This city is full of ghost stories. Murders, accidents, and misfortunes lead to quite the urban legends. We plumbed the depths of San Francisco to uncover the creepiest spots in town. Bust out your salt shaker and lucky rabbit’s foot—things are about to get surreal. 

Howard Ignatius lomard Mansion by Howard Ignatius via Flickr

Montandon Mansion

This majestic estate was home to party girl Pat Montandon in the mid-60s. At one of her zodiac themed soirees, a disgruntled tarot card reader allegedly cursed the house. Suicides, random screams, mysterious blood stains, and a deadly fire ensued. She performed an exorcism on the spirits but eventually moved out.

1000 Lombard, Russian Hill

shawn clover palace Hotel by Shawn Clover via Flickr

Palace Hotel

Several world leaders died here including President Warren Harding. In 1923, he was scheduled to give a speech in San Francisco, but he suddenly fell ill. His cause of death was never determined. There are tales of spectral visions, supernatural encounters, and glowing orbs at the historic hotel.

2 New Montgomery, Financial District

720 presidioPresidio by Timothy Joshua via Flickr

Presidio Officers’ Club

This former military post is a breeding ground for the bogey man. Locals tell accounts of eerie voices, moving furniture, and disappearing passengers. A film crew for the show Ghostbusters captured a woman in a long black dress dancing through the ballroom.

50 Moraga, Presidio

HUS.comHotel Union Square

Hotel Union Square

In room 207 of Hotel Union Square, objects are said to mysteriously come and go. Some say it’s the ghost of playwright Lillian Hellman. In the 20s she had an affair with mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon. This hotel was where it went down, and some guests still request the room to get in touch with the spirits.

114 Powell, Union Square

lee harrison mary pleasant Pleasant by Lee Harrison via Flickr

Mary Ellen Pleasant Park

Known as the “Voodoo Queen,” Mammy Pleasant was a Civil Rights activist with a penchant for blackmail. Rumors swirled around the unsolved deaths of her colleagues and clients, but she was never convicted of a crime. She is said to haunt her memorial, which is the smallest park in SF, dropping things on people who besmirch her name.

1661 Octavia, Pacific Heights

sir francis adrian black Francis by Adrian Black via Flickr

Sir Francis Drake Hotel

Bewitched star Paul Lynde was involved in a gruesome accident here in 1965. A man rumored to be his lover fell from the 8th story after a long night of drinking. Hotel guests report mysteriously open windows, moving curtains, eerie voices, and strange shadows.

450 Powell, Union Square

marilyn dalton chambers mansions Mansion by Marilyn Dalton via Flickr

Chambers Mansion

Silver tycoon Richard Chambers lived here with his two nieces, who hated each other. When he died in 1901, they inherited the estate. One sister moved next door and the other stayed, but an accident left her chopped in half. Claudia’s ghost is rumored to flip light switches, slam doors, and even answer yes or no questions.

2220 Sacramento, Pacific Heights

queen anne Anne by Lee Harrison via Flickr

Queen Anne Hotel

Upon its construction in 1889, the property served as a girl’s etiquette school, founded by Miss Mary Lake. The headmistress was forced to close several years later, much to her dismay. Her former office is now Room 410. It’s said that cold spots and misty apparitions of Miss Mary Lake are still experienced.

1590 Sutter, Pacific Heights

josh House by Josh C. via Yelp

Cameron House

A fire in the early-1900s killed a group of Chinese refugees who were hiding out in the basement. To this day, the doors to the basement remain sealed, yet faint cries are still heard. Red and gold charms hang from the doorknobs to ward off evil spirits. Photos taken inside the house have shown floating white figures in the background.

920 Sacramento, Chinatown


Whittier Mansion by TH Rogers via Flickr
whittier th rogers Mansion by TH Rogers via Flickr

Whittier Mansion

Built in 1896 by the head of PG&E, this 4-story manor is known for its creepy manifestations. Most of the action revolves around the basement, which was formerly the servant’s quarters. Icy sensations and shadowy outlines have been reported as well as sightings of a short, bald butler on the second floor.

2090 Jackson, Pacific Heights Institute by Ben Kilgust via Flickr

San Francisco Art Institute

Built adjacent to an old cemetery in 1926, the school nightwatchman lived in the bell tower. He often saw flickering lights and heard footsteps climbing the stairs. The tower was being restored in 1968 when a series of near fatal accidents were blamed on the ghost. Psychics performed a seance later that year, and it remains closed to this day.

800 Chestnut, Russian Hill

kira sparks atherton Mansion by Kira Sparks

Atherton Mansion

The son of a local trade baron died in the late-1800s on a trip to Chile. His remains were shipped back to SF in a barrel of rum, which came as quite the surprise to the butler who discovered his body. Current residents report phantom knocking sounds, wind blowing through closed rooms, and voices at night.

1990 California, Pacific Heights

Manrow, Larkin & ChestnutManrow House, corner of Larkin & Chestnut

Manrow House

A local newspaper called this the “House of Demons” in the early 1900s. The noir classic ‘Dark Passage’ was filmed on the property. Real estate mogul JP Manrow was reportedly terrorized by a ghost who pulled hair, threw hatchets, ransacked rooms, and left salt in the sugar bowl.

1080-1090 Chestnut, Russian Hill

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San Francisco has more than its share of skeletons in the closet. One particular ghost story is worth mentioning. “The Lady of Stow Lake” is a century-old tale of a mother walking her child in Golden Gate Park. The woman sat down for a spell, and the baby stroller rolled into the lake. She dived into the water and was never seen again, except as a specter in a white dress.

– – –

Feeling spooky? SF Ghost Hunt starts at the Queen Anne Hotel and visits many of the paranormal places on our list. The walking tour is available Wed-Sun beginning at 7 pm.

[Featured Image: Thomas Hawk via Flickr]

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