Haunted places in the Bay Area

Haskell House, Fort Mason

Located in historic Fort Mason, the Haskell House was the scene of a death following a duel between two prominent government officials in the 1850s.

David Colbreth Broderick was a US Senator and was staunchly opposed to slavery. David S. Terry was a Chief Justice of the California State Supreme Court and was an advocate for the expansion of slavery in to California. Terry was not reelected and blamed Broderick. Terry challenged Broderick to a duel after the two exchanged unflattering remarks at a Democratic party convention in 1859.

Duels were illegal in San Francisco at the time, so it took place on Sept. 13 just south of the city at Lake Merced. Broderick’s gun misfired, and Terry shot him in the chest. Broderick was brought to Leonidas Haskell’s home in Black Point where he died three days later.

Broderick’s ghost is said to haunt the home to this day.

Alcatraz

With a list of infamous prisoners such as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Whitey Bulger and Robert Stroud, it’s no surprise Alcatraz has its fair share of ghosts.

The Bay Area’s native American residents believed Alcatraz Island to be evil long before it housed the famous maximum security prison.

Eight people were murdered at Alcatraz while it was operating as a prison.

Prisoners and guards reported paranormal activity in the federal prison while it was operational, and visitors still experience ghostly activity today. 

Regular tours covering the history of the island, prison and its residents are scheduled every day, and night tours are available Thursdays through Mondays.

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

The sprawling 160-room San Jose mansion was once the home of Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester firearm fortune. Legend says she constructed the home under the instruction of a medium who told her to continually build in order to ward off spirits of those killed by Winchester guns. The house was once seven stories tall and contains staircases that lead to the ceiling and doors that open on to nothing. Rooms are still being discovered, one as recently as 2016.

The Winchester Mystery House is holding special Halloween candlelight tours through the mansion. The guided tours will be held Oct. 19-22 and 25-31. More information can be found at Winchestermysteryhouse.com.

Palace Hotel, San Francisco

The Palace Hotel is San Francisco’s oldest surviving hotel, and not surprisingly, it’s rumored to be haunted. The hotel first opened in 1875, but burned down following the 1906 earthquake. It was rebuilt and opened to the public in 1909. The hotel has hosted numerous famous guests over the years, including former President Warren Harding, who never checked out. Harding allegedly died of a stroke in room 8064 of the hotel on August 2, 1923.

Curran Theater, San Francisco

Located in San Francisco’s Theatre District, the Curran has staged thousands of performances since opening in 1922, but shows aren’t the only thing this historic site is known for. The Curran is also home to the ghost of Hewlett Tarr. Tarr, a box office attendant, was murdered in a holdup in 1933 before a November 28 showing of the popular play Show Boat.

Tarr’s friendly spirit still roams the building and watches over the theater, according to those who have encountered him.

Presidio Pet Cemetery, San Francisco

Perhaps slightly less scary than a traditional cemetery, the Presidio Pet Cemetery is the final resting place of beloved furry, feathered and scaly friends. Although its origins are not entirely clear, it is believed the cemetery was started as a place for military families to bury their pets. The oldest headstones date back to the 1950s. Today the cemetery is now closed, but visitors can still see grave markers for rabbits, dogs, cats, lizards and more.

Charles Manson House, San Francisco

Before moving to Los Angeles, infamous murdered Charles Manson spent several months during the Summer of Love in San Francisco’s Height-Ashbury district at 636 Cole Street. He resided there with some of his early followers including Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Lynnette Fromme.

Gay Nineties Pizza, Pleasanton

The Gay Nineties Pizza Company was not the first occupant of 288 Main Street. The building was built in 1864 and originally housed a bank, hosted Wells Fargo travelers and a brothel. The restaurant’s wine cellar was once part of an underground tunnel system constructed by Chinese railroad laborers.

The building’s past still lingers. Pleasanton residents have seen a “full-figured ghost lady” in the second story windows of Gay Nineties Pizza.

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland

Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Mountain View Cemetery offers a sweeping view of the San Francisco Bay. It’s also the final resting place of some very notable historic figures, including former California governors, artists and athletes. Visitors to the cemetery can also visit the grave of Elizabeth Short, also known as the Black Dhalia, whose unsolved murder is still one of Hollywood’s greatest mysteries.

Mountain View Cemetery offers free tours each month, and on Oct. 28, the cemetery will celebrate Halloween with treats, activities, entertainment and pumpkins at the 12th annual Pumpkin Festival. Admission is free.

Mare Island, Vallejo

Mare Island once housed a bustling naval shipyard, now unoccupied homes, an empty naval prison, unmanned dry docks, an abandoned hospital and a military cemetery are all that remain. The former naval site is rumored to be haunted by a variety of entities, including the spirit of Lt. Wilson, who died overseas in 1892 and now roams building 77.

Mare Island gets a little scarier in the month of October. The Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve is hosting the NightMARE Island fall fundraiser, which features a three story haunted house, a Halloween night market, presentations from paranormal investigators and a maze. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or at Nightmareislandvallejo.com.

Moss Beach Distillery, Moss Beach

This former speakeasy has food, ocean views and a resident spirit. The Moss Beach Distillery is home to the Blue Lady, who, according to legend, died on the beach below the restaurant more than 70 years ago. Despite being a married woman, the Blue Lady fell in love with one of the distillery’s piano players. She was murdered while walking on the beach with the piano player, and haunts the restaurant to this day searching for him.

The restaurant has a murder mystery dinner show planned for Oct. 29. Guests can reserve a table and enjoy a murder mystery show over a meal. For more information, visit Mossbeachdistillery.com/events.

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