True crime tours that take you back to America’s grisliest murders.
It’s no secret that America is home to some of the grisliest, most shocking, and, well, most fascinating murders in history. True crime is no longer seen as the sole domain of morbid weirdos – the runaway success of documentaries like Making a Murderer and podcasts like My Favorite Murder are proof that the paying public has a substantial appetite for the macabre. Here are a few of the most interesting true crime tours across the country.
Helter Skelter Tour
WHERE: Los Angeles
Led by Manson Family documentarian Scott Michaels, the Helter Skelter Tour is a multi-media affair that reconstructs the circumstances leading up to the infamously grisly Tate/LaBianca murders committed by members of the Manson Family in 1969. The tour takes pains to illustrate the particulars of the case from the side of the victims, not just the blood-crazed hippies who ruined everybody’s day, and a portion of the tour company’s profits go to Justice for Homicide Victims.
Cream City Cannibal: Jeffrey Dahmer Tour
This tour through Milwaukee will put you in the footsteps of Jeffrey Dahmer as he stalked, dismembered, and cannibalized seven of his total 17 victims in the area, and the tour itself boasts that it is “so gruesome, it was banned on Groupon–twice.” It goes without saying that you should probably put off dinner before taking this one.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
The Real Black Dahlia
WHERE: Los Angeles
(Boy, Los Angeles is just lousy with crazy murder stories, huh?) Tour company Esotouric offers a guided tour of sites relevant to the Black Dahlia Murders of the mid-20th century, and in particular, the murder of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, whose body was found in a vacant lot that has since been turned into a quiet suburban neighborhood.
The Zodiac Killer Tour
WHERE: San Francisco
One of America’s most famously unsolved murder sprees is the subject of this Bay Area tour, which offers both a one-hour tour around San Francisco to pertinent sites as well as an all-day tour from San Francisco to Lake Berryessa. Guests are encouraged to offer theories and speculation about the identity of the Zodiac Killer during the tour, which also takes pains to stress its very comfortable Executive Van and a wide selection of snacks.
Devil & the White City Tour
The site of hotelier H.H. Holmes’ ghoulish murders in Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893 is available to tourists through tour company Weird Chicago Tours. Weird Chicago takes an enormous amount of pride in having begun this tour in 2006, which lets you visit the sites of Holmes’ murders as well as the fantastic fallout of the World’s Fair in conjunction with Holmes’ activities. There’s a movie slated to star Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Holmes, so you’ll be able to impress and unnerve your friends with way too much knowledge of the worst hotel manager in history.
Book a Hotel
Beacon Hill Crime Tour
Free Tours by Foot has given wayfaring weirdos a pay-what-you-want opportunity to visit the sites of the Boston Strangler, a serial killer who murdered 13 women in their homes in the 1960s. Free Tours by Foot encourages guests to “come relive some of the most captivating moments in the city’s history,” which should tell you something about the fun to be had wandering the streets of Boston. The company also stresses that the tour is “rated R” and unfit for guests under age 16 “unless they are comfortable with graphic information,” so who knows? Maybe you can show your unusually open-minded children a fun time in Boston.
Kansas City Gangster Bus Tour
When you think “Missouri,” you don’t usually think of “hotbed of organized crime and murder,” but the Kansas City Gangster Bus Tour will change how you think about this Midwestern burg. It features a tour guide who (in-character, complete with fedora and natty suit worthy of any mafia capo) will lead you through sites like Union Station, where five people were murdered by mobsters, and Al Capone’s favorite urinal. No, seriously, there’s a plaque and everything to commemorate the site. Imagine a tour guide telling you about the urinal in old-timey patter. You know you want to take this tour.
John Wilkes Booth’s Escape Route Tour
If you want to take a break from grisly, splattery, straight-out-of-a-horror-movie murders, and mostly want to think about Daniel Day Lewis gooning soulfully for the camera, the Surratt House Museum offers a 12-hour bus tour that’ll take you all the way through the escape route used by famous assassin John Wilkes Booth after he did the thing he’s most famous for. This tour is extremely committed to historical accuracy, and has a much more academic and edifying tone than just “some dude got pureed in this very spot.”
The Capitol Hill True Crime Tour
Private Eye Tours lets guests explore the sites where Ted Bundy, arguably America’s most prolific serial killer in history, committed the bulk of his murders. The tour lasts three hours, and if you’ve read Ann Rule’s true crime classic The Stranger Beside Me, that means three hours of horribly physical context for the well-documented murder spree. Since it’s Seattle, tour host Jake Jacobson feels that he would be remiss without also highlighting the death of Seattle’s favorite son, Kurt Cobain, noting that he explores “whether his death was a suicide or a murder. There are lots of opinions about that.”
French Quarter Phantoms & Ghost Tour
WHERE: New Orleans
I know, I know, the name’s kinda gimmicky and the “ghosts” bit makes it sound like your tour guide’s going to play “The Monster Mash” over the loudspeaker while yanking your chain about haunted stuff, but this tour through the French Quarter brings the goods. Fans of American Horror Story: Coven will recognize the home of real-life torturer, murderer, and jerk Marie Delphine LaLaurie, as well as the Mad Axeman of New Orleans, an as-yet-unknown murderer who would break into people’s homes and bury an ax in their heads in the early 20th century. The tour’s founder believes that “it’s often more frightening when it’s something that really happened.”