Haunted San Diego
San Diego is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in America. With our clear skies almost year-round, beautiful beaches, lush gardens and upbeat vibes, the darker side is often tucked into the shadows. We are not without tragedy or bloodshed though.
If you have the special touch, I believe anywhere can be haunted. The spirit world is rich everywhere we go. Some areas are a little *thicker* though and are attached to some pretty traumatic stories. The energy of those incidences is believed to still linger around. I have visited many of these places over the years and would like to share them with you.
If you visit any of these spots, please go with respect and always remember to leave no trace. Some may require an admission fee or lodging in order to visit. Here is our list of haunted locations in San Diego:
1. Warner-Carillo Ranch House
For those that are interested in getting a glimpse into San Diego’s fading history, the Warner-Carrillo Ranch House is a must-visit spot for your checklist. I asked the docent if there are any paranormal reports and she did say that people have noted cold spots in the house and feelings of being watched. For those of you that are into the paranormal, you should check it out and see if you experience anything!
2. White Lady Cave
The White Lady Cave got its name after a tragic incident involving a young lady named Mrs. Hathaway. The incident is believed to have happened in the 1800’s while Hathaway and her husband were collecting sea shells on their honeymoon. Although her body was never found, her brother claimed to see the image of his sister in the cave where she was swept away while searching for her. He said she was wearing her wedding gown and an orange wreath in her hair.
Shockingly, the cave entrance appeared to have taken on her shape! The outline does not quite look like what it used to from what I saw when visiting. Thankfully there are vintage photos to show that it truly did look similar to the outline of a woman.
3. Rancho Buena Vista Adobe
The site of the Rancho Buena Vista adobe was once the site of an ancient Native American Village. The Luiseno and Diegueno tribes called this area their home. After white folks took over and attempted to push Christianity on the Natives, the tribes were eventually taken over.
We were told when we visited that this home is allegedly haunted with many creepy stories. There is said to be a body buried in the walls of one of the rooms! Visit the place and see if you feel anything!
4. Julian Pioneer Cemetery
Primitive living conditions, violence, alcohol, disease and fatal accidents, all common in the Julian gold mining district, created an urgent need for a graveyard. Such use began on this then private property with the burial of stillborn babies under a sheltering oak tree. The earliest burials recorded are those of two teenage boys who died in the winter of 1875. Soon other victims were buried, some “with their boots still on” in unmarked graves, some in family plots and some alone in what became a family cemetery.
5. Specter Tunnel
This is probably the “spookiest” tunnel I’ve explored so far with ghosts being the main theme around the artwork inside. It kind of feels like you’re going through a true “underground” art gallery with a sinister twist. The tunnel goes many miles with multiple chambers you can take. We did not go all the way but did go several miles deep.
6. Sorrento Valley Pet Cemetery
Whether you are actually wanting to have a pet buried here or just coming to visit, this is a tranquil little spot that most people would never know existed. I used to work right around the corner from this spot and was shocked to learn that it was here. I enjoyed looking at the old tombs and reading the little excerpts on people’s pets. It’s a very peaceful forever home and such a sweet gesture for our furry family members.
7. Carmel Valley Cemetery
Chances are, you’ve driven by this hidden little cemetery and never even noticed. Tucked on a hillside beside Highway 56, behind St. Terese of Carmel Catholic Church, lies the final resting place of Carmel Valley pioneers, including several Sisters of Mercy and priests.
Only 55 of the roughly 100 burials are marked. All wooden and handmade markers were destroyed long ago by fire. Catholics to the west, Protestants to the east, the division within Christianity is clear even in death. There are not many Protestant graves, but markers remain for the Knechtels, another pioneer family.
8. Berkeley Ferryboat
The Berkeley Ferryboat is a steamboat that was built in 1898 and operated for 60 years on the San Francisco Bay. On this vessel lays the museum’s office, a research library, workshop, museum, dry storage areas and a venue which can hold 800 guests. The steam ship Berkeley, which is next to the Star of India, has reports of footsteps, apparitions and a stall in the ladies room that locks itself.
9. La Casa de Estudillo
La Casa de Estudillo was completed in 1829 by commander of the presidio of San Diego, Captain Jose Maria de Estudillo. He only lived in the house for a year before he died, and the house passed on to his son, Jose Antonio Estudillo. Employees have reported seeing faces appear in mirrors when there was no one else in the room. There are reports of shadow apparitions, cold spots, and flashing red lights in some of the rooms, and the apparition of a monk has been seen near the room which served as a chapel. The ghosts of La Casa de Estudillo have also played music with no discernible source.
10. Questhaven Retreat
The rumors of this retreat are endless. Many claim it was once an insane asylum that burned down. The founder of the retreat, Flower Newhouse, used to house patients with mental disabilities in the 1940’s. During this time, there was a fire and portions of the retreat burned down. If people died in the fire, I am not sure, but it is factual that a fire DID occur there.
11. Whaley House
The Whaley house is so rich with ghost stories that it’s made its way to multiple lists of being one of the most haunted places in America. The bottom of the house once a courthouse and hangings of those found guilty would happen right in the backyard. Multiple family members also died in this home. I had a personal experience here that I share on the Whaley House page. I recommend giving it a read!
