karen portrait circle

By Karen

September 28, 2023.

The 24 Most Haunted Places in San Francisco

Visit the Spookiest Spots in the City...or not!

San Francisco has had a rather dark and sordid history, which lends itself to ghost stories.

The Gold Rush brought rampant crime and violence to the city, and Old Chinatown was a setting for much tragedy and misery.

Sad tales emerged from the Victorian mansions and the city saw a lot of death and destruction during the 1906 earthquake, which took over 3000 lives.

In any case, ghost hunters believe that it makes for a lot of unhappy spirits in the rather small geographical footprint of San Francisco!

I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through some of the affiliate links on this page, at no extra cost to you. See disclosure policy. This helps me provide all the free information on the site. Thank you!

Spooky night in San Francisco with Golden Gate and moonNot a night to be out!

Want to have a tour guide take you around to some of the haunted places, and tell you the ghost stories?

Here are a couple of highly rated SF ghost tours:

Ghostly Chinatown street

San Francisco Ghost Tour: The Haunt.

Hunt for ghosts in the old alleys of the Barbary Coast and Chinatown. EMF detectors!

5/5 stars.     1.5 hours.

Creepy haunted mansion at night

The San Francisco Ghost & Ghouls Tour 

Takes you to all the haunted places on historic Nob Hill.

4.5/5 stars.    1.5 hours, some walking up SF hills.

Here are 24 haunted places in San Francisco to explore. 

Visit some of the ghosts of San Francisco!

Creepy old mansions, eerie graveyards, haunted hotels, and more. Most of them are open to the public. 

  1. Golden Gate Bridge
  2. Golden Gate Park 
  3. Stow Lake
  4. Portals of the Past
  5. The Montandon House (Lombard Street)
  6. The Curran Theater
  7. The Queen Anne Hotel
  8. 450 Sutter Street
  9. The Sutro Baths
  10. The SF-Oakland Bay Bridge
  11. Alcatraz Prison
  12. The Palace Hotel
  13. Angel Island
  14. St. Francis Hotel
  15. Nob Hill
  16. Pacific Union Club
  17. The Neptune Society Columbarium
  18. Haskell House, Fort Mason
  19. San Francisco City Hall
  20. The Chambers Mansion
  21. The Presidio
  22. The San Francisco Art Institute
  23. Mission Dolores cemetery
  24. The Whittier Mansion

And the Winchester Mystery House, one of my favorites.

1. The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge has been the scene of many deaths over the years, making it a prime spot for unhappy spirits.

Suicides. The bridge was built in 1937 and has sadly been a very popular place for suicides. At least 1600 people have been known to jump from the bridge and only 34 survived the fall. 

An average of two people a week jump from the bridge.

People on the bridge after dark have reported seeing a figure, often a woman, standing on the edge who says "help me!" then jumps, but disappears.

Worker deaths. During the construction of the bridge, in spite of a novel safety net used on the bridge that saved 19 men (who called their group of survivors the Halfway to Hell Club), 11 men died working on the bridge.

There is an urban myth that the men fell into the fresh cement and died there, and that their bodies are supposedly still there, but 10 died from falling into the water and one from being crushed by a steel girder.

Workers are sometimes seen on the bridge after dark when no one scheduled to work there.

The Golden Gate Bridge has also witnessed many shipwrecks at or near the bridge.

There have been many reports of ghostly, old sailing ships gliding under the bridge on dark and foggy nights.

One ghost ship was seen by the crew of another ship; they identified it as the SS Tennessee, that went down north of the bridge in 1853. 

Wrck of the SS Tennesse steamship Pieces of the ship are still visible on Tennessee Beach
(Image courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-32191, “Disasters of Sixty Days,” by Britton & Rey, San Francisco, 1853)

There have been other deaths on the bridge, mostly car accidents.

But a famous murder took place on the bridge in 2000.

The brother of the current San Francisco mayor was fleeing the scene of an armed robbery in the city in the early morning hours in June of 2000.

He was heading north on the Golden Gate Bridge when he (allegedly) pushed the getaway driver, his girlfriend, out of the car and she was hit and killed by another motorist.

He is still in prison serving his sentence for robbery and murder. See SF Standard article on the crime.

2. Golden Gate Park

This beautiful park was created out of the sand dunes in 1870.

The Golden Gate Park is another prime spot for ghostly appearances.

