute Savannah Shadows walk combines local history, Gullah folktales, and haunted sightings in the city’s otherwise charming downtown. The company also offers a two-hour Zombie Tour for adults only. Visitors to Savannah shouldn’t miss the Old Sorrel-Weed House, a local landmark known for its paranormal past. Now a museum, it offers a popular Ghosts of Sorrel Weed Tour.
Spooked in Seattle offers a tour that touches on Seattle’s sometimes illicit port-trading past. Their ghost hunt on the USS Turner Joy features tales of hapless drunks who woke up to find themselves captured and robbed as the ship set sail to some unknown destination. You can also take a guided walk through Pioneer Square, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, and learn of the many scandalous tales that took place there over the years. Finish off your spooky Seattle visit by heading underground. Much of downtown Seattle was destroyed by fire in 1889, and the city simply rebuilt on top of the old. The Underground Tour takes you down through the eerie remnants of streets, bars, and maybe even a few ghosts that lie just feet below where people unassumingly walk today.
According to historian and author David Domine, the Victorian district of Old Louisville, Kentucky, may be America’s most haunted neighborhood. Domine himself offers several tours through these charming (and sometimes spooky) streets, revealing the secrets of the old mansions that line Millionaire’s Row and the renowned Pink Palace. Since this is Kentucky, there will also be a stop to sample some of the state’s beloved bourbon ball candies along the way. For an even more theatrical introduction to the local characters, join the city's Annual Victorian Ghost Walk. Held each October, the event brings ghostly tales to life with actors playing such roles as Lucinda, the lunatic Queen of America and grave robber Simon Kracht.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a city like none other. The combination of cultures to settle here has made it a melting pot of music, food, art, cultural traditions, and history — particularly when it comes to the paranormal. The French Quarter is filled with stories of vampires, voodoo, and witchcraft, making it the obvious destination for anyone hoping to experience the supernatural in the Big Easy. In the evenings, the streets of the historic French Quarter are filled with guided ghost tours. French Quarter Phantoms has several options available — after visiting the grave of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau during their daytime tour of the cemetery, join one of their evening rambles themed around “Saints and Sinners,” “Ghosts and Vampires,” or “French Quarter Voodoo.” Witches Brew also features several themed walks, from vampires to ghosts, or you can always join a haunted pub crawl — this is New Orleans, after all.