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Spooky City Tours

On Halloween, you can explore Western haunts and do some ghost-busting and witch-hunting.

Mark Thomson of Ghostly Gastown Tours, Vancouver, British Columbia
Photo caption
Mark Thomson leads Ghostly Gastown tours in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Ah, neighborhood tours: those quaint outings where you hear some polite history, shuffle past a few stately buildings, and bone up on a city's founders. Well, not on these tours. This Halloween, try visiting some Western haunts of a decidedly darker nature.

  • By hay wagon from the grounds of the Wyoming Territorial Prison, Ghost Tours of Old Laramie City visits a reenactment of the shoot-out with ruffian Asa Moore, then follows the scent of a cigar-smoking ghost.
    Oct. 16, 22-24, 29-31; every 30 minutes, 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Reservations required. (307) 745-6161,
  • During Seattle's Queen Anne and Capitol Hill Mystery & Murder tours, founded by a detective who worked on many of the cases, a van ferries participants to sites including serial killer Ted Bundy's old stomping grounds and the house where Raoul Rockwell is said to have served his victims for dinner. Tours by appointment. (206) 365-3739,
  • On the Bannack Ghost Walk, visitors amble through Montana's famed ghost town while channeling the spirits of outlaws Cyrus Skinner, Dutch John Wagner, and Sheriff Henry Plummer, all lynched by vigilantes; Chief Snag, whose scalp ended up on a saloon wall; and Katherine Moore, the put-upon homesteader who hacked her abusive husband to bits. Oct. 23 and 24; 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. (406) 834-3413,
  • On the Vampire Tour of San Francisco, Victorian vampiress "Mina Harker" leads nocturnal wanderers through Nob Hill's most Gothic spots while regaling them with creepy tales spiced with vampire lore. Learn about graves beneath local landmarks, subterranean passages, and the ghosts of the Fairmont Hotel. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.
    (866) 424-8836,
  • Portland's Beyond Bizarre tour arms you with electromagnetic sensors, temperature gauges, and other gear before you venture to a paranormal pizzeria, a shop called Voodoo Doughnut, and a hotel to track the spirits of residents who have left this earth but apparently not their rooms. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 and 10 p.m. (503) 774-4522,
  • The Ghostly Gastown Tour starts with a First Nations curse during a stroll down cobblestone streets in Vancouver, B.C. Stops include Gaoler's Mews, site of a jail haunted by prisoners whose chains still clank, and the rail yard, home to the ghost of a worker who lost his head in an accident. Thursdays and by appointment, 8 p.m. (604) 568-7027,
  • The Santa Fe, N.M., Ghostwalkers tour winds through plazas, churches, and burial grounds as costumed guides spin chilling stories. Hear of La Llorona, said to haunt the Santa Fe River; the Dead Bride, mourning a husband shot on their honeymoon at La Fonda Hotel; and Julia, immortal mistress of the stately Staab Mansion. Tuesdays and Fridays, 5:30 and 6 p.m. (505) 986-8388,

Photography by Robbie McClaran

This article was first published in September 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.