From the ancient cities of Europe to the enigmatic swamps of New Orleans, there’s a supernaturally charged tour to put you in the Halloween spirit.
All the telltale signs that summer is ending are afoot—swimsuits on sale, a twinge of autumn crispness in the air, fading suntans. But that also means one of the best holidays of the year is right around the corner: Halloween.
The tradition of Halloween traces its roots back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated in present-day areas of the United Kingdom and France between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, a time of the year when days become shorter and the nights longer. Samhain was celebrated as a harvest festival, but it was also believed that the veil between this world and the next was thinnest during the holiday.
After Britannia was conquered by the Roman Empire, Celtic Samhain tradition blended with Roman and, later, Christian influences. The term “Halloween” is derived from All Saints’ Day, an autumnal holiday held to honor the saints, and was called “Alholowmesse” or “All-Hallows” in Middle English. The day before All-Hallows was known as “All-Hallows Eve,” which evolved over the years into Halloween. Halloween was imported to the United States by European immigrants, particularly the Irish during the 19th century, when it would take on an American spin.
There’s no better way to give yourself the creepy crawlies than to tempt the supernatural and embark on a ghost tour during spooky season. Halloween and its sister holidays (like Día de los Muertos, celebrated on November 1 to honor deceased relatives) can be found in in some way or another in nearly every European country as well as those touched by European colonization.
Here are 10 of the best ghost tours you should consider this Halloween.
7. SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
Tour to check out: Sisters Grimm’s Haunted History Walk
Starting price: $25
One of the oldest cities in Texas, San Antonio was founded in 1718, nearly 100 years before Austin was established. It also has a reputation as the most haunted city in the Lone Star State. There’s the Black Swan Inn, which once had a hanging tree on the premises and is said to be haunted by Native American spirits as well as a young couple who met an untimely death. Then, as any San Antonian knows, there’s the railroad by Villamain and Shane roads, which is haunted by benevolent schoolchildren who (supposedly) died in a train crash in the 1930s when their bus stalled on the tracks. They’ll push any cars stuck on the tracks over to safety. And don’t forget the Alamo—the old mission is said to still be protected by ghostly apparitions of the original defenders.
Get acquainted with the supernatural side of San Antonio on a Sisters Grimm Haunted History Walk. It takes guests to famously spooky locations like the Alamo, the Spanish Governor’s Mansion, the old Bexar County Jail (now a Holiday Inn Express), and the Menger Hotel—one of the most haunted hotels in the nation; it’s supposedly occupied by Theodore Roosevelt’s ghost. If getting in your daily steps is not your thing, the Sisters Grimm also has a Ghost Bus Tour, which includes a cemetery stop.