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Best Haunted Spots In The Bay Area

The Bay Area can rightly be called the Haunted Bay, as it is chock full of locales where ghost sightings, unexplained sounds, creaky doors, drafty stairs and feelings of spirit presences have been reported multiple times. Do you believe in ghosts and haunted houses? Read on for five eerie places that just may make a believer out of you. Note: do not go in alone.

Winchester Mystery House
525 S. Winchester Blvd.
San Jose, CA 95128
(408) 247-2101

A longtime Bay Area favorite, Winchester Mystery House is one spooky place. Succinctly described on its website as "Beautiful but Bizarre," this 160-room, elaborate Victorian mansion remains shrouded in mystery and unanswered questions, such as "What was Mrs. Winchester thinking when she had a staircase built that descends seven steps and then rises eleven?" There are miles of secret passageways, odd architectural thingamajigs, baffling oddities throughout and a Séance Room that surely must have dissuaded any ghosts out to annoy Mrs. Winchester, the eccentric widow whose late husband was heir to the Winchester Rifle Company. Following a double tragedy, Mrs. Winchester devoted the last half of her life to creating the sprawling, mysterious house that over time spawned numerous reported spiritual sightings and purported hauntings. Both guests and employees have described "paranormal activity" events that continue to make the mansion a well-liked, though pleasantly creepy destination. And since 1932, Winchester Mystery House guided tours have remained pretty popular.


Moss Beach Distillery
140 Beach Way
Moss Beach, CA 94038
(650) 728-5595

Beautifully situated on the San Mateo Coast with a stunning ocean view, the Moss Beach Distillery is a renowned local dining spot. Its colorful history as a onetime successful speakeasy has given the place status as a California Point of Interest Historical Landmark with a seductive history. Built by Frank Torres in 1927 during Prohibition and named "Frank's Place," the spot became popular for the fascinating people, silent film stars, literary figures – writer Dashiell Hammett frequented the place -- and politicians from San Francisco who stopped by. The story goes that a beautiful, young married woman, who always wore blue, was drawn into an affair with a classy ladies' man -- the restaurant's piano player. The two lovers reportedly were attacked while walking on the beach below and the woman killed, though the man survived. The woman's ghost has often returned to the Distillery in search of her lover, with many documented events that cannot be explained. Visit the Distillery for ocean view dining and you just may grab a glimpse of the "Blue Lady" lurking nearby.

Related: Haunted Bay Area

San Francisco Art Institute Courtyard (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

San Francisco Art Institute
Bell Tower
800 Chestnut St.
San Francisco, CA 94113
(415) 771-7020

The San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) is the premier fine art school of the San Francisco Bay Area, and a true art creation in the purest sense. Founded in 1871 by artists, writers and community cultural visionaries with a dream for the West, the school's 140-year history is entwined with some of the most influential artists of the time, and the legacy continues. Another part of the SFAI story is about its in-house ghost. The current school buildings, built in 1926 in the Spanish Revival architectural style, are located in the City's Russian Hill neighborhood and sit on land that once was a cemetery. The school's distinctive bell tower has been the site of mysterious nocturnal activities that have peaked and ebbed over the years, yet its supernatural tenant lingers. Over time, numerous reports of doors opening and closing on their own, sounds of footsteps ascending stairs when no on was there, flickering lights and power tools not in use mysteriously turning on and off added to the fears. All was thought to be the work of a harmless ghost, but during renovations in 1968, several near fatal accidents were blamed on the ghost, causing some scared construction workers to quit. Several psychics brought in for a séance in the tower identified a graveyard, and later a historian confirmed a demolished cemetery had existed at the site before the school was built. The tower is closed these days, with the school citing seismic concerns, though more likely an unwelcoming presence has convinced people to stay away.

Whittier Mansion (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Whittier Mansion
2090 Jackson St.
San Francisco, CA 94109

The historic Whittier Mansion sits on a hillside in San Francisco's exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood. Built in 1896 by William Franklin Whittier, the head of what would become the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, the 16,000-square-foot, four-story mansion has 30 rooms. The mansion remained home to Whittier and his family until 1917, when he died at age 85. Sold in 1938, the mansion went through several incarnations, including the German Consulate, a Philosophical Institute and the California Historical Society until 1993 when it once again became privately owned. Over the years, many strange and unexplained incidences have happened here, mainly in the basement and servants' quarters, with reports of shadowy outlines and feelings of cold presences. Even without sightings, others in the mansion have reported feeling uneasy in the basement and refused be alone there. Is the ghost that of William Franklin Whittier, or of Whittier's high-spirited son Billy who lived the high life? Since the basement was the location of Whittier's wine collection, Billy just may be haunting the room he loved the most. The mansion is now a private residence, so please do not disturb its occupants. For more information on the Whittier Mansion, contact the California Historical Society.

USS Hornet (credit: Randy Yagi)

USS Hornet Museum
707 W. Hornet Ave., Pier 3
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 521-8448

The label "most haunted ship in history" is a perfect place to start talking about the USS Hornet CV-12, the eighth ship with the Hornet name and currently berthed in Alameda, California. Commissioned in 1943, the ship became one of the Navy's most decorated, gaining honors and fame for its numerous missions. The ship's distinguished record brought with it many dangers, and sailors have had deadly encounters onboard: walking into aircraft's spinning props, sucked into air intakes, blown off deck by exhaust, explosions burning and maiming sailors and other horrific casualties. In its 27 years of service, over 300 people lost their lives aboard the ship. The Hornet's tragedy-heavy history may be why it has become America's most haunted ship. Both crews and visitors have reported numerous bizarre happenings, sightings and sounds, such as doors opening and closing on their own, objects moving across floors or falling off shelves for no reason, toilets flushing themselves, ghostly sailors that move through the ship, feelings of being grabbed or pushed when no one is there and other unexplained occurrences. The Hornet is now a museum and welcomes visitors to take a mostly self-guided tour using a tour map available at the admissions desk. Docents positioned throughout the ship will answer questions and also lead special tours. Visit the website to learn about exhibits onboard and more about your visit.

Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a member of an independent filmmaking group. Her work can be found at


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