San Francisco is home to a lot of lore, between storied mansions and true villainy. At various times throughout history, the destination has served as a breeding ground for real life evil like the Zodiac Killer and Golden State Killer, as well as fictional ghosts from the likes of Mark Twain. As the home to Alcatraz Island, perhaps the spookiest prison in the country, rumored to be surrounded by sharks, the Bay Area boasts a lot to offer by way of trick (and treat).
Below are our ultimate picks for getting your Halloween season started to the right, scary start.
You have to take a boat to get to Alcatraz, the legendary prison that sits on its own island apart from San Francisco. Take a tour of its now-vacant halls and experience the spooky vibe of the maximum security jail where Al Capone lived his final years. There are countless tales of prisoners who’ve died in Alcatraz who now roam the halls, including the faint sound of banjo-playing from Al Capone himself.
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco’s most notable landmark has also served as the place of thousands of suicides. For that reason, people have claimed to see ghosts along its walkway and within Golden Gate Park. The Culture Trip cites the particularly creepy story of “The White Lady of Stow Lake,” about a young mother who committed suicide after her baby went missing. Visit the area for your chance to see the mother, who periodically arises from the lake in search of her child.
Winchester Mystery House
Take a short drive to San Jose to the former residence of Sarah Winchester. If the name Winchester sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard of the firearm by the same name. Sarah was the widow of its founder, and it’s been said that the home has been reclaimed by all of the ghosts who have been killed by her husband’s rifles. The Winchester family itself has their own spooky legacy, from Sarah’s husband who died of tuberculosis to her infant daughter, who passed of marasmus. The home itself is worth the visit from Tiffany windows to stunning “new” (at the time) technology, and even more so if you buy into its unforgettable mythology.
The Black House
The Black House was a notorious San Francisco destination, located at 6114 California Street. Home to the Church of Satan, run by Anton LaVey, the painted black house served as the headquarters for various satanic rituals and ceremonies in the 1960s and 1970s. The house was demolished in 2001 when the Church of Satan couldn’t come up with the funds to keep the property, and now a picturesque duplex stands where its sinister black exterior used to be. You can still visit the scene of prime 1960s occult activity, but you’ll have to imagine for yourself the home that once stood there.