Walking Ghost Tours in the Midwest
by Catherine Jozwik
With its abundance of dense forests, farmland, cornfields, and ramshackle barns, it’s no surprise that plenty of paranormal activity has been documented in the rural Midwest. But its urban areas, such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Topeka and Indianapolis, with their colorful industrial pasts, contain plenty of chilling surprises of their own right. Many buildings–from taverns to former speakeasies to historic hotels to mansions formerly owned by beer barons—are rumored to be haunted.
A walking ghost tour is an ideal experience for supernatural enthusiasts and history buffs who enjoy exploring a city on foot. Below is a list of some popular ghost tours in the Midwest. As many of these tours take place outdoors during the Midwest’s chilly fall and winter months, it’s a good idea to dress warmly and wear a pair of comfortable shoes.
1. American Ghost Tours, www.americanghostwalks.com
American Ghost Walks offers nine walking tours in Wisconsin and three in Minnesota. Tours, which span 1.5 miles and last two hours, cost $20 per person. Knowledgeable tour guides (some donning gothic garb) take visitors on creepy strolls through downtown Lake Geneva, a hip Milwaukee art district, the Wisconsin tourist town of Wisconsin Dells, and downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, all the while revealing those areas’ spookiest secrets.
2. Gothic Milwaukee, www.gothicmilwaukee.com
Join Milwaukee native, author and city folklore expert Anna Lardinois on a 90-minute trek through downtown Brew City. With splendid architecture, Milwaukee’s many Victorian-era buildings, including the Pfister Hotel, which opened in 1893, and City Hall, completed in 1895, are the sites of many chilling tales. Gothic Milwaukee’s 90-minute tour starts on the corner of Jackson and Wells Streets, at Cathedral Square Park. Private tours for groups are available year-round, and tickets are $20.
3. Chicago Gangsters and Ghost Tours, https://gangstersandghosts.com/
During the Prohibition era, few cities were more synonymous with lawlessness than Chicago, where gangsters such as Al Capone ruled the underworld. Although this time in Chicago history has long passed, some say that spirits still linger.
This 1.5-mile, two-hour walking tour showcases many stops in the Chicago Loop, where nefarious, headline-grabbing activities took place during the 1920s and 1930s, including Palmer House, Death Alley and Congress Hotel. Four tours, beginning at Wyndham Grand Riverfront Hotel, 71 E. Upper Wacker Drive, are held daily, at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $27 for adults ages 18-64, $25 for seniors 65 and up, $17 for youths 7 to 17, and free for children 6 and under.
4. Bizarre Bucktown and Wicker Park tours, https://www.bizarrebucktown.com/
Enjoy mile-long walking tours highlighting churches, factories, taverns, and the Flat Iron Arts building. Offered in two Chicago neighborhoods, these tours, which run for 60 and 90 minutes, are filled with freaky facts about murder, corruption, and scandal in the Windy City. Tours cost $20 per person.
5. Haunts of Mackinac Downtown Haunted History Tour, www.hauntsofmackinac.com
Michigan’s picturesque Mackinac Island, a sort of vacationer’s utopia where cars are banned and fudge shops reign supreme, has an eerie past. Inspired by Todd Clements’ 2006 book “Haunts of Mackinac: Ghost Stories, Legends & Tragic Tales of Mackinac Island,” the walking tours span one mile and begin at the Haunts of Mackinac ticket office, located in the Bicycle Street Inn atrium, 7416 Main St. Tickets are $20, and children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult 18 or over. Visit the website for tour times and more details.
6. Unseenpress.com Inc. Ghost Walks, Indiana, www.unseenpress.com
Committed to sharing the history of the Hoosier State’s ghostly past, Unseenpress.com Inc., in addition to publishing nearly a dozen books on Indiana ghosts and serial killers, and even a Haunted Nightscapes coloring book, offers five different ghost tours in Indianapolis, Anderson, Westville and Noblesville. Choose from the Haunted Indianapolis Downtown Ghost Walk, Chilling Chatham Arch Lockerbie Ghost Walk, Haunted Underground Railroad Ghost Walk, Nefarious Noblesville Ghost Walk, and Anomalous Anderson Ghost Walk. Tours are $18, and $15 for seniors ages 65 and up. No children under 10 are allowed on the tour. Reservations are required.
- Ghost Tours of Kansas LLC, www.ghosttoursofkansas.org
Embark on a spine-tingling tour of downtown or North Topeka and hear the stories of Shadow Man in Jayhawk Tower Alley, and the dark history of the state’s Capitol Building. Or, learn about mortuaries, murder and mayhem in small town Holton, devilish dramatic theater in Atchinson, and the haunted happenings in Leavenworth’s former brothels, bookstores, and the notoriously spooky Santa Fe Depot Diner. Tours run approximately an hour and twenty minutes and span about one and a half miles.
- Deadwood Haunted History Walking Ghost Tour https://www.deadwood.com/business/tours/haunted-history-walking-ghost-tour/
South Dakota’s historic Wild West town, where gunslinger legends such as Wild Bill Hickock and Doc Holliday gulped whiskey and gambled in saloons, is also known to be one of the most haunted areas in the state. Deadwood, which attracts thousands of tourists every year, also boasts a Ghost Tour operated by a town historian and resident. Visitors walk past museums, saloons, homes and hotels said to be plagued by ghosts and apparitions. Held three times a day, at 1:45, 3:45 and 5:45 p.m., tours begin inside the Old Style Saloon #10, 657 Main St. Tour admission is $10 for ages 12 and up and $5 for children ages 5 to 12. Parents should be warned that some of the tour’s graphic material may not be suitable for children.
- The Ohio State Reformatory Ghost Walks, https://www.mrps.org/explore/paranormal-programs/ghost-walks
From March through December, visitors can roam the dark and eerie halls of the reputedly haunted Ohio State Reformatory, now a museum, during a two-hour ghost tour. Built in 1886, Reformatory events inspired “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” a 1982 novella by Stephen King which was later made into the 1994 “The Shawshank Redemption.” Items such as ghost hunting books, equipment and other merchandise in the museum store. Ghost walks are not open to those under 13, and those 13 through 17 must provide proof of age.
- Edinburgh Manor, Jones County, Iowa, https://www.facebook.com/EdinburghManor/
Built in 1910 as a home for the mentally ill, poor, and elderly, the sprawling, mysterious manor offers fall weekend day tours and, for intrepid explorers 14 and up, overnight stays, which begin at $225. Day tours cost $10 and run approximately 1-2 hours. Tours are not recommended for infants and young children. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.