All the telltale signs that summer is ending are afoot—swimsuits on sale, a twinge of autumn crispness in the air, fading suntans. But that also means one of the best holidays of the year is right around the corner: Halloween.
The tradition of Halloween traces its roots back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated in present-day areas of the United Kingdom and France between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, a time of the year when days become shorter and the nights longer. Samhain was celebrated as a harvest festival, but it was also believed that the veil between this world and the next was thinnest during the holiday.
After Britannia was conquered by the Roman Empire, Celtic Samhain tradition blended with Roman and, later, Christian influences. The term “Halloween” is derived from All Saints’ Day, an autumnal holiday held to honor the saints, and was called “Alholowmesse” or “All-Hallows” in Middle English. The day before All-Hallows was known as “All-Hallows Eve,” which evolved over the years into Halloween. Halloween was imported to the United States by European immigrants, particularly the Irish during the 19th century, when it would take on an American spin.
There’s no better way to give yourself the creepy crawlies than to tempt the supernatural and embark on a ghost tour during spooky season. Halloween and its sister holidays (like Día de los Muertos, celebrated on November 1 to honor deceased relatives) can be found in in some way or another in nearly every European country as well as those touched by European colonization.
Here are 10 of the best ghost tours you should consider this Halloween.
1. Savannah, Georgia
Tour to check out: Genteel & Bard’s Savannah Dark History & Ghost Encounter Tour
Starting price: $30
Well, I do declare—this coastal Georgian city has a reputation for being one of the most ghoulishly delightful locations in the United States. In 2002, Savannah was even given the title of the most haunted city in the country by the American Institute of Parapsychology. Savannah has seen both American Revolution and Civil War battles, a yellow fever outbreak in the late 19th century followed by a devastating fire, and a long, horrifying history of slavery—all of which have contributed the city’s distinctly historic and somber atmosphere.
Though there are several types of tours you can take in the Hostess City of the South, some of the most popular ghost tours in Savannah are hosted by Genteel & Bard, a family-owned company that specializes in walking tours. Its Savannah Dark History & Ghost Encounter Tour takes guests on a journey through some of the city’s most haunted locations with a knowledgeable storyteller. The tour lasts about two hours and covers three-quarters of a mile—the guide uses a wireless microphone that will transmit audio to a small wireless receiver and a set of earbuds given to each guest. During their time with Genteel & Bard in Savannah, guests can expect to see Sorrel-Weed House, which is home to several Civil War–era specters; the Wright “hanging” square, where a Yamacraw chief’s grave was desecrated and an Irish indentured servant was later hung; and the Foley House Inn, where a skeleton was discovered in a wall in 1987.
2. Paris, France
Tour to check out: The Catacombs of Paris
Starting price: $27
What would be a better way to ring in Halloween than by descending into the infamous catacombs of Paris? During the 17th century when Paris was experiencing intense population growth, the city’s cemeteries were, at some points, literally overflowing with corpses. The problem became so egregious that during heavy rains in 1780, a wall broke in the Les Innocents Cemetery causing a wave of rotting bodies to flood into a nearby property. So, citizens turned to its network of underground limestone mining tunnels that were dug during the 13th century. It took nearly 12 years to move the bones of Paris’s overflowing cemeteries into the catacombs—a total of 6 to 7 million people—and during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, bodies were buried directly in the tunnels.
The practice of burying people in Paris’s catacombs ended in 1860; it’s estimated that there are over 200 miles of bone-ridden passageways beneath the city. It is illegal to explore the vast majority of the tunnels, but a small portion is open to the public. The best way to see them is by booking a tour with Las Catacombes de Paris, which gives access to two miles of the underground system. Though you could simply buy a ticket and explore by yourself, guided tours that dive deep into the history of the city and catacombs are also available. Unfortunately, this activity is not accessible for wheelchair users or people with mobility disabilities since entering the catacombs requires a long trip down 131 stairs.
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
Tour to check out: Haunted History Tours
Starting price: $30
Along with Savannah, New Orleans has a reputation for being one of the most haunted U.S. cities. In fact, it’s been used as a spooky backdrop in several Hollywood productions like True Blood, American Horror Story: Coven, and Interview With a Vampire. There’s just something about this 300-year-old city with its French colonial–style mansions, mausoleums, and Spanish moss that feels both beautiful and unnerving, providing the perfect setting for a scary story.
New Orleans, though well-known for Mardi Gras and Southern hospitality, has a history that’s been marred by several tragic events, including the genocide and forced removal of the Indigenous population, a smattering of yellow fever outbreaks, and the city’s role as a major slave port. In fact, before the Civil War, New Orleans was seen as the epicenter of the U.S. slave trade. The Big Easy is also sometimes called the northernmost Caribbean city and there’s still a tinge of obeah or voodoo in the air.