The ghostly policeman. This apparition has been reported by a number of people. He apparently pulls drivers over and gives them a traffic ticket. When they try to pay the ticket, they're told there is no record of it.

The rest of the story is that the policeman who supposedly issued the ticket has been dead for years. (They must have been quite the detectives to get that information from the DMV!). But how does a ghost handle a piece of paper? Hmm.

Visit Golden Gate Park.

3. Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park

The White Lady of Stow Lake. This spectral sighting is one of the best known San Francisco ghost stories.

Woman in white dress in dark woods

Stow Lake is a man-made lake in the middle of Golden Gate Park, very popular for its paddle boats and walking trails. (The name was recently changed to Blue Heron Lake.)

After dark, visitors to the lake have reported seeing a woman in a long, white dress who asks people where her baby is.

One story is that her child was in a baby buggy which rolled into the lake while the mother was distracted. The baby drowned, and she is still searching for it. 

The White Lady has apparently been haunting Stow Lake for over 100 years.

Is there any historical basis to this story?

An SF Gate article goes over some possible origins. Apparently Golden Gate Park was the site of so many suicides around the end of the 19th century, the local paper published a lengthy article on it.

In 1908, a group of friends were driving through the park and reported seeing a ghostly, barefoot woman in a white gown who tried to stop their car. A police officer went back to the spot to investigate, but there was no one there.

And in 1906, two children living in the park in the aftermath of the earthquake reported a baby floating in Lloyd Lake (also haunted), not far from Stow Lake, but the police never found anything.

More on visiting Stow Lake.

4. Portals of the Past, Golden Gate Park

Portals of the Past at Lloyd Lake, Golden Gate Park

The Portals of the Past. At Lloyd Lake, another man-made lake in the park.

A Nob Hill mansion was decorated with the entry portal.

The house was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and the entry portal was set up next to the lake. 

The lake is Lloyd Lake, on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park.

The arch is called Portals of the Past and it became known as a haunted location back in the early 1900's.

People reported seeing glowing balls of light floating on the lake and in the nearby woods.

Its fame spread to England, where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, heard about it.

He was interested in spiritualism and actually traveled to Golden Gate Park in 1923 to check it out for himself. 

The Portals are also mentioned in Hitchcock's film, Vertigo.

See more photos of the Portals and the original house.

map of golden gate park lakesLocations of Stow Lake and Lloyd Lake

If you are considering visiting the park for a little ghost hunting, be aware that the park hours are 5 am to midnight, and that the park is not all that safe to be wandering around in late at night, ghosts aside!

In the daytime, it is a safe area of the city (except for car break-ins).

More on San Francisco crime - in 2024, not in the bad old days of the Gold Rush period

5. The Montandon House on Lombard Street

This house has an extensive history of being haunted.

The Montandon House sits right at the bottom of the crooked block of Lombard Street, right above all the visitors driving and walking down the hairpin turns.

It's completely hidden by trees on Lombard Street, but around the corner on Leavenworth Street you can get a good look at it.

the Montandon house on Lombard streetThe Montandon house, Leavenworth Street view

It's actually an apartment building where Pat Montandon lived on the second floor in the 60's.

She was a local socialite and gossip columnist (married to attorney Melvin Belli at one point) who became famous for her partying lifestyle and TV appearances.

In 1967, she organized a party at her house with an occult theme, with various palm readers and psychics to entertain the guests.

But everything went wrong when a tarot card reader got angry with her (she says because she forgot to bring him his drink) and announced he was putting a curse on her and the house.

After that night, strange and unpleasant things started happening. Chilling temperatures, frantic barking by her dog every night at 2 am, songs playing, and eerie laughter convinced her that there was an evil presence in the house.

She was the victim of break-ins, attacks by strangers, and illnesses. She finally moved out, but her roommate stayed.

A week later, the roommate died in a mysterious fire at the house. But no cause of death could be determined. 

After moving out, her life returned to normal and she became very active in various charitable causes, even meeting with the Pope and Mother Teresa.

For more details on these unfortunate events, see the SF Gate article

Check out the book Pat Montandon wrote about her supernatural experiences, The Intruders, on Amazon.

See my article on visiting Lombard Street

The house is located at 1000 Lombard Street (hidden behind trees).

6. The Curran Theater

Curran Theater San Francisco

The Curran Theater was built in 1922 by Homer Curran and has been the venue for countless plays and Broadway shows since its opening.

This is quite a haunted spot. The ghost of ticket taker Hewlett Tarr hangs out here. He was shot and killed in a robbery in 1933, and his attacker was later hanged at San Quentin.

