Some kids are flat-out scared just by the words “ghost tour,” so you may want to wait a spell before taking younger children on any of the outings Atlanta Parent experienced – in Lawrenceville, Decatur, Marietta and Roswell. These “ghostly” walks double as atmospheric history lessons.
Lawrenceville Ghost Tour
Gathering spot: Aurora Theatre, 128 Pike St., Lawrenceville
When: May-Sept., Fri. and Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Oct. 1-31, nightly: Sun.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 7 and 9 p.m. Cost: $12 adults, $9 kids (Sept. and Sun.-Thurs. dates in Oct.); $15 adults, $12 kids (Fri. and Sat. in Oct.)
Info: scarystroll.com; 678-226-6222 (ask for box office)
One of the oldest cities in the region, Lawrenceville is rich in history and filled with mysterious tales of yesteryear. The 90-minute Lawrenceville Ghost Tour begins at the Aurora Theatre and moves through Courthouse Square, past quaint shops and restaurants.
My 6-year-old, Adam, gets very excited when our tour guide, “Barefoot Bill the Undertaker,” appears. Barefoot Bill has scraggly long white hair, a disheveled black suit and top hat. He carries a gas lantern, which definitely sets the spooky tone.
Barefoot Bill starts things off with a story about an 11Alive TV news crew that spent the night in the cemetery, hoping to witness some paranormal activity. Those on the Lawrenceville Ghost Tour learn that the crew’s camera batteries – which had been fully charged – were suddenly drained when in the cemetery. Then, inexplicably, they were fully charged again when the crew left the cemetery. We also learn that once back in the TV studio, a woman’s voice could be heard chattering on the videotape. Yet no woman had been present.
Although a skeptic, while standing in a tiny
jail opposite the courthouse I feel as though someone is right behind me. I move aside so that the person can see, but when I look back, no one
I do not recommend this tour for a child as young as Adam, who is a bit bored at times and frightened at others. Older kids in our group seem to have a lot of fun. I am most fascinated to learn about long-ago families in the area and their stories – stories that have been authenticated. Barefoot Bill is a very talented storyteller who definitely draws his audience into another time and atmosphere.
What kids like most: Hearing about mischievous ghosts and visiting the jail cell.
What parents like most: Being part of local history and learning spooky facts about our area.
Good to know: The tour is 90 minutes of walking and listening; younger children may get tired. Although most of the stories were not very frightening, there were several that I wish my son hadn’t heard. I recommend this tour for kids 12 and older.
– Kirsten Gromatzky
Ghosts of Marietta
Gathering spot: The Historic Marietta Trolley Company, 131 Church St. NE, Marietta
When: April-Sept.: Thurs.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; October: check website for expanded schedule; Nov.-March: Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $17 adults, $12 children 12 and younger (plus tax)
Info: ghostsofmarietta.com; 770-425-1006
Marietta has been dubbed by historians as one of the greatest jewels of the South due to its traditional architecture and idyllic historic square. Atlanta Parent joined the “Ghosts of Marietta” for a 90-minute walking tour to some of the most “haunted” locations, from the Kennesaw House and the Museum of Art to Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Pub.
Our tour guide, “psychic and sensitive” Michele Lowe, leads myself and my brother Collier, a 14-year-old skeptic, and several others to each location. Along the way, she tells our group stories from the city’s rich and “tortured” past, as well as tales of locals who have reportedly lived with ghosts in their own homes for years. We hear about underground tunnels beneath our feet, reportedly used to smuggle munitions and soldiers during the Civil War.
The story about a mischievous ghost who likes to interact with people in peculiar ways catches Collier’s attention. “The lady who haunts the art museum was my favorite because it was interesting to hear about the things she does to mess with people,” he says.
The tour is fun and enriched our knowledge about the history and prominent families of the Marietta/Kennesaw area.
What kids like most: Being entertained by old Civil War stories while also looking to catch a glimpse of ghosts through shop windows.
What parents like most: Learning about the tragic yet rich history of the area and just strolling through the beautifully scenic Square.
Good to know: While this tour is fun and informative, some of the more gruesome and darker stories may frighten younger children.
– Carolyn Williams
Roswell Ghost Tour
Gathering spot: Bandstand in Roswell Square (across from the Historic Roswell Convention & Visitors Bureau, 617 Atlanta St., Roswell).
