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John’s Grill: Not haunted. Cameron House: DEFINITELY haunted.

Hi there, I’m Mathew Jedeikin and I’ve always wanted to have a paranormal experience.

Because, duh, ghosts are awesome. Especially the friendly ones. I mean, didn’t everyone have a crush on Devon Sawa as Casper in human form? Seriously, though, I’m fascinated with the concept of spirits and their unfinished business here on Earth. But alas, I have yet to have a legitimate paranormal experience.

I live in San Francisco, where there are plenty of supposedly-haunted locations around the city, but I’d never really gone to any of them before. So with Halloween just a few days away, I decided to check out all the city’s most haunted sites in hopes of finding a ghost or two. Oh, and I obviously brought along my iPhone so I could document the experience.

John’s Grill

63 Ellis St., San Francisco, CA 94102

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My first stop was John’s Grill, which is located in downtown SF. According to my research, numerous visitors reportedly have spotted the ghost of author Dashiell Hammett at the restaurant. Apparently, back in the 80s a long-time waiter there even told a local newspaper that Hammett’s ghost showed up promptly at 11am as if it was “waiting to be seated for lunch.”

I arrived at about 10:50 and hung around watching for signs of anything or anyone from the great beyond…but nothing. No ghost of Dashiell Hammett, just a few employees preparing for the lunch rush.

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Yeah, this was a total bust. Don’t get me wrong—I’m sure they make delicious food (though I admit, I totally walked down the street to get some Chipotle for lunch), but there was nothing haunted about John’s Grill. At least nothing that I could see or feel.

Hotel Union Square

114 Powell St., San Francisco, CA 94102

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Just around the corner from John’s Grill is Hotel Union Square, which as the name implies is in the heart of the Union Square neighborhood. For those of you not familiar with SF, Union Square is probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. The hotel is literally across the street from an H&M, and there are tourist shops everywhere. It didn’t strike me as all that spooky—just another downtown hotel. Apparently there have been reports of objects mysteriously appearing and disappearing in room 207, so if you happen to be staying at Hotel Union Square and want to see if these stories are true, request room 207.

Curran Theater

445 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102

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Back in 1922 a ticket booth attendant working at the Curran Theater was allegedly murdered, and they say his ghost can be spotted in the lobby mirrors. Although I didn’t see any mention on their website about it, the Curran Theater is totally under construction right now. Yup, another bust. I couldn’t even see any mirrors inside the construction zone, let alone a ghost lingering in one.

Cameron House

920 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94108

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I’m just going to say it: The Cameron House felt haunted. I’m definitely no Theresa Caputo (love me some “Long Island Medium”) and I didn’t necessarily see any visible spirits, but something about this place made me feel…I dunno…almost somber.

Today the Cameron House is a social service center, but 100 years ago it was home to dozens of young Chinese immigrants who had been rescued from prostitution and slavery. But in the early 1900s there was a fire and most of the women who were hiding in the basement weren’t able to escape. They perished inside the house.

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Many people have reportedly had paranormal experiences at the Cameron House, and I can see why?—?the place had an eerie vibe about it. I can only imagine how creepy it would be once the sun goes down, especially inside the building. If you’re looking for somewhere haunted to visit in San Francisco this Halloween, totally check out the Cameron House.

Mary Ellen Pleasant Park

1699 Octavia St., San Francisco, CA 94109

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Mary Ellen Pleasant was a civil rights pioneer in the late 1800s, whose ghost has supposedly been haunting the site of the park named after her (located on the property where she once lived) since her death in 1904. Visitors to the park have apparently noticed strange occurrences such as having items pulled from their hands, or falling suddenly as if they’d been pushed by a ghost. Unfortunately, I didn’t experience anything so spooky. Just a small park with a couple of benches.

SF Art Institute Bell Tower

800 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94133

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The San Francisco Art Institute’s bell tower was built in 1926 on the site of an ancient cemetery. Which seems like a bad idea, right? Well, a few years later students started reporting doors opening and closing on their own, and the sound of footsteps in empty hallways. For a while, it was thought the bell tower was haunted by a friendly ghost, but during a renovation numerous near-fatal accidents occurred and were blamed on the presence of evil spirits.

These days the tower is officially closed. The school claims it’s structurally unsafe, which only makes ghost-hunters like myself all the more suspicious. Now, I didn’t hear any footsteps while I was wandering around the campus’s empty corridors, but I did get a rather eerie feeling. The hallways were quiet—one might even say they were deathly silent.

Also, I came across this:

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I have no idea what this “Light For Valerie” is all about, and I spent a while trying to find an answer online, to no avail. It totally freaked me out. Or maybe the whole built-on-a-cemetery thing got to me, but on a spooky scale of 1 to 10, I’d totally give the SF Art Institute Bell Tower site a solid 8.

Trinity Episcopal Church

1668 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94109

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One of the articles I found online referred to Trinity Episcopal Church as the most “insanely haunted” place in San Francisco, so I was excited about my chances of having a paranormal experience. There have been reports of shadows dancing on walls, a gray figure that disappears into walls and an apparition wearing a white suit.

The church is definitely an impressive site: It totally looks like the type of building that would be haunted. I wandered around for a good 20 minutes, though, and didn’t see or feel anything suspicious. Maybe it would be better to come at night, or attend a Sunday morning service? I’m not sure, but I didn’t witness anything that would have confirmed whether or not the Trinity Episcopal Church is in fact haunted.

Queen Anne Hotel

1590 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94109

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The Queen Anne Hotel was built in the 1890s and was originally a school for girls. It became a gentleman’s club ten years later. One of the teachers, Miss Mary Lake, was so distraught that she reportedly died from a broken heart. It’s rumored that Miss Mary Lake’s ghost still lingers around the property, which has been a hotel since 1980. Sadly, I did not encounter the spirit of Miss Mary Lake—or anything else remotely paranormal, for that matter.

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It’s a pretty cool looking hotel, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t feel as haunted as some of the other stops of my ghost tour of the city.

Sutro Baths

680 Point Lobos Ave., San Francisco, CA 94121

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Hoping to have better luck spotting a ghost, I waited until it was dark to visit the Sutro Baths, which are technically the remains of a private swimming pool complex that burned down in 1966. The site is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and it’s been said that if you light a candle at the Baths, a ghost will grab it out of your hands and throw it into the ocean. So, I took my candle and lighter and stumbled down the dark path to the site of the baths.

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The remains looked super cool, and being there in the dark totally had me feeling a little spooked, but it was hella windy and I couldn’t get my candle to stay lit for more than a few seconds.

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Maybe on a less windy night you might be able to lure out a ghost with a lit candle. Who knows? It didn’t happen for me, but overall, this totally felt like a haunted site. I mean, the sounds of the waves crashing into the remains of the structure in the dark was legitimately spine-chilling.

Final Thoughts:

  • Cameron House, the SF Art Institute Bell Tower and Sutro Baths are my recommendations if you’re looking for haunted sites to visit in SF. Although I didn’t see any ghosts per se, they all felt pretty eerie.
  • If you do go to Sutro Baths at night, be sure to bring a flashlight. The paths from the road to the site are totally dark and a little confusing. Especially if it’s your first time visiting the baths.
  • I still haven’t technically had a paranormal experience, but that definitely won’t stop me from continuing to be on the lookout for signs of supernatural activity. Especially on All Hallows’ Eve.