The thief was trying to steal two theater tickets for himself and a girlfriend. Tarr sometimes appears in a mirror at the entrance.

Also, a ghost named Arthur is busy backstage, moving props and turning lights on and off. He was a stage hand who was killed in an accident at the theater in the 1940's.

And you might see the wispy form of an actress who performed here long ago.

445 Geary Street. See what's on at the Curran.

7. The Queen Anne Hotel

Queen Anne Hotel lobby, San FranciscoQueen Anne Hotel lobby

This charming hotel in the Pacific Heights neighborhood is rumored to be haunted by a woman named Mary Lake, who was the headmistress of a school that originally occupied the building.

Miss Mary Lake's School for Young Ladies was a finishing school for girls, built for Mary by her lover (?) Senator James Fair in 1889. The school was her great dream, but it had to close in 1896 because of financial woes. 

Apparently, Miss Lake can't stay away from her beloved school. Guests have reported seeing her apparition and hearing unexplained noises.

Fortunately, she's a friendly ghost. She has been known to unpack guest's suitcases, and neaten up their belongings. Imagine finding someone has tucked in your bedding while you sleep!

The building has been the Queen Anne Hotel since 1980. If you're interested in a stay at this highly-rated, Victorian hotel, check out the hotel details.

Especially Room 410, her former office, where she is often spotted.

1590 Sutter Street.

8. 450 Sutter Street

Mayan designs in lobby of 450 Sutter Street, San FranciscoLobby of 450 Sutter Street

The 26 story office building at 450 Sutter was built in 1926 on land  previously occupied by a synagogue. It currently houses medical offices (and my dentist of 20 years!).

The lobby is a gorgeous example of art deco design, with an ornate, Mayan theme.

Are the Mayan symbols somehow related to the creepy black figures who torment the unfortunate security guards at night? Who knows. 

It's just a couple of blocks from Union Square, near the Sutter/Stockton parking garage.

If you're nearby, pop in and take a look at the lobby. Pretty spectacular. 

During my many trips to the dentist over the years, I never noticed anything unusual. But I tried hard not to think of earthquakes on the ride up to the 21st floor!

450 Sutter Street, Medical Building.

9. The Sutro Baths

Tunnel at Sutro BathsTunnel under cliff at Sutro Baths

The ruins of the Sutro Baths have a pleasantly haunting appearance even in the daytime. 

In 1890, Adolph Sutro built an amazing public bath complex, with enormous, indoor swimming pools, museums, restaurants and entertainment, on the outer edge of San Francisco. 

Once a very popular place for San Franciscans to spend the day, it eventually fell into financial troubles and closed. The abandoned building burned down in 1966 under suspicious circumstances.

There have been reports from visitors there late at night who hear the sounds of people laughing, the clinking of glasses and splashing water, sounds from the heyday of the Baths when this was a popular entertainment venue.

A former lifeguard at the baths named Theodosius reportedly drowned trying to save someone in the ocean. His shadow is said to haunt the baths, appearing as a misty form on the beach next to the Baths.

Another ghost has been seen swimming in the pools at night. He apparently died of a heart attack while swimming at the Baths and now appears as a shimmery figure under the water in the ruins.

Also, the tunnel through the cliffside next to the ruins has been a focal spot for ghostly phenomena. The story goes, if you light a candle at the end of the tunnel, something will blow it out or throw it into the water, depending on which version you hear.

If that's not enough, Adolf Sutro, creator of the Sutro Baths, kept a large collection of mummies among his exotic specimens on display at the baths. Plenty of reasons for unhappy spirits to be hanging around!

The Cliff House, also Sutro's, burned down twice and was blown up once by a ship full of dynamite, and the Sutro Baths burned down as well. Bad luck? 

And there's more. These rocky cliffs at Lands End stood at the entrance to San Francisco Bay, guarding the treacherous approach towards the bridge, and the scene of numerous shipwrecks where many perished (see more on the Lands End shipwrecks).

There have also been rumors of human sacrifices in the tunnel, but that sounds a bit far-fetched, even for ghost stories!

The Sutro Baths are at the western edge of San Francisco, near the Cliff House and Lands End.

More on the history of the Sutro Baths and tips for visiting.

10. The SF-Oakland Bay Bridge

San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge on foggy eveningSan Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on a foggy evening.
Photo by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

Another bridge with restless spirits. Many deaths have occurred on the bridge from accidents, and one from the 1989 earthquake.

