The glow of a grinning pumpkin and the crisp autumn wind can only mean one thing: Halloween is coming. And that means it’s the time of the season to scare yourself silly. However, if you’re in the mood for something a little more realistic, how about trying a real live ghost hunt this year?
San Francisco has a few ghost tours to choose from. One tour, the San Francisco Ghost Hunt, trawls the Pacific Heights area, known for its panoramic views of the Bay.
It starts at the Queen Anne Hotel, a 100-year-old building that has been remodeled to match its Victorian glory.
The tour guide, Jim Fassbinder, walks into the hotel absolutely looking the part – a long black coat, 19th-century vest and ancient lantern swinging from his hand.
Jim does not guarantee a ghostly appearance with each tour, but he does promise that every person will have some sort of paranormal experience. This is definitely not limited to visual stimulation; scent and touch can be used as well.
“I’m going to do everything I can tonight to raise the spirits,” Jim says, with a knowing smile.
The first 45 minutes of the tour are actually in the hotel. Jim takes the group to room 408, which is said to be where many happy customers woke to find themselves blanketed and tucked in when they certainly didn’t do it themselves.
Outside, everyone bundles up to start the tour of one mile and thankfully, one hill.
Jim reveals a wealth of San Francisco history, telling the group about the 1906 earthquake, the price of Victorian houses and prominent businesses in early San Francisco.
The first ghost on the tour is Flora, who Jim says is San Francisco’s most often-seen ghost. According to him, an entire cable car of people said they saw her ghostly form walking along California Street. When she was alive, Flora ran away from her family and her fiancé, so she is often described as walking in a white wedding dress before she disappears.
The next ghost’s story is more bloody and mysterious. Jim has pieced together Josephine’s story through newspaper articles, police reports and psychic experiences with people on the tour.
The huge mansion where Josephine was stabbed to death by her crazy cousin is now a hotel, but residents say her spirit has never left.
At this point in the tour, Jim brings out one of the few paranormal artifacts he uses. It’s a key. Jim says it is the one Josephine used to desperately open up the room that she ended up dying in.
The tour includes a few more ghosts and artifacts. Jim’s endless amount of corny jokes and ghost stories keeps both adults and kids giggling. At $20 per adult, the tour starts at 7 p.m. every night but Tuesday and lasts about three hours.
Want to check out some other ghost tours?
– The Haunted Haight Walking Tour: runs every night at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person; reservations required. Meet at Coffee to the People (1206 Masonic Ave), www.hauntedhaight.com.
– San Francisco Chinatown Ghost Tours: every Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Tours only by reservation, call (415) 793-1183. Starts at 7:30 p.m. at Kan’s Restaurant (708 Grant Ave). Adult tickets are $24 and children under 17 are $16.