Home to famous icons of fun and entertainment (Hollywood and Disneyland, to name a few), you wouldn’t expect any haunted places in California, would you? After all, how could Mickey Mouse ever be scary? But beyond the fun and games, lies a more sinister side of California. Vengeance-seeking spirits lurking around corridors, mysterious music drifting out from empty rooms, strange breezes, flickering lights… If you’re willing to delve deep into the dark with us, read on. We’ve compiled 10 of the most spine-chilling haunted places in California for you to uncover.
Ahem, before we begin, you might want to make sure all your lights are switched on. And, don’t look behind you. No matter what.
1. The Whaley House
San Diego, California
The former home of Thomas Whaley (an early settler in California) and his family, the Whaley House today is notorious for being one of the most haunted places in California. Many visitors to the Whaley House report sightings of Thomas Whaley himself, usually on the upper landing. Clad in clothes typical of his era – a frock coat and pantaloons – the apparition has been documented by both children and adults alike. Thomas Whaley’s wife, Anna Whaley has also been seemingly sighted at this spooky house. Mrs Whaley’s spirit has been reported near the garden or in the rooms down stairs.
Other creepy presences reported by visitors include the presence of a lady in the courtroom. Others have fervently claimed to have sensed or seen the presence of a little girl, usually in the dining room. Whispers of urban legend claim that this young spirit is that of a playmate of the Whaley’s children. Said to be named either Annabel or Carrie, the young girl’s life came to a tragic end when her neck was broken on a low-hanging clothesline in the backyard of the Whaley house.
San Francisco, California
A small island located off the shore of San Francisco, Alcatraz was a reclusive military prison. Dating back to 1861, various Civil War prisoner of wars and citizens accused of treason were imprisoned in this tiny island, away from the mainland. In 1934, Alcatraz became a federal prison. Prisoners who continuously wreaked havoc at other prisons were said to be sent to this isolated island for incarceration. Most of them were high-profile criminals, guilty of notorious robberies and murders.
Today the prison facility in Alcatraz has been abandoned. Yet, its chilling history still seems to linger on today. Visitors to Alcatraz often report ghostly sensations and eerie feelings. Guards also report hearing strange noises coming from the very room which witnessed the gruesome shooting of 3 inmates during a failed prison escape. Alcatraz was also where the notorious Al Capone was imprisoned. Today, some people report hearing eerie music of a banjo playing from the prison’s shower room…. The exact place where Al Capone used to play his banjo during break times. Tours to Alcatraz are available, if you dare to venture.
3. The Queen Mary
Long Beach, California
Once a magnificent British ocean liner in its heyday, The Queen Mary is now one of the creepiest places in California. People reported sightings of the spirit of a victim of a gruesome murder in one of the ship’s staterooms. Notably, people say that suite room B-340 is one of the most haunted rooms in the ship. Chilling sightings include those of a lady dancing all by herself in a luxury suite, and groups of people moving around, decked in the garb of the 1930s. Notably, the spirit of a crew member whose life was tragically ended by the crush of a heavy watertight door is said to roam the ship as well.
Other unusual experiences aboard this ship include drastic temperature changes, doors randomly slamming and blood-curdling cries. The Queen Mary is definitely one of the spookiest places in California. Don’t climb aboard unless you’ve got a heart of steel.
4. Hotel del Coronado
San Diego, California
The year was 1892. The day began no different than it did yesterday. The luxurious waterfront resort received guests as per usual. Staff bustled about their day ensuring top service. Guest mingled in the lobby and enjoyed their vacation. Then, all changed when fresh-faced 24-year-old Kate Morgan arrived. She checked into the luxurious hotel alone – which was unusual but did not necessarily set much alarm bells ringing. Shortly later, she was found dead – by suicide, apparently – on the stairs of the hotel. The real reason for her death remains a mystery till today.
Now, more than a century after her puzzling demise, guests report phantom footsteps and other unusual experiences at their stay in this hotel. Many terrified guests speak of their stay at the Hotel del Coronado with hushed whispers. Indeed, it is one of the scariest haunted places in California that’s not for the faint-hearted.
5. Winchester Mystery House
San Jose, California
A grand mansion, Winchester Mystery House was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester. Sarah Winchester was the widow of Wiliam Wirt Winchester, famous for being the treasurer of a famous American maker of firearms. Today, Winchester Mystery House is an official California historical landmark. However, not explicitly stated on any official register, is the well-known knowledge that it is also one of the most haunted places in California. Since its construction way back in 1884, till today, many have reported ghostly sightings at the mansion. Most of the apparitions seem to be the poor victims murdered by Winchester Rifles – manufactured by Sarah Winchester’s husband.
If you have neither fear nor a will to live, you can book tickets for a haunted tour that takes you through the mansion. As you walk through the hallowed hallways, you’ll feel a chill run down your spine. The nape of your neck may turn cold. Your skin tingles like an army of ants are marching underneath. You get the feeling like you’re being watched, by something, or someone… You’ll get an urge to turn around to quench your curiosity, but heed my words: Don’t.
6. Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Los Angeles, California
Opened in 1927, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel proudly claims the title of being the oldest continually running hotel in Los Angeles. However, one title that the hotel does not proudly put on display is that it is also one of the creepiest haunted places in California. The famous actress, Marilyn Monroe used to call the hotel her home for two whole years at the beginning of her career. She must have loved the hotel to death (literally), as today many guests report seeing her ghostly spirit in the hotel.
Other celebrity ghostly sightings include Montgomery Cliff, in Room 928 where he stayed for 3 months. Guests in that room report feelings of being patted on their shoulders and maids claim to have been watched by him. All in all, he does seem pretty cheeky and playful – nothing malicious at all. Thank goodness. Still going to do a little prayer before checking into any of the rooms in the hotel, though.
7. Point Sur Lighthouse
Monterey County, California
Most people agree that Point Sur Lighthouse is one of the most haunted lighthouses in America. Despite its beautiful location and picturesque scenery, Point Sur Lighthouse still exudes a vibe dripping with darkness, mystery and eeriness. Brave explorers who have visited the lighthouse speak of an unexplained creepiness that envelope them. Sightings at this lighthouse include those of its former keeper. Some joke that the view from the lighthouse was just to –ahem— die for, to the point that the dead keeper literally keeps coming back for more.
Paranormal enthusiasts who visit this place also claim to have solid evidence of the spirits haunting the lighthouse. Some even have voice recordings of the spirits speaking to them. The creepiest voice notes include that of a thin female voice telling someone to go to bed. Some claim that if you strain your ears, you can hear the voice of a little girl replying to her. The doors in the kitchen sometimes swing open and shut – all on their own. But, ghost hunters claim that the spirits in the lighthouse are not malevolent. Visitors to the lighthouse are safe, as long as they exercise due respect and courtesy.
8. Moaning Cavern
Caleveras County, California
Moaning Cavern is a popular tourist spot in California. Famous for being one of the deepest caves in California, tourists can partake in various fun activities like zip-lining and trekking. However, behind the laughter and glee, hides a more eerie experience that many prefer to remain secretive about.
In fact, Moaning Cavern took its very name from the creepy moans that reverberate through the caves occasionally. You can also sometimes hear echoes of what sounds like hammers persistently slamming against the rocks. Some conspiracy theories claimed that mythical creatures made those noises. Others point the source to prehistoric people who once lived in the cave. By the way, people found the remains of these prehistoric people at the bottom of the cave… spooky!
Besides ghostly sightings of these prehistoric humans, some even claim to have seen apparitions of ghostly animals. Notably, people have reported seeing the spirit of a prehistoric saber-tooth tiger. The reported sightings are highly vivid and detailed in their description. This supposed ghostly tiger has a large chip on one of its fangs. The urban legend is that the saber-tooth tiger fell off the cliff, and chipped its fang against one of the sharp rocks. Lucky us, I guess – the bite might hurt less.
9. Preston Castle
Amador County, California
Preston Castle is the oldest reform school in the United States of America. The olden days’ equivalent of today’s Boys Home, Preston Castle used to house wayward middle school boys to–uhh—reform them. Conditions in Preston Castle were pretty tough. Some speak of a shady floor where the adults make the boys wash their hair in strong chemical concoctions to rid them of lice. The chemicals were too strong, however, that many ended up with painful sores on their head.
Additionally, Preston Castle is no stranger to death. In fact, several deaths occurred at the castle, with the most prominent one being that of housekeeper Anna Corbin who was found bludgeoned to death in 1950. Many suspect the murderer to be that of an unhinged schoolboy. Today, many believe that she haunts the building, seeking vengeance.
10. Bodie State Historic Park
Mono County, California
Abandoned and desolate, Bodie State Historic Park feels like someone took a snapshot of the 1800s and left it there to slowly decay for eternity. It is one of California’s best preserved and most historic ghost town. As you walk through the frozen town, you can even find nails and shards of dishware lying on the streets.
Besides its remarkable ability to throw you back in time, it is also one of the most haunted places in California. Once a progressive town in the 1800s, Bodie State Historic Park is now deserted. Its only occupants are the occasional tour groups and the spirits that reportedly lurk in the area. Many believe the area to be cursed and visitors are warned against bringing any items back home, lest the curse befalls them.
California is seriously aplenty with haunted sites. The haunted places in California are diverse at that too – ranging from ships to hotels to even caves! Every place on this list of Top 10 Most Haunted Places in California sent a serious chill down my spine. It takes serious guts to enter any of these haunted places in California. Hats off to you if you’ve gone to or are thinking of visiting any of these places!
Have you gone to any of these haunted places in California before? Share some of your spookiest experiences with us in the comments!