A ghost-hunting trip for Halloween is an experience you’ll never forget

Whether you’re a child or still a big kid, most people love a good scare. Halloween is one of the best times to go ghost hunting. The festival has its roots in the Irish festival of Samhain, where the pagans held feasts while portals to the Otherworld opened, and many similarities to the Mexican Day of the Dead. It is a time when the winter is drawing close and the spirits are close. Here are Gray Line’s seven best places for ghost hunting, spotting vampires, or communicating with the dead.

Hide from Dracula in Transylvania

Now the home of Dracula, Bran Castle throws parties every Halloween as well as putting on special tours
Now the home of Dracula, Bran Castle throws parties every Halloween as well as putting on special tours
Bran Castle as seen through an arch

Try not to bump into Dracula at Bran Castle

Where better for a spooky holiday than the home of Dracula? The Romanian region has been associated with vampires since Bram Stoker published his novel. He launched a wave of horror full of cultured and sophisticated bloodsuckers that continues to this day. Stoker was mainly inspired by Vlad “the Impaler” Dracula who ruled Transylvania with an iron fist and the myth of vampires, or strigoi in Romanian, existed in the area since the 16th century.

While it is never mentioned in Stoker’s Dracula, Bran Castle has become the home of the vampire. It is not far from the city of Brașov and its imposing walls perched upon a rocky outcrop have been used as Dracula’s Castle in many of the movies. Surrounded by forest-covered mountains, Bran is magical and its interior is now a museum that is worth a visit any time of the year. At Hallowe’en, they throw a party until four in the morning and there are excellent interactive tours with actors and effects.

The Pirates of Savannah

Live oak trees covered in Spanish moss line a road running directly away from the camera. There is an white, wooden gate open in the foreground
Savannah is considered to be the most haunted city in the United States

Take an immersive ghost hunt in Savannah

Savannah, Georgia, was long home to real pirates of the Caribbean, war and disease have ravaged the city, and the colonists that first settled there built the town center on an Indian burial ground. It is said to be the most haunted city in the United States. The Pirate’s House, now a restaurant, had Blackbeard drinking its beer and is even mentioned in RL Stevenson’s Treasure Island. It is full of horror stories.

A local restaurant, the Olde Pink House is always neat and tidy. James Habersham Jr. liked to keep it clean. He was a “pin-neat gentleman”. The trader hanged himself after his wife’s death and his spirit never left. If one of the servers forgets to set a table, his ghost will straighten everything out. The building was also used as a hospital during the plagues of yellow fever. Children will run around the building locking doors and causing havoc. It is thought they were slave children who perished during the plagues.

Despair in Venice

As well as being beautiful, Venice is also full of ghosts
As well as being beautiful, Venice is also full of ghosts
An aerial shot of Venice at sunset

Catch a glimpse of the princess in venice

It should come as no surprise that one of Europe’s oldest cities is full of ghosts. The district of Cannaregio in Venice is full of them. It was built in the 11th century, was the main route into the city for centuries and holds the cemetery island of Isola di San Michele. While there are incredibly elegant palazzos facing the Grand Canal on Cannaregio’s edge, the district was historically working class and held a Jewish ghetto until 1797.

Perhaps the most famous ghost in the area is that of the great explorer Marco Polo’s Chinese or Mongolian wife. She was said to have been a stunning princess who he fell in love with on his journeys in Asia. Upon their return to Venice, she immediately fell out with his family and not long after, Polo was captured during the war with Genova. The family told the princess that he had been killed and she threw herself from the window in despair. 

While there is no record of the princess, there is evidence that Polo had a child between his return and capture, and before his marriage to Donata Badoer. It is said that if you pass by the beautiful Greek marble arch Corte del Milion in Cannaregio, you may catch a glimpse of the princess singing songs from her homeland and dressed in white.

