The Golden State is not all bikinis and blockbusters: California is also home to some of the most haunted places in America. Don’t believe in ghosts? Visit these spooky spots and you may just change your mind…
Alcatraz, San Francisco
A high-security prison located on an island off the coast of San Francisco, Alcatraz once housed the country’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Alvin Karpis.
Toted as America’s “first escape-proof prison”, it was also famous for its strict rules and tough systems of punishment. Alcatraz featured five basic ‘hole cells’ intended for total isolation where a proper meal was only provided on every third day, and ‘strip cells’ where prisoners would be imprisoned with no clothing and little food. Talking, humming, and singing were prohibited.
Many of the prisoners, including Al Capone, were eventually driven insane by the prison routine, and it is reported that towards the end of his days Capone would avoid the other inmates and hide in the showers, plucking the strings of a banjo sent to him by his wife.
It is believed that the spirits of prisoners haunt the building, tormented by their treatment during their imprisonment there. Visitors report feelings of isolated cold spots—especially around cell 14D—, unexplained crying and moaning, and the sounds of a banjo being strummed.
Gregory House, Bodie
A ghost town near the Nevada-California border, Bodie enjoyed a short-lived boom in the years after a discovery of gold in 1849. However, prosperity started to decline in 1882, and now it is known as one of the most authentic abandoned gold-mining towns of the Old West.
168 of Bodie’s buildings are still standing and still contain the original owner’s possessions—some dating back as far as 1849. A ghost town that really is a ghost town, visitors to Bodie claim regular sightings of wandering spectres and spirits who apparently guard the town from pilferers. Legend has it, anyone that takes any artefact will be plagued by the dreaded curse of Bodie—a constant string of bad luck until the item is returned.
Other experiences include hearing the sound of children’s laughter and doors that open and close of their own accord. Gregory House is one of the most haunted houses, with regular reports of an apparition of an old lady in a rocking chair, knitting.
Whaley House, San Diego
Hailed as the Most Haunted House in America, Whaley House was built on a site that used to be a gallows, and as such was reported to be haunted even before the house was constructed.
“Yankee Jim” Robinson was hanged here in 1952, and according to the San Diego Union, the Whaley family heard his heavy footsteps around the house after moving in.
Four members of the Whaley family died here, and visitors have reported various ghostly encounters, including apparitions, feelings of something tugging on clothing or grabbing legs, and even the ghost of the family dog, which is said to lick people’s toes or ankles.
Winchester House, San Jose
This mansion in northern California belonged to Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, and was under continuous construction for 38 years. After William’s death, Sarah had an income of around $300,000 a day (in 2012 terms), with which she funded the development of Winchester House.
Renowned for its size and utter lack of building plan, Sarah believed the house to be haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles, and that only constant construction would keep them away. She paid construction workers to build around the clock according to her insane whims and in the hope that the nonsensical structures would confuse the spirits. As a result, the house features oddities such as windows in the floors, stairs that lead to nowhere, and rooms with no entrances. Very strange…
Have you ever visited any of the most haunted places in California? Let us know!