If you’re a thrill-seeker, paranormal enthusiast or just want to get a little creeped out, then Northern California has plenty in store for you. From haunted mansions to abandoned ghost towns, prepare to get in contact with the supernatural with these five spooky locations.
Winchester Mystery House – San Jose
This mysterious mansion was once the home of William Wirt Winchester, manufacturer of the famous Winchester rifle, and his wife Sarah. As their story goes, their marriage was short-lived and anything but happy: their daughter died in infancy, Sarah became horribly depressed, and William died of tuberculosis fifteen years later.
Driven mad with grief by the loss of her family, Sarah moved from Connecticut to California and began constructing what is now known as the Winchester Mystery House. She was convinced that the spirits of everyone killed by a Winchester rifle were haunting her, and that they would come after her. She had the whole house designed to confuse these evil spirits, with twisting hallways and secret passageways through the walls. She was so scared that rumor has it she would never sleep in the same bedroom twice, in order to confound anything malicious that might have wanted to kill her.
The San Francisco Dungeons – Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco
The San Francisco Dungeons bring many different aspects of the Bay Area’s haunted past in an entertaining, spooky experience. Actors guide visitors through 200 years of history and perform vignettes of San Francisco’s checkered past. From the Gold Rush of 1849, to the vicious gang called The Hounds, to the Plague of 1900, everything in the Dungeons is based on real Bay Area history and legendary figures, like Shanghai Kelly and Miss Piggott.
USS Hornet – Alameda
Noted as one of the most haunted places in America, the USS Hornet was commissioned in November 1943 and fought in the Pacific battles of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It’s estimated that during its 27 years of service, 300 people lost their lives on board, and it holds the grim record for the highest suicide rate in the US Navy.
Visitors and crew members alike have reported strange occurrences, such as toilets flushing on their own, or doors that open and close by themselves. Others have also given accounts of sightings that include the spirits of sailors moving through the ship, eerie sounds and sensations, as if being grabbed or pushed when no one else is around.
Ghost town – Bodie, California
Named after W. S. Bodey, who discovered gold in the nearby hills, Bodie (misspelled by a sign maker) was once a thriving gold rush town. In 1877, a huge gold deposit was discovered at Bodie Mine, and it became as rough as any boomtown during the craze of that era.
Bodie’s descent into a ghost town was slow, but its reputation as a town of ghosts was quick to catch on. Its most haunted building is the Cain House, where it’s reported that the spirit of the Chinese housemaid still lingers around the property.
Alcatraz Island – San Francisco Bay
Located 1.5 miles off the coast of San Francisco, from 1934 to 1963 Alcatraz was once the most secure federal prison in America. It housed some of the era’s most dangerous criminals, including Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, Robert ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ Stroud and James ‘Whitey’ Bulger.
The prison was shut down in 1963 due to high operating costs, and became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972. It has become a popular tourist attraction for its gruesome history and for its eerie stories of hauntings: visitors have reported hearing footsteps, moaning, the feeling of cold fingers on the back of the neck, even the faint strains of a banjo from the shower where Capone used to sing.
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