That's the spirit

Austin's haunted van tours offer spirited drive through city's spooky past

Austin's haunted van tours offer drive through city's spooky past

Haunted ATX
Haunted ATX's fleet includes vans and hearses. Photo by Johnie Walker

While the weather may still be holding onto summer, Halloween season is upon us — and it’s time to celebrate. As you plan your costume parties, haunted house visits, and scary movie nights, we propose another spine-tingling activity: van tours of Austin's spirited past.

Haunted ATX is Austin’s one-and-only mobile ghost tour, taking participants around to the city’s eeriest historical locations. Normally, it offers two tour options. The first is a public tour in a comfortable, modern passenger van along with 10 other guests. This van is wrapped in custom art created after the company held a contest to find an attractive (and scary) interpretation of their tours.

The other tour choice — a private tour in a classic Cadillac hearse — seems like a particularly suitable choice for a frightfully good time. These private tours are a great option for families, as they offer the flexibility to tone down the stories for children.

As a special for the month of October, however, Haunted ATX is making the hearses available for public touring so more guests can enjoy the swanky outings.

Each Haunted ATX tour lasts approximately three hours. The vehicles are outfitted with complimentary sodas and iced water, but guests are also allowed to bring beverages and, ahem, spirits.

Haunted ATX manager Diane Blank says that each of the tour locations is unique in its style and comes with plenty of history.

“The tour could operate as a history lesson alone and that aspect really appeals to a lot of guests,” she explains. “The ghost stories at each stop offer a peak of Austin in the late 1800s and early 1900s that is quite a contrast to our modern Austin today.”

Blank says that out of all their stops, her personal favorite is The Tavern because of its architecture and the tale of resident spirit Emily.

“Without giving away the stories here, we'll just say that The Tavern is not only a fun place to grab a pint and watch a game," she says, "it's a deep well of history, tragedy, and spooky experiences."

Of course, all the interesting history aside, it wouldn’t be a haunted tour without a few reports of paranormal experiences.

“Weird things don't happen every night, but tour guests report hearing, feeling, and seeing some of the same creepy things in the same places all the time,” says Blank.  “Many guests report hearing voices, seeing faces in mirrors, body chills, even the sensation of being touched by something that wasn't there. The pictures guests have taken over the years are enough to make even the biggest skeptics say, ‘Huh, that's really weird.’"

Can’t make it for an October tour? Don’t stress. Haunted ATX operates year-round, offering thrills and chills outside of the Halloween season. Reservations can be booked here.