Thousands of Years of Ghosts in Rome

Many of Rome's ghosts date back to Imperial times, including that of Emperor Nero
Many of Rome’s ghosts date back to Imperial times, including that of Emperor Nero
An aerial shot of the Vatican City

Discover the imperial ghosts of rome

A city as steeped in history as Rome is bound to have a few skeletons in the closet. Many of these date back to the time of the Roman Empire and the brutality of the time. The ghost of Emperor Nero, who is known for potentially burning the city to the ground and playing the fiddle while he watched the flames, was buried at Piazza del Popolo under a walnut tree. His bones attracted so many evil spirits that almost a thousand years later, the people begged the pope to cut it down. Now the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo stands in the same spot — and inside there is a bas-relief showing the pope himself in the act of chopping down the tree.

At the age of 14, Messalina was forced to marry the future emperor Claudius by the depraved Caligula. Claudius was more than 30 years older and the marriage was loveless. Messalina began to search for extramarital affairs, and she was bad at keeping a secret. Her promiscuity was even documented by the diarists and historians of the time in detail. After ten years of marriage, Claudius was proving to be a weak emperor and Messalina married her lover. She may not have divorced or informed Claudius first, but she may have done this to protect herself from assassination. When he found out, Claudius executed her. Messalina’s ghost may be found dressed in finery and wandering the streets searching for another lover.

The Voodoo of New Orleans

It is possible to find practitioners of Voodoo in New Orleans without too much trouble
The Natchez steams along the Mississippi in New Orleans

Search for the Spirits of new Orleans

New Orleans is a melting pot of cultures. Over the centuries, people, languages and religions have mixed into the fantastic traditions of Creole and Cajun. Slaves from West Africa brought their faiths, which mixed with the Voodou of Haiti and the Catholicism of France to create Louisiana Voodoo. In New Orleans, the spirits of the dead communicate with those that are still alive. 

Cultural meetings may have declined in recent years but Voodoo is an active religion. It is possible to find drum circles and ceremonies in the French Quarter and around Treme. These areas will also be full of stores that hold gris-gris dolls, potions and talismans. At the Spiritual Temple, which is the only formal center but there are plenty more, you can take part in sessions, and receive guidance and spiritual healing.

Murder in Prague

Prague’s history as one of Europe’s most important cities has given it a large number of ghosts
Prague Castle shot from across the River Vltava

Spectres on the streets of prague

For a long time, Prague was the most important city in Europe. This is why it is such a fairytale location. But as the center of Europe’s politics in the Middle Ages, it was also a city of deceit and war. On three separate occasions, nobles, judges, politicians and clergy were thrown out of windows in the city. In 1618, the third defenestration, as the method of killing is called, led to one of the most destructive and longest wars across the whole of Europe.

When you’re touring the streets of the Czech capital, there is a chance you will bump into an argument between a priest and a prostitute. This ended with the priest murdering her with his cross. Shocked at what he was capable of, his heart stopped dead. As spirits, they are tied together. Many of the churches are home to ghosts despite being consecrated. At least two live in St James, where a statue of Mary is also said to have come alive to kill a thief.

The Island of Evil Spirits in San Francisco — Alcatraz

Even before it was a brutal prison, Alcatraz was thought to be an evil island

San Francisco is one of the most haunted cities in the United States, in part because of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Called the Island of Evil Spirits by the Miwok tribe, the Rock was home to some of the country’s most infamous criminals, including Arthur Doc Barker, Machine Gun Kelly, Al Capone, and many of its most ruthless. Those who broke the rules were sent naked to the strip cell to do time with no lights, no bed and only a hole for a toilet. Because of this confinement, many ghosts haven’t been able to move on.

Butcher Malkowitz was a hitman held in the prison in the 40s. He was murdered by another inmate in the laundry room. After a nightwatchman heard doors swinging wildly, a psychic tried to convince him to leave — but he refused. Cell 14-D was one of the holes where the most violent were punished. It has a permanent chill and sent many of those contained within its walls mad. Some of those who visit hear the screaming of a man who died claiming that a monster was trying to kill him.

Pumpkins carved for Halloween

What ghost stories can Gray Line tell you