A client was telling me about his recent trip to Edinburgh and London (via York) this morning and aside from being slightly jealous was also a bit inspired! I’d highly recommended the ghost tours in Edinburgh as a great way to see different parts of the city and to learn some history (if there are a few “thrilling moments” along the way even better, right/). He and his wife chose the City of the Dead tour and it sounds like they were definitely not disappointed!
I’ve been thinking – how do you find a good ghost tour? What really makes a ghost tour good?? It seemed like the perfect topic for a Travel Tuesday discussion so here we are!
- Location. Not all locations are appropriate for setting the necessary ambiance. Generally speaking, the older cities or more remote locales make for the best experiences. Older cities have simply had more time to acquire stories and tend to have a special ambiance about them. The same can be said with remote locations – the feeling of isolation automatically triggers the feelings of unease necessary to really get you into the proper mood (smile). So when you visit a location look around and listen to your instincts. If you’re in a happy place with zero creepy vibes, it may be better to save the experience for another time.
- History. This again goes back to age. Older places tend to have more stories – and really any good ghost story is just a well told historical tale. Learning something about the location and how these stories evolved ensure that you leave somewhat satisfied, even if you don’t encounter any spirits. This may also be the best way to sell an adventure to any non-believers in the party!
- Options. I really like companies that give you options to choose from. If you have kids, mobility impairments, or just a tight schedule, being able to choose different options is really helpful in creating the relaxed and open mood best suited for these sorts of things.
- Tour guide. Like pretty much any tour, your guide can truly make or break your experience. A good storyteller can make even the most stalwart skeptic second guess themselves – even if just for a moment. It’s difficult to control how talented your tour guide is, but sometimes the companies have guide bios on their website. It’s worth skimming through to see if there’s any one person that sounds more like your type of storyteller. I generally just like being surprised (smile).
- Friends. The absolute best method is through your friends. If you have friends that have been to a city before, just ask their opinion on things to do. Whether or not they’ve participated in a ghost tour themselves, they may have seen signs or groups roaming around. Or maybe they have friends who know. Chances are your friends will also understand you well enough to know what to recommend – or not. Direct channels are almost always the best bet!
- TripAdvisor. As a Plan B, head on over to TripAdvisor and read the reviews. It’ll give you an opportunity to check out other local options and gather several opinions about tours in one place!
- Hotel or local. I always check the brochure stands in hotel lobbies (when available). You never know what kind of random happenings you may find and usually the hotel staff can be counted on for reliable advice in terms of trusting those flyers. This isn’t always the case though, as some hotels get kick backs from referrals. If you feel like this may be the case, it never hurts to double check with #2 before you head out.
Likewise, locals may be able to recommend a ghost tour or other sites. If you’re really lucky, the locals might just share a few of their own tales with you for the cost of a drink! This experience, in my opinion, is a bit like winning the ghost tour lottery – especially if you’re in a pub full of locals who enjoy sharing their local knowledge with the visitors (smile).
- Fate. I’ve been on ghost tours around the US and in Europe, and if I’m being honest, I’ve stumbled across most of them by happenstance. I maybe see a tour walking around after dark or a sign outside a pub and just go for it. Unless it’s an impromptu go-right-then kind of tour, I do usually try to check it out prior to booking. And booking, my friends, is a priority if you’re looking for a ghost tour in a popular spot (e.g., Savannah, GA; New Orleans, LA; Edinburgh, Scotland; etc). Just like interacting with a spirit, sometimes it just takes being in the right place…
What are your tips for finding a “good” ghost tour??