October 31, 2016

Mapping the 31 most haunted spots in the Bay Area

Everyone loves a good scare this time of year. If your idea of Halloween fun is experiencing a little paranormal activity in person, check out our roundup of 31 of the most haunted places in the Bay Area, from the North Bay down to the south. We’ve got haunted playgrounds, cursed lakes, Satanic cults, an entire haunted neighborhood in Oakland, and the ever popular Winchester Mystery House (which has a movie on the way).

1 Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House was the residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. The story goes that a psychic told Sarah to build the house to please the spirits of those killed by Winchester guns, and that only continual construction would keep them at bay. Supposedly, rom 1884 to Winchester’s death in 1922, construction proceeded 24 hours a day, at an expense of $5.5M. As a result, the house has 160 rooms, doors that open onto nothing and stairs that lead to the ceiling.

525 South Winchester Boulevard
San Jose, CA 95128

2 Moss Beach Distillery

According to legend, a well-to-do married woman fell in love with the piano player at the distillery restaurant in the ’40s. But in the midst of their affair she died under mysterious circumstances, and supposedly the “The Blue Lady” (our anonymous woman always wore blue dresses) haunts the hotel, searching for her lover to this day.

140 Beach Way
Moss Beach, CA 94038
(650) 728-5595

3 The Secret Sidewalk

The “Secret Sidewalk” in Niles Canyon is actually the exposed top of a long disused aqueduct. This is also where the Bay Area’s version of the classic Woman in White ghost supposedly haunts after being killed in a carriage accident almost 100 years ago.

Niles Canyon
Fremont, CA 94536

4 Black Diamond Mines

Of course an abandoned mine would have not one but several ghosts, most notably the so-called Wailing Witch, an itinerant nanny expelled from employment for practicing witchcraft. The story goes that she turned up dead in the mines under suspicious circumstances, and her troubled spirit never left.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
5175 Somersville Rd, Antioch, CA 94509

5 Mills College

Mills has more ghosts than humanities majors, and we’d be here all day enumerating its specters. Our favorite is a phantom carriage supposedly sighted on the hill between the Mary Morse and Ethel Moore residence halls.

Mills College
Oakland, CA

6 Joaquin Miller Park

It’s the classic American ghost story: A woman dies in a tragic roadside accident, and on foggy nights she still wanders the nearby woods. Urban legend even holds that once upon a time the city built a little hut in the park to serve as her home (but good luck figuring out where it supposedly is).

Joaquin Miller Park
Oakland, CA

7 16th and Castro (Oakland)

Residents of not one, but THREE houses near this block complained of hauntings in the ’90s. Turns out, people have been reporting ghosts in seemingly any home near this intersection and in the surrounding area (the image below is actually a block away on 17th) for over a century.

Castro St & 16th St
Oakland, CA 94612

8 USS Hornet

Many sailors died aboard the now decommissioned aircraft carrier, which in fact holds a record for onboard suicides. Supposedly, some are still toiling away in the long, dark corridors below deck, and employees of the haunted house attraction presently stationed there have noted a few extra “cast members” hanging around…

USS Hornet Museum
707 W Hornet Ave, Alameda, CA 94501

9 Claremont Hotel

The original building on this site burned down in 1901 and the Claremont Hotel went up over a decade later. Nothing strange about that…except maybe for the mysterious smell of smoke that some guests report in the middle of the night. The ghost of a little girl supposedly haunts the fourth floor too, particularly room 422.

Claremont Hotel & Spa
Berkeley, CA 94705

10 Redwood Road

When you were a kid, you probably never wanted to get off the swing set, but what if you were playing for eternity? Urban legend says the ghosts of murdered children in Castro Valley frequent the swings at the local preschool, which often drift back and forth of their own accord.

Redwood Rd
Castro Valley, CA

11 Arroyo del Valle Sanitarium

You can’t leave an abandoned TB clinic standing for decades without a few ghost stories popping up, including screams in the night and a sinister groundskeeper who haunts around. Nothing but the foundations and a few stray bits of the buildings exist anymore…but maybe the patients are still there?


