Fright up your alley

The Spirit of ‘76 Ghost Tour explores Philadelphia’s allegedly haunted streets.

If you live in Philadelphia, you’ve probably heard a little something about the city’s historical residents. Benjamin Franklin, the notorious inventor and scholar, Dr. John Physick, the creator of soda pop, and dramatic poet and storyteller Edgar Allen Poe have all called Philly home. What you probably don’t know is that their residencies may not be over just yet.

The Spirits of ‘76 Ghost Tour guides tourists through the streets of Old City, where trained historians talk about famous and haunted landmarks.

The tour meets at Fourth and Chestnut streets, where a small table sits draped in black linens adorning the sign “Spirits of 76’ Ghost Tour: One Part History, Two Parts Haunt!” After purchasing a ticket (a glow stick necklace), tour guides promptly lead groups on a stroll through the cobblestone walkways of Old City.

Visitors tour Old City’s attractions for a haunted experience. Tour guides told patrons of an old children’s cemetery, which was constructed when a flu epidemic struck the city (Rebecca Savedow/TTN).

OK, so it sounds cheesy.

Walking through the city with a glowing necklace, while a guide embellishes his stories with dorky antics like waving his fingers around and booing. But if you get over your own coolness, let your guard down and psych yourself up, a ghost tour can be a truly entertaining experience.

You may not be personally haunted by Edgar Allen Poe, but you will probably learn something new about Philadelphia. Walking through Old City, tour guides stop at City Tavern, Carpenter’s Hall and Merchant’s Exchange, where reported incidences of ghostly activities occur.

One of the folklore stories told is about a witch on Pine Street. Residents who live on the street refuse to reveal exactly where the witch lived because they fear their property values will decrease.

The eeriest part of the tour is visiting the city’s old cemeteries, where ancient Indian chiefs and historical figures are buried. A children’s cemetery, which was built after flu epidemics hit the city, is also shown during the tour.

It’s hard to take the tour too seriously, especially if there’s a goofy bunch who creates ridiculous sound effects in order to scare other tourists.

Though I didn’t see any ghosts, I did experience something a little supernatural.

I refrained from taking photographs during the tour because of my camera’s poor nighttime quality. But once we toured the cemeteries, I felt inspired to take a few shots of the thin tombstones. The first picture I took was in Saint Peters Cemetery, where tombstones mysteriously fall over and fling across the burial grounds.

At first glance, my picture looked rather ordinary – a blank landscape view of tombstones and monuments. When I zoomed in on the last visible row of headstones, I saw a man standing in a long black coat. I assure you that no one was in that part of the cemetery when I was there. Scattered throughout the pictures are flames that hover over tombstones and other translucent figures.
I could be a crappy photographer – or a damned good spirit photographer. You’ll have to be the judge of that.

Lauren Gordon can be reached at

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