Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tours Offer Visitors Old City Haunts

We highly recommend the Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tour, for both visitors and local Philadelphians. We do so, for many reasons, as you'll read, described in detail, below.

What is the Spirits of '76 Ghost Tour?

The Spirits of '76 Ghost Tour is a brisk, highly enjoyable walking tour, within the Philadelphia Historic District. It perambulates through the historic brick houses and cobblestoned streets of two areas within the Historic District - Old City Philadelphia and Society Hill.

Why Should I Take the Spirits of '76 Ghost Tour?

There is more than one reason, as explained above. But here is a concise summary of the experience:

You should take the tour, because it is something uniquely Philadelphian. It is likely the nation's most haunted city, and many major historical events and persons lived, ate, drank, partied, and - of course - died, here. Within Philadelphia's compact downtown, especially in Old City and Society Hill, there are many churches - and hence graveyards - crammed into a small area. And naturally, ghost stories abound as a result.

When you're taking the tour - particularly in the fall, during the evening, on a crisp October night - you can hear the leaves crackle beneath your feet, and occasionally drift off the branches. You can sense, that you are walking through hallowed ground - through the final resting places of the Americans and British, who so fiercely battled over the question of independence.

As you amble around historic Philadelphia, you tour guide will be regaling you with many supernatural tales. There will be plenty of local lore regarding history and heroes, spirits that live on centuries later, and – in general – making you feel as if you have returned to Philadelphia during the colonial era, the Revolutionary War, as well as the 19th century. And the ambience of the Spirits of '76 tour is a superb way, to transport you back to those momentous epochs of Philadelphia's long history.

There are literally thousands of bodies, from both sides of the war - buried in those neighborhoods, far more than meet the eye, due to the upheavals in the late 18th century- not just war, but epidemics such as the yellow fever, which struck devastatingly in 1793.

And Philadelphia was not only the colonial capital during the Revolutionary War, but also the national capital from 1790 to 1800. George Washington served most of his presidency here, and John Adams spent all of it. You can walk past the homes that they visited, and imagine what it must have been like - the whispering, the plotting, the uncertainty of the ultimate outcome of the two great contests - one as to whether America would be free of British rule, and subsequently, what sort of nation would America be, and could it survive?

Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tours – Schedule

Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tours operate regularly scheduled, public tours, from April through November, before going into hibernation, from December through March. However, you can arrange a private tour, or group tour, all year, including December through March, by contacting Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tours.

For the most up-to-date and complete schedule information, we'd like to recommend that you visit the official Spirits of '76 web site.

In 2010, the final public, regularly-scheduled Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tours will be during Thanksgiving weekend, Friday, November 26, and Saturday, November 27, at 7:30 PM.

Spirits of '76 Ghost Tours - Pricing

Adults - $17.50
Children, between the ages of 3-12 - $12.50

Although it is only available via online booking, a Family Pack is now available for two adults and two children, for $55.00 - saving $5.00 off the otherwise $60.00 price tag.

Spirits of '76 Ghost Tours - How Do I Buy Tickets

There are three ways of buying tickets - calling Spirits of '76 at 215.525.1776; ordering online via credit card (which comes with a $2.00 processing fee), or paying in cash, when you arrive at Così.

If you have a group of 25 or more, you can receive discounted pricing.

Spirits of '76 Ghost Tours - How Long Is The Tour?

The official length is about 75 minutes. Our recent tour took about five minutes or so longer. As a general rule, block about 90 minutes for your Ghost Tour, per se (not counting time to get to Così, which we discuss below).

Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tours – How To Get There

(There is a detailed Google Map, located at the bottom of this page, with all of the relevant travel information - just scroll down to it...)

Patrons assemble for the tours at Così, which is a coffee bar, located at 325 Chestnut Street, literally at the intersection of 4th and Chestnut Streets, in Old City. On tour nights, there will be a large black sign with white letters, reading

“Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tours”

When you arrive, you check in with your tour guide, who will be sitting a table in Così’s outdoor seating area, with black metal chairs. You can make reservations in advance - they’ll have your name on a clipboard, and they just check off your name. (Reservations are recommended.) You can also just walk up and buy a ticket, if they have availability. Either way, there are no physical tickets. Once you’ve paid, they provide you with a glow stick package, which serves as your “ticket”.

We would recommend that you get to Così at some point, between 15 minutes and 30 minutes, prior to your scheduled tour. (To illustrate, most tours are at 7:30 PM, so try to arrive between 7:00 PM and 7:15 PM.) This will make your tour much more enjoyable.

You can make the transaction for your glow stick, and just relax, while waiting for the tour to begin. You can buy coffee and/or food at Così, if you’d like, while you’re waiting. (We’d recommend the bread pudding, drizzled with caramel, heated up, which goes especially with ghost hunting, especially in fall.)

However, particularly if you are visiting from out-of-town, and/or you’re not familiar with Old City geography, do everything you can, to get to Così early, to avoid getting lost and missing your tour, as it will begin promptly at the scheduled time…

Are Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tours Appropriate For Families and Children?

Yes, 100%.

