It’s not that spirits return only at Halloween — it’s that the original solstice celebrations made people more aware of them. Those rituals have since evolved into an excuse for secular fun. Party stores say Halloween is their busiest season, far outselling St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and even New Year’s.
At one time, only famous historic locations with obvious connections to ghosts had tours of haunted sites. Now, almost any place that predates electricity claims a paranormal pedigree and schedules guided tours to show them off. Sometimes theatrical with costumed guides and staged “encounters,” and sometimes conducted by serious paranormal investigators, the walks mix folklore, history, and documented strange occurrences.
Most tours are family-friendly, with just a few spooky chills. A few are very intense with truly frightening stories and scary ghostly encounters. Some include a paranormal investigation element, which could mean some ghostly guests joining the stroll.
Here are some haunted tours worth taking:
With the history of the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts (www.salem.org), and the carnage of the Battle of Gettysburg (www.destinationgettysburg.com), it’s no wonder that both towns have a strong cottage industry of ghost tours. Their tourism websites have links to all of the ghost walk companies with descriptions of all tour options.
Red Cloak Haunted Tours (www.redcloakhauntedhistorytours.com) has several kid-friendly treks through towns of the central Maine coast, researched and conducted by a local historian and storyteller.
Ft. Delaware (delawarestateparks.reserveamerica.com), located on an island in the Delaware River, was used as a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Conditions were terrible and many of the inmates died. Accessible only by boat, there are several tours available. The Appetite for Apparitions Dinner and Ghost Tour includes dinner at a dockside restaurant, a cruise to the fort, and a visit to the more haunted areas of the prison. There are also several paranormal investigation tours.
Another “grub and ghost” night is in Rochester, New York (www.rochesterghosts.com), with dinner in a haunted house followed by a séance. There’s also a cemetery stroll and instruction in using a dowsing rod to detect spirits’ energy.
Portsmouth’s Wicked Haunted Waterfront Tour by NewEnglandCuriosities.com is very intense and not for kids. For a different kind of spirit, join their Haunted Pub Tour.
The Appalachians and Blue Ridge Mountains are filled with stories from Native American and Celtic lore. Appalachian Ghost Walks (www.appalachianghostwalks.com) has a roster of 2–3 hour tours through several historic mountain towns.
With everything from hoteliers to still cater to guests to sightings of lynching victims, Maryland’s Eastern Shore vibrates with spooky energy. Chesapeake Ghost Walks (www.chesapeakeghostwalks.com) visits several cities, parks, and resorts every week on tours that combine the region’s history with its ghosts.
For more travel tips go to www.insightguides.com.