A quick and spooky guide to haunted San Francisco

Pub date October 26, 2011

“Even in their graves Californians are happy,” posits a 1922 Chronicle article. “[Ghosts] don’t go at all with a land of sunshine and flowers.” This may have been a slight simplification. With a history full of calamity and a climate ruled by fog, San Francisco seems a good spot for a haunting or two. In fact, our city holds a multitude of spooky spots. From golf course to aircraft carrier, some of San Francisco’s less expected haunts continue to incite shivers. (Lucy Schiller)



By day, the site of Adolph Sutro’s ill-fated bathhouse is eerie enough, a crumbling ruin swamped by fog. Nighttime transforms it into a pitch-black abyss. It is rumored that a few unlucky souls were once sacrificed in the nearby cave, and that their spirits will come calling when a candle is lit.

Geary Avenue and Great Highway, SF.



“Whenever we find a bone we put it right back,” says a gardener working around the course. “We don’t want any bad luck.” Indeed, skulls and femurs are common discoveries at Lincoln Park, once the site of City Cemetery. Thousands of bodies remain a few feet beneath the manicured turf, and for the past decade workers have reported everything from feeling uneasy to ghostly shoulder-tapping.

300 34th Ave., SF.



If anywhere in San Francisco were to be truly haunted, this would be the place — the Columbarium houses the urns of some 30,000 deceased San Franciscans. It’s surprising that so few ghost stories come out of the place. A little girl, according to caretaker Emmit Watson, is the sole specter, roaming the Columbarium’s hallways at night.

1 Loraine Court, SF.



A hooded statue ominously stands near the entrance to Stow Lake, the spot of more than one ghostly legend. Details and characters vary, but stories revolve around the deaths-by-drowning of a young woman and her child. Visit the statue under cover of darkness, watch it change positions, and wait for a weeping apparition to appear.

Golden Gate Park, SF.



Inexplicable footsteps, electrical surges, and slamming doors have been commonplace since the bell tower’s construction in 1927. The odd occurrences led to a 1968 séance, which determined the real culprit: not a ghost, but the terrible psychic energy amassed by decades of young artistic frustration.

800 Chestnut, SF.



Active during both World War II and the Vietnam War, the USS Hornet has seen its share of death. More than 300 on-deck lives have been lost to war, accident, and suicide. The aircraft carrier is now decommissioned and docked in Alameda, where it revels in its paranormal appeal. Crew and visitors alike report the specters of sailors, lost belongings, and the sensation of being invisibly shoved.

707 W. Hornet Ave., Alameda



Dubbed by a 1902 Chronicle article as “the most fiercely haunted house in San Francisco,” the Russian Hill mansion has been replaced by two apartment buildings, later used in the shooting of the noir classic “Dark Passage”. But once upon a time, the Manrows were plagued by an apparition who threw hatchets, pulled hair, and ransacked rooms.

1080 and 1090 Chestnut, SF.