I’ve been obsessed with all things horror since I was a kid; Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, Freddy Kreuger is my all-time favorite villain, and I love hearing true stories of the paranormal. Haunted house and ghost hunting? Yes, please. Unfortunately the top notch haunted houses and ghost hunting tours are a little over an hours drive from the town I reside in, which isn’t a fun trek at midnight. So, a couple of years ago, when I heard that a local group was now hosting ghost tours in my little town I was extremely delighted and, with my friend, signed up for the first tour in the first weekend of October. Our town is an old German town with a ton of history and because I’ve only lived here a few years I was excited to learn more about the local haunted history and maybe even see a ghost, all for the low low price of $20.
The tour began at 8:30PM at a local bakery that is very popular because they make delicious everything. Our hosts were a man and woman who both shared a passion for the paranormal, which made me assume that they would share their ghostly experiences in-between haunted locations. Silly me, I’m so optimistic.
Equipped wtih her own headset mic, the ghost tour woman kicked off the tour with this insightful opener: “Hey Everyone! My name is Rachel (not her real name because I don’t remember it) and this is Mark (not his real name because I also don’t remember it). I’ve never seen a ghost, and Mark has never seen a ghost but his sister has and she told us about it which inspired us to host these ghost tours.”
Listen, I’m not saying that a ghost hunter certification is required to host ghost tours but it’s hard for me to have confidence in your presentation that we had to pay to be a part of and is based on a subject that I’ve followed since I was a kid, that you just took an interest in a week ago. Also, they never told us about the sisters story so I still don’t know if that was really the inspiration or if they saw an opportunity to profit off suckers like me. Probably the latter. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and give them a chance, which was my 2nd mistake after actually showing up.
Ghost tour Rachel continued:
“Throughout the tour we’ll be pointing out and discussing various haunted locations as well as showing you archived photos of these locations”
As much as I love all things horror and Halloween this was actually my first ghost tour so I guess I expected too much – when I asked if we would be going inside these places I was shot down with a big fat no. I’m well aware this wasn’t a ghost hunt but at the very least I thought we’d be able to walk inside these places. Nope, and I’m pretty sure the reason was because the entire thing was made up. Ghost tour (GT for short or we’ll be here all day) Rachel wrapped up her opener with “you’re probably wondering about the bakery we’re kicking off the tour at. (I was not) Well, it’s not haunted but they have some of the best cupcakes in the city.” People giggled and seemed entertained; I thought this was off to a terrible fucking start.
After the opener we followed the GT hosts to our first location: a hotel built in the 1800s, which I think they figured automatically made it haunted. Side note: being old is not a prerequisite for a building being haunted. Anyway, so we mosey on down to this hotel and stand across the street from it. Not in front of it or on the side of it – across the goddamn street. GT Rachel goes into her prepared speech about the hotel, a speech I can’t remember because when she began GT Mark whipped out his iPad to show us pictures of the hotel we were standing across the street from. Not pictures that happened to capture a ghost, no, they were Googled black-and-white pictures of the hotel we were staring at. That’s when I realized that this entire tour was going to consist of someone Googling things for us; it was pretty much the Ask Jeeves of ghost tours. By this point I was pretty irritated and we were only 10 minutes into the 90-minute tour.
Two buildings later we were at the “haunted” courthouse, a building with history I was familiar with. I had researched it myself and when GT Rachel began her dialogue I almost went off the deep end – she was reciting an article on the courthouse that I had just read, word for word. I’d fucking had it. I’ve-never-been-involved-in-or-investigated-anything-paranormal-or-know-anything-about-it-but-started-a-ghost-tour Rachel and her Google sidekick Mark completely ruined my first ghost tour experience. Now, you might be thinking that I’m blowing this way out of proportion but paying $20 for people to Google ghost shit seemed pretty unreasonable. And it’s not like I was expecting (just hoping) to see a ghost or watch someone become possessed by one. But I also didn’t expect to be read to on a ghost tour like were a bunch of kindergarteners at story time. I guess their website should’ve been my first red flag. Aside from the fact that it’s poorly done, the entire site is filled with pictures of cemeteries, none of which are located in our town. I’m almost positive that the pictures are straight from Google images and also, there is no cemetery in the tour. And let me say this, if they had really done their research they would’ve known that there are a couple of creepy super old cemeteries they could’ve take us to that would’ve scared the crap out of people – they wouldn’t even have needed an iPad.
Anyway, it was a shitty tour with shitty guides who I allowed myself to be tricked by their shitty website. After my disappointing first ghost tour I researched several ghost tours from around the country and the one I was on was completely amateur (whhaaatttt?). I found one tour that actually takes you on a ghost hunt at every location on the tour, they give you ghost hunting equipment and everything! I realize that the equipment is probably just the Ghostbuster toys from Target but that’s still more entertaining than being shown pictures and read to from an iPad. To be fair I can’t completely blame my horrible ghost tour experience totally on these 2 amateurs, I was an amateur for going on it. And because I don’t want you to suffer like I did I’m going to provide a few traits that you want to look for when it comes to ghost tours. If you live in a small town then your local ghost tour may not have all of these traits, but even one of these would be better than listening to a human Siri recite articles from the Internet.
Trait #1: The Tour Guides Dress Up. While this isn’t required or even expected I think it says a lot about a ghost tour when the guides dress the part. And it helps add to the ambiance.
Trait #2: You Actually Get to Go in the Buildings. I completely understand that a vast majority of these buildings house businesses that are still in operation in one way or another, so I know that not all of those tours can simply stroll into them like they own the rights or something. I get it. But I also don’t think it’s a good sign if they make you stand across the street from the supposed haunted building while they talk about it. Not that this is a deal breaker but it doesn’t hurt to call and ask if you get to go inside the buildings on the tour.
Trait #3: Your Guides Know More Than Just What They Googled: I’ll give the shitty ghost tour this, on their website the only thing they said was that we would learn about the local history and hauntings, and aside from not delivering on the “spine-tingling adventure” or promise that I would be entertained, that’s what they did. Unfortunately I could’ve done the same thing for free, a fact I wish they would include in their disclaimer. I don’t care that they had to Google all of this info, I was annoyed that that was all they did. When I researched other ghost tours I discovered that a lot of them, particulary the really good ones, had tour guides who had actually done ghost hunts in the locations on the tour. In addition to research that extended beyond Google they interviewed people who experienced the paranormaal at these locations and shared these stories along with creepy pictures provided by others who had been on the tour. If that’s not giving you your money’s worth, I don’t know what is.
Listen, every one of these tours are for entertainment purposes only, just like the Psychic Network. But if you’re into the paranormal like me and don’t want some ass clown ruining your year long Halloween then go to the ghost tour pros.