New Orleans–based Haunted History Tours offers 10 different ways to explore the city’s dark side. Guests can pick among options like a spooky walking tour through the Garden District or a stroll through the Cities of the Dead (a local nickname for the cemeteries filled with raised mausoleums that look like little buildings) on its Cemetery Tour. Those interested in a more boozy affair could opt for the Haunted Pub Crawl, which takes guests on a quest through some of the city’s most haunted bars, where signature NOLA cocktails like sazeracs are available.
Another popular option in the city is a guided walk hosted by Unique NOLA Tours. This company has a wide docket of options to peruse through, from their naughty Lewd Spirits Tour (which combines “raunchy ghost stories” with “seedy haunted bars”) to their Pestilence, Pandemic, and Plague Tour which takes guests on a journey through the many epidemics and disease outbreaks the Big Easy has weathered over the years—if you can handle that after the past few years. They also have a Spooky Family Ghost Tour if you’re hoping to bring the kids along. Tickets starts at $37 per person.
4. Edinburgh, Scotland
Tour to check out: City of the Dead’s Haunted Graveyard Tour
Starting price: $16
Edinburgh has served as the capital of Scotland since 1437—it’s an old city. It also is widely considered one of the most haunted places in Europe with a history rife with witches, warlocks, ghosts, body snatchers, and other paranormal things that go bump in the night. For example, during the Salem Witch Trials, 185 people were accused of practicing witchcraft. In Scotland, an estimated 4,000–6,000 people were put on trial for being witches—the vast majority of whom were tortured and then executed. And, of course, there’s Edinburgh Castle, said to be one of the most haunted castles in Europe; it’s seen no less than 23 attacks to capture it over the years, most helmed by the English.
One of the most popular ghost tours in the city is hosted by City of the Dead, a Scottish touring company owned by Black Hart Entertainment. Its Haunted Graveyard Tour gives visitors access to Edinburgh’s Covenanter’s Prison and the Black Mausoleum, home to the Mackenzie Poltergeist, one of the most well-documented paranormal phenomena in history. City of the Dead’s tours employ both historians and entertainers, so guests are sure to have a good time while learning a thing or two.
5. Montego Bay, Jamaica
Tour to check out: Rose Hall Night Tour
Starting price: $27
Though it’s better known for scenic Caribbean beaches and a busy airport, Montego Bay, Jamaica, also happens to be home to one of the most infamous ghosts on the island: the White Witch of Rose Hall. Ever since the British expelled Spanish colonists from the island in 1655, Jamaica played an important role in the Triangle Trade and the production of sugarcane and rum. Jamaica was widely regarded as one of the worst places to be an enslaved person, with many enslavers like Thomas Thistlewood treating Africans with inhuman cruelty, violence, and brutality.
One of the worst offenders on the island was said to be Annie Palmer, the mistress of Rose Hall near Montego Bay. Though much of the lore surrounding her story is fiction, the legend goes that Palmer ruled her plantation with an iron fist and murdered all three of her husbands. Afterwards, she began taking enslaved men as lovers, but when she tired of them, she would have them done away with as well. After Palmer was killed by one of her servants, she was supposedly sealed in a special voodoo-charmed casket so her spirit could never rise again. However, it’s said that the spell didn’t take and that her ghost still wanders the plantation. Her story was immortalized in the 1973 Johnny Cash song “The Ballad of Annie Palmer.” The singer was so intrigued by the tale that he actually purchased the Cinnamon Hill Great House on the property.
The great house was restored during the 1960s and is now open to the public for tours. There are day tours available, but for the ultimate spooky experience, try attending the night tour. Though Annie Palmer’s tale might be more fiction than fact, you’ll learn about how the European bourgeoisie lived during the colonial era and the cruelty that their enslaved workforce endured.
Tour to check out: Oriental Travel and Tours’ Creepy Tales of Singapore
Starting price: $100
Despite being one of the safest cities on the planet, Singapore also boasts a reputation as one of the most haunted cities in Asia. With a history entangled with World War II battles and Japanese and British colonies, this city-state has seen more than its fair share of bloodshed over the years. Changi Beach, considered one of the most paranormally disturbed places in Singapore, was the site of the infamous Sook Ching Massacre. During World War II and Japanese occupation, thousands of Chinese men suspected of anti-Japanese sentiments were rounded up and executed, then buried underneath the sand. It’s said that beachgoers can still sometimes catch the sounds of men crying and screaming.
