With fall just around the corner, one of Brooklyn’s premiere ghost tours is returning to haunt visitors for another season.
Madame Morbid’s Trolley Tours allow guests to immerse themselves in the macabre history of the borough all while riding in a refurbished Victorian-style trolley car.
The trolley travels around famous neighborhoods within Brooklyn while Madame Morbid herself explains the ghostly lore of each location. The tours kicked off for the 2023 season on Aug. 25, and will run Wednesdays-Sundays through November.
The idea for Madame Morbid’s Trolley Tours came when co-founders Matt Zaller and Alison Chase realized that despite Brooklyn’s long and deadly history, there weren’t any ghost tours in the borough.
“The initial thought was like, Brooklyn needs a ghost tour,” Zaller told Brooklyn Paper. “You know, Manhattan has lots of ghost tours, but also Brooklyn needs a tour in general because there are so few Brooklyn tours and it’s so spread out and the history is just so disparate in terms of geographical range for people who may want to come do a single tour in Brooklyn to get the gist of the history.”
The co-founders got inspired to replicate their own experiences with spooky historical tours and traveled across the country visiting the best ones in order to hone in on the particular creepy vibe they wanted to emulate.
“We were hanging out one day and started talking, and [Chase] was telling me about it and I was like ‘This is absolutely a good idea and let’s do it, let’s do it together,’” Zaller said. “We went to Charleston and Savannah and Key West and Boston and hit every ghost trolley tour.”
The trolley itself was purchased by the pair, and while it is a modern vehicle, has been completely tricked out to help visitors really get a feel for the Victorian age, with specially upholstered seats and themed oddities reminiscent of the era – giving the trolley a “Victorian funeral parlor” feel.
The trolley ride begins at the corner of Driggs Avenue and North 9th Street in Williamsburg and clocks in at about 90 minutes, giving guests a thorough tour of the neighborhoods they visit as well as a peek into history.
“[Chase] wanted to do a more kitschy ghost tour vibe, and I was like ‘Well, let’s also make sure that it is like a great, comprehensive, thorough history,” said Zaller. “When people just get off the trolley, they have been entertained but they’ve also learned a ton.”
While the attraction may seem like it is designed just for tourists, Zaller said a fair amount of locals attend as well, and always leave knowing even more about the borough they call home.
Research for the project was also extensive as neither founder wanted to fabricate any of the experience. Just as well, as so much of Brooklyn’s history is rich with ghostly details, Zaller said. The tour swings through cemeteries and even old mobster dumping grounds.
“There’s no storytelling unless you dig deep,” he said. “We tried to make sure that everything we tell is based on fact or at least based on something that would have been a popular story at the time. A couple of the ghost stories we tell were actual stories that ran in the Brooklyn Eagle back in the 1890s or something, because, you know, when a neighborhood was haunted by a specter, it was news.”
The research culminated into an extensive file at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central location where Zaller found numerous articles from local news sources, which he used to bolster Madame Morbid’s storytelling experience.
Zaller hopes that visitors aboard the ghost trolley have a fun, unforgettable experience but also learn more about the history of the borough through scary stories and true crime information.
“Brooklyn’s past is kind of spooky enough, because we navigate these streets every day and to know what’s underneath us or around us, it stays with you,” said Zaller. “I want people like a year or two later to be walking by a neighborhood or waiting for a train and be like ‘Oh yeah, I remember this is where that happened’.”
To learn more about Madame Morbid’s Ghost Tours or to book a tour yourself, visit their website at www.madamemorbid.com