The 5 most haunted places in San Francisco

You ain’t afraid of no ghost, you say? You’re in luck, because San Francisco is teeming with paranormal activity. From the cells of Alcatraz to the under appreciated Haas-Lilienthal House, we’ve covered 49 miles of San Francisco’s most haunted locations. You won’t believe some of their stories.


5. Presidio Pet Cemetery
The Presidio Pet Cemetery dates back to the early 1950s, and is located directly below Doyle Drive. It is the final resting place for hundreds of animals owned by families that were stationed at the Presidio. According to the National Park Service, there are no official records for the site — meaning it probably sprung up from the families themselves, with authorization from one of the Presidio’s then commanding officers. Today, the cemetery is closed and animals are no longer allowed to be buried here. People have reported seeing ghostly figures, mostly animals and military officers, in the low fog while driving along McDowell Avenue. 


4. Curran Theatre
The Curran Theatre is located at 445 Geary Street in downtown San Francisco. It opened in February of 1922, and was named after its first owner, theatrical producer Homer Curran. Urban legend has it, within the first few years of the theatre’s opening, an employee was murdered in attempted box office robbery. Ever since, guests admiring themselves in the lobby’s mirror have reported seeing a ghostly ticket-taker behind them. Scary stuff.


The Queen Anne Hotel. Photo: Wikipedia.
The Queen Anne Hotel. Photo: Wikipedia.

3. Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island has experienced unexplained paranormal phenomenon in its many years of operation. In 1868 a military prison opened on the Island, and it was converted into a federal prison in 1933. Alcatraz Federal Penetionary shuttered on March 21, 1963. Today, Alcatraz is a national landmark, managed by the National Park Service since 1972. Visitors and employees (especially during the popular night tour) have reported hearing phantom gunshots and chains rattling throughout the dark hallways and chambers of the famous prison. Unexplained voices, screams and crying have also been reported in the prison blocks. Alcatraz’s most haunted section, is located in the prison’s D-Block, where four out of 42 cells are purported to be haunted (cells 11, 12, 13, and 14-D, which is considered to be the most haunted cell, permanently 20 to 30 degrees colder than other parts of the prison).


2. The Queen Anne Hotel
The Queen Anne Hotel originally opened in 1890 under Miss Mary Lake’s School for Girls. The school offered classes to the city’s young, upper-class women, and educated them on etiquette as they prepared to debut into San Francisco society. Nearly a decade later, the building was sold and reopened as an exclusive gentlemen’s club. Having narrowly survived the 1906 Earthquake, a private company purchased the club in 1980 and completely renovated the club, transforming it into the hotel it is today. Guests staying on the fourth floor — and specifically in the Mary Lake Suite (room 410) — have told tales of encountering the ghost of Miss Mary Lake. Paranormal investigators and ghost hunters have confirmed this place to be haunted, but they claim Mary Lake is a benign spirit. Guests have reported having their clothes unpacked and hung up, waking up to having blankets tucked in around them, and having dropped objects picked up. 
Book a room… if you dare!


Blah blah mansion. Photo: Shannon McInerney
The Atherton Mansion. Photo: Shannon McInerney

1. Atherton Mansion 
The Atherton Mansion is located at 1990 California Street at Octavia Street. It was once home to Gertrude Atherton, Dominga de Goni Atherton, Carrie Rousseau and George Atherton. Dominga built and moved into the home in 1881 with her son George and his wife Gertrude. Domingo and Gertrude belittled George so often that life became unbearable for him, and once he had had enough, he planned to run away to Chile. His plan went according to plan, until his kidneys failed halfway through his journey, and he died. Sailors put his body in a barrel of rum and sent it to the Atherton Mansion. Though he received a proper burial, his spirit never left the house! His ghost was known for haunting the mansion, to the point where Domingo was so troubled by his presence she had to sell the home. Several owners quickly came and went because of George’s spirit. In 1923, Carrie Rousseau purchased the home, where she lived in the ballroom with 50 cats until her death in 1974, at the ripe age of 93. Residents today report moving cold spots, wind blowing through closed rooms, voices at night, and knocking sounds. Sylvia Brown conducted a séance in the home and was able to identify three female spirits and a “frail” male spirit. 

A photograph of Haas-Lilienthal House from the Library of Congress. Photo: Whitewall Buick, Flickr.
A photograph of Haas-Lilienthal House from the Library of Congress. Photo: Whitewall Buick, Flickr..

Want to tour an actual haunted house?

The Haas-Lilienthal House • 2007 Franklin Street 

October 23rd, 24th, 30th & 31st. 7:00PM-10:00PM

Mayhem Mansion begins this Friday! To schedule visits check EventBrite

Tour guides lead small groups though this mansion where ‘inhabitant have been indefinitely quarantined for a mysterious malady.’ All ages are welcome however children MUST be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The tour ends in the “Spookeasy” where the over-21 crowd can choose from wine, mixed drinks, beers. Non-alcoholic beverages are sold as well. All proceeds go to the non-profit organization, San Francisco Heritage for continued maintenance and upkeep of the Haas-Lilienthal House.

History of the Haas-Lilienthal House

The Haas-Lilienthal House is San Francisco Designated Landmark #69 and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It is San Francisco’s only intact Victorian era home that is open regularly as a museum and features authentic furniture and artifacts. The home was built in 1886 by William Hass’ architect, Peter R. Schmidt and contractors McCann & Biddell. The home withstood the 1906 earthquake with only slight damage, however, the home was at threat to the fires that came shortly after the quake. The Haas family watched the fire from their roof of their house and eventually were forced out by the help of city authorities. They made camp at their local park, Lafayette Park. The house did not burn down (after all) and The City was rebuilt. In 1928 a living quarter over a garage was added to the home. Three generations of Haas and Lilienthal descendants lived at 2007 Franklin Street. To help keep the home alive, the Heritage is helping to educate people about the City’s architectural legacy and why it is important to preserve and protect it.

Other Haunted Adventures in the Bay:

Haunted Hornet, San Francisco: Tour the Aircraft Carrier

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo: Fright Night 

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose: Flashlight Tour & more! 

The Wharf Market Place, Monterey: Ghost Tour of Monterey

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