Updated: Jan 7
This post was written in December 2020. Many of the places on this list, while normally open to the public, are currently closed due to the pandemic.
My sources for this video, as with all my videos, are linked in the corresponding blog entry, linked in the description. If you’re watching this in the future, feel free to check those sources for more up to date information on what is open and what is not.
When you think of California, there’s a good chance you think of celebrities, glitz and glamour or maybe even the vineyards and snowy mountains of the northern part of the state. But California is also home to a pretty big number of ghosts. Let’s talk about just 8 of the many haunted places in California.
1. Savannah Memorial Park
We’re starting out with a haunted cemetery, which seems like the perfect ghost hangout. But, strangely, the ghost stories of Savannah Memorial Park are a bit slim.
Savannah Memorial Park Pioneer Cemetery sits in Rosemead, about 10 miles east of Los Angeles. As the name suggests, the cemetery was established by — and holds the tombs of — pioneer settlers in the area from the early 1850’s. Did some of those settlers never leave their final resting place?
In addition to pioneers, the cemetery also holds the tombs of multiple orphan children. Witnesses have reported hearing children playing at night. Are these living children whose parents probably need to establish a curfew? Or are those orphan children among the restless dead?
In another account, a woman claims she was visiting the cemetery during the day and heard banging from the utility shed. At first, she thought it was just a gardener, but curiosity compelled her to look further. When she rounded the corner, she saw a figure that looked like a week old corpse! The woman screamed and ran off.
In addition to other reports of banging from the shed, witnesses saw apparitions during the day and heard disembodied voices at night. There’s also a report of a female spirit cackling at a visitor through the fence. Several sources claimed that paranormal photos have been taken at the cemetery but I could never found any.
The next location on this list barely needs an introduction. This island in the San Francisco Bay has been home to many things over the centuries, but is best known for its federal prison, which was in operation from 1934 to 1963. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, nicknamed “The Rock,” was established to house the worst of the worst, the criminals who were considered too dangerous to be imprisoned anywhere else.
One of the prison’s most notorious criminals — and ghosts — was Al Capone, who was imprisoned there from 1934 to 1939. Like many other ghosts on this list, he didn’t die at Alcatraz; instead, he was sent to a mental hospital and, later on, in declining health, was allowed to spend his last days with his wife in Miami, where he died in 1947. While at Alcatraz, Capone was said to practice banjo in the prison’s showers to avoid other prisoners who wanted to kill him. (I don’t know what he did if one of those prisoners needed a shower while he was practicing.) Today, the sound of a banjo playing has been reported in the showers — even when there are no banjo players present.
But the hauntings began even before the prison closed. One particular cell reported to be haunted is isolation cell 14D. A prisoner was put there one night, where he spent the night claiming a creature with glowing red eyes was trying to kill him. He was found dead the next morning. This creature, known as “The Thing,” has been spotted in various places around the prison but mostly sticks to cell 14D. Modern visitors to the prison report a “raw coldness” and “sudden intensity” in the cell.
The prison was closed in 1963 when it became too expensive to run. The island was occupied by a group of Native American activists from 1969 to 1971, and opened to the public in 1973. It now gets about 1 million visitors every year — some of whom report things like strange noises, seeing the ghosts of prisoners, smoke with no fire, crying, moaning, and a noise that sounds like bullets being fired in the area where a group of prisoners was shot at during an escape attempt.
3. Preston Castle
This former boys’ reform school is located in Ione, about an hour southeast of Sacramento. Construction began in 1890, and it was opened as the Preston School of Industry in 1894.
Exactly who came to the school is dubious. It was supposed to be for wayward boys who had been in trouble with the law, and some of them had been. But Preston was also reportedly a school for abandoned children. Many of my sources implied a lot of parents sent their kids here because they didn’t want to deal with them.
And life at Preston wasn’t great. Upon entry, boys were made to bathe in a pool to rid themselves of things like lice. One source simply said this substance was made of “harsh chemicals” while another said it was lye. Boys who tried to run away were often punished with beatings or solitary confinement. And, until 1913, all operations were done on the floor. Dozens of people died on the grounds, from disease, starvation or even murder.
Preston closed in 1960 and fell into disrepair. The State of California originally intended to demolish it, but a group of local women fought to save it. The State agreed they wouldn’t tear it down, but wouldn’t do anything to attempt upkeep or restoration either. In 2001, the Preston Castle Foundation leased the castle from the State. They obtained full ownership of it in 2014, and it was open for tours in 2015, though repairs seemingly started as early as 1988.
