California is arguably the most beautiful state in terms of landscape and one of the most visited. It’s a stunning land of towering trees, rocky coasts, lush vineyards, and barren deserts, but not all tourists are interested in the gorgeous terrain. Some come for the sinister lore. On this list of the most haunted places in California, we’ll dip our toes into dark tourism and explore the spooky side of the Golden State. If you’re interested in paranormal activity, you’re in the right place. From eerie ghost towns to the infamous walls of Alcatraz Island, California has a rich haunted history, and we’re here for it!
Exploring California’s Dark Side With Let’s Roam
From San Francisco to San Diego, we’ve hunted down all the haunted hot spots on our California ghost hunts! These hunts are a unique way to explore the haunted history of towns worldwide, and we’ve gathered all the lurid lore. You’ll follow our map to haunted spots, solve riddles using clues from the environment, and possibly collect evidence of poltergeists on our fun photo challenges. It’s a lighthearted way to dip your toes into the haunted places in California. Check out our complete list of ghost tours!
The Most Haunted Spots in California
1. Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is aptly considered one of the most haunted hotels in California. Located in Los Angeles, it was opened to the public in 1927 and was a luxurious space for the elite of Tinsel Town.
The famous phantoms that reportedly grace these halls include trumpeter Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe herself. Montgomery likes to practice his music in room 928, and Marilyn can be found admiring her image in the mirror of room 229 or dancing in the ballroom.
The Hollywood Roosevelt is still an operating hotel, and you can easily book a spot in one of its haunted rooms.
2. Point Sur Lighthouse
Located on the stunning shores of Big Sur, Point Sur Lightstation is said to be haunted by as many as a dozen different spirits. Legends abound from sightings of the former lightkeeper to drenched spirits of shipwreck victims who met their demise in the icy waves of the Pacific.
The staff embraces the menacing reputation, hosting Halloween tours for visitors. The lighthouse has also been featured on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. The lighthouse is part of Point Sur State Historic Park and has been in continuous operation since 1889. It’s the only one from its time still in operation and a fun place to visit, ghosts or not!
3. Alcatraz Island
Most abandoned prisons have legends about paranormal activity. So it’s no surprise that one of the world’s most infamous penal institutions comes with a host of them. Alcatraz Island is located in San Franciso Bay, surrounded by frigid, shark-infested waters. The island started as a military fort and prison. But in 1934, it was converted into a maximum security prison for the worst of America’s criminals. Over the next decades, the prison was home to Al Capone, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, Machine Gun Kelly, and Robert Franklin Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz.
Ghost stories have always surrounded the prison, even reported by prisoners when it was still in use. Prisoners stated encountering an ominous entity they labeled the Thing. Supposedly, it lurked in the darkness, staring at them with fiery red eyes. Staff and visitors also report the cell doors slamming on their own, disembodied voices, cries of agony, and the heavy, unexplainable feeling of a demonic presence. Visitors report being overcome with immense terror, suicidal thoughts, and palpable oppression when touring the facility. Some have even exploded in unexplainable outbursts of tears.
Alcatraz was a place of violence, torment, and fear when in operation. Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction and a National Historic Landmark. Guests wander the once-dreaded island on day tours provided by the National Parks Service, but private companies also offer more sinister night tours!
4. Whaley House
Located in San Diego, the Whaley House has long been considered the scariest place in Southern California. The haunted house was imagined as a perfectly normal family home by Thomas Whaley when he began construction in 1857. However, the townsfolk were unsure. The property was already notable as the site of the public execution of Yankee Jim Robinson, a horse and attempted boat thief. The property was rumored to be an old cemetery, as well.
Not long after moving in, the Whaleys’ young son Thomas died of scarlet fever. It was the first of many tragedies to take place in the coming years. Right from the start, family and visitors to the Whaley home reported hearing Thomas laughing and toddling through the halls. Mrs. Whaley and a few more of the kids died in the house, and it’s reported that a young friend of the Whaley children died there, too. Stories from this house are all over the place. Most have little or no evidence to support them. However, the staff does claim that the spirit of a young girl wanders the property and that one of the specters likes to play with the beads on the chandeliers.
The Whaley House serves as a museum today and hosts guided ghost tours in the evening.
5. Colorado Street Bridge
The Colorado Street Bridge spans the Arroyo Seco River in Pasadena. It’s a gorgeous bridge, but it has an ugly past. For some reason, suicidal jumpers are drawn to the arched wonder. Since 1919, there have been an estimated 102 suicides, and those are just the ones the authorities publicly acknowledge.
