Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ghost tours: Northern Virginia keeps many ghosts of centuries past

Northern Virginia is full of ghostly tales. Most relate to historical events since the region is jam-packed with history from Colonial times, the Revolutionary Era and the Civil War.

Due to the rich history this region has, it is common to hear of many ghostly tales and reports of paranormal activity (and perhaps some exaggerated recounts). If you want to hear some of these stories, you'll find a number of ghost tours in Northern Virginia. These tours offer visitors a good glimpse into the past and hear about the haunted stories that have grown to become a part of history and/or legend. These ghost tours are interesting to history buffs, people fascinated by paranormal activity or for those simply looking for a fun night out.

Here are a few of the best known local tours. I've been on most of these, and some of them multiple times, each time learning something new or different.

Footsteps to the Past

This tour is located in Old Town Alexandria and is run by a historian group that also leads other local history tours. The tour is rather interesting as the guides provide a nice narration of early Alexandria and how each ghost story relates.

Tour guide from Footsteps from the Past tells a ghostly tale in front of Carlyle House
Tour guide from Footsteps from the Past tells a ghostly tale in front of Carlyle House
I've done this tour a few times and when the historians are giving the tour (not always has it been a historian), they really know the history of Old Town Alexandria inside and out. The ghost stories and paranormal activity tales which are told are well-documented through historical accounts and past events. The tour lasts about an hour and takes place in the evenings. Visitors meet in front of the Ramsey House Visitor's Center on King Street and then proceed to walk several blocks. You will be led by a period-dressed tour guide who carries an old-fashioned style lantern to light the way.

In addition to the regular ghost tours, Footsteps to the Past offers other special events periodically which are of interest to those who love history and hearing about paranormal activity. These special events typically require an appointment or reservation whereas the regular ghost tour you can obtain by walk-up. For prices, tour dates and information on special events, visit the Footsteps to the Past website (children are OK for this tour in my experience).

Paranormal Tours at Oatlands

When I first wrote this post a few years back, I'm not sure the paranormal tour at Oatlands in existence. Last year I stumbled upon the event and we paid a visit. You’ll get to visit the outside and inside of Oatlands as you listen to ghost stories associated with this historic property during a one-hour tour. It was an interesting evening with some stories not told during the regular day tours. It’s an annual event and for 2017 looks to be on just one day (2 tours). So if you want to take this tour, be sure to plan ahead of time and watch their calendar. Reservations are required due to limited space. 

Ghost & Graveyard Tour

The Ghost & Graveyard Tour also takes place in Old Town Alexandria and meets at the Ramsey Visitor's Center. During this tour, visitors are led by a guide who is decked out in 18th-century dress and leads you through Old Town with haunted stories and accounts of ghost sightings.

Old graveyard in Northern Virginia
Many ghost tours take you through historical graveyards.

The stories related include tales of both love and anger passed down through tales of the past experiences of people long gone from Old Town. The tour lasts about an hour. You can learn more about this tour, and any other special seasonal events, on the Alexandria Colonial Tours website (this one is ages 9 and up).

Leesburg Ghost Tour

The Leesburg Ghost Tour is described as a 2-hour tour that is a bit different than the typical ghost tour. This tour blends history with paranormal research, investigation and lets tourists get an up close and personal view of the paranormal tools of the trade.

The tour starts about 9 p.m. and takes you through downtown historic Leesburg. You can learn more about this tour on the Virginia Scientific Research Association website. This one is on my list of things to do (not sure about how child-friendly this one is, but they do offer ticket prices for ages 12 and under).

Haunted Occoquan

I also just heard about a ghost tour in Occoquan over the summer when I was out there for an evening boat tour. Called “Haunted Occoquan”, guided tours are offered from March to December, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. with one tour at 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The tour takes you through the historic area where you’ll visit shops reportedly populated by hauntings and hear some stories. For more information visit Haunted Occoquan's website.

Moon and glimmer over the Occoquan

Ghosts of Fredericksburg Tour

A bit off the beaten path, about an hour south of the District, this tour takes place on the streets of historic Fredericksburg and lasts about 90 minutes. Visitors have the opportunity to view purportedly haunted streets, see buildings said to be frequented by ghosts, and hear all of the ghost stories that are connected to this city rich with early American history.

Visitors will see many historical structures on the Ghosts of Fredericksburg tour, some reputed to be haunted
To take this tour, visitors must purchase tickets in advance. The time slots are for Friday and Saturday nights. I took this tour in the fall of 2011 when visiting Fredericksburg, and we had a great time. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and we had a fun group of people on this tour. See the Ghosts of Fredericksburg website for current prices and tour times. 

Edit: This tour is very seasonal, I was told it's only summer months when I stopped by the visitor's center in February 2017. 

Edit #2 (August 2017) - The link I had originally published is no longer working, but it looks like there may now be a few tours in town now. Fredericksburg Hauntings looks very similar to the tour I took back in 2011.

Whether you live in the Northern Virginia area or are visiting, if you enjoy ghost tours, these are a few of the best and most popular picks in the region. Also, keep in mind ghost tours are typically seasonal and run from March/April - November, and in the warmer months there are usually additional tours available with some Halloween special tours in the mix.

Happy haunting!


  1. Great article. There is nothing I love better than taking a good ghost tour.

  2. I'm with you on that! Great way to learn more history too about different regions. There is also one out in Harper's Ferry I'd love to try. Thanks so much for dropping by.