People have experienced tapping on their car windows, and the spookiest sight, a headless man who runs along next to their cars at high speed!

11. Alcatraz Prison

Alcatraz Island was home to many prisoners over the years, often housed in grim conditions. Initially, starting in 1912, military prisoners were held there, and later Confederate prisoners of war were housed at Alcatraz. 

In 1934, it became Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, a maximum security federal prison for some of the most dangerous criminals in the country. The prison closed in 1963 and it is now one of San Francisco's most popular tourist attractions.

You can visit the prison and experience the dank atmosphere for yourself, either on the day tour or the night tour.

The prison was the scene of shootouts and murders, and the walls no doubt witnessed a lot of misery.

Alcatraz has been a popular place for ghost hunting and has been the focus of various TV programs about paranormal investigations of the prison.

Spookiest Areas. The dungeon area under Cell Block C has reportedly been the source of sounds of screams and crying over the years. The Park Service actually had psychic Sylvia Brown explore this phenomenon and she claimed she made contact with a hit man who had been murdered down there, nickname "Butcher".

On one of my visits to Alcatraz, we got to go down into the "Dungeon" below the cell block on the Behind the Scenes Tour, but normally visitors aren't allowed in Cell Block C or underneath it. See my article on the Behind the Scenes Tour.

Alcatraa Cell Block C stairs to DungeonStairs to the "Dungeon" in Cell Block C

The solitary confinement cells in Cell Block D are open to visitors on the tours. Cell #14-D supposedly has a frigidly cold area in one corner that gives people the creeps.

A convicted murderer named Rufe McCain spent three years in solitary confinement in this cell, and stabbed another inmate to death right after he was released. 

Many of the ghostly visitations of figures and noises have been reported by the security guards at night, after the visitors are gone.

Spectral sounds heard at night: rattling chains, moans, and gunshots, plus the sounds of steel doors opening and shutting.

If you're lucky, you might hear banjo music coming from the shower area, like some of the guards have (Al Capone practiced the banjo there).

The night tour is eerier than the day tour, and you can roam the halls pretty much on your own, after most of the people have finished exploring the cell block and moved outside.

For more details, see my experience on the night tour.

12. The Palace Hotel

Garden Room in Palace Hotel SFThe Garden Room at the Palace Hotel

The Palace Hotel is a prime spot for poltergeists. It's one of the city's most haunted hotels.

It's San Francisco's oldest hotel and a very beautiful one.

President Warren Harding died here in 1923, under supposedly mysterious circumstances. People have reported seeing someone resembling him walking the halls at night and looking out of the windows.

The ghosts and shadowy figures that show up in the hotel are a varied bunch: there's one who locks himself in the hotel dining rooms and then bangs on the walls, a French girl in an old-fashioned dress in the kitchen who asks for soup, and a lady in red who glides down the halls at night, and visits businessmen travelers in their rooms after dark. 

There are numerous reports of people feeling they are being touched, cold spots, and sensations of someone watching them.

In spite of the ghosts, this is a great hotel to stay in. Centrally located, luxurious, and it even has an indoor swimming pool.

See Palace Hotel for rates and booking...if you dare!

Pied Piper Mural, Maxfield Parrish, Palace Hotel SFThe Pier Piper Mural, by Maxfield Parrish, Palace Hotel

There's also a ghost in the Pied Piper Bar in the Palace Hotel who likes to tap people on the shoulder.

The Pied Piper mural above the bar was painted by Maxfield Parrish in 1909.

2 New Montgomery Street.

13. Angel Island

bunk beds from Angel Island Immigration MuseumImmigration Museum, Angel Island

Angel Island is a beautiful island floating in the middle of San Francisco Bay. It's a great day trip from the city; pretty views and good hiking. See my article on things to do on Angel Island and how to get there.

Angel Island was the location of the Immigration Station that processed immigrants coming to the West Coast. It was known as the "Ellis Island of the West".

Many Chinese immigrants were held here during the Gold Rush period and later, while their applications were screened.

Due to a great deal of fraud in immigration documents (the "paper sons"), and the general resistance to Chinese immigration at the time, many would-be immigrants were held for questioning for long periods in the barracks on Angel Island. About 20% sent back to China.

This was the setting for a sad event that led to the reports of haunting at the facility. A young Chinese woman who was traveling to San Francisco to meet her husband-to-be was rejected for immigration.