In modern times, many visitors to Preston Castle believe the people who died there may never have left. One of the most well known ghosts is that of Anna Corbin, the housekeeper who was killed in the basement in the 1950’s. Her murderer was never caught. Her ghost has been spotted, and one writer claimed to get a horrible headache when standing in the spot where Anna was killed. Also said to haunt the grounds is Samuel Goins, who was shot and killed during an escape attempt. Other reports include: Disembodied voices, shadows and humming, orbs, cold spots, physical touches by ghosts and even the sound of eggs frying.
4. Colorado Street Bridge
Pasadena’s Colorado Street Bridge opened on December 13, 1913 and spans across the Arroyo Seco, a seasonal river whose name translates to “dry stream.” Over the years, the bridge has gained a reputation its builders almost certainly never wanted for it. As of 2017, over 150 people have chosen to end their own lives by jumping from the bridge.
The bridge first became well known from Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 movie “The Kid,” in which Chaplin’s character saves a woman who tries to jump from the bridge. A few years later, the Great Depression hit, and actual suicides on the bridge spiked; an estimated 79 in the 1930’s alone.
Perhaps the most famous tragedy on the bridge was that of Jeanette Pykkonen, a 3-year-old girl who was thrown over by her mother, Myrtle Ward, in 1937. Myrtle then threw herself over the bridge. Myrtle died from her fall though, fortunately, Jeanette was caught in trees surrounding the bridge, which broke her fall and spared her life.
In 1989, the bridge was closed for construction after sustaining damage in an earthquake. When it reopened in 1993, it now contained an 8 foot high spiked barrier that was hoped to deter jumpers. However, people continued to choose the bridge as the place to take their lives. New, 10 foot tall barriers were constructed in 2016, and extended in 2018.
But what is it about this particular bridge that causes so many people to choose it as the place to end their lives? There’s a rumor that a worker died during the bridge’s construction when he fell into wet cement and couldn’t be pulled out in time. Some believe that his ghost still wanders the bridge, luring others to their death.
He’s not the only ghost who reportedly haunts the bridge. Others include a man in wire rimmed glasses and a woman wearing a long flowing gown who jumps from the bridge only to disappear on the way down. Phantoms have been spotted in the forest below the bridge, as well as unexplained mists and dogs trying to run away.
Suicide is obviously a sad and heavy subject. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s easy to see why someone might want the souls of their loved ones, taken from them by sudden tragedy, to still be around. Is this the case with the Colorado Street Bridge?
5. Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Opened in 1927 along Los Angeles’s famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Roosevelt is a symbol of the glitz and glamour of the town and its celebrities. But, much like the entertainment industry itself, the hotel has a darker side.
The hotel’s two most famous ghosts were also famous in life. The first is Marilyn Monroe, who loved staying at the hotel and even lived there for a couple of years. She didn’t actually die at the hotel, instead dying at her home in 1962 — but that doesn’t seem to stop her from hanging out here in the afterlife. There is a Marilyn Suite you can stay in, if you don’t mind the ghostly company of Monroe herself. She’s been spotted in a mirror inside the suite, though the mirror has apparently been moved several times since. A psychic once also claimed to sense Monroe’s presence in a hotel bar, and she’s reportedly been spotted in the nearby Knickerbocker Hotel.
Another celebrity ghost that’s been seen at the Hollywood Roosevelt is actor Montgomery Clift. Like Monroe, Clift didn’t actually die at the hotel, but at his home in New York in 1966. From what I’ve read up on him, his last few years weren’t that great, so maybe he comes to Hollywood in the afterlife to remind himself of better times. Guests have spotted Clift in the hallways running lines or playing trumpet. Other celebrities like Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart have also been spotted after their deaths. But celebrities aren’t the only ones who haunt the Hollywood Roosevelt. Another well known ghost is that of Caroline, a 5-year-old girl who’s said to wander around looking for her mother. There’s also a report of a little girl in a blue dress, believed to possibly be Shirley Temple — though she obviously was not a little girl when she died. A man dressed in 1930’s attire has been spotted in the Blossom Room — which was the site of the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. More ghost activity has been reported in room 213. Guests who stay there report TV’s and sinks being turned off on their own, as well as a headless apparition that causes many guests to check out in the middle of the night. Other ghosts wander the hallways, believed to be people who couldn’t afford to stay at the hotel in life. Ghosts have also been blamed for guests being locked out of their rooms or stomping noises (though, to be fair, both these things could easily be blamed on the living). I read one story from a couple who brought drink cans up to their room after checking in. When they looked back at them in the refrigerator awhile later, the cans were open, even though they hadn’t been touched since they were put there. As much as I wish the Hollywood Roosevelt ghosts would be polite and ask for a drink first, most of these spirits seem to be pretty harmless.
