The Mysterious Ruins of San Francisco’s Sutro Baths

The Mysterious Ruins of San Francisco’s Sutro Baths

The Sutro Baths in San Francisco

Along the ruggedly beautiful Northern California coastline sits an unexpected and eerie ode to a time now forgotten. At San Francisco’s tip, treacherous waters lap a beach reaching up to scattered ruins, overshadowed by rocky cliffs often cloaked in thick fog. Here sits what is left of the Sutro Baths, a reminder of a once glorious water front attraction, now a rotting shell surrounded by mystery and disturbing local legends.

Sutro Baths ruins in San Francisco.
Looking out of the Sutro Baths ruins in San Francisco.

These ruins are the ghost of what was once the world’s largest indoor swimming center. Opened in 1896 by the eccentric entrepreneur, Aldolph Sutro, the public baths soon became a popular attraction. The grandiose establishment boasted 7 pools filled directly from the Pacific Ocean. It was complete with trapezes, diving boards, water slides and was surrounded by bleachers where onlookers could view swimmers. It even held a museum within that displayed a vast collection of oddities acquired by Aldolph Sutro on his travels around the world. The massive glass building could hold up to 10,000 guests at a time and was serviced by it’s own railway line.

Sutro Baths ruins looking out over the Pacific Ocean,
Part of the Sutro Baths ruins looking out over the Pacific Ocean, which once filled the attraction’s pools.

Despite the popularity of Sutro Baths, the cost to run the giant establishment meant profits were never substantial enough to keep the place in operation. Shortly after opening, Aldolph Sutro passed away, following this came the Great Depression and whilst efforts were focussed to save the Sutro Baths, business levels lead to the closure of its doors. The Sutro family made the decision to demolish the building and use the area to create private residences. This plan fell through when fire consumed the building in 1966. Although the cause of the fire is unknown, rumors of arson and dodgy insurance money collection exist. Following this disastrous event the project was abandoned and the ruins remain untouched to this day.

Graffiti covered ruins at Sutro Baths.
The graffiti covered ruins of San Francisco’s Sutro Baths.

Creepy Tales About Sutro Baths

The energy surrounding Sutro Baths feels just as sinister as the place looks. It is no wonder it has become the focus of many creepy urban legends and thought to be one of San Francisco’s most haunted places. From the time of its conception the troubled Sutro Baths were believed to be cursed. That belief is still perpetuated today by the many people who have been swept out to sea to drown and the paranormal tales surrounding the area.

Abandoned building at Sutro Baths.
An abandoned building atop a hill looking over the Sutro Baths.

Sutro Baths builds its haunted reputation upon the countless claims of spirits sighted amongst its ruins. These sightings are thought to be the result of residual hauntings, where energy has been trapped and continues to play out scenes in the area they once occurred. Perfect examples of residual hauntings are commonplace at Sutro Baths. Swimmers have been seen in old time bathing suits passing through the crumbling stone remains of what once was a bath house. While sightings of apparitions are common, ghostly unexplainable sounds from crowds and laughter long since past have also been reported.

Abandoned pool at Sutro Baths.
A view looking out over the abandoned pools of Sutro Baths next to the Pacific Ocean.

Ghosts of a more exotic variety are also said to populate the area. Aldolph Sutro’s world travels are thought to have brought more back to his museum than just artifacts. It is commonly believed that spirits are able to haunt objects as well as places. Some think that Sutro may have brought some culturally diverse ghosts back to San Francisco, which still hang around Sutro Baths today. It is unclear if the haunting of these relics extend to the legend of a strange creature dwelling in the cave just off to the side of Sutro Baths. Those brave enough to enter the large tunnel have reported seeing scratch marks on the walls, piles of animal carcasses and bones left in rock crevices and hearing unexplained noises and footsteps echoing throughout the tunnel. It is rumored a creature not of this world visits the tunnel and lives in the area just offshore.

Spooky cave at Sutro Baths.
The mysterious and creepy cave of San Francisco’s Sutro Baths.

This same tunnel features prominently in another local urban legend. San Francisco actually has a long past with Satanism and it is told that dark rituals involving human sacrifices have been conducted in this very tunnel. By lighting a candle and walking to the end of the tunnel in the dark of night one can interact with the spirits of the victims from these sacrifices. Legend says that as you approach the end of the tunnel the candle will be pried from your hands by invisible forces and float out into the ocean where it is extinguished.

Ruins of Sutro Baths next to the ocean.
Walking through the ruins of Sutro Baths next to the ocean.

Visiting Sutro Baths

The Sutro Bath ruins are now a part of the the Golden Gate Recreational Area. This area is protected yet open to the public for visits.

The Sutro Baths in San Francisco.
A view of Sutro Baths from one of the nearby hiking trails.

The park is easily accessible by car with nearby parking available. A steep but short downhill descent on foot leads one towards the picturesque Pacific Ocean where the ruins sit along the shore line. Most of the area is able to be explored on foot, though caution should be taken navigating the crumbling ruins, many tourists and water filled pools. Visitors brave enough can explore the tunnel sitting off to the right of the ruins when facing the ocean.

More views of Sutro Baths can be gained by hiking up one of the surrounding hill trails. Cliff House is another nearby landmark that is a good stop for food, drinks or to gain more unique history of the area.

Sutro Baths ruins.
Part of the Sutro Baths ruins people can walk along.

If you enjoyed this read and would like to explore other creepy places in San Francisco, check out my blog on its hidden Presidio Pet Cemetery.

Thanks for reading!


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About Amy

Amy is a world traveller and explorer of creepy locations. She has visited some of the most famously haunted places around the world in search of evidence of the paranormal. Follow Amy's Journey:

Comments (2)

  • Jarrad

    Posted by Jarrad on March 16, 2020

    The memories! I have very fond memories visiting the Sutro Baths with you and especially on this occasion to shoot/film this location. One of your first videos, and though you have come a long way with your filming and editing, the video is still amazing! Keep up the awesome work.


      Posted by Amy on March 21, 2020

      Thank you so much, Jarrad! These were good times.

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