On the road for meetings in October? Add a little spookiness to the agenda while convening in some of America’s most-haunted big cities in the spirit of Halloween and a good scare. From centuries-old cemeteries to real-life haunted houses, these five city ghost tours promise fun and fright.
1. Savannah, Georgia: Ghostly Encounters Via Foot or Hearse
Savannah’s supernatural reputation is widespread. Battles, plagues, slavery and natural disasters are a part of the city’s somber past, and some say the spirits caught in the throes of these events never left.
“We have lots and lots of walking ghostly tours, and I really like Genteel + Bard’s,” said Summer Bozeman, communications manager at Visit Savannah. “T.C. Michaels is the guide and he’s a former radio host, so he’s very good at oral storytelling, and has a very pleasant voice, too.”
The Dark History & Ghost Encounter Tour covers the city’s historic district, visiting spots like the Sorrel-Weed House, Savannah’s Colonial “Hanging Square,” the Foley House Inn and Colonial Park Cemetery.
Earbuds and an audio pack are provided so that the guide’s voice is amplified for everyone in the group.
Additionally, Bozeman said that Michaels uses his radio background to incorporate quality sound effects and music into the tours. The city allows a maximum of 30 people per tour group, and multiple guides can be arranged to accommodate bigger groups.
For groups looking to stay off their feet, the Hearse Ghost Ride Tour uses a fleet of 10 decommissioned hearses that have each been retrofitted to seat nine people. The hearses were in service for more than 15 years. It’s an especially eerie way to explore some of Savannah’s most haunted places.
2. New Orleans: Voodoo, Vampires and Ghosts Galore
New Orleans is famous for many things: parties, festivals, Creole cuisine and beignets, but its darker claim to fame is its assured standing as one of the most haunted cities in America.
Vampires, witches and ghosts are just a few of the many supernatural myths that are woven into the fabric of Big Easy culture. There’s no shortage of ghost tour options in the city—the choices can be almost overwhelming—but for a guaranteed spinetingling experience, groups should visit St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
The French Quarter at Halloween, New Orleans. Credit: Paul Broussard.
The cemetery—the oldest in New Orleans and referred to as “The City of the Dead”—is on the National Register of Historic places and can only be visited with a licensed tour guide registered with the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It’s home to over 700 above-ground tombs, including that of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen.
French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tours provides a daily cemetery tour that tells you the whole story of the site, plus the alleged hauntings that surround the creepy city block.
For those who’d rather trade gravestones for haunted buildings, the company’s popular Ghost + Vampire Tour will take your group to chilling places like the infamous LaLaurie Mansion and Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
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3. Chicago: Walking Tour of The Windy City’s Creepiest Landmarks
Chicago’s past is peppered with some spine-shivering events. From serial killer H.H. Holmes’ murder spree during the World’s Fair to the Great Chicago Fire and Al Capone’s gangs terrorizing the streets in the 1920s, many people swear to have seen spooky spirits roaming throughout the Windy City.
Even Lincoln Park—an upscale Chicago neighborhood that’s home to the free, family-friendly Lincoln Park Zoo—has its own creepy past, built on top of thousands of graves.
Tour options are endless in Chicago, and some sell out especially fast during the month of October, but Free Tours by Foot offer year-round tours for no cost, stopping at some of Chicago’s most hair-raising landmarks.
The Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago. Credit: Adam Alexander Photography, Courtesy of Choose Chicago.
The tour starts at the Congress Plaza Hotel, widely considered the most haunted hotel in the city. Other highlights include Chicago’s old Red Light District, murderous tales of Holmes and John Wayne Gacy, the story of Death Alley after the Iroquois Theatre Fire, and the SS Eastland disaster hauntings.
To soften the scaries, the tour promises to include humor and a hefty dose of history lessons for those who’d like to learn more about Chicago. Groups of 10 or more need to book ahead.
4. Portland, Oregon: The Underground Tunnels Tour
Above ground, Portland, Oregon, is known as the green city full of beer and bike enthusiasts. But underground, there’s a different vibe entirely.
Local lore says that during the mid-1800s, the Shanghaiing Trade began in Portland. Underground tunnels built beneath the city led to the Willamette Riverfront, which were supposedly used for kidnapping unsuspecting customers from hotels and bars and whisking them through the underground network to be sold to ship captains and forced to work at sea.
The tunnels are also rumored to have been used for other dark acts, like temporary prisons, opium dens, prostitution and more, though none of the stories are certain—according to Travel Portland, sections of the tunnels are inaccessible or collapsed, leaving behind few artifacts to prove the frightening stories true.
Brave groups can descend below to tour the remaining dark, chilling tunnels and decide for themselves how much truth is in the legends, where ghosts who never made it above ground may linger, according to steady accounts of hauntings through the years.
Portland Underground offers tours year-round but adds an extra Halloween flair to the tunnel tour in October. Tours are about an hour-and-a- half-long and are both spooky and educational—participants will leave with a better understanding of the Shanghai trade on the West Coast, Portland history and maybe—if they’re lucky—a spirit sighting or two.
5. San Diego: Parks, Cemeteries and One of America’s Most Haunted Houses
San Diego is often called “The Birthplace of California,” because it was the first site in the state visited by Europeans. With more history comes more hauntings, it seems, and Old Town San Diego has several eerie experiences for groups.
A popular meetings group tour is the Ghosts & Gravestones tour with Old Town Trolley Tours San Diego, which educates participants on gunslingers, gamblers and other night dwellers who lived and died in San Diego.
The tour begins in Pioneer Park, makes its way to El Campo Cemetery and ends at the Whaley House courtyard, which is one of the most haunted houses in America, according to The Travel Channel.
Whaley House stop at Ghosts & Gravestones Tour, San Diego. Credit: Ghosts & Gravestones.
The house has been standing for over a century, used as a granary, the County Court House, San Diego's first commercial theater, various businesses, a ballroom, a billiard hall, school and polling place—all in addition to being the Whaley family home.
The Whaley family members are reported to roam the grounds. There are many accounts of Thomas Whaley throughout the house waving to visitors, and Anna Whaley has been said to drift through the house and around the garden. Young children and even dog apparitions are among the various other ghostly sightings at this historic home and museum.
Private parties can book directly through group sales, which offers a few tour options at all-inclusive rates, like the 70-minute private tour for groups up to 38, or the 20-capacity 100-minute tour, according to group sales assistant Ren Daasnes.
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