6. Chambers Mansion
San Francisco’s Chambers Mansion has a pretty interesting story behind it — maybe even more interesting than the hauntings themselves. As the story goes, the mansion was built by a Senator named Richard Chambers who, along with his wife, moved in in 1887. By 1901 they were both dead and, with no children to pass the house along to, ownership went to two of Richard’s nieces. But the nieces did not get along. One of them, Claudia Chambers, reportedly even built a house next to the original mansion in order to get away from her cousin. Or sister — I’m not really sure. The story never specifies their relationship. The alleged circumstances of her death aren’t clear either, but most versions have her dying in some sort of terrible accident — or being murdered. Alleged hauntings today include a strange light from an upstairs window, strange cold spots, shadow figures and even the ghost of Claudia herself. Guests staying at the mansion during its later years as a Bed & Breakfast reported sheets being pulled from their bodies during the night. In another story, a tour guide stopped outside the mansion and took a key out of his pocket, one that supposedly opened one of the mansion’s rooms. Several tourists held the key, which reportedly turned 180 degrees in their hand — as if trying to open a lock. In the comments section of a blog entry on the mansion, a woman claimed she and her husband lived there in the late 1990’s. One day, both of their cats sat next to one another intently staring at the ceiling, with nothing but their tails moving for 3 or 4 minutes…almost as if they were focusing on something unseen. Richard Chambers’s nieces were rumored to practice witchcraft. Did they put a curse on the house? Well, as it turns out…no, because they probably didn’t exist. According to a 2018 article in SFGate, the story of Richard Chambers has been largely fabricated. The real original owner’s name was actually Robert Chambers, not Richard. Robert was a sheriff, not a Senator, and made his fortune in mining. Parts of the story were at least based in truth; Robert and his wife, Eudora, didn’t have any children and two of their nieces lived with them in the house, but neither of them were named Claudia. Eudora died around 1896, followed by her husband in 1901. After the couple was dead, their nieces filed a lawsuit together against their family, saying they should at least get a cut of the estate since they’d been raised there. But they never got that cut. The house was turned into a Bed and Breakfast in the 1970’s, boasting celebrity guests like Robin Williams and John F. Kennedy Jr. In 2000, it was sold and turned into two separate townhouses, which it presumably still is today. So Claudia Chambers — at least the one in this story — probably didn’t exist. But if she isn’t haunting the mansion, who is? Are the real nieces of Robert Chambers still hanging around, bitter that they never got the inheritance they feel they deserved? Are Robert and Eudora themselves still hanging around their old home? Or did someone just make the whole thing up? I’ll let you decide what you believe. 7. Proctor Valley Road
Driving at night can be unsettling, even without the prospect of ghosts. You never know when a dog or a deer or even a drunk driver might cause you to crash. But haunted roads are terrifying in their own ways. Proctor Valley Road runs through Jamul in southern California. about 20 miles east of San Diego. Unlike a lot of places on this list, it’s not really clear just how the paranormal rumors got started. But they run the gamut from typical urban legends to creepy creatures to brutal murders. There is at least one ghostly woman on this road, maybe more. One story tells of a woman in blue who cries for help, and a woman in white who tries to hitch a ride. When people pull over to let her get in, she disappears. Stories about this so-called “Proctor Valley Hitchhiker” say she was either in a car accident on the road on prom night or was murdered there. There are also reports of a banshee on the road, as well as a ball of fire the size of a basketball and a pair of car-less headlights that try to run you off the road. Handprints on cars and even KKK and cult activity have also been reported.