When she was told she would have to return to China, she went back to dormitory, put on her wedding dress and hanged herself in the shower room.

Following this incident, many reports surfaced of ghostly activity, often an oppressive feeling of a presence, especially in the shower room. Residents used the shower in pairs or groups because of the fear. 

One young woman had a scary experience. Lying in bed one night, she felt a weight pressing down on her chest so she could hardly breathe, though nothing was visible. Finally, after minutes of pleading, the weight disappeared.

Visit the museum. The building that housed the Immigration Station is now an interesting museum open to the public. The dormitories and common rooms of the former residents have been recreated as they were at the time.

It's one of the stops on the tram tour of Angel Island, and walking distance from the dock.

See my article on visiting Angel Island and photos of the Immigration Museum.

14. Westin St. Francis Hotel

St. Francisco Hotel San FranciscoSt. Francis Hotel on Union Square

This classic San Francisco Hotel is reputed to be haunted by the ghosts of jazz singer Al Jolson, who died there during a poker game in 1950, and Fatty Arbuckle, silent film star. 

Room 1219 is the haunted room in the hotel. That's where Al Jolson died, and also the location of an incident involving Fatty Arbuckle. Known for his wild parties, the party in Suite 1219-1221 reached a new low on the night of September 5, 1921.

Arbuckle was accused of dragging a woman into room 1219 and raping her; the woman died of her injuries the next day. Arbuckle was tried and eventually acquitted, but the circumstances sounded very suspicious. To read the disturbing details, see the SF Gate article.

The entire 12th floor of the hotel is said to be haunted, in part by the friendly ghost of a woman who lived at the hotel, and died there.

The St. Francis Hotel is on Union Square.

Check rates & more info.

15. Nob Hill

Nob Hill Fairmont HotelFairmont Hotel on California Street, Nob Hill

California Street, on Nob Hill, where the nobs lived before the 1906 earthquake, is the favored spot of one of the better-known, San Francisco ghosts.

Flora Sommerton. In 1876, the Sommerton family lived in a mansion on Nob Hill. They had arranged a marriage for their teenage daughter, Flora, to a much older man.

The family expected to benefit socially from the match, but Flora had other ideas.

The night of her engagement party, Flora took off, wearing her party dress, and ran down California Street and disappeared. For many years, no one knew what had happened to her.

The family offered a reward, but her disappearance was a mystery until 1926, when she was found dead in a boarding house in Butte, Montana. 

Apparently, Flora has returned to San Francisco. In spirit, anyway.

She reappeared on California Street on the night she died, in 1926.

A number of people have had encounters with a ghostly young woman in a fancy dress, running down the sidewalk on California Street between Powell Street, where the Fairmont and Mark Hopkins Hotels are (see above photo) and Jones Street, across from Grace Cathedral.

If you happen to be up there at night to visit the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel, or Top of the Mark bar at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, keep an eye out for Flora.

Or even stay up on Nob Hill at one of San Francisco's grand luxury hotels.

See the Fairmont Hotel or the Mark Hopkins Hotel for rates and more info.

16. Pacific Union Club

Pacific Union Club Pacific Union Club

The Pacific Union Club was once a private residence, the Flood Mansion, and now houses an exclusive men's club (still male members only, ladies as guests allowed in limited areas) with a long waiting list.

This house, and the Fairmont Hotel nearby, were the only buildings on Nob Hill not completely destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. The inside of the Flood Mansion was gutted by fire, but the walls were still standing.

The club bought the damaged building for their new location. The members are sworn to secrecy about anything related to the club, so very little is known about it. But they do have an Olympic-sized swimming pool in the basement.

The club has a resident ghost, possibly the Mr. Flood himself. 

1000 California Street.

17. The Neptune Society Columbarium

San Francisco Columbarium upper levelsUpper levels of the San Francisco Columbarium
(Image thanks to Frank Schulenburg, under CC-BY-SA license.)

The San Francisco Columbarium is the final resting place of over 8,500 deceased persons; their ashes are stored in urns in niches in the building.

It's an impressive, domed building and an attractive place to visit, with beautiful stained glass windows.

This spot used to be the Odd Fellows Cemetery, but starting in 1929, San Francisco removed most of the bodies in city graveyards to the cemetery in Colma, south of SF.

Apparently they didn't get all the bodies out; there are still some underneath the Columbarium, including the body of a two-year-old girl found in 2016, who had died in 1876, still holding a rose in her hand.

