Scary Haunted Places in California

Karen Frazier
Battery Point Lighthouse
Battery Point Lighthouse

Scary haunted places in California include some highly unusual locations, such as amusement park rides, schools, cemeteries and museums. You can visit many of these places yourself to try to catch a glimpse of a spirit or hear ghostly sounds.

Northern California

Northern California is strikingly different from the Southern part of the state. It's a much more natural setting where you can find cattle ranches and vineyards throughout, like the famous Napa Valley. The quiet country roads and isolated highways, such as U.S. 101, provide visitors a taste of towering forests and rolling hills. Northern California is a natural cathedral where thousands of visitors come to relax and escape from life, and apparently many ghosts do as well.

Battery Point Lighthouse

Coastal Living rated the Battery Point Lighthouse it's 7th most haunted lighthouse in the country. The Battery Point Lighthouse sits on the northern tip of California in Crescent City. It was first built in 1856 at the height of the local logging boom when San Francisco was rapidly growing. The station's first keeper was Theophilus Magruder from 1856 through 1875. In 1875, Captain John Jeffrey and his wife took over duties at the lighthouse and lived there for 39 years. While they suffered through a number of storms and difficulties to be expected when living off of the mainland, as far as anyone knows, no one ever died at the lighthouse. The lighthouse was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1965, and visitors today report it is haunted by several ghosts. Guests who tour the lighthouse report being touched by an unseen presence and have witnessed objects moving, as well as the sound of large boots walking up and down the lighthouse stairs.

The USS Hornet

USS Hornet
The USS Hornet

Located in Alameda, the USS Hornet is one of America's most haunted battleships according to parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach. Commissioned in 1943, the USS Hornet was involved in the Pacific Theater of World War II, doing battle with the Japanese. Reports of paranormal activity include disembodied voices, full-body apparitions, and the sounds of tools clanking against aircraft parts.

Mendocino Hotel

The Mendocino Hotel is a beautifully restored hotel in the heart of Mendocino, a historic lumber port along the same shipping route as Crescent City. The Mendocino was opened in 1878 and was known as the Temperance House at the time. It began as a decent hotel, but in time it blended in with the surrounding culture and became a brothel. Today, the hotel is haunted by the ghost of a Victorian woman. Her ghost is reported to especially haunt tables six and eight, and her face occasionally appears in the various mirrors. Guests even report being visited by her ghost in their rooms.

Red Castle Inn

The Red Castle Inn is a large brick mansion built in 1860 overlooking Nevada City. Laura Jean is the famous ghost here. It's believed by staff she was the young woman who looked after the 11 children of the Williams family. As the story goes, Laura Jean died a fairly sudden death from a high fever. Guests and staff at the Red Castle Inn report when her ghost materializes, she is mistaken for a real person until she walks through a solid wall or a door. Unfortunately, the inn closed in 2014.

The Groveland Hotel

The Groveland Hotel
The Groveland Hotel

In 2009, The Today Show's Peter Greenburg named the Groveland Hotel in his list of haunted hotels. The Groveland Hotel was created during the Gold Rush in 1914. It was used heavily during the creating of the Hetch-Hetchy dam. One of the ghosts allegedly roams this hotel is named Lyle. Local historians believe he was a gold prospector who died in his sleep in the hotel but laid there for several days before he was found. The room where he died is known as "Lyle's Room." Reported phenomenon in this room include women's cosmetics getting knocked off his dresser, and the water in the bathroom turning off and on. The Northern California Paranormal Investigators performed an investigation and determined the hotel is home to two other ghosts as well, and visitors can take part in a ghost hunter's tour at this location.

The Brookdale Lodge

Tucked away within the towering redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains sits the Brookdale Lodge. This lodge's history begins in the 1950s when a number of famous visitors, including celebrities and mobsters, visited the lodge. These visitors included the likes of James Dean and even Marilyn Monroe. This famous lodge is rumored to house a number of ghosts. The most common apparition is the ghost of a little girl in a dress who runs into the lobby and disappears. Guests report hearing phantom voices in many of the lodge's rooms. Unfortunately, Brookdale Lodge is currently closed with no date slated for reopening.

