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A San Francisco Ghost Hunt, in Pacific Heights

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Most people don’t know much about the places in which they live, which is a travesty considering how interesting places like San Francisco are. But you know what the best way is to force some history on people?


That’s why I went on the San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour.

Let me preface this by saying I do not believe in ghosts…per se. I certainly believe in powerful disruptions in the atmosphere around a location, in emotional trauma and unexplained phenomenon, and in people doing shitty things to each other.

Your tour is led by Christian Cagigal, who is now officially the owner of the tours as well. First off, Christian is a very nice man with a lot of great stories. Second of all, the poor guy had to wear quite a lot of gear during one of the hottest  evenings in SF all year. We didn’t exactly get that creepy atmospheric fog the Bay is so famous for.


The tour starts and ends with one of the most famous women of San Francisco, Mary Ellen Pleasant. You may remember her from such as Bad-ass Historical Women of SF. And even though I wrote that article, I had never visited her memorial, found out about her voodoo rumors, or that she liked to go around snarling at people in her old age. She’s really just my kind of lady.

And in fact, apparently she’s still my kind of lady in the grave, because as a ghost the stories is that she still haunts Pacific Heights, throwing acorns at people and making everyone at the Healing Arts Center (formerly her mansion) really uncomfortable. Plus she planted 20 eucalyptus trees up and down the street, an invasive species. How’s that for salty?


For about an hour and a half, Christian and our band of merry out-of-towners (one of the couples was on their anniversary so you know…romance) tromped through the fabulous blocks of million dollar homes, which were apparently once only a few thousand dollars out of a catalogue. Is that irony? I can’t tell. I can tell, however, that it’s ridiculous. Still, you can’t deny the beauty of the architecture, the great views of our city or the eeriness of our history, when told in the dark of night.

Highlights of the tour include:

  • A temple/youth center that might have been a brothel
  • A pig named Mrs. Schwartz owned by a woman who had an affair with her mentally unstable 1st cousin…supposedly
  • Creepy runaways haunting California St.
  • Harry Houdini
  • Benjamin Franklin’s grandniece
  • A dude buried in a barrel of rum

So perhaps the tour wasn’t that scary and maybe if you have a severe dislike of cheesy tourism kitsch, you’ll roll your eyes. But if you’ve never taken the time to learn more about the fascinating city we’ve walked through and want to hear great stories with a surprisingly feminist bent, plus judge architectural choices (“I wouldn’t have used that trim on a window like that”), it’s time to spend a few hours with Christian and his friends. Don’t piss off MEP.

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Book your San Francisco Ghost Walking Tour here:

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Candace Cui - Actual Unicorn

Candace Cui - Actual Unicorn

At age 2, I was getting run over by a bike in an alley in China. At age 8, I was avoiding man-o-wars on Tybee Island. At age 14, I was overdrinking sweet tea while running through the woods barefoot. At age 20, I was learning Art History and how to drop it low. At age 25, I was making fun of drum circles at Dolores. At every age, I am charming the fuck out of you. Just wait, it'll happen.