With that many tragic deaths in one place, it’s no surprise that legends of hauntings swirl around the bridge. One of the most commonly seen specters is that of a young man who jumps from the railing, causing onlookers to rush to his aid, but he vanishes before hitting the river. Drivers also report swerving to miss a woman walking down the middle of the bridge. Scared out of their wits, they stop to chastise her only to realize she has disappeared.
Is the bridge really haunted? You’ll have to visit yourself and see!
6. Bodie Ghost Town
Bodie was a very isolated Gold Rush-era mining town east of the Sierra Nevadas. Now, it’s a ghost town with a well-documented curse. The town was slowly abandoned as mining continued until the 1940s. This resulted in sticky fingers taking artifacts from the empty homes as souvenirs of California’s Wild West History. When the state park system took over the town, a clever staff member invented a curse. It specified that anyone who took even the smallest trinket from Bodie would be punished. Though we know this curse was invented, many petty thieves strongly believe in its power.
To this day, the park staff open letters daily with apology notes of all kinds. The notes beg for forgiveness and include whatever artifact was stolen, advising the park staff to please put it back. Thieves report mysterious deaths in their families, failed relationships, mysterious hauntings, and a range of other evils that entered their lives after they took an object from Bodie.
The park consists of more than 100 original and reconstructed structures, displaying the town as it was upon its abandonment. Take a tour of the ghost town, but don’t take a souvenir!
7. Oak Park Cemetery
Cemeteries generally top the list of haunted spots (for obvious reasons), but Oak Park Cemetery in Claremont has a particularly gruesome rep. Visitors to the cemetery report being attacked by vicious little apparitions, and that’s not all. An ominous, winged spirit is said to patrol the entrance to the graveyard, and guests have captured strange lighting anomalies on camera. Shadowy male figures are said to wander the graves, and the sightings here are constantly increasing!
8. Satan’s Castle
Former home of the affluent Atkinson Family, the Satan’s Castle ruins are nestled in a stunning mountain setting near San Bernardino. In addition to being a gathering place for the area’s elite, the home was long linked to dark rituals. It’s rumored that tunnels run beneath the home that connect it to a Catholic Church. The tunnels were likely built during Prohibition to smuggle alcohol to Atkinson’s parties, but that doesn’t stop the rumors.
The more persistent rumor states that a local preschool would fly children to the area, and they would enter the Atkinson house through the church and tunnels for satanic rituals. There are hundreds of accounts of sexual abuse by former students, but they are all suspect, as they may have been attained from the children by coercion. The children’s claims are shocking: witnessing animal sacrifices, partaking in naked photoshoots, and being molested by famous athletes and politicians.
The home burned down in 1984 (or was burned to destroy evidence). The remaining tower is thought by some to represent a pentagram, and TikTokers and Youtubers often sneak onto the site to create videos documenting the ruins. Current rumors still state that Satanists use the property for animal sacrifice and mysterious rituals, but both the park service and the Church of Satan deny this. Neighbors report seeing black-robed groups at night and finding animal bones on the property. The number of frightening stories connected to this property is almost unbelievable, but is there any truth to them?
9. Mission San Miguel
The Spanish Mission of San Miguel was founded in 1797 and served the faithful of the area until 1834 when it was secularized. It was sold to the Reed family in 1846. The Reeds turned the beautiful structure into a boarding house, and they reportedly required payment in gold! After a few years of gathering nuggets off of prospectors, the Reeds had racked up a good little stash, supposedly more than $200,000 worth, which was quite a fortune in the mid-1800s. Apparently, Reed had a tendency to brag about his hoard, which proved to be his downfall.
According to local lore, a group of British pirates were staying in the area and decided to collect the gold for themselves. They raided the mission, killing the Reeds and everyone else in sight. They didn’t find the gold, and they were all executed soon after for the massacre. Today, visitors report seeing a woman in white and a man in a blue coat. It is assumed that these spirits are those of the murdered Mr. and Mrs. Reed. Take a tour of the beautiful Adobe mission and see if you can spot any of the specters!
10. El Adobe San Juan Capistrano
Hailing from 1797 and 1812, the El Adobe San Juan Capistrano restaurant is formed by two adjoining Adobe structures. The first was a home, and the second served as a local court and jail. In the 1940s, the two buildings were adjoined and turned into a restaurant that became a favorite of sitting president Richard Nixon. While Mexican food lovers still flock to the restaurant for tasty burritos, something more spooky lurks in the cellar.
The restaurant is said to be haunted by a couple of spirits. The wine cellar is where the former jail cells were located, and it’s said to be occupied by a former prisoner. The scariest spirit at the restaurant lingers near the front door, though. Multiple guests have reported seeing a headless friar greeting guests at the entrance!
