clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Hotels in San Francisco With the Creepiest Histories

New, 1 comment

As anyone who has seen The Shining knows, hotels can have a dark side, and those in San Francisco are no exception. From the deaths of a United States President and a famed rock star to rumors of ghosts and hauntings, a lot of the hotels in the city have seen some pretty sinister things. We've compiled a list for you of the San Francisco hotels, all still in operation, that boast the most macabre histories and goings-on.

President Warren Harding's Mysterious Death at the Palace Hotel
Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery Street, Financial District
President Warren G. Harding was scheduled to give a speech in San Francisco on August 2, 1923, but instead fell ill and was whisked off to a room at the Palace Hotel, where he died shortly after. Four different doctors were unable to agree on his cause of death, and his wife refused to allow an autopsy to clear up the confusion. In fact, doctors were unable to agree on even the time of death, and witnesses gave varying accounts of who was in the room with the President as he died. No one has ever been able to fully determine how Harding died, although speculation has run the gamut from heart attack to inept care from doctors to murder by poison.

The Haunting of Queen Anne Hotel by Miss Mary Lake
Queen Anne Hotel, 1590 Sutter Street, Pacific Heights
Ghost hunters flock to San Francisco's most notoriously haunted hotel to seek out the spirit of Miss Mary Lake, who ran the girls' etiquette school that originally occupied the building. Miss Lake's school was only open for nine years before being sold to become a gentlemen's club, and rumors abound that the former headmistress haunts both the halls and her former office, which is now Room 410, because she was not ready for the building to be sold. The hotel also hosts a ghost walk that tours eight surrounding blocks and share with visitors tales of paranormal activity.

A Celebrity Scandal and Possible Murder at the Westin St. Francis
335 Powell Street, Union Square
During the Jazz Age, the St. Francis played host to myriad celebrities, from Helen Keller to President Theodore Roosevelt. However, its most infamous celebrity encounter was with silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle, who became embroiled in what may have been the world's first celebrity scandal while staying at the hotel. Fatty and his friends hosted a wild party at the hotel that ended with the death of a young actress named Virginia Rappe. Fatty was accused of assaulting the actress, and although he was eventually found not guilty, his career was ruined with the allegations.

Ghosts Galore at Hotel Union Square
114 Powell Street, Union Square
In Room 207 at the Hotel Union Square, objects mysteriously appear or disappear and ghosts have appeared to startled visitors. In fact, some lodgers specifically request the room to encounter spirits. It is thought that, if there is a ghost, it may be playwright Lillian Hellman, who in the 1920s had a wild affair, mostly in the hotel, with mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon.

A Rockstar Overdose at the Oceanview Motel
4340 Judah Street, Outer Sunset
In May of 1996, just hours before punk rock band Sublime was scheduled to play a San Francisco concert, lead singer Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose at the Oceanview. The singer, just 28 and recently married, had finished a night of crazy partying at the hotel. Sublime's drummer discovered him dead shortly after noon the following day. The band broke up after Nowell's death.

· President Harding's Mysterious SF Death [SFGate]
· Just in Time for Halloween, a Map of the Bay Area's Spookiest Spots [Curbed SF]
· IS THERE A SPIRIT HERE TONIGHT? [SFGate]
· Westin St. Francis [Wikipedia]
· Band's Singer Found Dead in Motel [SFGate]