Ghosts and hauntings happen year round, but chills seem more delicious during the season of witches, goblins and ghosts. This fall, you can find sites full of scares in your own back yard. Of course, it’s not recommended you actually visit all of these places, as some are cordoned off from the public and stepping inside is a big no-no. However, just knowing you don’t have to rely on movies this fall for scares and you live so close to bonafide creepy haunts should be enough to make your thrill-seeking day.
Public Health Service Hospital
(aka Abandoned Army Hospital)
Wedemeyer St & 15th Ave
San Francisco, CA
Hours: Closed to the public
Places like this are the stuff of legends. Public Health Service Hospital was once a working hospital in the Presidio that replaced the even older U.S. Marine Hospital built in 1875. It was last used by the Defense Language Institute in 1988 and the now-abandoned structure is still government property, which means no trespassing is allowed. Police are known to patrol the area. That hasn’t stopped adventurous taggers from gracing the creepy grounds with graffiti and hyperventilating teens from double-dog daring each other to explore all 480 rooms and dark, dank crevices of the compound. Not only did many soldiers die here, but it was used during its last years to conduct animal testing. Much of the expensive medical equipment was largely abandoned when the grounds were completely shut down.
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
No, it’s not just the ever-present fog playing tricks with you. There is a rumor that a headless jogger frequents the bottom deck of the bridge. This jogger specifically likes to knock on the windows of cars headed towards Oakland, perhaps to advise them to turn around back to San Francisco? Whether out of hometown pride or boredom, the headless jogger also likes to run at the same speed of cars and distract drivers. So, if you’re ever driving on the bridge towards Oakland, keep your eyes firmly on the road and let your passengers look out for the ghost. While construction on the bridge started in 1933, the ghost is said to be an unfortunate soul from the 1989 earthquake.
Neptune Society Columbarium
1 Loraine Court
San Francisco, CA 94118
A columbarium is the final resting place for funeral urns. The Columbarium of San Francisco was once part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery and is owned and operated by the Neptune Society of Northern California. If these names alone don’t ignite gothic fantasies of raven-haired maidens and gloomy suitors, you should visit the grounds yourself and be inspired by the baroque and neoclassical beauty. Built in 1898, the Columbarium is now open to the public and offers guided tours. While it contains a wealth of San Francisco history, its days are not long gone. New construction began last year for an addition and the original Columbarium still has a few vacancies.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Fort Mason, B201
San Francisco, CA 94123
Rich in history, the island was believed to be haunted by the first Native Americans who encountered this giant rock off the coast of San Francisco. It was a Spaniard who christened it Alcatraz and it began its ignoble history as a prison in 1868. While it was also the site of an historically significant occupation in 1969 for indigenous rights, much of the haunted lore for Alcatraz comes from its federal prison days. Specific cells and entire corridors have been noted for paranormal activity and unexplained disturbances.
Related: Best Walking Tours of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA 94133
From the gold rush of 1849 and frustrated dreams of hundreds of thousands of immigrants sprang forth one of America’s original and still robust Chinatowns located in the San Francisco bay area. The ghost stories of legend encompass tales of vampires and opium dens, byzantine underground tunnels, Taoist festivals and ancestor worship and the perishing of souls due to the dark ages of the time. What is fact and what is fiction? Part of the appeal of touring Chinatown (either on your own or with guides) is understanding the history of this ethnic enclave and how it seemed so otherworldly in its heyday that it was surrounded by suspicion and mystery.
Lollie Hopper loves to drink deeply from the well of culture. If it’s beautiful, interesting or timely, this Bay Area native wants to cover it. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.