The restaurant still serves us elevated Mexican cuisine in a stunning environment, just a few blocks from Mission San Juan Capistrano. It also doubles as a wedding venue. Reserve a table or a special event, but don’t be surprised if there are a couple of extra guests in your photos!
11. The Winchester Mystery House
Whether the Winchester House is haunted or not is debatable, as all haunted spots are, but its weirdness is undeniable! Sarah Winchester, the wife of one of the founders of the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. and heiress to a vast fortune, moved to San Jose from New Haven, Connecticut, after the death of her husband. She retreated from public life and spent the rest of her days turning an eight-room farmhouse into a 24,000-square-foot mansion with seven-story towers, 160 rooms, six kitchens, 17 chimneys, 47 stairways and fireplaces, and over 10,000 windows. It’s estimated to have cost around $5 million in 1923, which would be well over 70 million today. The mansion is a showstopper, but it has some strange features.
The home is a maze with staircases that slam right into the ceiling and doors that open up to nowhere. No one really knows why the heiress constructed the home this way, but one persistent legend is that she was haunted by the ghosts of all those killed by the Winchester rifle and that the maze was constructed to confuse the spirits that plagued her, keeping them from finding her room.
The home is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for tours today. The staff embraces the paranormal legend of the house, operating a Walk With the Spirits Tour and an Unhinged Housewarming event during the Halloween season.
12. Hotel del Coronado
Hotel del Coronado is a waterfront resort located in San Diego and has been wowing guests since 1888. For most of that period, it has been haunted by Kate Morgan, a young woman who was found dead at the bottom of some stairs. Kate checked into the hotel in 1892 and was waiting for her husband to join her for a romantic getaway. Four days later, she was found dead. Some say it was self-inflicted, but nobody really knows.
Employees and guests of the hotel often encounter Kate and her antics. She seems to be obsessed with TVs. She likes to play with the light switches, and paranormal investigators have documented gifts and books flying off the shelves in the hotel gift shop. Kate may be the most famous ghost, but she may have some company, too. Guests report funny occurrences in room 3519, which was reportedly the room of the hotel owner’s mistress and where her dead body was found!
13. The Queen Mary
Definitely one of the most haunted locations in California and possibly one of the most haunted hotels in the world, the Queen Mary is a former ocean liner that’s now permanently docked at Long Beach. Constructed in the 1930s, the RMS Queen Mary was meant to be a luxury cruiser and hosted esteemed guests like Clark Gable and Winston Churchill. During WWII, the boat was repurposed to deliver soldiers across the seas.
The sinister stories surrounding the Queen Mary are too numerous to list, but two of the most famous spirits hang out in the swimming pool. It’s said that both ladies drowned in the pool and never left. A lady in white is frequently seen in the salon, and a dapper gentleman still lounges in the first-class suites. Spottings of a decapitated sailor are common in the boiler room, and guests report frequent screaming throughout the ship.
Visitors can still book a stay in the haunted Stateroom B340 or take one of the guided ghost tours offered daily.
14. Preston Castle
Preston Castle, in the town of Ione, was built for a noble purpose but went awry almost immediately. Opened in 1894 as a reform school for boys, the mission was to keep juveniles out of prison by teaching them a valuable trade and encouraging them to walk the straight path. After a housekeeper was murdered in the basement, at least 16 boys died in the castle, and countless reports of violence were reported by staff, the school was closed in 1960.
Paranormal investigations have documented disembodied voices, windows and doors that open on their own, and assaults by invisible hands. A combination of its torrid past and ghost sightings left the castle unoccupied for decades, and it suffered disrepair. The state wanted to demolish the structure, but it was saved by the Preston Castle Foundation, which now owns the site. They charge for tours, using the money to restore the old beauty.
15. East Eight Mile Road
One of the scariest places in the state of California is a stretch of road near Stockton. Long-haul truck drivers report recurrently seeing two female phantoms. The first they describe as “the witch” because she appears haggard. She’s usually seen walking down the center of the road in a ripped-up white dress. When the trucks pass, she takes the opportunity to jump on board. Many of the drivers say that when they looked back to get a second look at the woman, she was no longer on the road but in the back of their truck instead!
The second spirit is described as a young Native American girl who has an affinity for full moons. She is apparently a screamer, and locals claim they hear her cries regularly.
16. Los Coches Adobe
Los Coches Adobe hails from the days when California was still a Mexican territory. The structure was once a stagecoach stop and an inn that catered to miners. Some legends say that the proprietor was a murderer who killed miners and threw their remains in a shaft on the property. Others say that the mine was located on the property, and it suffered a collapse, killing approximately 30 miners.
