Things to Do

These Historical Ghost Tours Explore the DC Area’s Spooky Past

Will you encounter a former president's spirit?

The DC area is a bubbling cauldron of haunted histories, and there’s no better time to stir them up than in the weeks before Halloween. Whether you’re a true believer or simply enjoy some imaginative storytelling, these ghost tours offer a spooky experience. 

Alexandria Ghosts
According to the guides on this US Ghost Adventures tour, Alexandria has more restless spirits than any other town in Virginia. You’ll pass the historic Carlyle House on the moonlit jaunt, where a mummified cat was once discovered within the walls. The tour also goes by Schafer House, which held wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War. If you’re looking for canine protection, well-behaved pups are allowed on this 60 to 90-minute tour. Rent an EMF device for an additional $7: The tool lights up when it supposedly detects “electromagnetic anomalies.” Price: $25 and up. 

Alexandria’s Original Ghost and Graveyard Tour
Hear the legends and lore that line Old Town’s cobbled alleyways on this hour-long outing from Alexandria Colonial Tours. Clad in colonial attire, tour guides will lead you by lantern light for six blocks. Depending on the night, you might brave the Old Presbyterian Meeting House cemetery, where emanations often float in photographs, or stealth your way past Christ Church, where specters allegedly rise from the mass grave of Confederate soldiers. Price: $15

Haunted Pub Tours 
For those who would like to fuel their paranormal excursion with some liquid courage, Nightly Spirits offers boozy ghost tours at historic pubs in DC and Alexandria. You’ll stop at each location to enjoy a drink as guides dressed in colonial or pirate attire share eerie tavern legends. The Alexandria tour stops by places like King and Rye and the Union Street Public House, while the DC tour swings by Old Ebbitt Grill and Round Robin Bar, among other spots. Both tours last about two and a half hours. Drinks are not included. Price: $25 in DC; $28 in Alexandria.

“Boos and Booze” pub crawl. Photograph courtesy of US Ghost Adventures.

Boos and Booze Haunted Pub Crawl
US Ghost Adventures offers two different tours around DC. Visit spirits while drinking spirits at the Boos and Booze Haunted Pub Crawl, a two-hour tour that stops at places like the historic Rhodes Tavern, a favorite haunt for Mark Twain’s ghost. For booze-free spooks, there’s the DC Ghosts tour, where you’ll absorb the District’s ghastly hidden history at eight different locations. Learn about the specters that abound at the Blair House, the bloody duels that went down at the Decatur House, and the ever-screaming woman at the Hay-Adams. Price: $29 for Boos and Booze Haunted Pub Crawl; $27 and up for DC Ghosts. 

Hill Of Haunts
Your guides on this tour from National Nightmares aren’t just regular mortals who know a thing or two about history—they’re historical figures come to life with connections (and sometimes beef) to the dead. As interpretive historians, tour leaders will either take on the persona of impeached Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase, abolitionist and Quaker Lucretia Mott, or Anna Surratt, whose mother was sentenced to death as a conspirator in Lincoln’s assassination. Brought back from the dead, these guides will share the Hill’s shadowy stories. A portion of proceeds from the tour go to local charities such as the Central Union Mission, So Others Might Eat, and more. Price: $19. 

Ghosts of Georgetown Walking Tour
Beneath Georgetown’s polished veneer of boutiques and row houses is a dark past, which you’ll uncover on VisitDC’s three-hour tour. You’ll begin at the oldest unchanged building structure in DC—Georgetown’s Old Stone House—where something on the third floor is rumored to cause a choking sensation. The tour ends at the famous Exorcist Steps, named for their appearance in the 1973 film the Exorcist. Other spooky stops include what was once a makeshift Civil War hospital, a house where President Lincoln supposedly attended a seance to commune with his dead son, and the 239-year-old Halcyon House, where an emerald green silhouette materializes in the window. Price: $50.

The Dark Nights of Washington DC
Leave little ones at home for Ghost City Tours’ adults-only excursion, which contains all the mature themes and strong language that come with juicy tales of intrigue. The rated-R tour runs for 90 minutes, traversing through scandals at places like the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and St. John’s Episcopal Church. Want to bring the kids? There’s also a family-friendly alternative that starts at the Old Brick Capitol Building and moves towards the Capitol, where a demonic cat still traipses around. Price: $37 for the adults-only tour; $25 and up for the family-friendly tour.

Horror on Capitol Hill
Play spooky tourist at Capitol Hill’s major stops—the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and the Capitol building, to name a few—on Scary DC’s kid-friendly tour. Your guides will set the stage with a history lesson before divulging the tales of the Hill, where the ghosts of Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln are said to still wander. Price: $20 and up. 

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor