Death, Tragedy, and the great Texan Beyond
San Antonio is known for its diverse cultural scene, good food, and vibrant nightlife. The famous Riverwalk wasn’t always the tourist attraction it is now though, it too has a past. The history of this great city goes all the way back to the 1836 Battle of the Alamo and the fight for Texas’ independence from Mexico before it chose to join the United States. The bright future as a part of the United States cleared a path to build the great city of San Antonio, the majestic buildings of the historic downtown lining the ribbons of dark water that run through this place. However, these same rivers once ran red with blood and bloated corpses floated downstream.
As a hotbed of spooky activity, the city cannot be matched for its countless stories of strange and spooky happenings. Here in River City, you will encounter an eclectic mix of the historic and the modern, the old and the youthful, the beautiful and the ugly.
Let us take you deep into the history of the Alamo they never taught you in school. During this enlightening and shocking journey through the ghosts and history of River City, you will come to understand the shocking truth about San Antonio’s past and what lies beneath virtually every block of this stunning city.
Why is San Antonio So Haunted?
At the Battle of the Alamo, the Texas Defenders were a rag-tag group of outlaws, rebels, and pioneers who had sought out the wild frontiers of Texas to make a life for themselves. This led to a fierce spirit of self-determination and the resolve to rebel against the re-annexation of Texas by the Mexican Army, led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
The Texas Defenders were spirited, even though they knew they were outnumbered. They sent out the call for help, but few came to their aid. The result was one of the bloodiest battles in Texas history and one of the key events in the history of the nation. The initial rout was bloody and cruel, no prisoners were taken, the messengers sent to rally support took stories of cruel deaths and gore lining the dusty streets of the town. Some came to help, but not enough. Soon all were dead inside the Alamo, and a great many more outside. Bodies were burnt in great piles of burning flesh, men stacked like cordwood, aflame. And if not engulfed in flame, then cast into the rivers to float away and poison the only water for drinking for miles around.
To describe much of downtown San Antonio as a graveyard is not too far from the truth.
The grizzly deaths of the brave soldiers of the Alamo eventually inspired people from across the state to join the cause of Texian Liberty and ultimately led to the defeat of President General Antonio López de Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto in 1836.
Add to this gruesome event the rough frontier town nature of the place and the stories of human loss and suffering begin to mount, and the ghosts are sure to follow.
From its time as a Spanish Mission town to the rapid growth of recent years, San Antonio has retained its quirky frontier nature. As Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park described it on a tour of the south, “San Antonio rivals only New Orleans in its odd and antiquated foreignness”. One foreign thing is the refrains of Texas German you might still hear around the city, from the heavy German migration around the start of the 20th Century.
The dead still rest underfoot in many areas of the city – pioneering men, women, and children whose presence can still be felt, especially late at night when the city is fast asleep.
San Antonio has another kind of nightlife, one that not everyone is brave enough to investigate. Let us guide you on this moonlight tour, and reveal the haunted past of San Antonio.
River City Ghosts takes you through historic downtown San Antonio to 8 or 12 different locations around the Old Town area. All tours are designed to give you a glimpse of the darkness that lurks in San Antonio’s history, each haunted location ratcheting up the tour’s tension. Your experienced tour guide will meet you at the corner of Crockett St. and N. St. Mary’s St. by the staircase to the Riverwalk at least 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. Arrive early! The Standard Tour route takes an hour to complete. You will see several key historic locations and properties around downtown San Antonio and the Old Town area. If you select the Extended Tour route, you will get an additional 30 minutes of blood-curdling stories to fuel your imaginations and your nightmares.
Learn about San Antonio’s history in a way that you cannot get from any history book or tour. The San Antonio Old Town Ghost Tour walking route will allow you to see a side of San Antonio that few locals – let alone tourists – get exposed to. You will get your fill of local history and culture while also taking in the ghostly atmosphere of one of the most haunted cities in the United States. This tour is perfect for first-time visitors to San Antonio as well as seasoned locals.
The San Antonio Old Town Ghost Tour is a family-friendly attraction and is suitable for all ages. Bring your entire family, friends, or significant other for a fun and spooky night out on the town. We guarantee a fascinating (and terrifying) exploration of the Alamo City! Tours tend to fill up quickly, so make sure to reserve your spot early through our website.
The San Antonio Old Town Ghost Tour meets at the corner of Crockett St. and N. St. Mary’s St. by the staircase to the Riverwalk. Tours are held rain or shine. Note that tours do not enter the buildings and are not permitted to meet inside buildings. You are more than welcome to return to any interesting public locations on your own after the tour has ended.
The Standard Tour route is 1 mile in length.
The Extended Tour route (optional) is ½ mile in length.
Depending on walking pace, the Standard Tour route should take approximately one hour to complete. Tour groups should allow an extra 30 minutes for completing the Extended Tour route.
Tour times may vary; click on ‘book now’ for all available times.
Please arrive at the designated meeting location fifteen minutes before the start of the tour to ensure that you have plenty of time to find parking in downtown San Antonio. Tours are held regardless of weather conditions (unless severe storms are forecasted).
Tickets for the San Antonio Old Town Ghost Tour must be purchased in advance. Click here to purchase tickets. You will not need to bring your ticket or mobile pass with you once you have reserved your spot online. Just be sure to bring your photo ID, your walking shoes, and a sense of adventure!
Adult tickets are $19; children under 12 are $12. The Extended Tour costs an additional $5 per person.
Click here to purchase tickets.