Either way, visitors claim to hear the screams of the miners from a well on the property. The wallpaper is said to be haunted, as well. Locals claim that a black-cloaked figure wanders the property at night, and some have even reported seeing a figure hanging from one of the oak trees surrounding the house. Ghost Adventures has been there to investigate, as well. One look at this place, and you’ll have no problems believing any of the local lore. It exudes creepy!
17. The Cecil Hotel
Back to LA we go for another haunted hotel! The Cecil went viral a few years ago when a video of Canadian tourist Elisa Lam surfaced. She was seen behaving erratically in the hotel elevator before disappearing in 2013. After multiple complaints of flooding and decreased water pressure in the hotel, the maintenance man went to check the water storage system on the hotel roof. There, he found the body of Elisa inside the closed tank. Elisa’s death is a mystery, but it’s thought she died due to a manic episode from her bipolar disorder.
Even before this strange incident, the hotel was plagued by death and rumors of paranormal activity. The Cecil was opened in 1924 as a luxury hotel, but soon after the Great Depression hit, the area became home to a huge homeless population and was famously dubbed Skid Row. The hotel became a low-rent boarding house, and at least six of its guests committed suicide in a variety of ghastly ways. Several more suspicious deaths have occurred over the years, as well.
The hotel has been home to some seedy characters, including two known serial killers. Richard Ramirez, the Nightstalker, called the Cecil home during his rampage on LA. James Unterweger, following Ramirez’s lead, hid his evil in the chaos of the hotel, as well, choosing to live there while he strangled prostitutes. Even the Black Dahlia was said to have had her last drink in the hotel before her mutilated body was found.
With a past like this, how could the Cecil not be haunted? The hotel is now a privately owned housing project with long-term residents, but the rumors persist!
18. The Watchers of Big Sur
Big Sur is undoubtedly beautiful. It’s one of the most visited spots in the state for hikers and surfers, but high above the waves, something sinister is lurking. The first reports of “The Watchers” surfaced way back in 1542 from Spanish sailors. Throughout the years, the sightings have persisted. Famous author John Steinbeck wrote about them, and many hikers have detailed their presence over the bluffs. They are usually described as large humanoid figures standing on the edges of cliffs, staring out to sea, waiting, watching for something. Nobody knows who or what they’re waiting for, but everyone who comes in contact with them feels a sense of foreboding.
19. The Padre Hotel
In the city of Bakersfield, there’s another hotel that will send chills up your spine (we’re starting to think Airbnbs are the way to go when visiting California). The Padre was opened in 1928—yet again as a luxury hotel. It didn’t take long for the tragedies to start. Some places just seem to be cursed from the start, and The Padre is one of them.
The hotel suffered a major fire in the 1950s that took many lives. It was followed by an earthquake that trapped several guests. A love triangle exploded into murder. A woman jumped from the roof, and a man took his life in the bathtub. Due to these awful happenings, the hotel is reportedly home to several poltergeists. The staff reports feelings of immense cold and having closet doors slammed on them during cleanings. There’s a handprint on a pillar in the lobby that cannot be removed or painted over, despite multiple attempts. Guests report seeing shadowy figures in the hallways, particularly on the seventh floor. The hotel has been investigated by Portals to Hell, and the host, Jack Osbourne, stated that The Padre Hotel is truly scary.
The original amusement park of the Disney franchise, Disneyland is located in Anaheim, California. It’s normally touted as a place of immense happiness. But there’s a hidden darker side to Disney. For some odd reason, several people have been caught distributing the ashes of loved ones on rides in the park. Park staff has found jaw bones and ashes on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and in the haunted mansion, as well as several other spots in the park. Weird, right?
Perhaps it’s these spirits that inhabit the animatronics, as multiple staff members over the years have reported that the figures come to life on their own. Visitors also claim to see the apparition of Walt Disney himself in the Fire Station where his former living quarters were. We might have just ruined your next Disney trip—sorry about that!
Ready to Wander With the Spirits?
Whether you’re looking for a stay in a haunted hotel or want to explore the ghostly history of Spanish missions, the haunted places in California offer a vast array of ominous opportunities. Dark tourism is on the rise worldwide. And the sunny state of California is the perfect spot to explore spooky attractions while enjoying some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth and the most vibrant cities in America. Good luck, ghost hunters!
The world is full of haunted spots. See if there are any famous destinations near you on our list of “The Most Haunted Places in the World.”
For more ghastly ghost towns and some charming ones, too, take a look at our guide to “The Cutest Small Towns in California.”