Starting a new ghost tour company is not an easy task — especially in such a special city. There are many things we needed to consider, from the routes and themes to the transportation vehicles. We also had to do our research on where we wanted the tours to go in terms of tone and feel, and how we wanted them to look.
We discovered that there are many ghost tour companies in the United States alone. What sets them apart is their structure, heritage and the amount of hard work they put in.
Structure: This is the part that no one notices but everyone experiences! How will the tours move? Will they be walking tours, or will they be vehicular? If the latter, it’s pretty important to select a mode of transport that is unique, affordable to a start-up company, hard to replicate and speaks to the objective of the tours. After much analysis, debating and research we settled on classic Cadillac funeral limos, as one does.
Heritage: We wanted the operation to have some kind of heritage that separates it from other companies in the industry. This can be by adding the true crime angle to the tours, or by having a signature limousine vehicle to set us apart from the competition. Rather than recycling canned audio clips, we choose to use the drivers as ghost guides to bring the stories to real and authentic levels. We also pride ourselves in digging deep into each murder, scandal, or suicide to extract the juicy nuances—including by using visual contexts and delectable audio clips.
Hard work: It takes a lot of hard work to start up a new business like this one. The crazy part is, once the company gets going—the real work begins! In a market as large and complex as tourism in Los Angeles, there is no way around the need to have solid, consistent, persistant and high quality marketing.
It is a common misconception that ghost tours are all about ghosts and the paranormal. In reality, ghost tours are about history, architecture, and culture. For example, Los Angeles boasts some pretty unique true crime files that kind of blow the other cities out of the water. After all, there’s just one Black Dahlia case, O.J. Simpson, or Natalie Wood mystery. While ghosts and the paranormal are awesome, Grave Line Tours finds that the ability to anchor spirits in factual, criminal roots with stories and narrative helps to more effectively conjure, so to speak, those entities that have moved on to other realms.
They are also about the people who lived in this area at a certain time. For example, the leading economic industry in Los Angeles is “Hollywood”, a catch-all phrase for movies, tv shows and music. Hollywood itself is just an imaginary impression driven by the talent that has flocked from countries across the world to be recognized in this small town. It’s no deeper than corrugated tin that clads the steel scaffolding of an oversized sign on a hill. Hence the Judy Garland’s, Rock Hudson’s, Mae West’s, and Michael Jackson’s are the columns that support this epic sector, even though they were just human beings like you or me. And just like us, they were flawed, sometimes anxious or depressed and often lost souls. In that sense, maybe—like the full-length mirror Marilyn Monroe once had sent up to her room at the Roosevelt Hotel—ghosts are simply reflections of ourselves.