Viola Van Staden. Various people have reported seeing a little girl in old-fashioned clothing who comes up and stands next to you, or walks around the upper levels of the Columbarium. Some hear footsteps and giggling.

In 1997, the caretaker, Emmitt Watson, heard a child talking and saw a little girl standing in front of one of the niches; the girl then disappeared. She was in front of the Van Staden family niche, and he later identified her as Viola Van Staden from her family's photographs.

Viola died at the age of 7 in 1907 after drinking contaminated well water (a problem after the 1906 earthquake) and her ashes are in the Van Staden niche.

One person visiting the Columbarium said she felt a cold hand on her back when no one else was there. She later discovered a white hand print on her shirt.

Some people whose ashes are here: Harvey Milk, Carlos Santana's father, and family members of the Haights, the Stanfords, the Magnins, and the Folgers.

The building is currently owned and managed by the Neptune Society.

1 Lorraine Court, in the Richmond District.

18. Haskell House, Fort Mason

Haskell House, Fort Mason, San FranciscoHaskell House in Fort Mason 1939

This house at Fort Mason (between Fisherman's Wharf and the SF Marina), now called Quarters 3, was the residence of Leonidas Haskell in the mid-1800's.

Haskell's friend, U. S. Senator David Broderick, was shot in a duel with a former California Supreme Court Justice, David Terry, in 1859. Broderick died in the house three days later.

A number of military families have lived in the house since then, and there have been many reports of supernatural activities in the house.

Over the years, many residents of the house have reported the feeling of someone following them and watching them.

Also, lights would go on by themselves, toilets would flush when no one else was there, and many pictures fell off the walls for no apparent reason.

A figure in a dark coat and top hat has been seen pacing the rooms.

Once a man was working on the house, painting a window, and said he was pushed out of the window by something invisible.

Haskell House is Quarters #3 at Fort Mason.

19. San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City HallSan Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall is a beautiful building, built in 1915, but it was built over an abandoned cemetery. The building was also the scene of a double murder in 1978, when Dan White shot and killed Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

People have reported seeing ghostly figures in period costumes and hearing footsteps in empty corridors, as well as lights going on and off and cold sensations in certain areas.

George Moscone's ghost has allegedly appeared, as well. Also, the spirit of a security guard who died of a heart attack in the building, still patrols it.

The best known apparition is the Lady of the Stairs, a woman in a ball gown sometimes seen descending the grand staircase.

So City Hall is particularly well-populated by ghosts!

San Frncisco City Hall RotundaSan Francisco City Hall
(Image thanks to T meltzer, under CC-BY-SA license.)

1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Place, Civic Center. 

20. The Chambers Mansion

Chambers Mansion San FranciscoThe Chambers Mansion
(Image thanks to Dreamyshade, under CC-BY-SA license.)

The Chambers mansion is located in Pacific Heights and was built in 1887 for a wealthy businessman, Robert Chambers. It's been used as a residence, a convent for nuns, and a bed-and-breakfast.

In 2000, the Victorian mansion was converted into two units and is now a private residence.

This elegant house has been a hotbed for paranormal activity, apparently. 

The Lady in Black is the best known apparition; a woman in a black dress has often been seen roaming the hallways.

There are also many reports by staff and guests of objects moving of their own accord, and sudden drops in temperature. Is it Claudia Chambers, who allegedly met a gruesome end (see below), or is it Eudora, Robert's deranged wife? 

Residents have heard someone playing the piano in the middle of the night when no one was there, and visitors report the feeling of being watched or followed by an unseen presence.

This is another location that has been investigated by the Office of Paranormal Investigations of JFK University and psychic Sylvia Brown. The lobby hosts a collection of photos and documents about past ghostly encounters.

The legend: R.C. Chambers owned the house, and when he died, his property went to his two nieces. The nieces couldn't stand each other, so another house was built next door, so they could live separately.

One of the nieces, Claudia, died under suspicious circumstances; not clear how, but somehow her body was cut in half! Her family claimed it was a farming accident. Claudia's ghost now haunts the premises.

The facts: Robert C. Chambers built the house, and had two nieces living with him and his wife (neither was named Claudia).

When he died, the property went to other relatives, who lived in the house. The two nieces sued the estate for what they believe they had been promised by Robert Chambers, but lost the suit.

Robert's wife Eudora was a very odd character, however, and there were some strange events involving her while she was alive.

See SF Chronicle story for more details.

