Working in the Ghost Tour industry has had its surprises and expectations:
The tourist season for most U. S. cities is predictable, though small towns don’t seem to follow the same calendar. And the most popular stories and stops are a given, especially in places like New Orleans and Salem. But prospective Ghost Tour Guests’ questions are usually the same for all the cities.
- What exactly is a Ghost Tour?
- Why take a Ghost Tour?
- What should I expect from a Ghost Tour?
- Will we see any Ghosts?
Here is a simple little guide highlighting the different types of Ghost Tours and hopefully answering any questions you may have.
Different Kinds of Ghost Tours
Just like ghosts and ghost tropes, Ghost Tours come in varieties defined by their missions, experiences, locations, and intentions. Most Ghost Tours are Walking Tours, but there are exceptions: trolley tours, hop-on-hop-off bus tours, hearse-driven tours, and carriage tours all have their own spin. However, we’re going to focus specifically on Walking Ghost Tours.
Love Your Corset; Nice Top Hat!
Perhaps you’ve seen tour guides dressed in period costumes speaking loudly or using a microphone, sometimes speaking in an accent and using words that are parlance for the era. Those Ghost Tours feel very much like a performance. Less interaction and more theatrical. These tours are more common in cities or towns with a lot of American Revolution or Civil War history. Most of the ghosts are soldiers or generals or their lost loves. Or if you’re in London, think the Jack the Ripper tours. They are fun and can transport you to another time. And those tour guides deserve every penny earned in July and August.
Some Ghost Tours are a bit more sensational and fantastical. The Tour descriptions sound macabre and dark. Tour Guides tell their guests about the legends and tales of vampires, zombies, or even demonic possessions. If you are looking for dark entertainment and aren’t bothered by imagination and embellishment of history, then give one of these a go. Sometimes fiction is a nice gory break from reality.
…And in 1776
For the hardcore history buffs who are entertained by ghost stories, legends, and lore, Historical Ghost Tours are for you. These tours are a lot of history, with the Ghost Stories sprinkled in to keep the guests engaged. You will see phrases like “historically accurate” in their tour descriptions. History-heavy Ghost Tour Guides love the research just as much as the story. And you might find these tours crossing into the costume and theatrical genre, as well.
When is the Next Bar Stop?
And then there is the coveted Haunted Pub Crawl, which is basically a Ghost Tour with a few drink stops (3 – 4 pubs on average) along the way. The Tour Guide will fill the time between bars and pubs with the history and hauntings of different locations as they work their way to the next pub. Each Pub break will run 10-20 minutes, determined by how busy the night is. If drunk people get on your nerves, or if bachelorette parties invoke a violent shadow lurking inside yourself, pass on these in the “drinking towns.” Places like New Orleans, Savannah, and even Nashville tend to have rowdier guests on their Haunted Pub Crawls. But if you’re visiting a small town and want to have a drink while doing a Ghost Stroll, then a Haunted Pub Crawl is a wonderful option. Some Ghost Tour companies will blend the standard Ghost Tour with a Haunted Pub Crawl to offer the best of both worlds (Like us! Spell Caster’s Adults Only Tours stop at a few Haunted Pubs on our Georgetown and Taylor Tours!).
Murder, Madames, Mayhem, and More
And the latest genre that has been popping up over the past few years is the True Crime Ghost Tour. These are typically a blend of crimes, vices, the city’s sordid past, and a few hauntings. If you’re interested in Ghosts, History, and True Crime, you’ll find that these tours usually have something that eludes to this type of tour. They explore the city’s “dark secrets” and “brutal past.” Just be sure to look for the word “ghosts” or “hauntings”, or you may find yourself on a straight-up True Crime Tour.
Anne, Manne, Miene, Mukke
These Ghost Tours are not mutually exclusive. Many have crossed over and blended in the hopes of appealing to what the audience wants RIGHT NOW. You might have a bathroom break at a haunted bar and hear the story of a “soiled dove” who was murdered and still haunts the storage room. (Taken from an actual Ghost Tour, I am not at liberty to disclose.) So, how do you know which tour to take? Read the descriptions! Look at the website. Check out their social media. The more you research, the better the Ghost Tour Experience you will have.
Which Ghost Tour Company is Right for You?
In cities like Savannah and New Orleans, there are dozens of Ghost Tour companies to choose from, while in towns that don’t have an international reputation for being haunted, you may only have a handful. So the first thing to sort out is what you are looking for in a Ghost Tour Experience. Are you a “more the merrier” type or all about exclusivity and an intimate experience? Do you want something a bit more cheeky? Or maybe you are looking for something to do after dinner with the whole family.
Most of the larger Ghost Tour companies around the country max out the number of guests on their tours according to the city’s ordinances. And if the city doesn’t have a capacity set, they will get as many folks on the tour as possible. They will run multiple tours a night and have a stable of tour guides with memorized scripts and their own personal schtick.
