8 Very Haunted Spots for an East Bay Halloween Scream
Halloween is almost here. Dead leaves and cold gray days seem apropos at this time of year – but the blue skies and acrylic flowers here in California belie the true, sinister nature of this land — a place secret, sacred, and steeped in blood. Paranormal is the norm in a state where Satanic rituals, UFO abductions, cult murders, crazed hitchhikers, Victorian ghosts, Bay Bridge trolls, and, spookiest of all — techies — are an everyday feature. Throw a pumpkin into the air in the East Bay and it will likely land on a spot with some type of otherworldly significance.
To get you in the mood for mystery as Halloween approaches, we at Broke-Ass Stuart have put together a list of 8 spooky spots in the East Bay to raise hair and tingle spines. Take a ride on your sorghum broom to these locales of horror, fear, and intrigue. Just remember—stay in the group, don’t give any car rides to wandering roadside brides, and, whatever you do, don’t look into the mirror.
USS Hornet Museum, Alameda
No list would be complete without the USS Hornet, the retired aircraft carrier that now serves as a moored museum at the southernmost pier of the former Naval Air Station in Alameda. Once a feared carrier that launched planes into the skies during World War II and the Vietnam War, it now sits collecting rust and barnacles with scores of dead pilots and sailors to its name–all who died aboard the Hornet. You’ve likely had the rooms and corridors of the USS Hornet emblazoned into your mind by Hollywood—the ship is a regular feature on TV shows, movies, and documentaries and was involved in the recovery of the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts. Caretakers and museum staff who roam the echoing metal hallways of the empty vessel at night have reported every manner of sight, sound, and sensation, both benign and frightening. Tours of the Hornet are available for the brave.
USS Hornet Museum
707 W. Hornet Ave., Alameda
The Bordello, Oakland
Built in 1887, this former saloon and brothel was turned into a music venue before closing in 2010. To this day, the Bordello has retained some permanent guests. Bar fights at the Bordello led to fatal stabbings in the early 1900s and many patrons have reported seeing figures, hearing noises, and feeling chills while lounging in the byzantine corridors of what some have called “Oakland’s Winchester Mystery House.” Established long before the 880 Freeway, the Bordello once stood right on Oakland’s waterfront, beckoning sailors to indulge in delights of the flesh. Many of these sailors would be “Shanghaied”—once drunk, they would fall asleep at the Bordello only to wake up in the brig of a merchant marine vessel far away from shore, left to work another stint of six to twelve months out on the waves. Before closing its doors for good, the Bordello kept alive the traditions of bacchanalia and debauchery that have made Oakland the city that we know and love.
At East 12th St. and 13th Ave. in Oakland
Swell Bar, Alameda
The Swell Bar in Alameda is home to good booze, friendly regulars, and dedicated owners. In fact, the original owner of the Swell Bar is said to haunt its walls, with numerous patrons reporting lights flickering, doors creaking open, cold chills, and pool balls rolling across the the surface of the table without so much as a tap. Check out this local haunt if you enjoy a more spiritual crowd.
1539 Lincoln Ave., Alameda
Hayward Plunge, Hayward
The Hayward Plunge was opened in 1936 in the shadow of the Great Depression. A place for families to splash, relax, and enjoy the American way of life, it seems far removed from the troubles of the world. But a (dubious) legend has it that in the early 1960s a swimming coach at the Hayward Plunge led two of his students to the adjacent creek, telling them to wait for his return and not to leave. The coach returned as night fell, savagely murdering the children and dropping their bodies into the water. The children were reported missing. To this day, along the creek bed, they say you can hear faint whispers and cries for help. Take a dip at the Hayward Plunge, then head for a hike by the creek—but make sure you don’t go alone.
24176 Mission Blvd., Hayward
Century 25 Theater, Union City
The Century 25 theater in Union City stands on what used to be a patch of farmland. It was turned into a Union City 6 drive-in movie theater in the 1960s, with one odd fixture—an abandoned house nearby that had not been destroyed in the land grab. Moviegoers at the Union City 6 reported seeing a light flickering in the upper windows of the old house despite there being no occupants and no running electricity. Just a reflection? To this day, patrons and staff of the Century 25 theater, built on the site of the Union City 6, claim to see a ghostly gray man in theater 8 who jingles his keys and ruffles the stage curtains, staying for each and every showing.
