Ghost Tours: Exposing the Dark Side of Our Favorite Cities

Ghosts in the Cemetery, Plymouth
Ghosts in the Cemetery, Plymouth

I love taking guided tours whenever I find myself in a city for the first time—and ghost tours are a really interesting way to dive into the legends and folklore that give a city character. Although I can’t say I buy everything you hear on them, they certainly are a unique way to discover a new place. Since this week is Halloween, I thought I’d do a roundup of ghost tours I’ve been on, and a couple more that are on my short list.

Before I met Kyle, I would have been hard pressed to come up with many things I wanted to do less than go on a ghost tour. But early in our relationship, I learned Kyle had a thing for the supernatural. A desire to find something to watch with my then-boyfriend led to my curiosity being piqued after one too many episodes of Ghost Hunters.

Pilgrims and the Paranormal in Plymouth

I decided to surprise him with a ghost tour during a college break trip to Plymouth, Mass. Neither of us had ever been, and I figured what better place to hunt for ghosties than in one of the oldest, most storied cities in the U.S.? We did the “Twilight Lantern” walk with Dead of Night Tours, and I tried my best to put on a brave face and will the spirits to stay away from me.

It was genuinely creepy; walking down dark, narrow pathways while a guide recounted tales of tragedy and mystery was certainly enough to send shivers up your spine. We strolled along one of the oldest streets in the country, leading to the city’s Town Square, which, legend has it, is forever cursed by King Philip. One of the best/worst parts of the tour for me was our time on Burial Hill, the final resting place of Pilgrims, after they were moved from nearby Cole’s Hill. Tombstones date back to the 1600s, and there’s a story behind each one of them. Our guide was fantastic, encouraging us to take some pictures in the darkness to try to “capture spirits.” I’m not sure how much I buy into it, but I can’t deny some strange orbs with almost face-like structures when zoomed in on.

Kyle fondly remembers a little encounter of his own on this tour. Supposedly the spirit of a young girl likes to pick on the guys in the group, and as he was bringing up the rear, he felt something tug on his jacket. He turned around to find nothing but cold night air. “Spoopy,” as he puts it!

The Dark Side of the Venetian Lagoon

Our second ghost tour came when Kyle visited me for a weekend in Venice during my study abroad in Italy. We got engaged that weekend—how better to celebrate than with a ghost tour?! It was, again, my surprise to him. This time, it had a lot less to do with the creep-factor of ghosts, and a lot more to do with the eeriness that Venice takes on after dark—and on a rainy night, no less! We huddled under an umbrella and strolled the back alleyways of this hauntingly beautiful city, listening to centuries-old stories that are entangled in Venetian history.

Eerie Edinburgh

I took a third ghost tour with my friend Ali when she and I ventured to Scotland for a weekend during our study abroad. It seems for me that weather really sets the tone of the tour. This time, it was snowing, and Edinburgh was absolutely enchanting. The tour, geared toward students, started at Starbucks, so we loaded up on hot chocolate before setting out into the night, armed with little flashlights provided to us. As with all ghost tours, we learned about the darker side of the beautiful city we’d been exploring in the light. We heard about grave robbing, witch burning, and vampire bites. I remember walking up a steep hill to a cemetery overlooking the city. It was dark, cold, and utterly eerie. Although we didn’t encounter any spirits on our walk, we happily found some in the pub where the ghost tour ended.

Here are a couple more ghost tours that are on my short list:      

The Unseen Seattle

We visited Seattle during our honeymoon, and I could kick myself now for not doing a bit more research for our activities. (It wasn’t like I was planning a wedding, or anything!) Naturally after returning home, I learned of Bill Speidell’s Underground Tour, specifically the Paranormal Experience. Oh yes, lurking beneath the Emerald City’s surface is a series of passageways and basements that made up the ground level of mid-19th century Seattle. The streets were elevated, and the lower level was no longer used. It’s a fascinating story—one of condemnation, speakeasies and opium dens—and now, only a portion of the Underground has been made safe for guided tours. This particular tour gives you a “hands-on, lights-off” experience with the unseen side of Seattle.

Final Resting Place in the Big Easy

New Orleans is an inherently creepy city. My friend Lindsay and I spent only an evening there during a whirlwind road trip in college, and I’ve always wanted to go back for a longer visit. Even if you’ve never been, you hear the stories and you see the city depicted in movies; there’s something oddly alluring about it. This tragically beautiful city, draped in Spanish moss and dotted with tombstones, would undoubtedly make a brilliant setting for a spine-tingling ghost tour. The French Quarter was my favorite bit of the city, and that’s why I’ve added French Quarter Phantoms to my list of must-try ghost experiences. It’s been named the #1 ghost tour in the city, and has been listed in the top 10 in America. This company lets you choose from four different itineraries, one of which explores St. Louis No. 1, the oldest cemetery in the city, taking up an entire block, and playing host to more than 100,000 residents, resting for eternity in above-ground vaults. Guides recount tales of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, buried here. I’d imagine taking a stroll through this cemetery would be eerie, yet beautiful—perhaps that’s why in 2010, actor Nicolas Cage bought a pyramid-shaped tomb to be his future resting place. Creepy.

Have you been on any of these ghost tours? Are there more you’d add to my list of must-try paranormal adventures?

Places

Dead of Night Ghost Tours

Plymouth Rock, Water Street, Plymouth, MA, United States
508-866-5111

Original Venice Ghosts and Legends Walking Tours

Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy
+39.041.970499

Edinburgh's Murder and Monsters

124 The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
+49 30 510 50030

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Doc Maynard's Public House, 1st Avenue, Seattle, WA, United States
206-682-4646

French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tours

630 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA, United States
504-666-8300

Dead of Night Ghost Tours

Plymouth Rock, Water Street, Plymouth, MA, United States
508-866-5111
http://www.deadofnightghosttours.com

Original Venice Ghosts and Legends Walking Tours

Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy
+39.041.970499
http://tours-italy.com/tour-106/original-venice-ghost-walk

Edinburgh's Murder and Monsters

124 The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
+49 30 510 50030
http://www.newedinburghtours.com/daily-tours/the-dark-side-edinburghs-murderers-and-monsters.html

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Doc Maynard's Public House, 1st Avenue, Seattle, WA, United States
206-682-4646
http://undergroundtour.com/index.html

French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tours

630 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA, United States
504-666-8300
https://www.frenchquarterphantoms.com/cemetery-tour

One thought on “Ghost Tours: Exposing the Dark Side of Our Favorite Cities”

  1. Wow, I’m surprised how much experience you guys have had with ghost tours lol. I remember Kyle being really into Supernatural, the show, as he was talking about all the different episodes that were of interest. I think it’s fascinating to delve into things like tours even if you don’t entirely believe it, because like you said, you can really learn a lot about a city’s history through their folklore.

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