Top Three Most Haunted Houses in San Francisco
Let’s forget about the people who have left their hearts in San Francisco and look at those who have left their souls. Beneath San Francisco’s friendly culture and pastel Victorian lined streets lies a dark, haunted past. Three homes in San Francisco stand out for being notoriously haunted places. Here’s a look at those homes and the backstories that uphold their reputations.
#3. The Whittier Mansion
If ever there were a place in San Francisco that looked the part of a haunted house it would be Whittier Mansion. The dark residence stands proudly in the exclusive Pacific Height District of San Francisco, just a block away from the beautiful Lafayette Park. The home was built in 1896 by William Franklin Whittier for his beloved wife who, unfortunately, passed away before the mansions completion, a precursor for the building’s strange and haunted future.
Today the Whittier Mansion is a private residence after leading an interesting past. It is one of the older homes in San Francisco being one of few that survived the devastation of the 1906 earthquake. Now a historical landmark, the building also briefly served as the German consulate during the 1940s, a philosophical institute and the once home of the California Historical Society.
The Whittier Mansion is rumored to have previously housed German spies collecting information on America before WWII. Some of these spies are thought to still roam throughout the house, spotted by unsuspecting visitors. Other ghosts with more mysterious pasts have been spotted inside the house. A short, bald butler is commonly seen on the second floor and a lady sitting in a chair has also been spotted. It is unsure who or why these two ghosts are inside Whittier Mansion.
The better known ghosts of the mansion are, of course, the Whittiers themselves. William Whittier is thought to haunt the mansion since his death within its walls in 1917, still longing and grieving for his lost wife. Another popular theory is that William’s son, Billy Whittier, haunts the mansion. A shadow figure has frequently been seen in the home’s basement, previously a wine cellar and the old maid quarters. This is accompanied by feelings of fear and unease as well as sudden drops in temperature. This paranormal activity is thought to be Billy – a lazy, party boy in life who lived with his father and his fortune, while indulging his interests of wine and women.
#2. The Chambers Mansion
Just a short walk from the Whittier Mansion sits the prestigious Chambers Mansion. Hidden behind a heavy fence and trees shielding the resident’s privacy one can grab but few glimpses of the building’s white exterior. Built in 1887 and first owned by Richard Chambers, the building was previously run as a hotel during the 1970’s and today is a private residence.
According to legend, Chambers lived in the mansion until his death in 1901. His estate was then passed to his two nieces who moved into the residence together. Rumor holds that the sisters hated each other and struggled to get along. They were able to co-exist at opposite ends of the house until one of them, Claudia, died in a suspicious accident. Reports of her death vary but all involve farm equipment, with some on the more gruesome stories claiming that poor Claudia was almost cut in half.
Since this tragedy the house has been a paranormal hot spot and more rumors have continued to make this already creepy tale all the more sinister. Seances have been held in the residence to contact the spirits dwelling inside the mansion. This communication has lead to the belief that Claudia’s death was in no way an accident. One belief is that Claudia’s sister murdered her, while another is that she was murdered by a deranged family member who escaped from their prison in the attic. What ever the case, it is widely thought that Claudia has yet to leave the mansion.
If there weren’t already enough strange layers to this story, the Chambers were also rumored to be involved in black magic. The high level of trapped spirits in this home are thought to have been invited in via black magic. Richard Chambers supposedly still haunts his home after bounding himself in death to the property.
Whomever these ghosts may be they are certainly active. Mysterious flashing lights from the home’s windows are frequently reported by passers by. Within the house windows and doors will close themselves, lights will turn on or off as they please and sudden temperature drops lead to the belief that one if not completely alone.
#1. The Atherton Mansion
Again, just a short walk from the Whittier and Chamber mansion lies possibly the most haunted house in San Francisco. The Atherton Mansion is a picture perfect home with a killer back story well known in the Bay Area.
Built in 1881 by Dominga de Goñi after her wealthy husband, Faxon D. Atherton, passed away. The widow moved to San Francisco to her new home along with one of her seven children, George, and his wife Gertrude.
George lived an unhappy existence with his mother and wife, as they belittled and questioned his manhood constantly. In 1887 George’s abuse had reached a climax and he decided to remove himself from the home. He accepted an invitation to sail to Chile where he hoped to prove his worth and follow in his father’s footsteps as a successful businessman.
Unfortunately for George, his success wasn’t meant to be. During his voyage he developed kidney issues before dying at sea from kidney failure. The captain, not sure what to do with George’s lifeless body, decided he would preserve it in a rum barrel and ship it back to his San Francisco home. Without any knowledge of George’s passing, his former butler accepted the delivery and received quite a shock upon opening the barrel.
George’s body was dried out and buried. His spirit, however, remained within the mansion to haunt the women who had given him a hard time throughout his life. Loud knocks on the bedroom doors and walls and disturbing cold presences quickly drove both Dominga and Gertrude from the home.
After this series of events, no one took up residence in the building for very long. That is, not until 1923 when the eccentric Carrie Rousseau moved in. She lived exclusively in the ballroom with 50 cats until her death in 1974.
Now a private residence, reports of hauntings persist. After a seance was conducted it was established that the Atherton Mansion still housed the spirits of Dominga, Gertrude, George and Carrie.
Find These Haunted Houses
What do you think of my top three picks for haunted houses in San Francisco? Is it a coincidence that they all exists within a short walk from each other?
Below are the address of these homes. I’d like to note that all of these houses are now private residences and should be respected as such. Additionally, each of these homes are on the National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco, you can find out more about this by clicking the links below.
Whittier Mansion: 2090 Jackson Street, San Fransisco, California
Chambers Mansion: 2220 Sacramento Street, San Fransisco, California
Atherton Mansion: 1990 California Street, San Fransisco, California
Thanks for reading. If you want to check out another cool haunted place in California, take a look at my blog post on The Queen Mary.