2220 Sacramento Street.

21. The Presidio

Officers' Row, the Presidio, San FranciscoOfficers' Row, The Presidio

The Presidio was formerly a military post and has a number of haunted spots.

A row of Civil War era houses on Funston Avenue, called Officers Row, were originally officers' quarters, but are currently being used by various non-profits.

Ghostly figures of uniformed men and women in long dresses have been reported on the porches and walking along the sidewalks after dark in this area. 

The grounds of the old Letterman Hospital (which had a reputation for being haunted after it was abandoned and sat derelict for years) is now the location of Lucasfilms and Industrial Light and Magic.

The San Francisco National Cemetery is nearby, where ghostly apparitions of soldiers and former hospital patients can appear.

But Yoda's statue is also there, so you should be okay ;)

The Presidio Officers' Club is apparently haunted, as well. The TV show Ghost Hunters did an episode about it and filmed the shadowy image of a woman dressed in black walking there.

Also, the Presidio Pet Cemetery is a spooky place at night, where people have seen the forms of animals roaming the graveyard. Too creepy (and sad) for me!

Presidio Pet Cemetery at nightPresidio Pet Cemetery
(Image thanks to AladinSane77, under CC-BY-SA license.)

Crissy Field, on the edge of the Presidio, has had reports of strange sensations felt by people walking there. They describe a sudden feeling of great heaviness, as though they were being pulled into the earth.

Crissy Field is now a wide expanse of beach with a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

During World War I, it was an airfield that trained pilots being sent over to France, many of whom never returned. A number of pilots were also killed in training accidents there.

22. San Francisco Art Institute

San Francisco Art Institute entranceSan Francisco Art Institute and Tower

The San Francisco Art Institute (closed in 2022) has been the source of ghostly stories for over 50 years.

The history. The SF Art Institute was founded in 1871 and was one of the oldest art schools in the country. The  campus built in 1906 is now up for sale under Chapter 7 liquidation due to financial difficulties.

Many famous artists taught at the school: Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Mark Rothko, Gutzon Borglum (creator of Mt. Rushmore sculpture), Annie Leibovitz,  and Richard Diebenkorn.

A music department was added and some of the students included Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Dave Getz, drummer for Big Brother and the Holding Company and Country Joe and the Fish, and Courtney Love.

Angela Davis also taught at the school.

The building houses a Diego Rivera fresco, "The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City", from 1930.

Diego Rivera The Making of a Fresco SF Art InstituteThe Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City, by Diego Rivera

The hauntings. The tower seems to be the most haunted spot; students and caretakers have reported footsteps and doors opening, as well as the feeling of an evil presence.

Students have heard someone climbing the stairs, floor by floor, but no one was there when they got to the top. Others have witnessed lights going on again after they were turned off.

One teacher working late at night heard all the power tools go on in the sculpture studio. A student working late at the library heard chairs being smashed behind him, but looked and saw nothing.

In 1968, the benign ghost of footsteps and doorknobs was joined by something less pleasant.

A major renovation project was begun involving the tower and there was a series of tragic events affecting the night construction crew: bad traffic accidents, polio, and some other near-deadly accidents.

After all these events, a seance was held in the tower and photographs taken that showed scenes that exhibited earlier room arrangements, such as doors where they used to be, and people present at the seance who were moving when they weren't.

There's also a story about a woman student who committed suicide by jumping from the tower in the 1930's who sometimes appears on the edge of the tower, ready to jump, then disappears.

And a former janitor who died of a heart attack in the building is sometimes is seen still doing his work at night and jingling his keys.

The Institute was built next to an old graveyard that was severely damaged in the 1906 earthquake, more candidates for ghostly visits.

800 Chestnut Street.

23. Mission Dolores Cemetery

Mission dolores San Francisco graveyardGraveyard at Mission Dolores

The Mission Dolores, aka the Mission San Francisco de Asis, was built in 1776, and was one of the series of missions built by the Spanish fathers up and down colonial California.

The current building was built in 1791.

The mission has a rather small cemetery on the grounds which was the burial place of some of the earliest European residents of San Francisco.

Don Francisco de Haro, the first mayor, or alcalde, of San Francisco, and Don Luis Arguello, first Mexican governor of Upper California, are buried here.

It's also the resting place of a notorious San Francisco couple from the Gold Rush era.

Belle Cora was the madam of an upscale brothel in Chinatown, and her husband Charles was a gambler who was charged with shooting a U.S. Marshall in 1855.