When: Year-round, usually Fri.-Sun., 8:30 p.m.; always check schedule on website. October times/dates vary: Fri.-Sat. tours at 8 and 9 p.m., plus tours at 6 and 7 p.m. most Fridays.
Cost: Adults, $15; kids 12 and younger, $10. Cash only; reservations necessary. A portion of proceeds goes to historic preservation and restoration in Roswell.
Info: roswellghosttour.com, 770-649-9922
At twilight, my daughter and I approach the bandstand in historic Roswell’s town square with a mix of curiosity and skepticism. Run by a husband-wife team of paranormal investigators, the 2½-hour Roswell Ghost Tour aims to educate about the town’s rich history and the spirits some believe are still active here. Spotting a small child in our group, our guide promises to go “light” on grisly details.
The first stop is Bulloch Hall, built by one of the town’s first residents and the childhood home of Teddy Roosevelt’s mother. It’s easy to imagine lights flickering and ghosts running through the property, including Barrington Hall, built for the son of city founder Roswell King. It’s too far away to sense anything ghostly.
We next learn about Roswell Mill, where materials for the Confederate Army were manufactured; in 1864, Union troops burned the mill. Some believe there are still spirits here trying to reconnect. My daughter sees a face in the window; we’re relieved it’s a cat!
We traipse through Founders Cemetery, the final resting place of early dignitaries. Flashlights are a must. The cracked headstones, surrounded by unidentified graves, are enough to give even us skeptics a chill.
The most unsettling part of the tour is at the end: a dilapidated bungalow called “Creepy House.” Our guide says few will go near it. He doesn’t share any gruesome details about its history, but we can sense that something tragic took place there.
The tour, often in complete darkness, is perfect for history buffs, lovers of ghost stories, and families with older children. Younger kids may get tired.
What kids like most: Creeping through the Founders Cemetery, hoping to catch a ghost hiding in the trees.
What parents like most: Hearing stories of people affected by tragedy and heartache; learning about the enduring emotional impact of the Civil War.
Good to know: Bring a flashlight and camera, wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. There are no bathroom breaks.
– Beth Balga
Decatur Ghost Tour
Gathering spot: Decatur Courthouse Square, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur
When: Year-round, Fri. and Sat., 8 p.m.
Cost: $15 adults, $12 ages 10 and younger
Info: decaturghosttour.com, 404-296-7771
On a recent Saturday night, Rebecca Montgomery of Smyrna, along with her two brave sons – Ace, 10, and Griffin, 6 – finds herself on the Decatur Ghost Tour, “where the dead walk among the living.” The tour is led by “psychic medium” and history buff Boo Newell.
The tour begins at the historic courthouse, where we learn about a man named James Crowder, who was hanged for murder at the square in 1829 for killing his wife. Crowder’s ghost, says Boo, still haunts the place. She adds that some courthouse visitors claim they have sensed Crowder’s “negative energy.” Boo leads patrons into some of Decatur’s oldest neighborhoods. Our walk winds up at the Decatur Cemetery, better known today as “The Old Cemetery.” (Considered the oldest burial ground in metro Atlanta, it’s believed to have been used even before Decatur’s incorporation in 1823.)
At one point, Boo tells Ace and Griffin that two “child ghosts” named Herman and Lucy have joined our group. Boo mentions that these ghosts have taken a particular liking to Ace.
Patrons are encouraged to take photos in hopes of catching an image of an “orb,” which Boo explains will represent a spirit she’s telling us about. In front of a church, Ace and Griffin’s mom reportedly does capture an orb in one photograph she snaps. A skeptic, Montgomery calls this phenomenon “very strange.”
The tour is a great history lesson on the Decatur area. Boo’s knowledge of events during the Civil War is impressive. Her reports of “ghostly” behaviors keep us all on our toes.
What kids like most: Ace and Griffin liked hearing about the child ghosts. They also liked being in the old cemetery at night because that was both fun and spooky.
What parents like most: “Boo involves the kids well throughout the tour,” Montgomery says. “And I really like that it encourages your imagination to run.”
Good to know: The website indicates that the tour is about two hours long, but due to our large group, it was almost three hours, so it can get tiresome for young kids. If rain is in the forecast, call ahead to see if the tour is still on; you can always ask for a rain check.
– Kate Wallace