15 Chilling Tours for True-Crime Aficionados
On Legend Hunter, scientist and explorer Pat Spain shines new light on some of the most brutal and baffling cases of all time. Ready to follow in his footsteps? Consider these tours — which are not for the faint of heart.
Photo By: Roger Rowlett
Photo By: Emilee Ramsier
Hell’s Kitchen Mostly Murder 2-Hour Tour (New York City)
The team behind Ghost, Murders and Mayhem Walking Tours — led by Elise Gainer, author of Ghosts and Murders of New York — also guide New York City visitors through Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan, but their most heart-pounding lantern-led walking tour explores the gory history of the West Side. They "leave the cheese and costumes to the other tours," and at the end of each rigorously-researched exploration, they share a list of their sources.
The Rise and Fall of the American Mafia Tour (New York City)
Stroll from the East Village down to Little Italy and relive the last century of organized crime in New York at former tenements, social clubs, funeral homes and long-forgotten alleys. For this walking tour, NYC Gangster Tours focuses on the city’s Five Families, and notorious figures such as Lucky Luciano, Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese and Meyer Lansky.
The Real Black Dahlia (Los Angeles)
To get to the bottom of the City of Angels’ most mystifying unsolved murder, this bus tour steers away from the perpetrator and focuses on the victim, Elizabeth Short, conducting an intimate exploration of the last weeks of her life. By retracing Short’s steps and unraveling the web of identities she spun around herself, this exploration, as the Los Angeles Times put it, "has established itself as an L.A. classic."
The Devil & the White City (Chicago)
Inspired by Erik Larson’s bestselling book, this tour focuses on Victorian Chicago by following in the fiendish footsteps of serial killer H.H. Holmes. Participants visit the site of the "murder castle" where Holmes lured his victims to their deaths, as well as Jackson Park and the Wooded Island on the grounds of the 1893 World’s Fair.
Private Al Capone Gangster Tour (Chicago)
This three-hour chauffeured, historian-led tour ("which can easily be extended at the client’s request") brings Chicago’s true-crime past to life with stops at hotels and speakeasies, as well as notorious spots such as the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the restaurant where the North Side gang attacked Al Capone’s motorcade and the theater where the FBI shot and killed bank robber John Dillinger.
Investigation: Detective McDevitt (Washington)
This "history on foot" tour explores Abraham Lincoln’s assassination through a police officer on duty the night of the crime. Follow along with Detective James McDevitt (who was just half a block from Ford’s Theatre that night, at Washington Metropolitan Police Headquarters) at eight different stages of his investigation.
Jack the Ripper Tour (London, England)
For more than three decades, this award-winning crime scene investigation tour — the first of its kind — has hunted the 19th-century villain along the cobbled streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. The historians and expert guides behind this exploration haven’t just appeared in documentaries about Jack the Ripper: They’ve actually produced several of their own.
Alcatraz Cruises (San Francisco)
The Bay Area’s infamous island prison now plays host to a variety of tours focusing on its former history, from ranger- and docent-led examinations of inmates (like Whitey Bulger, Al Capone and Mickey Cohen), escapes and attempted escapes to the fortress’s influence on Hollywood. Each weekend, intimate evening tours ferry visitors to hidden areas and structures unreachable by foot.
Haunted SF Ghost Tour (San Francisco)
Don’t let this walking tour’s name fool you: While its exploration of downtown San Francisco and the Tenderloin is Haunted SF’s "most eerie experience," the criminals and tragedies it introduces are all too real. Participants will learn of Glide Memorial Church’s connection to cult leader Jim Jones, visit the site of Tessie Wall’s brothel, hear the story of Suicide Alley and more.
Anti-Mafia Tour (Palermo, Italy)
Mafia tourism is big business in Sicily — and it’s also a sore spot with the locals, some of whom still pay protection money to the region’s crime families, decades after The Godfather captivated movie audiences. Addiopizzo Travel’s tours turn that trend on its head by offering an ethical alternative: They introduce visitors to the area by celebrating the artists, activists and organizations that continue to fight organized crime.
French Quarter Phantoms True Crime Tour (New Orleans)
Visitors gather at the Voodoo Lounge for a private walking tour of the Crescent City’s dark underbelly, including sites significant to historic and more contemporary incidents, as well as The Axeman’s century-old reign of terror. "[V]iolent, terrifying crimes," the French Quarter Phantoms team notes, "have been as common here as brass bands, parades and Southern charm."
Vegas Mob Tour (Las Vegas)
With input from a former FBI special agent, a mob historian and a former hit man, this 150-minute, big-ticket tour begins with a documentary about Sin City and the mafia, includes visits to sites of murders, burglaries, a car bombing, and more — then culminates with stories over pizza at a former underworld hangout.
The Boston Crime Tour (Boston)
Researched and developed by locals who grew up in the neighborhoods they now bring to life for visitors, this tour highlights the story of how Irish mobsters like Whitey Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang used corruption and violence to keep Boston in their thrall. From killings and heists to weapons seizures and dramatic apprehensions (who could have known a former Miss Iceland would lead to Bulger’s capture?), this tour is an intimate look at organized crime in New England.
Savannah Secrets: True Crime Tour (Savannah, Ga.)
This two-hour nocturnal walking tour focuses on the 1900 death of 14-year-old Delia Green, the city’s most well-known murder victim — and the inspiration for classic folk songs that have performed by everyone from Blind Willie McTell to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Other tragic tales told along the way are more obscure — but as the Savannah Secrets team notes, "all are true."
Fitzroy True Crime Tour (Melbourne, Australia)
In the early 20th century, the oldest suburb in Melbourne was also its notorious: It was rife with speakeasies and brothels, and considered so dangerous that police walked their beats in pairs after dark. Today, students of history tour the neighborhood to hear the stories behind the Fitzroy Vendetta — the biggest gang war in Australian history — and revisit the crime dens of days gone by.