Apparently, the Marshall's wife insulted Belle at the theater, which later led to the altercation between the two men. Cora was tried for murder in 1856 and there was a hung jury. 

The Committee for Vigilance, the "Vigilantes", took him from the jail, staged a second trial, convicted him, and hanged him at what is now Portsmouth Square in Chinatown. 

This was the origin of the word "vigilante". The Vigilantes were a reaction to the rampant city crime and corruption during the Gold Rush.

More on Belle Cora and Chinatown brothels.

The bodies of many others who had been buried in the graveyard were disinterred and moved to graves outside of the city when San Francisco ended the practice of allowing burials within the city limits.

Approximately 5,000 Indians from the mission days had been buried there, but were also moved. The disruption of the graves is blamed for the haunting of this area.

A lot of paranormal activity has been reported in the old cemetery.

The Mission is at 3321 16th Street.

24. The Whittier Mansion

Whittier Mansion San FranciscoThe Whittier Mansion

This historic mansion in the Pacific Heights district is said to be haunted by its original owner, William Franklin Whittier.

The 30-room house was built in 1896 but survived the 1906  earthquake. The building is currently a private residence.

William Whittier lived in the building until his death in 1917. He created a paint and glass business which still survives as Fuller O'Brien Paints.

His daughter inherited the mansion, and when she died, it was sold to the German Reich in 1941.

It was the German consulate during WW2, and was later purchased by the California Historical society in 1956 (now in offices on Mission Street).

Some claim to have seen a ghostly figure in the basement, and others report feeling a "presence" and cold spots in the house.

Some think it's the ghost of the owner, William Whittier, while others think it's more likely the unquiet spirit of his son, Billy, a n'er-do-well, hard-drinking bounder. Or possibly German spies from the war.

2090 Jackson Street.

 The Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House frontThe Winchester House

The Winchester House is in San Jose, an hour's drive from San Francisco, but is such a great "haunted" house it needs to be included!

This house is definitely worth a trip, if you have the time.

They have tours of the house, plus a small museum of firearms and a cool, vintage shooting gallery (lasers).

The history of the Winchester House:

Sarah Winchester was the wife of William Wirt Winchester, owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms company.

The legend says she was so affected by the grief of losing her infant daughter, followed by her husband, that she consulted a medium.

Supposedly, she was told that the angry spirits of the people killed by the "Gun That Won the West" needed to be appeased by an unusual construction project.

She left Connecticut and bought a farm house near San Jose, and started building. 

Construction on the house continued for 38 years. Presumably she based the odd elements of the building on suggestions received during seances held in a room at the house built for that purpose.

There are stairways that go nowhere, doors that open onto empty space, and other doors that open onto solid walls. Plus secret passages, and sealed rooms.

The house eventually had 160 rooms, 47 stairways, and 2,000 doors. This was supposed to baffle the malevolent ghosts.

Visitors and staff have reported hearing footsteps, seeing door handles turn, and felt cold spots. Faces appear in high windows where there is nowhere to stand.

The Winchester House tours:

I went on one of the tours a few years ago; enjoyably creepy!

We got to explore a lot of the rooms and passageways, and the tour guide had some great stories.

For example, when we were down in the basement, the guide told us one the staff members was on a break down there recently and saw a man doing some work on the furnace boiler.

She mentioned it to other staff later and they said no one had been called to work down there. But a man who used to work there 50 years ago (long deceased) occasionally appears there.

Posing with guns at the Winchester Mystery HouseWe had to get the photo.

They give you Winchester rifles to pose with. We couldn't resist.

525 South Winchester Blvd, San Jose. Open daily.

See the Winchester Mystery House website for more info.

The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz

If you're down near San Jose, the beachside town of Santa Cruz is just another 40-minute drive over the mountains. Santa Cruz is about an hour and 20 minute drive from San Francisco.

In addition to the fun, retro Santa Cruz Boardwalk, there's the famous Santa Cruz Mystery Spot. If you're driving around the Bay Area, you can't miss seeing their bumper stickers.

Enter the Vortex, where balls roll uphill and gravity is haywire! Lots of fun. I've been there a couple of times and and really enjoyed it; they put on a good show.  Check out the Mystery Spot.

Sources of some of the ghostly material...

Books (on Amazon):

Haunted San Francisco, by Rand Richards.

Ghost Hunter's Guide to the SF Bay Area, by Jeff Dwyer.