Another legend in the area tells of a creature known as The Proctor Valley Monster. According to one blogger, the Proctor Valley area used to be occupied by ranches but is now a wealthy neighborhood. When the area was mostly occupied by so-called “cow country,” there were apparently reports of livestock going missing only to turn up miles away. There were also reports of animal mutilation. People blame these bizarre occurrences on a minotaur looking, seven foot tall creature with footprints that are 18 inches wide. Stories of this monster go as far back as the 1960’s. There’s also a story that the road is occupied by El Chupacabra, the famous monster from Latin American mythology. But a slightly more, erm, human story involves a now-defunct bakery on the road. I couldn’t find much about Haven Bakery; it appears to have closed around 2008. But as the story goes: Back when the bakery was thriving in the 1990’s, the owner came home from a business trip to find his daughter hanging from the basement ceiling, dead. He then proceeded to kill all his workers, then hang himself in the bakery’s public restroom. Ever since, the basement and bathroom where the father and daughter died were haunted by their spirits. There’s nothing substantial to confirm any of this. A few people online have said the only death at the bakery was from a girl who accidentally fell down the stairs and later died at a hospital — though this technically wouldn’t be in the bakery. I don’t know if all this was completely made up or if the records have just been lost to time. Plenty of people have reported to have seen or been in the bakery. I don’t think that many people would lie about something like this; I just couldn’t find any confirmation. There’s also a creepypasta called Proctor Valley Road. The details of the pasta are pretty similar to the legend I’ve researched, but with a few additions. Author Theriddickles mentions the bakery owner, but says he actually killed his family, not his employees. Then they mention several strange, unexplained disappearances and murders in the area. I don’t know if the author grew up in the area and was just recounting the stories they heard, or if they just found out about the stories and decided to take some creative liberties. But you can read the entire story here; it’s not that long. 8. Bodie State Historical Park
Our last haunted place is the ghost town of Bodie, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of north-central-ish California, about 100 miles south of Lake Tahoe. The town was established in 1861 and named for W.S. Bodey, who first discovered gold in the area in 1859. Unfortunately for Bodey, not only would his name get misspelled in the town’s name, but he died before it was even established. For awhile, Bodie thrived. By 1880, it was estimated to have a population of about 10,000, with plenty of people coming to comb the mines for gold. It seemed like a pretty stereotypical old west town, with saloons, mills, outlaws and plenty of gunfights. At one point, there was talk of turning it into the state capital — but that never happened. But as the mines were cleaned of gold, Bodie’s people disappeared from the town. By 1886, the population had dropped to only about 1,500. A fire in 1932 destroyed 90 % of the town. In 1962, the town was bought by the state and turned into a national park. Today, the only inhabitants are a handful of park staff. Bodie is still open to the public, for those who want to see a town frozen in time. The park gets about 1,000 visitors a day — but not all of them respect the dead. One of the most interesting paranormal stories about Bodie, in my opinion, is that of the Bodie curse. A look through Bodie’s official website makes it clear that you shouldn’t take anything from the area. Staff do their best to keep it as preserved as possible, and even a small rock out of place messes that up. Still, they receive so-called “curse letters” at least once a week, written by people who took something from the park and apologize profusely for it after a string of bad luck. These alleged curse victims have reported everything from flat tires to the death of pets to the breakdowns of marriages and all their loved ones dying of cancer around the same time. This “curse” was apparently invented by a park ranger at some point in an attempt to stop people from taking things. But people continue to mail in letters. Because all these objects are considered stolen property, a police report is filed for every single one. So whether you want to save your mom from dying of cancer or yourself from legal trouble….maybe just don’t take anything.
But thieves aren’t the only people who report paranormal activity at Bodie. Multiple ghosts have also been spotted, including a maid who loves kids but hates adults, an old woman who sits in a rocking chair and knits, a ghost girl who died after being hit in the head with a mining pick and a ghost who loves cooking Italian food. Hey…maybe I should venture down to Bodie sometime when I’m hungry! Other reports include a rocking chair moving on its own, doors opening and closing on their own and the sounds of a full party — something that surely would be seen by other people if it were going on out in the open. There’s another story where a staff member threw a rock down a 1,200 foot mine shaft and heard a voice yell back at them. Mines in general are pretty dangerous, and there are plenty of stories of miners and mules dying in accidents in Bodie. Did one of them somehow end up at the bottom of this mine shaft — only to get hit on the head with a rock in the afterlife? So that’s all I have for you today on 8 of California’s haunted locations. Obviously there are a lot more; I tried to include a mix of famous places and some lesser known ones. There are also a couple of places I was going to feature here, but decided to scrap them and do full videos on them later — hence the strange featuring of 8 locations as opposed to the usual 10. There are also places I didn’t cover here because I’ve covered in other videos, which I tried to link up in the cards. If you’ve been to any of these places, feel free to share your experience down in the comments. Also, let me know if you’d like a deeper dive into one or more of these places, or any other haunted place. photo sources and credits: https://www.maryhallbergmedia.com/haunted-california-photos-sources-a