Moss Beach Distillery

Auerbach also lists the Moss Beach Distillery in Moss Beach as one of Northern California's most prolific haunts. The distillery is home to the Blue Lady, Cayte, an apparition so enthralled with the fashion of the day that she often appears wearing different outfits. Paranormal activity at the distillery includes swinging lamps, breaking glasses, and full-body apparitions.

Tyler Street House

Located in Fresno, this peaceful looking home is reportedly anything but peaceful inside. The Tyler Street House has been an active scene of poltergeist activity since the 1980s. Red eyes can be seen peering out of the darkness, and objects fly off the walls and countertops. The most chilling aspect of the haunting is each of the 22 owners since the 1980s has found a bludgeoned cat in the upstairs closet.

Acacia Cemetery

In this old Modesto cemetery, terrifying screams and mournful wails are reportedly heard at all hours, even in the daytime. The sounds are supposedly downright terrifying and follow you through Acacia Cemetery until you finally leave.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park

San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is home to the Stow Lake Ghost. According to legend, the ghost is a woman whose baby carriage rolled into the lake while she talked with another woman. She ran through the park asking, "Have you seen my baby?" until she discovered her baby in the lake. To this day, she continues to ask park goers to help them find her baby.

Old Stage Road

Old Stage Road in Salinas is notorious for many a haunting but the one that's most common is that of a young woman who was violently murdered and decapitated in the field. It's said her ghost roams the roadway as she holds her head in her hand.

Sacramento Theater Company

One of the most haunted places in Sacramento, the Theater Company is said to have at least five resident ghosts. The most popular ghost is Pinky, an apparition that gives off a glowing pink aura.

Fort Humboldt

Fort Humboldt in Eureka is said to be haunted by a former post commander who died of malaria in 1859. The commander's specter is said to be seen looking out of a window in the old hospital building at Fort Humboldt, which is now a state park. Many people claim heavy objects are thrown to the floor.

Washington Elementary School

Because of the sheer number of people who pass through their doors, schools are places of strong memories, both happy and sad. California includes several haunted schools, including the Washington Elementary School in Alameda.

According to local legend, Washington Elementary School is haunted by the ghost of a 13-year-old boy who died while the school was being renovated. He strayed into an off-limits area, fell through a hole in the floor, and wasn't discovered until much later. Students and teachers report strong feelings of dread in the area where the boy died. Scratching, knocking, and bangs can be heard in the same hallway. Mysterious shadows flit through corridors, particularly at twilight.

The Black Diamond Mine

The Black Diamond Mine and surrounding town are said to be haunted by the ghost of Sarah Norton. Sarah was a midwife who died on her way to deliver a baby. Many remember her saying she did not want a funeral, but the townspeople felt it was the right thing to do, so they tried to perform a burial service. Twice, natural disasters such as fierce thunderstorms struck during the services. Finally, Sarah was laid to rest but her ghost continues to haunt the area. Look for Sarah's ghost at the Rose Hill Cemetery. She seems particularly fond of children and often appears to them.

The Castle Air Museum and the Haunted B-29 Bomber

Perhaps the most unusual haunted place in California is the B-29 bomber plane at the Castle Air Museum. Many paranormal investigation groups have documented activity at the site, and photographs show classic spirit orb activity near the old plane. Workers report having tools handed to them when no one else was in the plane, and one employee of the museum reported seeing the plane's light on at night while the plane itself was locked inside a building, with no one else inside. The plane's light system wasn't working at the time, making it impossible the man had seen the lights go on by themselves. Fascinating reports of bangs, knocks and other sounds from within the cockpit, as well as other evidence, show possible paranormal activity.

Southern California

Southern California is a more metropolitan area than its Northern counterpart. Bustling with people, the area is also full of paranormal visitors.

