“Ghost tours create a world where it’s possible to understand how the past and the present live together.” Eillie Anzilotti writes:

We’ve formed a half-circle around the lantern, and Kate gestures behind her. The lights of Independence Hall flicker in the distance, and a statue of a man holding aloft a rolled-up copy of the Constitution towers above us. “I don’t think there’s any city in the United States that can claim quite as many historic sites or shrines as Philadelphia,” Kate says. “When you’re walking in these streets, you’re walking in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before you.”

She adds, “the history is true; it comes from books, interviews, articles. The paranormal activity I’m going to be talking about has been consistently documented over the last several centuries.” Kate looks out at all of us, wrapping our scarves tighter against the cold. “It’s up to you to decide whether the ghosts I’m talking about are real.” …

Occasionally, the supernatural stories get a little more tangible. Some years ago, Reeser was leading a tour though Philadelphia, and brought the group to the churchyard of St. Peter’s. As she was concluding a story about a woman who’s often seen floating through the graves, a man raised his camera, took a picture, and gasped. In the background of the photograph was a specter not unlike the woman Reeser had just described. “People were visibly shaken,” Reeser says. About half the group left the tour. …

As Kate leads us from Library Hall, where a ghostly Ben Franklin reportedly walks the stacks, to Carpenters’ Hall, where one of the first bank robberies in the U.S. left a ghostly presence, the undead are merely a suggestion: the stories, Reeser says, are what really matter. But when we arrive at Washington Square, Kate tells us that “of all the places you might see a ghost this evening, this is probably one of the most likely spots.” The ground beneath our feet is a mass burial site: 2,000 dead came from the Revolutionary War, and the graves remained opened to accommodate thousands more when the Yellow Fever ripped through the city in 1793. …

“Ghost tours create a world where it’s possible to understand how the past and the present live together,” Pirok says.