October is synonymous with Halloween but North Florida scares the pants off visitors year-round. Ongoing ghost tours give guests chills and thrills by taking guests on ghoulish journeys by bus, trolley, boat or re-purposed hearse through supernatural surroundings like St. Augustine's historically haunted lighthouse.
According to local ghost guides, the area always has high levels of “paranormal activity,” but interest naturally increases throughout this time of year. Scottish and Irish traditions tell tall tales that the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead are stretched thin on All Hallows Eve, allowing spirits to appear in the mortal realm.
Some who study supernatural phenomena find Halloween an ideal time to attempt a connection and communication with the dead. For visitors, it's all about the fun.
“I think lots of people like to go, ‘Oooooh,’ and get a little tingle down their spine,” said Suzanne Dixon, tour manager for Ghost Tours of St. Augustine, a mainstay of the Ancient City that operates several different ghost tours. David Chatterton, St. Augustine tour manager for Ghosts and Gravestones, agrees. “What we do gets the adrenaline flowing and gives you a great sense of adventure.”
Unlike Halloween haunted houses or “fright night” experiences, these local ghost tours don’t rely on vampires, zombies, werewolves or the usual horror-movie stereotypes to frighten visitors. Some emphasize local history, and others are more focused on detecting and capturing paranormal energy. Some tours balance the two.
To help you match your tour’s style and scare-level to your family’s interests and ages, here you’ll find a guide to the major ghost tours in Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach and St. Augustine.
River City Haunts
Love history? River City Haunts might be the tour for you. Shedding light on the city’s strange but real historic events, the tour explores documented paranormal phenomena. The company also offers a daytime, non-haunted, top-to-bottom history tour of Jacksonville.
Location: 2 W. Independent Drive
Dates and times: Fridays, 8 pm
Price: $15 adults; $5 children
Ages: “It’s up to parents to make the call, but we do like to give people a little bit of a scare”
Contact: 904.827.1845, www.adlibtours.com
Amelia Island Museum of History Ghost Walking Tour
This popular walking tour features historic haunted homes that are more than 150 years old and reaches its final destination at a cemetery.
Location: 233 S. 3rd St., Fernandina Beach
Dates and times: Fridays, 6 pm
Price: $20 adults; $15 children 5-15; free for children under 5
Ages: Appropriate for all ages
Contact: 904.548.0996, www.ameliaislandghosttours.com
Dark of the Moon Tour, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum
Billed as “all ghosts, no gimmicks,” this tour explores the St. Augustine Lighthouse, described as the most-haunted location in St. Augustine.
“We’ve had a few tragedies here,” says Shannon O’Neil, the director of public relations. “We talk about the families and who lived at the light station and what actually happened to them.” The tour was previously featured on "Ghost Hunters", CNN, Parade magazine, Fox News and The Weather Channel as an experience that exposes guests to different levels of paranormal activity during each visit. “People don’t know what to expect, and they really enjoy the unpredictability of the tour.”
Location: 81 Lighthouse Ave., St. Augustine
Dates and times: Schedule varies; tours begin at 7:30, 8:30 or 9:30 pm
Price: $25 adults; $20 children under 12. Children must be 44 inches tall and able to climb tower steps on their own
Ages: “Family-oriented, but probably best for children 9 or older”
Contact: 904.829.0745, www.staugustinelighthouse.com
A Ghostly Experience Walking Tour, Ghost Tours of St. Augustine
Originally created as a way of entertaining school children with historical ghost stories, this tour presents the paranormal in historical context. With guides in period costume carrying a lantern, you walk the dark streets and get up-close and personal with the area’s historic haunts.
Tour guides urge guests to bring their cameras as they are the best source of capturing unexplained phenomena, Tour Manager Susan Dixon says. During select dates throughout the year, the tour coordinates with the Nao Victoria Foundation of Spain to include spooky night visits to two replicas of 16th century sailing vessels when the ships are docked in St. Augustine. Though ships are not docked in the harbor in October, you can call to make a reservation for the next time these tours will be available.
Location: 4 Granada St., St. Augustine
Dates and times: Daily, 8 pm
Price: $15 per person, free 6 and under
Ages: All ages
Contact: 904.829.1122 or 904.825.0087, www.ghosttoursofstaugustine.net
Haunted Pub Crawl, Ghost Tours of St. Augustine
For adults of legal drinking age, this two-hour walking/crawling tour is organized by A Ghostly Experience and is for those who prefer spirits with their spirits. Kicked off with a “welcome drink” (included in the tour price) at the first pub, the tour includes stops and sips at four haunted pubs where tour leaders known “Pub Scouts” and “Ghost Hunting Guides” instruct crawlers in the fine art of operating real paranormal equipment.
Location: 1 St. George St., St. Augustine
Dates and times: Daily, departs 7 pm
Price: $17 adults
Ages: 21 and up
Contact: 904.829.1122, www.ghosttoursofstaugustine.net
St. Augustine Ghosts and Gravestones
Consistently voted No. 1 ghost tour by "Best of St. Augustine", this tour is one of the most-popular attractions in the city, often selling out multiple trolley tours each night. Trolley tours include visits to both the lighthouse and the old jail, where guests have the opportunity to perform their own paranormal explorations.
Both locations were featured in memorable episodes of the "Ghost Hunters" television show, and the old jail is listed on the National Registry of Haunted Places. “None of the stories we tell on the tour are made up,” says David Chatterton, St. Augustine tour manager. “This is history, local folklore and legend, told in an entertaining way by our actors/curators, and fact is often much stranger than fiction.”
Location: Old Town Trolley Welcome Center, 27 San Marco Ave., St. Augustine
Dates and times: Daily, departure times begin at 8 pm
Price: $26 adults; $14 children 3-12; free under 3
Ages: May not be suitable under 13
Contact: 904.826.3663 or 1.888.920.8687, www.ghostsandgravestones.com
Everdark Express Hearse Ride Ghost Tour
For those with a real passion for the paranormal, a classic Cadillac hearse might be the way to travel. With the ability to accommodate groups of eight to 10 people in one of their two classic vehicles (or if comfort matters more than style, a passenger van is also available), the tour seriously explores the paranormal, especially at 7 Aviles, considered the third most-haunted building in Florida.
Location: 7 Aviles St., St. Augustine. Pick-up for groups can be arranged for a small fee
Dates and times: Nightly, departure times vary; call to arrange
Prices: $30 adults, $18 children 6-12; free for children 5 and under
Ages: Recommended for age 6 and up
Contact: 904.824.8840, www.ghostaugustine.com
Ripley’s Ghost Train Adventure
EMF meters, laser grids, Team R.I.P. (Ripley’s Investigates the Paranormal) make this 80-minute Ripley’s tour sound like it’s straight out of "Ghostbusters". Guests are advised to bring along a digital camera and any other recording gear they wish and are invited to submit photos of their ghost-tour experiences. This is your chance to find out what really goes on when the guests are gone, the sun has set and the dead reveal themselves.
Location: Check-in at 19 San Marco Ave., next to castle entrance, St. Augustine
Dates and times: Daily; eight departure times from 7:30 to 11:45 pm
Price: $26 adult; $13 children 5-11; children 4 and under free. Online booking discount available
Ages: All ages
Contact: 904.824.1606, ghosttrainadventure.com