Locally owned Ghost Tour Companies tend to run smaller groups for a more intimate and manageable tour experience. The tour may change from time to time, depending on how busy the night is or if the guide has discovered a new tale to tell. If you are interested in having an exclusive tour experience, ask about a Private Ghost Tour. Many of the smaller local companies will work out a deal for a Private Ghost Tour. A Private Ghost Tour allows you to choose a different start time and location (within reason). Many Ghost Tour Guides will even try and customize the Ghost Tour just for you and your group.
- How long is the tour?
- What if it rains?
- Are there bathroom breaks?
Tik Tok Tik Tok
The length of a Ghost Tour comes down to two things: the kind of Ghost Tour it is and the location. Ghost Tours, on average, are about 90 minutes long. Haunted Pub Crawls are traditionally a bit longer (2 hours) to give guests time to go inside the bar, order a drink, and use the restroom. I’m emphasizing Order a Drink – the tour companies have nurtured relationships with the bars, and there is an expectation that the guests will patronize the establishment in exchange for their blessing to be a stop. But, of course, if you’re the designated driver, you can always order a Shirley Temple or purchase a bottle of water.
And that start time is important. It is the standard ask for guests to arrive a few minutes early so that everyone can be checked-in and the guide can start the tour on time. Starting on time is essential for a few reasons. Being late to a tour has a ripple effect. It might be that the other guests have plans for after the tour. Also, many Tour Guides have multiple tours a night; your tour may not be their last tour. But we know sometimes running late can’t be avoided. Traffic, parking, things happen, so just call or text. Every situation is different, and the Ghost Tour Company will sort out an option for you and your group. It might be as simple as letting you know the address of the next stop so you can hop on without much disruption.
Are We There Yet?
“About a mile” is the industry standard answer for the length of a Ghost Tour. However, in small quaint historical downtowns, the tours may be a little less than a mile and average closer to 75 minutes. If you are worried about the pace or the terrain, like stairs or hills, then, by all means, reach out to the Ghost Tour Company. They should be able to provide you with a basic overview of the area and perhaps offer alternatives, like a Private Ghost Tour.
It Says 90% Chance of…
Weather is a touchy subject for all Walking Tour Companies. In cities like New Orleans or Savannah, Walking Tours would go out of business if they canceled tours because of rain. Consider the climate of where you are booking your tour and be prepared. Umbrellas, bottled water, sunscreen, scarf, gloves, whatever you need to make it a comfortable 90-minute experience for you. There are obvious weather conditions that will negatively affect a tour, and in those situations, the Tour Company will reach out to their guests with a couple of options: Raincheck or Refund. If you can, take the Raincheck and reschedule your tour. Or gift it to a friend who might be interested! But most Tour Companies understand that a refund is more practical if you are on holiday.
I Really Gotta Go
Bathroom breaks on a Ghost Tour are a crap shoot (Ba Dum Bump!). If it is a short 75-minute tour, chances are high that there will not be a restroom stop. If it is a 90-minute tour, a stop is determined by the route and if there is a place with public facilities. Out of courtesy to merchants and restaurants, we don’t want to hit them up for their loo if we aren’t patronizing their establishment. Haunted Pub Crawls are different. Because the nature of a Haunted Pub Crawl is to stop for adult beverages, guests can also use the restrooms at the pubs/bars. A Haunted Pub Crawl will have 2-4 stops on the 2-hour tour where guests can use the loo. If you are worried that you’ll need “to go,” ask your Tour Guide at the beginning of the tour. They will, at the very least, be able to point to a location before or during the tour.
Ghost Tours are NOT Ghost Hunts
Ghost Hunting is its own thing. Most investigators have their kits full of gear from Ghost Stop or Amazon that they bring into locations for investigations. These things include EMF Meters, Thermal FLIR Cameras, a Ghost Box, EVP Recorders, and so on… Ghost Hunters love their gadgets. Ghost Tours usually welcome guests to bring any Ghost Hunting equipment they would like to have on the tour. Some Ghost Tours will even hand out things like Dowsing Rods, EVP Recorders, MEL Meters, or K2s for guests during the tour. But, at the risk of being a Ghost Hunters debunker, it’s really difficult for those types of things to give accurate reads on a Ghost Tour. With mobile phones and standard noise pollution everywhere in busy downtown areas, what they pick up isn’t always paranormal. Spell Caster Ghost Tours encourages taking pictures of locations and stops during a Ghost Tour. We’ve had a few guests capture some interesting anomalies on their mobile phones’ cameras. If you’d like to bring some of your Ghost Hunting gear or take a moment at a few locations on the tour for pictures, just ask your Ghost Tour Guide before the tour begins. And be sure to share if you capture something!
What Are You Waiting For?
If you have never taken a tour before, any kind of tour, a Ghost Tour is an excellent choice for a first tour experience. History tours can be a bit dry if you’re not a history buff. The beauty of a Ghost Tour is that it delivers history in an engaging and fun way. Often, the history that is woven into the hauntings on a Ghost Tour is not what is in our school textbooks. So, consider taking a Ghost Tour in your home town. Or, if you have just relocated, what better way to learn about your new home’s past and culture?! Maybe we’ll see you on a Spell Caster Ghost Tour soon!