This is in marked contrast to Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary - which we emphasize is not appropriate for children, unless they have a very high level of enjoyment of being scared.

Personally, we vastly prefer the Spirits of '76 Ghos tTour, as no actors jump out at you on the ghost tour, there are no sudden noises, sound effects, holograms, etc.

And aside from the occasional SEPTA bus or car that pierces the illusion, you can in fact imagine yourself transported back in time, to old Philadelphia.

Also, the ghost stories, (although certainly dark and macabre, focusing on death and ghosts) are not exceptionally gruesome or particularly lurid (certainly not by 21st century standards). They focus on the 18th century history of Old City and Society Hill, and its most prominent residents. It’s fine to take your family.

You Can Enjoy the Spirits of ’76 Tour, Even If You Have No Interest In Ghosts

One pleasant aspect of Spirits of ’76, is the fact that it’s a highly worthwhile tour, even if you have no interest in ghosts, and the autumn leaves aren’t crackling on the ground. There are a few reasons, why:

1) It permits you to explore Old City and Society Hill after business hours, when the other major tourist attractions have closed.

Most of the historic tourist attractions in Old City and Society Hill close at 5:00 PM. In October, when the most ghost tours run, Independence Visitor Center also closes at 5:00 PM. What this means, is that you can maximize your enjoyment of historic Philadelphia, because you can take the ghost tour at night, and in October, late at night.

2) Particularly if you’re visiting Philadelphia from out of town, or you’re a local from the region, who isn’t familiar with Old City.

You’re receiving a highly intelligent and entertaining tour, conducted by someone who knows the history and the lore inside out and backwards. You’re also being conducted around these Philadelphia neighborhoods at night, in the safety of a large group, and without needing to be concerned about getting lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Even if there were no ghostly elements to the tour at all, the $17.50 would be well spent, just for your tour of Old City and Society Hill.

3) You learn a great deal, about the less remembered Founding Fathers, whose contributions, although less heralded than those of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. You’ll learn about Commodore John Barry, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Dr. Edward Physick, Philadelphia Mayor Samuel Powel, Bishop White and many more.

4) You visit Washington Square, and are moved by the presence of so many soldiers of both armies, buried underneath the square.

5) There’s also a segment on Edgar Allan Poe, the highly talented yet deeply troubled 19th-century author, who specialized in macabre themes - who despite his close ties with Baltimore, spent much of his life in Philadelphia.

6) Spirits of '76 Tours originate and end at 4th and Chestnut - in other words, right in the heart of the exciting, trendy, and exhilarating nightlife in Old City Philadelphia. You can go out in Old City, very conveniently, either before or after your tour.

When Should I Take the Spirits of ’76 Tour?

Certainly, since we’re writing this today (October 14, 2010), we’re in the midst of Halloween season – and accordingly, we’d highly recommend that you take one of the October tours. They offer additional tours in October, making this process easier. But even if you can’t do it in October, at the very least, try for September or November.

There’s nothing like rambling through Society Hill and Old City on an autumn night – it’s one of the best experiences that you can have in Philadelphia, whether you’re a visitor or a local. This sort of event is why you wanted to travel to Philadelphia, in the first place.

You’ll see streets lit by lampposts – while you’re walking on the cobblestones, seeing the handsome brick facades of the Georgian and Federal period, and imagining what life must have been like in colonial and early Federal Philadelphia. You see the compact graveyards of the many churches in the area, and it’s impossible not to think of ghosts and hauntings.

Philadelphia – due to its age of over three centuries, and the stirring historical events that it has witnessed – probably is the most haunted city in America.

In addition, many buildings in Center City have been converted multiple times as the decades and centuries roll by, bringing more opportunities for ethereal residents to break their slumber and appear in the land of the living.

What Philadelphia Historic Sites Will I Visit?

You head to over 20 destinations, during the tour, including the following:

Old City Philadelphia

Society Hill

  • Washington Square and its Bicentennial Moon Tree
  • Bishop White House
  • Powel House
  • Physick House
  • Merchants' Exchange
  • Old St. Mary's Church and Graveyard
  • Edgar Allan Poe (he lived here, in addition to 7th and Spring Garden, at the National Park Service Site)
  • Old St. Mary's Church and Graveyard
  • Old St. Joseph's Church and Graveyard
  • Old Pine Street Church and Graveyard
  • St. Peter's Church and Graveyard
  • The Witch of Pine Street

View Spirits of '76 Ghost Tour in a larger map

The map above shows the following:

Green Arrow and Star - , Where You Meet To Begin the Spirits of '76 Ghost Tour - 4th and Chestnut Streets

Train Icon - 11th and Market Streets - Market East Station - SEPTA Regional Rail

Enclosed Train Icon - 5th and Market Streets - 5th Street Station - SEPTA Blue Line

Enclosed Train Icon - 5th and Market Streets - 2nd Street Station - SEPTA Blue Line

Encircled Question Mark - Independence Visitor Center - 6th and Market Streets, Where You Can Obtain Information - Although please note that it will likely be closed, by the time that you are looking for Così

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