Ghosts and Gravestones tour explores Boston’s haunted past

By Izzy Mitchell, Correspondent

The late-night city scene buzzed all around, but within the trolley walls, the tour group was in its own mystical world. Transported back to the 1700’s, participants of the Ghosts and Gravestones tour can experience old Boston and its dark, mysterious history. Legend has it the city’s most famous—and notoriously terrifying—members still roam the streets.

The Ghosts and Gravestones tour is one of Boston’s most popular haunted attractions. In a 90-minute driving and walking adventure, Ghostly characters guide participants through burial grounds and historic sites, sharing the city’s history through ghost stories and tales of the past. 

The tour offers those brave enough to participate a chance to explore Boston while getting into the spirit of the season. Tickets are sold for around $40 at with tour slots every night from 6 to 9 p.m. 

“Ride with us if you dare” read the sides of the trolley, which cast an eerie neon purple glow. Horror movie soundtracks played through the speakers, adding to the ambiance of what was already a rainy, foggy night. 

The guide led the tour through the darkness holding a candle-lit lantern, playing the character of Harlan Hayvrast who, as he said, “put the fun in funeral” with engaging storytelling and humor. Hayvrast’s favorite part is acting in ghostly characters that help create the experience’s magical illusion. 

“I love swimming in the sea of words and stories,” he said in an interview with The Beacon. 

Each tour guide takes on their own persona and curates a list of stories to share throughout the night. While each tour guarantees the infamous tale of The Boston Strangler or the haunted halls of the Omni Parker House, you could go a few nights in a row and still have a unique experience. 

While the content of the tour discusses treacherous events, Hayvrast joked that the most dangerous part of the tour is crossing the street.

The actors and guides must prepare for anything the city may throw at them. The live performance aspect is unpredictable, but tour guide Amanda O’Donnell explains that it’s what makes the job so exciting. 

“There’s a lot of training in being quick on your feet and responsive to what’s going on around you,” said the 2022 Emerson alum. “For me, that’s always been a lot of fun and a great amount of practice with story craft and how to tell a story really well.”

Photo: Veronica Pileggi
Amanda O’Donnell is an Emerson alum and Ghosts and Gravestones lead actor.

The tour passed through Bosto

n’s North End and downtown neighborhoods, offering a chance to experience Boston’s Copp’s Hill and Granary Burial Grounds graveyards from a unique perspective. 

Participants oohed and aahed at the rich history of the sights. While exploring the Granary, one participant concluded, “Yeah, I’d get buried here.” 

Whether you’re visiting from another country or a tourist in your own city, O’Donnell explained many people are drawn in by the stories themselves.

“I’m more interested in the stories and why they matter—the human element of the paranormal,” she said. “Across cultures there’s some version of ghosts and often many versions of ghosts, and to me it’s a way for humans to feel like we matter beyond our own lives.”

Now in his fourth season, Hayvrast shared the things he’s seen spending time in the graveyards, including “inexplicable” events in the Granary Burial Grounds. 

“I thought the group had left and a couple of guys came back,” he said. “They walked towards the Athenaeum, but there was no one there.” 

Regardless of whether you believe in the paranormal, one thing is certain: the Ghosts and Gravestones tour offers a unique perspective on Boston’s history. Taking part in this excursion during the Halloween season is a chance to have a thrilling experience with good company by your side.