Graveyard Shift
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Hair-Raisingly Haunted Hotels In San Francisco

Updated September 23, 2021 12 items
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With property values in San Francisco consistently on the rise, the dead have been pushed out to make more room for the living. All but two graveyards are located miles away from the city; perhaps that's why its ghostly residents now call San Francisco's many hotels home. While some spirits travel across the bay to Berkeley's Claremont Hotel or find lodging in the creepy island prison Alcatraz, San Francisco's hotels have gained a spooky reputation for catering to ghosts as well as tourists.

Hardships during the Gold Rush and two massive earthquakes were responsible for extensive damage and loss of life in San Francisco's early history, which may account for the volume of restless spirits that allegedly populate the city by the bay. Ghost stories are so prevalent throughout the area that tourists and curious residents have a variety of local ghost tours to choose from. Ghost hunting enthusiasts can wander its haunted forests, parks, and public buildings before retiring to a hotel room that may also contain a spirit or two. And not all of these phantoms are of the hostile variety. Those brave enough to stay in certain hotels may see a departed celebrity or be gently tucked into bed by a friendly spirit.

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  • The Late Proprietor Still Checks On Guests At The Queen Anne Hotel

    Originally established as an etiquette school for young upper-class girls in 1890, the Queen Anne Hotel is said to be haunted by its founder, schoolteacher Mary Lake.

    Hotel owners purchased the four-story building in the 1980s and turned it into a lavishly decorated bed and breakfast. According to stories, a benevolent spirit believed to be Lake now helps take care of guests at the Queen Anne Hotel. Visitors claim to have been tucked into bed, found items on the floor picked up, and discovered their bags unpacked and clothes neatly hung in the closet. Others witnessed misty apparitions, felt cold spots, or encountered a mysterious yet friendly presence in the hotel. Room 410 of the Queen Anne used to function as Lake's office and allegedly features the most paranormal activity experienced in the building.

  • The Owner's Daughter Inspires Nightmares At The Hotel Majestic

    Built in 1902, the Hotel Majestic still features a portrait of Lisa, the original owner's daughter, in the lobby. After her father sold the building, Lisa refused to move out of room 407, and many believe the woman now haunts the hotel's fourth floor. Guests have reported phantom footsteps and sounds of jingling keys coming from the hallway, flickering lights, and other strange noises.

    According to stories, bathtubs fill with water on their own and faucets mysteriously turn on. Guests allege ghostly experiences in other areas of the hotel, such as misty figures in the dining room, televisions turning off and on by themselves, and windows opening on their own. Many visitors also report having night terrors, strange dreams, or horrible nightmares during their stay.

  • A Ghostly Old Woman Lingers At The San Remo Hotel

    Photo: Jana Taylor / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    After the 1906 earthquake, many of the displaced people and immigrants that helped rebuild the city lived in what later came to be known as the San Remo Hotel. Built by Bank of America founder A.P. Giannini, the hotel accumulated a number of ghost stories over the years - such as a haunted bookcase where witnesses often claim to feel cold spots and a restaurant where visitors witness apparitions from a wedding reception slaying. An apparition of a young girl is said to run through the hotel's halls and stop to knock on the door of room 42. Those who stay in the room have reported hearing a knock from a child's height - only to open the door and find no one outside.

    After a man took his life in room 42, hotel staff have reported hearing things moving and a man's voice inside when no one is present. However, the most common ghost stories about the San Remo involve room 33, which allegedly served as the home of an elderly former madam for many years. It is said that she died in her locked room and remained undiscovered for months until hotel staff checked on her by climbing through the window. Referred to as "The Painted Lady," she reportedly moves things, opens the window, and occasionally appears to guests as part of a painting hanging in the room.

  • A Departed Celebrity Plays Cards At The St. Francis Hotel

    In the early 1900s, movie stars considered the St. Francis Hotel a fashionable place to stay and, for an unfortunate few, perish. John Barrymore escaped harm while staying there during the 1906 earthquake, but actor Virginia Rappe wasn't as fortunate. She passed away mysteriously after a 1921 party. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, a popular comedic actor of the era, was accused of mortally wounding Rappe during an assault. Though he was acquitted of all charges, the scandal ended his career. In 1950, Al Jolson suffered a heart attack while playing cards and passed in the same room where Rappe once stayed: room 1219.

    Guests report seeing apparitions of both Rappe and Jolson around the hotel, the former wandering the halls and tearing at her hair, the latter playing cards. According to stories, a spirit wearing a white dress may live in the St. Francis as well, and many believe her to be Edith Pope, a San Francisco socialite who lived at the hotel for many years. In addition to apparitions, many visitors claim to have experienced terrifying nightmares while staying at the hotel.