California is a state riddled with haunted locations including cemeteries, hotels, hospitals, and other public and private establishments. For those of you who enjoy a good scare, are fascinated by the paranormal, or just want to go on a spooky adventure – here’s our list of California’s top 13 haunted places in no particular order.
The Whaley House
The Whaley House in San Diego was a family home but also has housed a movie theater, a general store, a school, polling place, granary, and court house. Hangings took place on the property before the house was constructed. All of the violent and mysterious events that have occurred there, including the suicide of Violet Whaley in 1885, have given the Whaley House the #1 spot on the most-haunted list for California and one of the most haunted places in all of America.
One of the main ghosts that reportedly haunts the Whaley House is the bandit known as Yankee Jim.
- Yankee Jims: The legend of a bandit, the lore of a gold rush town and Folgers coffee
- The search for Yankee Jim and his gold
Preston School of Industry
The Preston Castle, also called the Preston School of Industry in Ione, started out as a reform school for wards of the state in the late 1800s. Troubled boys got to learn a trade there instead of being sent to juvenile detention centers or prison, but the discipline there was extreme, to say the least. It’s full of scary history and tales of ghost sightings. At least one unsolved murder took place there. Visitors report that, among others, spirits of the wards who died at Preston haunt the castle.
All of the structures in Silver City are preserved in a state of arrested decay and are authentic historic buildings from different places in the Kern River Valley. The town is listed as a haunted place and both tourists and paranormal investigators have experienced the feeling of being watched, cold spots, and more. This composite ghost town has one of the highest rates of paranormal encounters in the state, maybe even the country.
The USS Hornet is Alameda’s haunted aircraft carrier. It was commissioned in 1943 and has become known as America’s most haunted ship. Both visitors and crew members have reported sightings, sounds, and incidents like tools that disappear and reappear, doors opening and closing on their own, feelings of spectral presences, and the sensation of being grabbed or pushed when no one is there.
Hollydale Insane Asylum
Abandoned many years ago, the Hollydale Mental Hospital in Downey, California was originally built in the 1880s and was a farm for the poor, turned into a hospital during WWII, later used for polio and tuberculosis patients, then later became a mental hospital. According to visitors there are lots of unhappy spirits here, and lights have been seen to turn on and off by themselves.
Battery Point Lighthouse
Battery Point Lighthouse and Museum is an active lighthouse found at the foot of A Street in Crescent City, California. Tours allow visitors to go through the Lighthouse and museum to look at the artifacts left behind by keepers and their families since the Lighthouse was first lit in 1856. It’s one of the most haunted lighthouses in all of America. There is said to be three resident ghosts: two adults and a child. Visitors have reported feeling unseen presences touching them, or feeling like someone was there. Others have seen rocking chairs moving on their own, or the sounds of someone trudging up the stairs to the Lighthouse.
The Enchanted Forest is at the end of Lake Ave. in Pasadena, California and has a terrifying front entrance gate. It’s extremely dark inside, so make sure you have your flashlight! People have reported hearing screams coming from the forest, or feeling as if someone or something was following them. Strange lights have been seen as well, lights that couldn’t be explained away as being from flashlights from other explorers. Some ghost hunters have taken EMF detectors into the forest and had the results spike from green to red.
Bodie Ghost Town
Bodie is an old mining settlement that dates back to 1859. It’s locked in a state of arrested decay, being maintained as it is, with nothing being allowed to become worse, but nothing being remodeled either. Bodie has a rich history with many stories of the supernatural, with the main one being of the spirit of a maid who haunts the Cain home. Visitors have reported feeling as if they were being suffocated as they slept. There’s also a Bodie curse wherein anyone who takes anything as a souvenir is followed by misfortune and bad luck.
Inactive for almost 60 years, the Mare Island Naval Hospital is a huge building with a fascinating history, but it’s not the only structure on the island. The Mare Island Naval Shipyard was used right up until 1996 and now there is nothing officially being used on the island. Some tours are offered, and some of the houses might even be occupied. Many visitors have claimed to have witnessed paranormal activity on the island, from the “Elevator Man” to disembodied voices; some visitors have taken photographs with orbs showing up in the pictures. Some amateur ghost hunters have captured EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) on the island as well.
- Photo Essay of Mare Island Naval Shipyard
- Historic Mare Island Naval Cemetery
- Abandoned Mare Island Naval Hospital
- Alden Park
Hotel Del Coronado
The story goes: young and beautiful Kate Morgan arrived at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego on Thanksgiving Day in 1892 and checked in, but she never checked out: she allegedly committed suicide after five days there. Since then, employees and guests have experienced some spooky happenings, many to do with Kate’s room on the third floor. Visitors have reported a TV that turns itself off and on, flickering lights, items that move on their own, unexplained voices and footsteps, and strange sounds and scents. That hasn’t stopped people from coming to stay at The Del, though, and staff say the room where she allegedly stayed is the most requested.
Alcatraz, as most everyone knows, was formerly the site of a maximum-security prison. Now a tourist attraction and museum, the island is the home to unexplained “visitors” who produce banjo music, footsteps, screams, cold spots, whispering, and slamming cell doors. The island has been visited by both Ghost Labs and Ghost Hunters and is considered not only as one of the most haunted places in America, but also the most haunted prison in the country. Even before it was used for the site of the prison, it was known by Native Americans to be filled with spirits. Mark Twain himself said the island was “…cold as winter, even in the summer months.”
The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary was voted by Time Magazine to be one of The Most Haunted Places in America. There are several ghosts reportedly hanging out on the ship, from a woman and children who drowned in the pool, to a sailor who died in the engine room. The retired ocean liner was turned into a moored hotel off of Long Beach, California. There’s a museum, several restaurants, and hotel. The owners offer haunted tours through the day and special events at night for people interested in the paranormal.
Winchester Mystery House
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose on Winchester Blvd was built by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester fortune over a period of 38 years, non-stop, according to some accounts. The house is certainly strange, with stairways that go nowhere, doors that open into walls, and miles of twisting hallways. Visitors and workers report the sound of footsteps and breathing, the sounds of screws turning and falling, and mysterious appearances of unknown people in photographs. Others report lights being turned on after being turned off by workers, windows being unlocked after being locked, and more.