Why you should try a ghost tour

There’s something strangely compelling about visiting a place that’s steeped in spine-tingling stories of ghosts, vampires, demons, mysterious creatures and other fantastical phenomena, and it seems that there’s no shortage of supernatural locations to explore. With a plethora of exciting ghost tours available in towns and cities all over the world, there are countless opportunities to listen to weird and grisly tales while secretly channelling your inner Dana Scully or Fox Mulder of The X-Files.

Illustration: Dorien Brouwers
Words: Carol Anne Strange

Why are ghost tours so appealing?

For some, it’s curiosity about the unknown or a morbid fascination with ghastly histories and life beyond the grave. Being fully immersed in a ghost tour’s experience brings the past and all its phantoms to life in vivid colour. It’s possible to feel the creeping dread, the quickening pulse and the rush of adrenaline at what might be hidden in the shadows. One can feel the fear while remaining safe in the knowledge that there’s no threat and the goosebumps are only temporary.

Whether you’re a paranormal sceptic or a believer, it’s impossible not to feel just a bit on edge when fully engrossed in the atmosphere and drama of a ghost tour. Listening to these rich but disturbing tales shines a light on the mysterious and sometimes ominous side of life and can be a thrilling experience for those who enjoy something out of the ordinary.

How to prepare for a ghost tour

Check local tourist centres and online sites for details of ghost tours operating at time of travel. Most operate outdoors during the evening, so wear comfortable shoes and a waterproof coat.

Arrive at your destination on time so you don’t miss a crucial part of the story. Check the ghost tour rules and stay close to the guide – many ghost walks involve winding, narrow and dimly lit streets.

Also, check with operators about length, duration and, if needed, accessibility for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility, as well as whether the ghost tour is suitable for children or people with a sensitive disposition.

What are some places famous for their supernatural activity?

New York, US

Plenty of horror movies have been filmed in New York City, including 1984 comedy classic Ghostbusters, and it’s not hard to see why, given its reported ghoulish activity. From haunted taverns and creepy theatres to sinister houses and possessed hotels, there’s a disquieting atmosphere after dark, which extends to the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Ghosts and horror, mysticism and the occult, and an island of lost souls – this is the weird and wonderful side of New York.

Liverpool, UK

Liverpool, by the River Mersey in north-west England, is said to be a magnet for paranormal phenomena. From hauntings and time-slips to vampires and strange entities, most supernatural activity occurs in the city centre and St James’ Cemetery, a Grade I-listed public park. Ghost tour guide Danyel Roberts, from, points out that the cemetery was once the site of an ancient pagan witch cult, before being used as a quarry and then becoming the final resting place of some 60,000 Victorians and Edwardians.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Thought to be one of the most haunted places in the UK, Edinburgh has a host of ghosts and spooky locations for all who enjoy being chilled to the bone. Paranormal activity is claimed
to be present at Covenanter’s Prison, Greyfriars Graveyard, which is home to the notorious Mackenzie Poltergeist, and the famous underground vaults. Untouched by daylight, these eerie chambers were once the haunts of vagrants, murderers and mischief-makers. Take a ghost tour through cobbled streets and go underground through Damnation Alley, where restless spirits are believed to roam.

Paris, France

As with many cities, the French capital has a history of war, massacres, plagues and murders. Sites claimed to be popular with the restless dead include the Palais de Justice, the Place du Vert Galant and the Church of Saint-Germain L’Auxerrois. There’s also the Catacombes de Paris, home to the remains of 6 million people, some of whose bones are laid bare. The catacombs’ narrow passageways are unforgiving. Witness one Philibert Aspairt, who entered the labyrinth in 1793 and would never see daylight again. His body was found 11 years later. Though the cause of death was never fully confirmed, perhaps those with a poor sense of direction would be better off staying above ground…