You must attend the tour for the date and time that you purchased it. Ghost tours are held rain or shine. You may reschedule your tour with prior approval, subject to a rescheduling fee.
Free and paid parking is available at nearby lots. Please check your time and meeting location in advance so that you have plenty of time to arrive at the meeting location. We recommend arriving at least fifteen minutes early to ensure that you are not late.
Reasons to take the River City Ghosts tour
You need a crash course in the history of San Antonio
All the locations we visit, on the standard tour, and the extended tour, offer an insight into the history and character of River City, from the earliest days as a Spanish mission, through the upheaval of the Spanish Independence War, to the Civil War and today’s modern growth every period has its ghosts and they are a wonderful way to bring the past alive, and much more memorable than a bus tour or a museum.
Let the fascinating local guides bring the personality of San Antonio to life for you tonight.
You want an activity the whole family can enjoy
Ghost tours can be overwhelmingly scary. We try to balance the grim truth and educational insight into how things were at various stages of San Antonio’s Development. For example, the extended tour visits the charming and atmospheric stop at La Villita, Spanish for Little Village, your ghost tour will pass by the front yard where a Doctor boiled the heads of dead Comanche warriors, to study their skulls, he claimed, but will you believe his reason after hearing the whole story?
Even though the story is quite ghastly, we deliver tours that are for the whole family, are completely accessible, the guides of River City Ghosts are all consummate professionals who will entertain with true stories from the past.
You are a Non-Believer, testing the waters of the supernatural
Some of the ghost stories require a big leap; others are just obviously true. We never try and change your mind, but all the stories are well researched, and the settings are straight out of the history books.
We rely on first-hand accounts that were plausible and don’t include the more farfetched tales. If you are the suggestible kind, you might prefer to believe that ghosts are a figment of the beholders’ imagination. And if you are at all religious, then the concept of purgatory, resurrection, and visitation by spirits is not a very big leap at all. Whatever your point of view, we offer a lot more than the prospect of looking for a white apparition to present itself. You’ll hear tales of human struggle, adversity, and misery, that at the worst, will make you grateful for your lot.
Have you heard of the multiple suicides that have happened at the Tower Life Building? Starting with one of the brothers who built the tower, after things got really bad in the Depression of 1929, Jim Smith, the CEO of the very successful company, could see no way out and dramatically flung himself from the roof of the tower.
He seemed to have started something; there have been several confirmed attempts since then, the most recent one in 2016. It’s for you to decide if it’s just a copycat way to take your own life, or if the building is cursed and feeds on negative thoughts. Join the tour to hear the full story, it has several more facts that might provide overwhelming evidence of supernatural activity.
In San Antonio and Don't Know What to Do.
There is lots to do in San Antonio; you could walk around in the hot midday sun or visit one of the many museums and deep dive into the Alamo’s fascinating history. If you want to get a broad insight into the city, you could take a bus tour and see everything from behind glass. They all have their advantages, but only River City Ghosts gets you up close and personal to the sites, in the cool evening light, and brings history to life with the memorable tales of real people who lived and died in San Antonio.
River City Ghosts provider a different perspective on the vibrant and beautiful city of San Antonio; we take you to the safe and tranquil setting of the River Walk. Still, we tell you all about its less than respectable past. As late as the 1950s, the San Antonio Old City River Walk was a seedy area with high crime and a large homeless population. The scene of many murders, the River Walk, was only recently cleaned up into today’s charming attraction.
You’re on a tight schedule
Visiting San Antonio for just the weekend? Only one or two days to see everything? Are your mornings and afternoons filled with other things? Then an evening tour with River City Ghosts might be just the thing to help you cross off a wide variety of downtown locations and get an entertaining tour of the city. As well as the entertaining and downright spooky ghosts’ stories, we also weave in a lot of local history and bring the dramatic story of San Antonio to life with animated and knowledgeable local guides.
Get an insider look at the San Antonio culture
We’ve all heard of the Alamo; we were taught about the basic outline of events at school. Taking the River City Ghost Tour will not only bring you to the actual site of the battle, but we’ll tell you stories no school child has ever heard.
For example, the Alamo today would not exist if it were not for the intervention of people from beyond the grave. When the Mexican army surrendered to General Sam Houston and his troops at the battle of San Jacinto, the word was quickly sent to burn the Mexican occupied Alamo and retreat south. The soldiers at the Alamo that received the order went back to burn the buildings but quickly returned, with no smoke in the sky. They reported they had been stopped by six spectral figures wielding swords of pure flame. Astonished, their commanding officer also went to burn down the Alamo, but returned too, with a pale face and a look of astonishment in his eyes. ‘El Diablo!” he concurred, and the army retreated, leaving the Alamo intact.
Be a tourist in your own backyard
Are you a resident of San Antonio? We would lay money that you have not heard all the ghost stories we tell on the River City Ghosts tour of your fair city. Maybe you heard only some of the stories or got a slightly different version.
Being a tourist in your own town is a great way to break out of the normal routine of life, support some local businesses, and try something new. All tours start and end at the corner of Crockett Street and North St Mary’s Street, we will doubtlessly visit some locations you may have driven past, but do you know their history? Are you familiar with the stories of the haunting of the Empire theatre? Can you tell people why they might have their arm grabbed by a shabbily dressed man asking for twenty-five cents?
Imagine the rich and spooky tales you will be able to relate to the next out-of-town visitors you welcome to beautiful San Antonio if you have the memorable and entertaining stories from River City Ghosts under your belt.