Looking for a good scare this Halloween? Skip the hundreds of pop-up haunted houses and opt for the real deal. Many major cities — and some smaller ones with notorious pasts — offer ghost tours that take you to haunted sites, while they tell you tales of murder, revenge, and other bone-chilling events. You may even see a few things you just can’t explain. Here, our recommendations for the eight scariest ghost tours.
After Dark Investigations (Gettysburg, PA)
The Battle of Gettysburg — one of the bloodiest of the Civil War — has plenty of ghosts and ghost tours, but the Devil’s Hour Hunt offered by After Dark Investigations ($50) arms its tour group with electromagnetic field detectors, temperature gauges, voice phenomena recorders, dowsing rods, and ghost boxes that pick up spirit voices. Participants routinely report paranormal encounters, including voices and thrown rocks.
Chattanooga Ghost Tours (Chattanooga, TN)
Experiences offered by Chattanooga Ghost Tours range from family-friendly to adults-only. If you want a thrill and are over 18, opt for the UTC Cemetery Ghost Hunt ($20). The paranormal encounters on the University of Tennessee Chattanooga campus and Citizens Cemetery have been so creepy in the past that the tour comes with a warning for people with heart conditions.
You don’t need fancy equipment to get a scare, but a voodoo priestess helps. Voodoo Bone Lady Haunted Tours was founded by a voodoo priestess who still serves as an occasional guide. While the 5-in-1 Haunted Tour Experience with its tales of voodoo, vampires, ghosts, witchcraft, and pirates is suitable for families, you may want to think twice about taking youngsters on the St. Louis Cemetery Tour, which includes a voodoo blessing of a priestess’ tomb. Both tours are $25.
Afterlife Tours (Savannah, GA)
Arguably the nation’s most haunted city, Savannah seems to have just as many ghost tours as ghosts. For a tour based on authentic research rather than legends and ghost stories, book with Afterlife Tours. The paranormal researchers that lead the tours share their experiences as you walk from site to site, and they back up their narrative with information verified through the Georgia Historical Society.
For a fun alternative, take a ride with Hearse Ghost Tours. Your driver won’t stop at the haunted locations, but you still learn the city’s haunted history — from the back of a hearse — which is pretty creepy and definitely Instagram-worthy.
Beyond Bizarre Ghost Tour (Portland, OR)
Portland Walking Tours offers everything from food-centric to underground tours, but its Beyond Bizarre Ghost Tour focuses on the city’s dark and sordid past. The tour, designed by a paranormal expert and a clairvoyant, includes a search for Nina, the “working girl” who haunts the 1885 Merchant Hotel. Families are welcome on the 7 p.m. tour, but the 10 p.m. tour is limited to those 18 and over ($23 for 7 p.m. and $29 for 10 p.m.).
Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry (Harpers Ferry, WV)
The two-hour tour given by Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry ($14), the oldest ghost tour in the nation, isn’t particularly scary — it begins while it’s still daylight — but the guides are such great storytellers that the walk back to your car on your own and in the dark is extra creepy. Many guests choose to backtrack to stops along the tour and have captured eerie photos of orbs and ghostly faces in windows.
Old Bisbee Ghost Tours (Bisbee, AZ)
Costumed guides tell the ghostly stories of Bisbee’s past on the basic tour. Like the one in Harpers Ferry, it’s the storytelling that makes this tour ($15) so good. (Sarah and Renee, who appeared on an episode of the paranormal TV show “Ghost Adventurers,” get rave reviews.) If you want a paranormal encounter, though, you may want to try the tour company’s Copper Queen Ghost Hunt, held the first or third Thursday of the month.