Historic houses, creepy old prisons, insane asylums, Civil War battlefields, and the locations of tragedy and horrific crimes fascinate some people to the extent that they want to explore these places for fun. If you’re curious about ghost tourism, how to plan your own ghost adventure is similar to planning any trip.
You can make a vacation into a ghost adventure in a number of ways. Creepy travel destinations actively market themselves to the paranormal curious. Owners and operators of buildings known to be paranormal hotspots have discovered that people will pay for a chance to explore a haunted place. Revenue from ghost tours and overnight stays in haunted locations helps many historic places keep up with maintenance and stay open to the public.
Decide How Much Paranormal Action You Want
Are you hoping for a couple hours of ghost stories in a town’s historic district or an immersive experience?
Do you want to put one haunted outing on your itinerary or plan a whole trip around ghost adventures?
Knowing how deeply you want to enter the paranormal waters will inform your travel planning.
Someone who wants a single fun outing would do well to join a ghost tour. Some ghost tours are self-guided affairs that let you peek inside the world of ghostly travel destinations. You print out the story about the haunted location and read it when you visit the spot.
Other ghost tours are more extensive. They are full-service tours that provide you with a guide who takes you through a haunted property or through several homes and buildings in a historic neighborhood. The guide tells stories about the location, and you and other guests get to look around and take pictures (hoping to capture a spectral image if you’re lucky).
Guided ghost tours can be enormously entertaining, and there are many operators throughout the United States and Canada. I had the pleasure of taking a walking ghost tour in Marshall, Michigan before the pandemic put this particular operator out of business. Marshall has a preserved historic downtown and surrounding residential neighborhood with many old homes and mansions, and some of them are beautifully restored.
Although we did not enter the buildings, because most of them are the homes of private residents, walking by them while the guide explained their haunted histories was great fun. I learned that many of the ghost stories were attributed to burials in the dirt floors of the homes’ basements in the mid 1800s. This was done in the winter when the cemetery ground was frozen solid and hard to dig, but the basement ground would be diggable. Sometimes people buried their dead in the basements because it was a free option as well.
At one mansion, the ghost of a domestic servant who allegedly died in an accidental fall down the grand staircase haunts the home. Of course, the real story is that she was likely impregnated by the man of the house who pushed her down the stairs, or killed her and tossed the body down the stairs to make it look like an accident. We’ll never know for sure.
An immersive experience places you in a haunted location for an overnight stay. Some people do this by renting a haunted vacation rental or staying at an old hotel with a reputation for paranormal activity. There are also some services that put together overnight or late night experiences in scary places like the Lizzie Borden house or Pennhurst Asylum.
Am I a Ghost Hunter or a Ghost Tourist?
In addition to deciding how much ghost action you want, think about the level of participation that you want to engage in. A ghost hunter will strive to make contact. Ghost hunting involves asking questions of the spirit that is supposedly present. Usually, you request a response to confirm communication, like moving a small ball or turning on a light.
Ghost hunters also try to capture voice and image recordings. Some use their smartphones whereas others invest in high-quality cameras or old-fashioned film cameras in a practice known as spirit photography.
As hunters, they actively try to come away with some kind of tangible proof as a trophy. If you fancy yourself a ghost hunter, you’ll want an immersive experience that lets you spend a few hours at night in the haunted location.
Ghost tourists have some crossover with ghost hunters in that they may want to get pictures. They might not be so bold as to ask for a sign, but they will take pictures with their smartphones. The casual tourist wanders the grounds or building and takes pictures, hoping to collect phenomena like light orbs or specters.
The first-time tourist or seasoned ghost hunter has an equal chance of getting a picture of a ghost or something inexplicable. Many images that appear to genuinely show something strange are mostly recorded by chance.
How to Find Historic Haunted Locations
Belief in ghosts is a global and persistent phenomenon. It’s as if human beings have an innate willingness to believe that sometimes the spirits of the dead linger in the living world.
For this reason, you might not need to travel far to plan a haunted house vacation.
For day trips or weekend getaways, you can search for haunted places close to home. Chances are high that within a couple hundred miles, you can find a supposedly haunted hotel, ghost tour, or place of historic tragedy.
To search the internet, use terms like “ghost tour,” “haunted theater,” “haunted hotel,” or “ghost tourism” with the city or town that interests you. If that does not return good results, widen your search to the region or state. For example, use search terms like “California gold rush haunted house” or “Haunted houses of New England.”
Haunted houses have inspired writers for decades. Check your local library for haunted house books authored by regional writers. These books will discuss many locations from the famous to the obscure.
Many places with terrifying backstories are out there beyond what the ghost tourism companies promote. It could be a remote farmhouse where mass murder occurred or a town plaza or park where vigilantes killed people. You could string together a route of haunted locations and drive by them and contemplate what happened.
Be Respectful of Property
When viewing haunted locations not open to the public, be careful not to trespass. You do not want to be accused of breaking the law or, worse yet, get shot at.
In abandoned locations, you might get out and walk the nearby grounds but you should stay close to the road. Don’t venture too far in. Unstable buildings, broken bottles, needles, and contaminants are common safety hazards in abandoned places.
In both public and private locations, do not collect any souvenirs except those offered by the operators. Taking dirt, broken bricks, pieces of wood, or other artifacts would be disrespectful. It is technically illegal in many places, especially public parks.
How to Plan Your Own Ghost Adventure Summary
Figure out where you fall on the ghost tourism spectrum. Find your happy place somewhere between a casual, spooky tour to spending the night in the basement of a derelict insane asylum.
Think about if you want to attempt communication with the spirits. Do you want to take pictures while you tour in hopes of getting an image of a ghost or other paranormal phenomena.
Conduct some research to find haunted locations where you want to travel. On the internet, ghost tourism companies, podcasters, paranormal investigators, and history bloggers provide a wealth of information. And don’t forget to look for books on the subject at your library.
Don’t trespass. Be respectful of property and mindful of your safety.