5) Haskell House at Fort Mason
At the end of Franklin Street in Fort Mason, you’ll find a sign indicating an 1850s-era structure as the “Haskell House”—originally home to an early San Francisco developer, Leonidas Haskell. Haskell, along with several other residents of the “Black Point” area in Fort Mason, was an anti-slavery “free-soiler” and supporter of David Broderick for California’s U.S. Senate seat. After a volley of insults, Broderick’s opponent, California State Supreme Court Justice David Terry, challenged the anti-slavery candidate to a duel near Lake Merced on September 13, 1859. Broderick, mortally wounded, was rushed to the home of his friend, Leonidas Haskell. He died there three days later.
In the intervening years, the military men who lived in the Haskell House have reported mysterious happenings: lights flickering on and off, framed pictures falling from walls, and a figure flitting through the home—the figure of a man in a top hat, presumably the ghost of David Broderick.
4) Muir Woods At Night
By day, Muir Woods is a beautiful sanctuary of peace among the redwoods. When dusk falls, though, a person’s imagination runs to far more sinister places in the profound darkness of the forest. You know it’s the same place, but when the sun goes down your heart rate goes up nonetheless. Maybe it’s because of the chill-inducing hoots of owls, northern spotted owls and the invasive barred owls, winging their way above. Maybe it’s the whispers from the leathery wings of 10 species of bats as they embark on their nocturnal hunt. Or maybe it’s the soul-freezing fact that, in the dark, you are confronted with the massiveness of the mystery of it all.
Although Muir Woods is usually closed after dark, you can see for yourself on a Muir Woods After Hours tour, November 10—one of the few times during the year when you can experience the National Monument at night.
3) Battery Townsley
While most of the mysterious batteries and bunkers in the Marin Headlands are sealed off, the most extensive facility is open for public tours. Built in the late 1930s on a hill above Fort Cronkhite, Battery Townsley was so high-security that few knew of its existence. During World War II, it mounted two massive guns (capable of firing 2,100-pound projectiles 25 miles out to sea) and housed more than 100 men in a warren of underground tunnels and rooms.
If the thought of spending days in a dank concrete cave isn’t creepy enough, consider this: soldiers sometimes had to drill in complete darkness—in the event of electrical failure.
2) The Presidio
In addition to its persistent and eerie fog, the Presidio has three essential ingredients for hauntings: a deep and ancient history (the post was founded in 1776), many gravestones (see the San Francisco National Cemetery), and tragic events (the wife and three young daughters of John “Black Jack” Pershing died in 1915 when a fire consumed their home, marked now by the flagpole in Pershing Square).
Other spooky sites in the Presidio include the grounds of the Letterman Digital Arts Center (built on the site of the old Letterman Army Hospital, where tens of thousands of wounded soldiers were treated during World War II, and where many of them tragically perished); the area behind the Presidio Landmark apartment building (where hundreds of foreign merchant seamen were interred, far from home, behind the Marine Hospital during the late 1800s); and of course the Pet Cemetery (think Stephen King).
To begin your explorations, check out the new temporary Presidio Visitor Center, located in Building 105 on the Main Post, open Thursday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
1) Alcatraz Cellhouse
The infamous island of Alcatraz is where you can find one of the most famous haunted “houses” in America: the Cellhouse. It is the site of numerous suicides and tragic escape attempts, including the one in May 1946 during which two guards and three inmates were killed in a violent skirmish. The spirits of the three convicts are purported to haunt Cellblock C, where they died. Other seemingly inexplicable goings-on have been reported over the years: mysterious crashing sounds, running footsteps, swinging doors, and screams. In particular, the “holes” (cells for solitary confinement) and the prison hospital have been especially fraught with reports of alleged paranormal activity.
The best way to experience the bone-chilling nature of the Rock is to go on an Alcatraz Night Tour. Winter, the “quiet” season on Alcatraz, is a great time for locals to make a trip to the island. And, in this season of atmospheric mist and rain, the scene is set for a perfectly spooky trip!
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