Haunted Disneyland

Although "haunted Disneyland" sounds like a theme park attraction, there are actually several ghosts residing in the theme park. Oddly enough, one such ghost lives in the Haunted Mansion itself. Visitors to the theme park report seeing the apparitions of an elderly man and woman. These apparitions ascend the grand staircase or vanish among the displays. They appear to be residual haunts and harmless. However, in the attic and the dark corners of the building, a nastier spirit occasionally troubles guests and workers. In these areas, people report having their hair pulled, being shoved or pinched, or feeling watched. Guests reporting these incidents to the management are often amazed to learn the 'really great ghosts' are in fact actual apparitions.

Other areas in Disneyland said to be haunted include the It's a Small World attraction, Matterhorn Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain. Many legends tell of guests who died on those rides and continue to haunt the area.

The Haunted Pet Cemetery

Hollywood's stars of the silver screen include many famous animal actors. The Los Angeles Pet Cemetery houses the remains of famous canine actors such as Petey, from the Little Rascals show, and pets owned by the stars. The ghost of a greyhound dog thought to be Rudolph Valentino's former pet haunts the area near his grave. Visit the grave site and wait for Kabar the dog to greet you, looking for a biscuit or a pat on the head. You may feel your hand licked or touched, or a gentle shove against your legs, as if Kabar is nudging you for attention.

The RMS Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is forever docked in Long Beach and is one of the most haunted locations in the state. Walk the decks between two and four o'clock in the morning and there's a good chance you'll see an apparition or two. One of the most commonly reported ghosts is that of John Palmer, a man who died in a freak accident in the ship's engine room.

Camp Pendleton, the 41 Area

On the second floor of one of the base barracks, a Marine who committed suicide still walks the halls and is said to move furniture. Believers say if you listen closely, you can hear him humming the tune to the game show Jeopardy.

Rancho Buena Vista Adobe

Located in the town of Vista, Rancho Buena Vista Adobe serves as a museum for the city. Reports include intelligent interaction with a spirit named Juan, a man whose skeleton is rumored to remain within the walls of the adobe, and communication with a variety of spirits who are historically proven to have inhabited the location. Because of the highly active nature of the haunt, the San Diego Paranormal Research Society (SDPRS) conducts frequent investigations of the location and provides public ghost tours, as well.

According to paranormal author and SDPRS founder Nicole Strickland, who was interviewed for this article, "The Rancho Buena Vista Adobe is one of Southern California's last land ranchos. The San Diego Paranormal Research Society has conducted paranormal research projects there since 2011, including its monthly 'Spirits of the Adobe' fundraising tours. Many of the adobe's former residents are there in spirit. Numerous ghostly happenings occur, including disembodied vocalizations, apparition and shadow figure sightings, phantom smells, etc. The SDPRS has also documented historically relevant EVP and ITC captures during its tenure there."

Hotel Del Coronado

San Diego's pre-eminent hotel is also one of the area's most haunted places. One Hotel Del Coronado ghost is reportedly that of Kate Morgan, a young woman believed to have committed suicide on the steps of the hotel that lead to the ocean.

Houdini's Mansion

Located in Los Angeles, the former mansion of the icon of illusion is said to be haunted by his spirit. Footsteps are commonly heard, and many apparitions of a dark man have also been reported. The estate is not open for public visits but if you're truly interested, you can rent the mansion for long-term stays.

Hollywood Pantages Theater

Whether you'd like to encounter a ghostly barking dog or the spirit of the one and only Howard Hughes, the Hollywood Pantages Theater is the place for you. Huges had offices on the second floor of the Pantages, and many report seeing his ghost in those offices. People also report seeing a phantom woman.

Whaley House

The Whaley House, which now serves as a museum in Old Town San Diego, is a well-known haunt in the region. It once served as a courthouse, and one of the most well-known haunts is connected directly with that. Yankee Jim (James Robinson) was hanged on the property after a conviction for grand larceny, and many believe he continues to haunt the place. Others mention encountering the house's original resident, Thomas Whaley. Cheryl Knight-Wilson, Editor-in-Chief of Paranormal Underground Magazine has visited the Whaley House, and she described her visit in an interview.