Oriental Travel and Tours’ Creepy Tales of Singapore experience takes guests to Sook Ching beach as well as a few other scary places. They include the largest Chinese-style cemetery in the world outside of China, Bukit Brown—it’s estimated to hold more than 100,000 tombs. Tours are held in English and the cost of the ticket includes transport between all the different points on the four-hour itinerary.
7. San Antonio, Texas
Tour to check out: Sisters Grimm’s Haunted History Walk
Starting price: $25
One of the oldest cities in Texas, San Antonio was founded in 1718, nearly 100 years before Austin was established. It also has a reputation as the most haunted city in the Lone Star State. There’s the Black Swan Inn, which once had a hanging tree on the premises and is said to be haunted by Native American spirits as well as a young couple who met an untimely death. Then, as any San Antonian knows, there’s the railroad by Villamain and Shane roads, which is haunted by benevolent schoolchildren who (supposedly) died in a train crash in the 1930s when their bus stalled on the tracks. They’ll push any cars stuck on the tracks over to safety. And don’t forget the Alamo—the old mission is said to still be protected by ghostly apparitions of the original defenders.
Get acquainted with the supernatural side of San Antonio on a Sisters Grimm Haunted History Walk. It takes guests to famously spooky locations like the Alamo, the Spanish Governor’s Mansion, the old Bexar County Jail (now a Holiday Inn Express), and the Menger Hotel—one of the most haunted hotels in the nation; it’s supposedly occupied by Theodore Roosevelt’s ghost. If getting in your daily steps is not your thing, the Sisters Grimm also has a Ghost Bus Tour, which includes a cemetery stop.
8. Prague, Czech Republic
Tour to check out: Mysterium Tours’ Dark Shadows of the Old Town
Starting price: $20
With a history that dates back more than 1,000 years, Prague is one of the prime places in Europe for ghost hunting. And with its many cobblestone streets and medieval castles, it’s not hard to let your imagination run free. Some of the apparitions said to be haunting the city include the Headless Templar, the legendary founder of Prague, a mistress of a monk, and a golem created by a rabbi in the 16th century to protect the Jewish community from anti-Semitic attacks.
Prague-based Mysterium Tours takes visitors through one of the most ancient parts of the city on its Dark Shadows of the Old Town Tour. This tour snakes its way through Prague’s Old Town and Josefov, or the Jewish Quarter, past dozens of Gothic churches, convents, and old cemeteries. In a fun twist, the storytellers and guides on these tours dress up in period-correct clothing. If you’re not in Prague but are still in the mood to be spooked, Mysterium Tours also offers experiences in Barcelona, Budapest, Kraków, and Madrid.
9. Los Angeles, California
Tour to check out: ExperienceFirst’s Haunted Hollywood Walking Tour: True Crime, Creepy Tales
Starting price: $39 per person
Though it’s nicknamed the City of Angels, L.A. is also home to a whole host of ghosts—and quite a few stars that have since passed—as well. To get a taste of the spookier side of Los Angeles, consider going on ExperienceFirst’s Haunted Hollywood Walking Tour: True Crime, Creepy Tales, which introduces guests to a variety of haunted hotels, theaters, and landmarks. During the tour, guests will learn about the history of the Hollywood Ripper (a serial killer that operated in Southern California during the 1990s and early 2000s), find out where to see Marilyn Monroe’s ghost at the Roosevelt, and visit the Knickerbocker Hotel, where Harry Houdini gave one of his last performances before his death. Attendees will also be regaled with firsthand accounts of ghost encounters from the ExperienceFirst staff. Groups will meet up in front of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre and tours will cover approximately one mile of walking.
10. San Diego, California
Tour to check out: Old Town Trolley Tour’s Ghosts & Gravestones
Starting price: $43 per person
Better known for its legendary surf breaks and mild Southern Californian weather, San Diego is actually considered to be one of the most haunted cities in the Golden State. San Diego is also home to the Whaley House, an 1857 Greek Revival style mansion that has been the site of a number of documented paranormal phenomenons, and is said to be one of the most haunted homes in the nation. The Old Town Trolley Tours’ Ghost and Gravestones option takes guests past some of San Diego’s spookiest sites by old-fashioned trolley. On their journey, visitors will be able to learn about the city’s Wild West past and the tragic history of the Whaley House, and experience the unusual electromagnetic activity of Pioneer Park, a favorite hot spot of local ghost hunters, using E.M. readers. The adventure begins at Old Town Market and takes a little over an hour and a half to complete.
This article originally appeared online in 2022; it was most recently updated on September 6, 2023, to include current information.