Haunted hotels? Been there, done that. Room service and queen beds are far from fearsome — unless one happens to see an actual ghost, which is never a guarantee. And around Halloween, haunted houses and hayrides fail to amuse the post-adolescent traveler who can easily see the designer sneakers peeking out from under Death’s black robes.
The remedy for the traveler who is bored by not-so-haunted hotels and Halloween kitsch is a good ghost tour. Offering a delightful mix of historic sightseeing and supernatural storytelling, ghost tours allow travelers to simultaneously soak up some history and get a few goose bumps. Visit the sites where Jack the Ripper took the lives of his many victims, walk the dank catacombs of Rome or search for Civil War specters in the historic graveyards of Gettysburg. These eerie excursions are so much fun you’ll just die, so read on … we dare you!
1. The Salem Night Tour: Salem, Massachusetts
What’s a visit to Salem without a ghost tour? Salem, of course, is the spot where the famous Salem Witch Trials took place in 1692 (grab a copy of “The Crucible” at your local library if you need a refresher course). Salem is the summit of spooky destinations, with attractions including a witch museum and the Annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo — in addition to the town’s countless historic spots. The Salem Night Tour is a 90-minute tour led by guides who dress and act just like historic characters from Salem’s past. Explore Salem with Annie Blackwater, a notorious female pirate who was born in Salem in 1725, or Dorothy Good, whose mother was hanged for witchcraft. Visit haunted Salem sites like the old Salem jail, learn about pirates who frequented the spooky seaport, and take trips to Salem’s oldest cemetery and the original Witch Dungeon.
2. The Real Mary King’s Close: Edinburgh, Scotland
Mary King’s Close is a system of underground passageways in Edinburgh; many of its residents were ravaged by the plague in the 17th century, and rumors of hauntings and unexplained happenings abound. The Real Mary King’s Close tour takes you through the dark alleys of the close, offering explanations of what Scottish life was like in the 16th and 17th centuries and detailing how residents dealt with the horrors of the plague. You’ll hear the stories of real people who lived on these eerie streets when they were open to the skies … and you might even feel a spirit brush against you as you pass through.
3. Winchester Mystery House: San Jose, California
Step into the Winchester Mystery House and enter the mind of a tormented heiress who added room after room onto her colossal mansion in an attempt to ward off evil spirits. Legend has it Sarah Winchester, the owner of the house until 1922, believed that she was haunted by the ghosts of those killed by Winchester Rifles (the source of her fortune), and that the relentless construction of her house would keep the angry spirits at bay. The house’s remarkable size — including 47 fireplaces, 467 doorways and 2 ballrooms — reflects the incredible measures that Sarah Winchester took in order to evade the vengeful undead. Do the unearthly departed still haunt the mansion, searching for Sarah?
Spooky flashlight tours are available for the 160-room, 19th-century mansion at select times of year. Read more about the Winchester Mystery House in The World’s Weirdest Museums.
4. Jack the Ripper Tour: London, England
Retrace the cursed steps of Jack the Ripper, the infamous murderer who targeted prostitutes in Victorian London. Who was Jack the Ripper, and why was he never caught? Tour guides will attempt to answer these questions as they shepherd you through creepy cobblestone streets and into the heart of Jack the Ripper’s London. See photos of victims, learn about leading suspects in the Jack the Ripper case and experience life in 19th-century England. Group sizes are limited, so book early at .
5. Hearse Ghost Tours: Savannah, Georgia
You probably won’t travel in a hearse until you’re too dead to enjoy it — unless you take a creepy Hearse Ghost Tour in Savannah, Georgia. Ride in a real hearse that carted the deceased to their final resting places for more 15 years and just try not to get spooked. You can arrange for the hearse to pick you up at your hotel (your fellow guests just might wonder what they’re serving in the breakfast buffet). You won’t be cramped in the car peering out the window — the hearse has been refurbished to give passengers a view out the top of the vehicle. See where hangings took place, hear spine-chilling ghost stories and learn about the history of Savannah. Hearses can hold eight people at a time, and tours depart after dark. Reservations are required.
6. Dark Rome Crypts & Catacombs Tour: Rome, Italy
Interested in crossing over to Rome‘s dark side? Travelers looking for more than the traditional attractions of Rome can explore a chapel decorated with human bones, walk through dank underground catacombs and visit a church that was once the site of pagan worship. On the Dark Rome Crypts & Catacombs Tour, English-speaking guides will expose the horrors of ancient Rome, where thousands of Christians were put to death.
7. Ghosts of Gettysburg: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Civil War buffs and ghost hunters alike haunt the streets of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; both are looking for the same thing — an intimate connection with the past — and they’re likely to find it in Gettysburg. The town was the setting for the famous Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, and locals say that Civil War spirits continue to haunt graveyards, houses, inns and restaurants in the area.
Although there are many companies in Gettysburg that offer ghost tours, the Ghosts of Gettysburg is one of the most popular. This tour was founded by Mark Nesbitt, author of the “Ghosts of Gettysburg” series. Guides dressed in period clothing describe conditions of life during the Civil War, tell of reported hauntings and lead brave tourists by candlelight through what’s known as “the most haunted town in America.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the Real Mary King’s Close tour. It has been corrected.