In a city as large, storied and historic as San Francisco, it’s no surprise to hear the occasional ghost story. But do you know just how many chilling tales fill our beautiful neighborhoods? From South Bay, through San Francisco and up into wine country, historians and paranormal experts offer tours of bone-chilling histories and creepy lore.
Whether you’re searching for something special this Halloween or you’re looking for year-round scares, there are plenty of options to choose from! Check out our roundup to find out when and where you can get scared. Then, gather your bravest friends to hit the town in the dead of night.
Wild SF Walking Tours offers some of the city’s best and most interesting experiences — including The Free SF Tour, The Radical SF Route and the free Free Love Tour. Haunted SF is their most eerie option. While exploring the hotels and streets of downtown and the Tenderloin, you’ll hear legends of unexplained deaths, scandalous murders, ruthless cult leaders, the old red light district, famed spirits, serial killers, assassins and more. Choose your spooky evening online, book your tour and meet in Union Square for a fun fright night anytime of year! But you may want to leave the kids at home for this one.
This Ghost Hunt Walking Tour was San Francisco’s first ghost tour. Following a historical route through the Pacific Heights neighborhood, you’ll encounter fine Victorian architecture in one of the few neighborhoods to survive The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 — and meet all the ghosts along the way. Based on documented research, you’ll learn real names from SF history and hear how they lived, how they died and the reports of neighborhood’s hauntings ever since. Offering year-round tours most nights of the week, you can book your experience easily online.
Do you know the names of Haight-Ashbury’s infamous cult leaders and ruthless murderers? You will after a trip through the neighborhood on this thrilling tour. Beginning at 7 p.m. sharp, you’ll take off with your tour guide, founder and president of the San Francisco Ghost Society. While passing some of the city’s most haunted buildings, you’ll learn the legends, maybe see a ghost or two and then end in a haunted pub! Choose your evening and buy tickets online.
This historical tour isn’t purposefully a haunted experience, but exploring Alcatraz Island by night may convince you otherwise. The tour begins by ferry with a guided tour around the island while your guide points out the hidden spots used for attempted escapes and the prison structures unreachable by foot. Once docked, you’ll see highlights of the exterior then explore the Cellhouse — including solitary confinement cells, stories from real prisoners and tales of attempted breakouts. Buy your tickets online!
This tour through Chinatown’s historic and mysterious streets and alleyways will change the way you view the neighborhood forever. Bringing to life the tales of Chinatown’s paranormal past and present, you’ll follow along by lamplight journeying through the neighborhood passageways where lively spirits are said to bide their time. Learn about the reverence still offered to the Goddess Kwan Yin and her hungry spirits along with the secrets of the magic mooncake. Book online to experience the tour or choose the additional Murder Mystery Show for extra fun!
The USS Hornet is a National and State Historic Landmark that played huge roles in naval aviation history, the defense of our country, the Apollo Program and our exploration of space. It is also notoriously haunted! Once per month, you’re invited to explore the ship in the dead of night and find out for yourself. The behind the scenes tour includes areas that have been left virtually untouched since the ship’s decommissioning over forty years ago along with other eerie paranormal hot-spots. Visitors must be at least 13-years-old, but you can reserve your tickets online here.
With The Vampire Tour of San Francisco, bloodsuckers aren’t reserved for Halloween anymore. Suitable for all ages, this Nob Hill experience passes Grace Cathedral, the Nob Hill Cafe, Huntington Park, the Pacific-Union Club, the Fairmont Hotel and the Mark Hopkins Hotel covering about 85% true fact with a little vampire lore and humor thrown in. Join award-winning guide Mina Harker on the first Saturday of every month for just $25 per person!
San Francisco City Guides offers dozens of tours throughout the year and has become one of the city’s most renowned tour organizations. This haunted option is hosted periodically throughout the year and explores Union Square and Chinatown from the comfort of an armchair. On the group’s only seated tour, you’ll explore hidden tunnels used during prohibition to enter secret speakeasies, learn about hotels with apparitions and hidden rooms, a murder scandal with a legendary Hollywood actor, a notorious stagecoach robber, and ghosts that haunt a theater, a cabaret, the brothels of Maiden Lane and Chinatown. Check the tour page to get updates on upcoming presentations!
Head up to wine country for this creepy tour! Among other attractions, you’ll see The Whipping Tree, the Site of the Indian Bear and Rattlesnake Sacrifice Ceremony, a mass grave just a few feet below a major thoroughfare, and Mission Solano, a historic church with a dark past and an even darker padre, Father Altimira. For $28 on most Friday and Wednesday evenings, you can meet the ghosts of wine country and learn why the city never really sleeps. Book your tour online here.
Brand new for 2017, Haunted Vacaville Ghost Walk explores one of Solano County’s most haunted cities. Told by real historians and paranormal investigators, you’ll hear the stories of several haunted locations in the downtown area — including the town park which used to be Vacaville’s cemetery! From Native American history to present day characters who still roam the shadows, you’ll learn how to investigate for yourself while hearing of the legends and characters steeped in history.
On this 90-minute to 2-hour walking tour, you’ll encounter a ghost judge inside The Old Napa Courthouse, learn about an eccentric photographer who was acquitted of murder, hear the legend of Billy Roe, and discover the haunts and stories in the heart of Napa. General Admission is $25 and tours are offered Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. Get more information and book your experience in advance.
This bone-chilling and thrilling experience takes walking tour to a whole new level. The San Francisco Dungeon in Fisherman’s Wharf brings together theatrics, special effects, stages and scenes in an exciting walkthrough experience you’ll see, hear, touch, smell and feel. Guided by professional actors, you’ll pass through ten interactive shows about San Francisco’s dark and sinful past in an attraction that combines haunted house with historical tour year-round. You can find additional ticket and show information here.
The Winchester Mystery House is notoriously one of South Bay’s most haunted buildings. During October, they take the thrills up a notch with the Hallowe’en Candlelight Tour, an exploration of the legendary 160-room Victorian mansion noted for its paranormal activity. For just 20 nights during the 2017 Halloween season, you can explore the maze of hauntings and historic grandeur by candlelight! Buy tickets online then check back for the year-round Friday the 13th Flashlight Tour.
Electric Tour Company offers year-round segway tours throughout San Francisco and they have been doing so for over 24 years! During October, the tour gets haunted with a Time Travel Segway Tour exploring the hoodlums, harlots, ghosts, thieves and other fine citizens of the city’s past. For approximately 2.5 hours, this one-of-a-kind interactive tour covers the infamous SF haunts North Beach, Chinatown and the Barbary Coast.
During the Halloween season, San Francisco City Guides adds a haunted walk through City Hall to their long list of tour options. Information includes disinterred remains, assassinations and other ghostly lore plus little-known facts like the cemetery that once covered Civic Center! Replacing history and architecture with paranormal activity and stories from real employees, you’ll encounter a whole new side of San Francisco’s historic landmark. Get updates on the schedule and tickets here.
If we missed your favorite Bay Area ghost tour, let us know in the comments below.