Haunted Hotels: San Francisco's Queen Anne

  • 01 of 05

    The Victorian Queen Anne Hotel

    Braving the haunted Queen Anne Hotel
    (c) Charlyn Keating Chisholm

    The Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco drips with atmosphere. It sits among Victorian and Edwardian mansions, aka "Painted Ladies," of Pacific Heights in a building that was originally a girl's finishing school, the Mary Lake School for Girls. The Queen Anne is a luxurious boutique hotel filled with antiques authentic to its era that's close to Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, Lombard Street, and a host of other San Francisco attractions.

    But if you were to close your eyes and picture a haunted hotel, odds are you would conjure up a picture similar to the Queen Anne. Dating back to 1890, the building resembles a long-forgotten attic, filled in every corner with ornately carved chairs, fringed lampshades, and gilded frames. You might even call it a little creepy, particularly if you are here to look for ghosts. When you step into the antique-filled, red velvet-curtained lobby, you'll feel like you have walked into history.

    The parlor is a favorite gathering place for guests and is the scene of a nightly sherry-and-cookies tea social. An enclosed bookshelf is nestled back in the corner next to a fireplace, and Victorian settees flank a grand piano. A grand staircase leads upstairs to guest rooms and more antiques. The decor is perhaps best described as faded grandeur.

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  • 02 of 05

    The Elevator

    Fourth floor stairwell at the Queen Anne Hotel
    Charlyn Keating Chisholm

    If you take the vintage elevator, you might get a little freaked out. The ride to your floor includes the bone-chilling grind of the hidden pulleys and lights blinking off and on. If this sounds a little too scary for your taste, take the stairs.

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  • 03 of 05

    Miss Mary Lake's Room

    Miss Mary Lake's room
    Charlyn Keating Chisholm

    If you have the nerve, book a room on the third floor, reputed to be a paranormal hotspot. But this is not the scariest place in the Queen Anne.  A room on the fourth floor is said to be haunted by Miss Mary Lake, the headmistress of the long-gone finishing school. It's been reported that Miss Lake wanders around the hotel, looking after guests, and cold spots that cannot be explained and apparitions of Miss Lake have been reported by guests at the hotel.

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  • 04 of 05

    San Francisco Ghost Hunt

    Charlyn Keating Chisholm and Jim Fassbinder
    Charlyn Keating Chisholm

    The lobby of the Queen Anne Hotel is the meeting place for the ​​San Francisco Ghost Hunt, a nightly tour of brave souls led by Jim Fassbinder. Fassbinder, a unique mix of storyteller, magician, and comedian, guides a walking ghost tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood that's filled with history and fascinating stories.

    Dressed in a theatrical costume topped with a vintage stovepipe hat, Fassbinder carries a battered leather backpack with "Ghost Hunt" written in silver studs. He starts the tour by explaining his theory of ghosts as representing "the manifestations of an extreme emotion, somehow stuck in time."

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  • 05 of 05

    Subtle Hauntings

    Hallway of the Queen Anne Hotel
    Charlyn Keating Chisholm

    Despite what you've seen in the movies and on television re-enactments, hauntings are subtle. People report feeling cold spots, as at the Queen Anne, or having the hair on their arms stand up, feeling as if they're being watched, or smelling perfume or cigar smoke. Generally, you don't see a translucent figure in turn-of-the-century dress float past you saying, "Boo." So, if you're not paying attention (or perhaps have your eyes closed and your ears covered), you could miss the whole experience. So keep your eyes and ears open and your senses alert during your visit to the Queen Anne.