12 Greenwood Mansion

Is the Napa Airport haunted? No. But their nearby administrative offices were once the home of sea captain John Greenwood, and it’s here his wife was murdered by burglars. The crime resulted in California’s last public hanging, and the old sea captain spent the rest of his life in mourning. Perhaps he mourns there still…

Devlin Rd & Airport Blvd
Napa, CA 94558

13 Rockville Park

Chief Solano, namesake of Solano County (although his actual name was Sem-Yeto), appears beneath the buckeye tree marking his grave in Rockville Park to warn the careless away from trampling the graves of those massacred by the Spanish. That’s the story, anyway.

Rockville Park Parking
Rockville Rd, Fairfield, CA 94534

14 Lone Tree Cemetery

Look, you can’t call a place “Lone Tree Cemetery” without attracting a few ghost stories. The fact that there are several more trees these days doesn’t matter. The cemetery’s founding legend holds that once upon a time, an eloping couple’s furious parents killed them on the spot where the cemetery now stands. Are they the source of the strange lights and sounds reported after hours? Probably not…but you still won’t catch us there after dark.

24591 Fairview Ave
Hayward, CA 94542

15 Gravity Hill

Hundreds of towns have a variation of this Brentwood myth: The ghosts of kids killed in a bus accident in the ’50s will push stalled cars out of danger. It’s sometimes true that cars will behave strangely at spots like this and seem to roll uphill, a phenomena known as a gravity hill.

CA 94513

16 Highway 152

Yes, even the highways have their ghost stories. People who stop along CA-152 at night report the sounds of horses and carriage wheels rolling along. Actual horses are presumably a more plausible explanation than ghosts…but that doesn’t mean we relish the idea of stopping to change a tire out there.


17 Water Dog Lake

Local legend reports that the Water Dog of Water Dog Lake is an antagonistic spirit who once drowned a local boy. (Cautionary myths about drowning ghosts are common with just about any body of water.) Contrary myths hold that there is no Water Dog, and that the kid was simply killed by a highwayman…which is not really an improvement.

Water Dog Lake Park
2400 Lyall Way, Belmont, CA 94002

18 Palace Hotel

The Palace Hotel has by far the city’s most prestigious ghost, haunted by no less than a former President of the United States. Granted, Warren Harding, who died an oddball death here in 1923, is usually reckoned one of our all-time worst presidents, but hey. Now and then, guests report running into Harding in the halls.

2 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105

19 Curran Theater

In the 1920s, a ticket booth worker was murdered in a robbery attempt. People see him as an apparition in the mirror that hangs in the lobby. The Curran has been closed the last couple of years for renovations, but a ghost is one classic feature you can never really update.

Geary St
San Francisco, Ca

20 1000 Lombard Street

When social columnist Pat Montandon held a “zodiac themed” party at her house in the 1960s, the tarot card reader she hired got angry when she didn’t give him a drink. He cursed the house with freezing spells, blood stains on the ceilings, and disembodied screams. The house was vandalized and robbed, two of Montandan’s guests committed suicide, and her best friend died behind a locked door when a fire broke out in the home’s master bedroom.

San Francisco

21 Chambers Mansion

This grand Victorian in Pacific Heights was built in 1887 by silver tycoon Richard Craig Chambers. He left it to his two nieces when he died 14 years after the home’s construction. Unfortunately, the sisters hated each other. Claudia Chambers mysteriously died in the house because of a “farm implement accident.” (She was found cut in half.) Psychics have held seances in the home and claim the Claudia’s ghost roams around the place. Outsiders have seen strange flashing lights from an upstairs window.

2220 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94115

22 Alcatraz Island

There are about a bazillion stories about real ghosts, unexplained phenomena, and frightening experiences from visitors to Alcatraz Island, especially during the popular night tour. A military prison opened on Alcatraz Island in 1868, and then it was turned into a federal prison, operating from 1933 to 1963. Rattling chains, cold chills, and phantom gunshots have all been reported since tours began on the island.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
San Francisco, CA 94123

23 Market Street Cinema

Once a historic movie palace, Market Street Cinema eventually became a gentleman’s club of particularly ill repute. Supposedly, the ghost of a dead janitor haunts the lower levels, and dancers reported seeing a mysterious woman backstage, often retreating through the curtain ahead of them. There was even a horror movie shot here: “The G-String Horror.” Classy. The club closed a few years ago, but plans to develop the site into condos haven’t moved forward. Maybe the ghosts are NIMBYs?

