Courtesy Jefferson City CVB
Most of us grew up loving those late-night, spooky ghost movies on television. Covering our eyes with our hands and peeping through our fingers all the while, we screamed to the petite blonde woman on the screen — who always carried a candle because, evidently, there was a problem with the electricity — “Don’t go down the stairs!”
But our warnings were never heeded. She always went down the stairs.
And this time around, so will you and your brave group members, because these ghost tours take you only where legendary spirits have been seen and heard. You’ll venture not only downstairs, but through dark alleys, over battlefields and every eerie place in town.
These tours bring history alive.
Missouri State Penitentiary
Jefferson City, Missouri
Opened in 1836, the Missouri State Penitentiary operated until 2004. Most tour guides for the ghost tours are past employees, including guards and a warden.
“These people have personal stories about what they experienced,” said Ryan Winkler, communications manager for the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Much of what you learn during the two-hour tour is very historical but includes stories like the one about Fast Jack, a one-time inmate who recently was spotted in the flesh — a tour guide thought he had wandered away from the rest of his group. A woman in a gray dress has also made appearances in the women’s unit.”
Popularity of the penitentiary’s ghostly past skyrocketed in 2011 when “Ghost Hunters,” a television show on the Syfy television network, devoted an entire hour to its search there.
“The property has an infamous history of attacks and murders, including a riot in 1954 where several buildings were burned and many lost their lives. At the time, Time magazine dubbed the penitentiary ‘the bloodiest 47 acres in America,’” said Winkler.
Groups can also choose a ghost hunt where paranormal investigative equipment is used or even participate in an overnight paranormal investigation. All options take participants throughout the housing units, the dungeon cells and the gas chamber.
Baltimore Ghost Tours
Original Fell’s Point Ghost Walk, Baltimore
Today a picturesque seaport, the Fell’s Point neighborhood in Baltimore has a colorful maritime past. During the 1800s and beyond, sailors, immigrants, ladies of the night and many dubious characters hoping to make a buck all roamed the streets.
“Every building here has a story,” said Amy Lynwander, co-owner of Baltimore Ghost Tours. “We call those buildings the three B’s: boarding houses, brothels and bars. Many were all three.”
The one-hour ghost tour explores those buildings, among them Duda’s, a revered tavern and boarding house. “Once the favorite of a merchant seaman named Doc, Duda’s had a jukebox that played Doc’s favorite polka. Everyone knew when Doc was around because that polka would play over and over,” said Lynwander.
“He died in 1980, and the patrons at Duda’s experienced something very strange after his passing,” she added.
Tour members learn the rest of Doc’s story and more from the tour guides that Lynwander explained are beloved by the neighborhood ghosts. “When guests have their picture taken with our tour guides, orbs often show up on the photograph.”
Baltimore Ghost Tours offers a variety of options, including a haunted pub walk in this same neighborhood where a little imbibing is encouraged.
Gettysburg Ghost Tours
Although Gettysburg Ghost Tours guides cannot ensure that you will see a ghost, they do say that you have a very good chance of a ghostly encounter or a ghostly photo in this famed ghost mecca of the world, according to Johlene Spooky Riley, spokeswoman for the company.
Riley, who claims that is her real name, is not only a guide but also an author on paranormal encounters. “We tour the most haunted locations in all of Gettysburg,” she said.
Participants hear rich Gettysburg history on the candlelit Black Cat Tour, where dark alleys, battlefields and homes of makeshift shallow graves are explored. “We also visit the Rupp House Museum, where an 1863 battle took place and then became a burial ground, and the Dobbin House, the first house in Gettysburg and a one-time field hospital,” said Riley.
The Battlecry Tour escorts guests along what was once known as “no man’s land,” where the streets ran red with blood in 1863. The Scare on the Square Tour includes a hotel, a tavern, a church, a school building and more in the heart of historic Gettysburg.
The new Haunted Coach Tour, a 90-minute excursion, takes guests back to the three days during the Civil War when Gettysburg witnessed the suffering and deaths of 8,000 soldiers wearing blue and gray.
“Groups can enjoy the comfort of the motorcoach while observing restless spirits still wandering the fields of battle,” said Riley.