Century 25 Theater
32100 Union Landing Blvd, Union City
Mills College, Oakland
Mills College, a predominantly women’s college founded in the hills of East Oakland in 1852, is likely the most haunted spot in the city, and certainly the most haunted in this list. Several of the buildings on campus play host to ghosts that tend to interrupt study. A phantom carriage, drawn by rotting, emaciated horses, routinely trots along the hills near the Mary Morse and Ethel Moore residence halls only to fade into the shadows. Students also report seeing the ghost of a young woman regularly waiting on the steps of the Orchard-Meadow hall decked in anachronistic Victorian garb. Lisser Hall, the campus theater, is home to a ghost who hogs the limelight by running from one end of the stage to the other—even during shows. Mills is such a great environment to learn, it seems, that some of its students never want to leave.
5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94613
Vic Stewart’s Steakhouse, Walnut Creek
Housed inside an 1893 Southern Pacific railroad depot and outfitted with antiques and train memorabilia, Vic Stewart’s Steakhouse whisks you away to the era of the railroad, when luxurious passenger cars chugged across the panoramic states at the promising turn of the century. The steaks at Vic’s are devilishly good–perhaps a Faustian pact made over the grill? Patrons at Vic’s have reported apparitions, objects moving without being touched, and sounds of ghostly train whistles and ringing bells long after the lines have stopped running. Some say they can even catch the faint scent of a steam engine grinding to a halt.
Vic Stewart’s Steakhouse
850 S Broadway, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
The Claremont Hotel Club and Spa, Berkeley
A grandiose home once stood in the footprint of what is today the Claremont Hotel Club and Spa in Berkeley. Originally developed and built by early Oakland settler William B. Thornburgh in the mid-1800s, the home, which he called his “castle,” was caught in the blaze of a wildfire and burned to the ground in 1901, sold a few short years after Thornburgh’s death. The Claremont Hotel and Spa opened on that same site in 1915 under the auspices of the Fairmont Hotel line and has since operated, without pause, for over a century. On the 4th floor of the hotel, guests frequently report televisions flickering to life on their own. The legend is that a young girl, possibly a victim of the fire, haunts room 422 of The Claremont. Those who stay in smoke-free rooms on the 4th floor often say they can smell smoke–as if a nearby home were burning. Former San Antonio Spurs players Tim Duncan and Jeff Ayres believe this legend after spending a night at the hotel. Ayres claimed in 2014 that, while at the hotel, his room key wouldn’t open the locked door to his room. With his ear pressed to the door, he said, he could distinctly hear a baby crying.
The Claremont Hotel Club and Spa
41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley
Mission San José, Fremont
Originally built in 1797, the Mission San Jose was the 14th mission established in California by the Franciscan Order on their endeavor to colonize the territory and convert the Ohlones to Catholicism. The original mission complex was destroyed by an earthquake in 1868, killing dozens of Ohlone natives and Spanish missionaries on the spot. A century later, in 1985, the Mission was restored with the help of the Diocese of Oakland. The surrounding cemeteries are paranormal hotspots, with buried Ohlone converts and pioneer settlers only a few plots apart. The Ohlone Cemetery a little down the road from the Mission is said to be rife with the angry specters of those wronged by the Spanish. Some say the ghastly spirit of a little Ohlone girl with a blood-curdling scream still haunts the cemetery–but the area is closed to visitors.
Mission San José
433000 Mission Blvd., Fremont
Berkeley Faculty Club Room 219, Berkeley
Established in 1902, the rooms of the UC Berkeley Faculty Club have held some of the greatest minds and spirits the world has ever known—some, even, have yet to leave. History professor Henry Morse Stephens inhabited the west wing of the Faculty Club for two decades before his death in 1919. To this day, Stephens’ ghost delights occupants of the room with his company, often reciting a verse of poetry or dimming the lights for a better mood. In 1974, visiting Japanese scholar Noriyuki Tokuda claimed to see Stephens’ ghost sitting in a chair beside him in the room. A member of the Earthquake History Committee, Stephens made it his life’s work to collect first-hand accounts from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He died just before he could complete the archive and submit it to the recently-added Bancroft Library. Perhaps he’ll stick around for the next earthquake.
Berkeley Faculty Club
19 Minor Ln., Berkeley