1077 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103

24 San Francisco Art Institute

The ground underneath the building was a graveyard, and there have been many stories that the tower is haunted. Unexplained footsteps and apparitions are also not uncommon.

800 Chestnut Street
San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA 94133

25 Whittier Mansion

The historic Whittier Mansion was built in 1896 by William Franklin Whittier, head of what now is PG&E. It was home to Whittier and his family until his death in 1917. His heirs sold the property in 1938 to the Deutsche Reich, and it became the German Consulate. Now a private residence, the bulk of unexplained activity happens in the basement and wine cellar, with shadowy figures and unexplained chills.

2090 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94109

26 Public Health Service Hospital

Before its rehab and conversion to luxury apartments in 2010, the 1931 Presidio Public Health Service Hospital had sat vacant since 1988. Even though it was closed up, ghost hunters used to break in and reported hearing footsteps, seeing reflections of light, and feeling a cold draft. Supposedly the SFPD would refuse to step inside. Not surprisingly, there haven’t been many ghost reports since the renovation.

1801 Wedemeyer St
San Francisco, CA 94121

27 Presidio Pet Cemetery

The final resting place for hundreds of animals owned by families that were stationed at the Presidio, the pet cemetery dates back to the 1950s. According to the National Park Service, there are no official records for the site, meaning it probably began with the families themselves, with authorization from one of the commanding officers.

McDowell Avenue & Cowles Street
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, CA 94129

28 Nob Hill Inn

Originally built as a townhouse after the 1906 fire, what’s now the Nob Hill Inn had many different owners throughout the years before it was bought and turned into a hotel. Apparently the hotel is packed with at least 22 very friendly ghosts, because its last renovation attracted the attention of different entities around the neighborhood. The ghosts like to play tricks on the guests, often moving their items around the room and playing with the locks.

1000 Pine
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 673-6080

29 Black House (Church of Satan)

From 1967 to 1997, 6114 California served as the headquarters for the Church of Satan and the home to Church of Satan founder Dr. Anton “The Black Pope” LaVey. The home was a 2,205-square-foot Victorian painted black. As expected, some pretty devilish activity went down during Lavey’s ownership of the abode, including a highly publicized 1967 Satan baptism of Lavey’s three-year-old daughter. The home was used as the HQ until Lavey’s death in 1997. In 2001 it was demolished and a duplex (pictured) was built in its place. Rumor has it that the HOA for the building stopped replacing the exterior’s expensive house numbers and began using inexpensive ones because members of the Church of Satan would occasionally swing by and tear off the 6.

6114 California St
San Francisco, CA 94121

30 Queen Anne Hotel

The Queen Anne Hotel opened in 1890. It was originally called Miss Mary Lake’s School for Girls, and offered etiquette classes to young upper-class women who were about to debut in San Francisco society. Nine years later the building was sold to the Cosmos and became an exclusive gentlemen’s club. It had several different owners until 1980, when a private company bought the place, renovated it, and turned it into the hotel that still operates today. Rumor has it that Miss Mary Lake haunts the hotel because she was not ready to let someone else purchase the building. She roams the halls regularly, and has been known to haunt her room, the Mary Lake Suite, room 410.

1590 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 441-2828

31 Atherton Mansion

The historic Atherton Mansion is irregularly haunted by three aggressive lady ghosts whom folks think are Gertrude Atherton, Dominga de Goni Atherton, and Carrie Rousseau. There’s also a male ghost who’s believed to be George Atherton. Dominga de Goni Atherton built and moved into 1990 California in 1881 with her son George and his wife, Gertrude. The two women were ruthless and constantly belittled George. So much so that he planned to run away to Chile. He made it halfway there before his kidneys failed. The sailors put his body in a barrel of rum and sent it to the Atherton Mansion. He received a proper burial, but his spirit never left the house, and he supposedly spent his nights haunting the place. Dominga was so troubled by his presence that she sold the house. It had several owners who came and went quickly because of George’s spirit. In 1923, Carrie Rousseau bought the house and lived in the ballroom with 50 cats until her death, in 1974.

1990 California St
San Francisco, CA 94109
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