Take A Haunted Tour In Philadelphia

October 27, 2012 7:00 AM

As October slowly fades into November — its nights turn chilling to the bone — legendary ghosts haunt the streets, structures and graveyards of Philadelphia. Throughout the month and culminating on Halloween, the stories of the dead are reanimated to instruct, entertain and caution the living. While there are many haunted locations and cemeteries reputed to be home to restless spirits, not all welcome visitors who are seeking the supernatural and the paranormal. Those that do offer legends and chilling tales of their residents, and they’re waiting for you to explore them this Halloween season.
Getting There

Many of the most haunted graveyards and areas of Philadelphia are located in the Old City. But Laurel Hill Cemetery, known as “The Underground Museum” because of the number of famous people who were buried there, is about 10 minutes from downtown and can be reached by private vehicle or bus. Start at the Visitor’s Center, then follow the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum Circle. Turn right at Kelly Drive. Travel about three miles to South Ferry Road, then turn right. Go to the first light and turn right at Ridge Avenue — it’s about quarter of a mile to the cemetery gatehouse. Or, take the SEPTA Bus 61 and get off at Clearfield Street, which is located across the street from the cemetery.

Laurel Hill Cemetery
3822 Ridge Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19132
(215) 228-8200

Prices: roughly $8 depending on tour or event

The birth of the 78-acre Laurel Hill Cemetery resulted from the 1835 death of the beloved daughter of Jay Smith, a Quaker and a librarian. In his diary, he noted that Philadelphia had grown to such a degree that he could not find space to bury his daughter at Friends graveyard on Cherry Street. Less than one year later, Smith (along with Nathan Dunn, Benjamin W. Richards and Frederick Brown) founded Laurel Hill Cemetery. Prominent families such as Rittenhouse, Widener, Elkins and Strawbridge rest in Laurel Hill. Union Civil War General George Gordon Meade, the victor at the Battle of Gettysburg, along with 39 other Civil War generals, are buried here. The graves of six Titanic passengers are located here as well.

While Charles Vansant’s name is not well known, his story was immortalized in the movie “Jaws.” Vasant died from a shark attack while swimming along the Jersey shore. Another tragic tale is that of S. Morris Waln of Carbon County. In 1888, the young lawyer and his friend, Charles Livingston Strong, sought one last adventure before settling into a legal career. Unfortunately, they hired a cowboy, named Red Dog or Red Bill, as a cook and a guide. The first night of their adventure ended when Red Dog quietly retrieved a camp ax and cleaved Strong’s skull. Awoken by the commotion, Waln attempted to grab his gun, but was shot by Red Bill. Laurel Hill offers a variety of tour options ranging from a cellphone tour to guided tours. Throughout October, the cemetery hosts a number of spooky events, including an actual paranormal investigation. Public restrooms are available on site.

Related:Top Museum Exhibits to see This Fall in Philadelphia

Grim Philly Twilight Tours
6th and Market streets
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(856) 829-3100

Prices: From about $3 to $30 depending on which tour chosen. There are also free events. Check website for details.

Legend has it that to pay homage to Ben Franklin, one of the founding fathers buried there, visitors would place pennies on his grave. Many people who have walked past the burial grounds at Christ Church late at night report pennies are thrown at them from within the graveyard. That’s just one of the eerie tales of the supernatural told to guests on the Grim Philly Twilight Tour – Cemetery, Serial Killers, Blood & Beer! The tour company offers three other tour packages: Vampires, Sex, Ghosts…and so much more!; Midnight Ghost Hunting! Halloween Week!; and Benny’s Haunts: Pyratt, Ghost & Historical Oddity Tour; held Sundays in October.

Joe Wojie, professor of history at Widener University and owner of Grim Philly, said the cemetery tour includes a visit to Christ Church. The tour begins at Triumph Brewing Company, where guests have the opportunity to sample beer and food. Among Philadelphia’s most evil and nefarious characters is H.H. Holmes, America’s first documented serial killer, who is highlighted on the tour.

Guests of the vampire tour learn about Philadelphia’s connection to the most famous of literary vampires, Dracula. Bram Stoker, the author, did a great deal of work on the novel while touring Philadelphia. One page of notes was written by Stoker on Bellevue-Stratford Hotel stationery. The Rosenbach Museum and Library have a collection of about 120 pages of Stoker’s handwritten notes, too. The vampire tour ends at City Tavern, which is also said to be haunted.

City Tavern Restaurant
138 S. 2nd St. at Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 413-1443

City Tavern traces its history to 1773. A few months prior to the First Continental Congress, Paul Revere had ridden to the tavern with the news that the port of Boston had been closed by the British. In August 1774, John Adams visited the tavern while he was attending the First Continental Congress. The tavern is said to be haunted by a bride and several members of her bridal party who died in a fire in 1854 on the second floor — while they were preparing for the wedding! Patrons of the restaurant have reported seeing the apparition of the spectral bride in the corner window of the upstairs while they were in the back courtyard. Dinner menu offerings include first-course choices of mallard duck sausage, smoked salmon and trout, black forest ham and asparagus, as well as other seafood choices. Of course, the Tavern offers soups and salads, along with entrees such as roasted duckling, rack of lamb, colonial turkey pot pie, medallions of venison and other savory choices.

Ghost Tour of Philadelphia

Candlelight Walking Tour
325 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 413-1997

Prices: from $17 per adult/$10 children ages 4 to 12

Guides dressed in period costume take visitors along the back streets of the city, gardens of Society Hill and Independence Park, and through Washington Square, one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. Among the people buried in the cemetery are Walnut Street prison inmates, victims of yellow fever, Revolutionary War soldiers, and both free and enslaved African Americans. Considered to be one of the oldest ghost tours in the country, Ghost Tour of Philadelphia has operated since 1995. It was recognized in 2011 by Budget Travel Magazine as one of the top 15 must-see attractions in the country. In Old City, hear tales of the tragic life of America’s master of the horror short story, Edgar Allen Poe. Legend has it that his tortured spirit can still be seen in the area, as many of his tales were inspired by his life in Philadelphia. Another stop features St. Peter’s Cemetery, considered to be the most haunted. Next door is the Old Pine Street Churchyard, where sightings of spirits haunting the graveyards have been reported since the cemeteries were founded.

In addition to the Candlelight Walking Tours, the company offers the Haunted Trolley Tours and Ghost Hunting Tours. Special events are also offered, including a Witches Night Out Ghost Tour.


Trolly Car Diner & Cafe
3269 S. Ferry Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19129
(267) 385-6703

Built in The Bathey, a historic building in Fairmount Park, the Trolley Car Diner opened in 2010. Themed as a 1950s-style Trolley Car, the cafe features breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Appetizers include loaded waffle fries, hummus and pita and a salmon and asparagus Oscar. Signature salads, including a blackened salmon Caesar, roast tenderloin and Mediterranean chicken salad are available. It offers a variety of sandwich choices, paninis and wraps, sides, and specialty burgers. A kids menu and a doggie menu are also offered.

Related: Important Places to the People Who Built Philadelphia

Jeffrey B. Roth, has won numerous state and national news and feature-writing awards during his career. A well-known crime writer, investigative reporter and a feature writer, Roth writes for a number of magazines and newspapers. Listed in the Locus Index of SciFi and Fantasy authors, Roth is the author of a number of published short stories and poetry. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

Watch & Listen LIVE