"It may look like a small, unassuming building, but according to eyewitness accounts, the location is rife with paranormal activity. Some even deem it 'the most haunted house in America. Visitors give first-hand accounts of hearing disembodied voices, seeing a ghost dog running around the house, and sensing the presence of a ghost in the courtroom attached to the house," Knight-Wilson says. "In fact, my son experienced an odd encounter in the courtroom while we were touring the Whaley House. As he was sitting on a courtroom bench listening to the docent talk about the history of the property, he began to feel lightheaded, jittery, and sick to his stomach. As soon as we left that room and went to another area of the house, he felt fine again."

Linda Vista Hospital

Located in Los Angeles, the Linda Vista Hospital has a weird history that lends itself well to tales of hauntings. Of course, you'll often hear tales of hauntings in abandoned hospitals, and it makes sense given the emotional energy and death that occurs in them. Linda Vista, however, was once a thriving hospital serving first the Santa Fe Railroad and later the surrounding community. However, in the 80s, Linda Vista Hospital had become a place where victims of violent crime were treated - and often died. In the early 200s, it was a crumbling building ghost hunters frequented - including the team from Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures. They were there in response to reports from members of movie and television crews filming in the creepy abandoned buildings who reported any number of paranormal events. Now, it's been given new life as a retirement home. Whether, in its new incarnation, the claims of ghostly doctors and patients roaming the halls remain is anyone's guess (Yelpers suggest it still is), but it has a storied history as one of Southern California's most notorious haunts.

The Roosevelt Hotel

Located in the heart of Hollywood, the Roosevelt Hotel (now known as The Hollywood Roosevelt) began operating as a hotel in 1927 and remains the oldest continually running hotel in the city. Home to old-world Hollywood glamour (it's even hosted the Academy Awards), many believe some of the stars who once stayed there remain, haunting the hotel. And befitting a place dazzling and star-studded roster like the Roosevelt, many people have reported remarkably well-dressed and dapper ghosts who are reflections of the hotel's storied history.

Colorado Street Bridge

While many cities have a "suicide bridge" where people frequently plunge to their death, one of the most notorious and possibly haunted is the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena. The bridge sits 150 feet above the Arroyo Seco Riverbed, and hundreds of people have jumped off it to their deaths since the first in November of 1916. According to legend, not all of the ghosts that haunt the bridge or souls who have lept from it. In fact, one rumored ghost is a construction worker who fell from the bridge into wet concrete, where he remains entombed. Of course, this is a common urban legend, and many bridges reportedly have someone entombed in them. However, passers-by do report seeing restless ghosts wandering the bridge or preparing to jump. In fact, the bridge is so notorious, author FJ Lennon made it the setting of his paranormal novel, Devil's Gate.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The final resting place of many of Hollywood's brightest stars, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is located on Santa Monica Boulevard bordering Paramount Studios. While you will certainly find the graves of many of Hollywood's elite, such as Douglas Fairbanks, Junior, Cecil B. DeMille, and Charlie Chaplain, many report some of the cemetery's residents aren't resting easy. People report seeing ghostly figures walking from the cemetery's gate and into Paramount Studios and the ghost of a mysterious "Lady in Black" who mourns at the grave of the legendary Rudolph Valentino.

Lincoln Heights Jail

Just as abandoned hospitals and cemeteries are often reported to be haunted, so are old abandoned jails and prisons. Certainly, Los Angeles's abandoned Lincoln Heights Jail fits the bill as a dilapidated, old art deco building that was once teeming with angry and violent inmates. However, there is talk in the city of doing something with the building - revitalizing the old girl. One can only wonder, however, if when the jail is restored to its former glory, its new residents will come in contact with its old residents. The jail housed as many as 2,800 inmates at a time, including Al Capone. Reports of apparitions, cold spots, odd noises, and more contribute to the spooky tales surrounding the former building.

Tour Haunted California

No matter where you go in California, you're sure to encounter ghostly visitors at some of the state's most notorious haunted places. Take some time to visit these locations and you just might encounter an apparition or two!

Scary Haunted Places in California