Looking to be properly spooked this Halloween? There are plenty of places in the Bay Area to search out the paranormal, from haunted hotels to eerie beachside residences.
San Francisco happens to be home to a fair number of hotels haunted by celebrity ghosts. The regal Palace Hotel is said to be frequented by former President Warren Harding, who died here in 1923. Nearby, the elegant Westin St Francis Hotel is thought to be haunted by the ghost of film star Fatty Arbuckle, as well as Al Jolson, star of 1927’s The Jazz Singer (the world’s first talkie), who died there during a poker game in 1950.
If you enjoy long walks on the beach and tales of Captain Hook, you may want to try strolling Marin’s Stinson Beach by Easkoot House at 2 a.m. This is the hour the ghost of Captain Alfred Easkoot, a former owner of the beach property, has been known to roam the shore searching for his lost golden hook while keeping trespassers at bay. Recent residents of the house also reported the burglar alarm ringing for 10 minutes despite it being completely disconnected.
San Francisco’s Presidio has plenty of eerie old buildings but one of them, the Presidio Officers’ Club, has boasted ghost sightings in the club’s ballroom, which happens to resemble something straight out of The Shining. The apparition was documented by the TV show Ghost Hunters, which apparently showed footage of a mysterious woman in black crossing the ballroom floor. The Officer’s Club is open to the public and remains a hub for social events, though it seems spirits only appear after hours.
Mill Valley’s Fireside Inn served as one of the region’s wildest gin joints during the Prohibition era. A renovation in 2007 confirmed sneaking suspicions that the speakeasy-turned-motel-turned-housing-development was previously a Miwok burial ground. For many, this explains the frequent noises and disturbances, reported since the mid-1950s, that became so intense at one point that a séance was conducted — using a cross made with two tequila bottles — to find out what was behind the activity.
Probably the Bay Area’s most famous ghost house, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose is a top tourist attraction all year round. The story of Sarah Winchester, inheritor to the vast Winchester rifle fortune, and her attempts to elude the ghosts in her house by endlessly adding on to her Victorian mansion with trap doors, stairs to nowhere, and floor skylights, has enchanted visitors for decades. There was even a major motion picture recently released about the unstable heiress and her house of apparitions, entitled Winchester.
With a past marked by war, army settlements and secrecy, the Marin Headlands are thought to harbor unseen dark forces. World War II bunkers, batteries and missile sites line the spectacular cliffside, and two Fort Barry buildings constructed in 1907 — an infirmary and a mansion — now make up the HI Marin Headlands Hostel. Staffers report apparitions of a wandering young girl looking for playmates and of a man with a sore neck in a building where a military officer had hanged himself.
This article was adopted from one that originally appeared in Marin Magazine.