12. Ready Relief Mine
The Ready Relief mine was discovered in 1870, during the early stages of the gold rush. These early discoveries are what helped form Julian into what it is today. No juicy area is complete without a murder scene, right? In December of 1989, an El Cajon man was said to have murdered two Julian residents near the Ready Relief Mine after a mine dispute. More info can be found here.
13. Fallbrook Masonic Cemetery
This is an old Masonic cemetery, which I am aware is quite intriguing to at least a handful of you out there. The air was so fresh out here, which is something I have been craving more than anything lately. Everything was so calm and peaceful. If you haven’t been out to Fallbrook yet, make a day trip and start exploring! It’s filled with trails and greenery. There’s plenty to be unearthed.
14. Jamul Kiln
Part of our trip was planned around the new moon with anticipation of capturing some interesting night shots. We decided to stay into the night and soak up the energy that can only be met once the moon and stars have awoken for the night. The only sounds we heard was the wind rustling across the field and the occasional coyote yelps from a presumed kill. It wasn’t until we began hearing the soft pounding of what can only be described as a deep, rhythmic drum that we began to get nervous. The drumming would come and go but we all heard it and agreed it sounded like the style of Native American drumming.
15. Meadowlark Cemetery
Just like Pioneer Park in Mission Hills, all is not what it appears to be at this busy intersection. If you look closely, you will notice a modest memorial for a group of Spanish-colonial pioneers from Ventura & Ojai, CA. There are 7 people buried here total. Nearby are two white, wooden crosses within a 20X20′ enclosure.
16. Halloween Events
For those of you who enjoy getting out and about during the Halloween season, we’ve got you covered on all the annual hot spots. These range from kid-friendly to for only the bravest mofo’s out there (seriously). Read up and enjoy!
17. San Pasqual Indian Cemetery
This small cemetery is easy to miss but rich with history, including the final resting place for Native American princess Felicita, which Felicita Park was named after. If you come out here, I recommend visiting the archaeological museum directly next door. These small museums need visitors to stay around! Make sure to come here only during visitor hours and best if viewed from the fence to not disturb the grave plots.
18. San Pasqual Pioneer Cemetery
This cemetery is one of the earliest burial sites for pioneers in the area. There are possibly some buried here from the San Pasqual battle as well.
19. Old Adobe Chapel
The Old Adobe Chapel is one of the many historic features that can be visited in Old Town. The was originally the home of San Diego’s first coroner, John Brown but was later purchased by Don José Antonio Agüirre and turned into a Catholic chapel. On November 21, 1858, it was dedicated as the Church of Immaculate Conception and later enclosed by weatherboarding. One of the most interesting facts about this chapel is that Agüirre’ s tomb is actually inside, located in the small right wing.
20. Villa Montezuma
Just on the outskirts of downtown stands an unusually-stunning piece of Victorian-esque architecture. This intricate mansion was built by several members of a local spiritual society in 1887 for famous musician and author Jesse Shepard. Shepard was a worldly composer, known for giving elaborate performances, oftentimes for royalty. He was quite the eccentric, rumored to have held seances in his home in order to channel famous composers, musicians and even Egyptian spirits.
21. Odd Fellows Cemetery
The Odd Fellows cemetery is the final resting place to many of Fallbrook’s early homesteaders and community leaders. You will notice that many of the markers are nothing more than a simple wooden cross or small brick with etchings.
22. San Luis Rey Pioneer Cemetery
The cemetery was placed in use in 1869, its first sad burial being that of a one year-old girl. Its very existence arose out of a need for a burial site for non-Catholics, as they were excluded from burial in the Mission Cemetery. Some of the graves are identifiable by a hodgepodge of flat and stone markers, the oldest of which have had their engravings worn away by winds and the sands of time. Others are unmarked and seemingly forgotten. There is no landscaping of any kind, and fledgling tumbleweeds are the most prominent vegetation growing among the markers.
23. Elfin Forest
Elfin Forest is not only great for hiking but also for delving deeper into the mysteries that surround this area. It is rumored to be extremely haunted with hundreds if not thousands of stories and sightings to back up this claim. The most popular myth is about the white witch. As the story goes, her husband and son were murdered out here a long time ago. Rumor has is she is still looking for her family, or possibly the person who murdered them.
24. Harmony Grove Spiritualist Association
The Harmony Grove Spiritualist Association, founded in 1896, is a 13 acres spiritual meeting ground surrounded by lush oak trees. The association was formed as a meeting ground for spiritualists whom were eager to learn more about spirituality, religion, philosophy and science. Sadly, most of the association was destroyed in the 2014 wildfire. They are busy restoring.
25. Mt. Woodson Castle
Following its completion in 1921, the twenty-seven room, 12,000 square foot adobe structure has been variously labeled a castle, a mountain sanctuary and a haunted house which was built by a purported recluse deeply involved in spiritualism and the occult. Some say that since her death the house has been haunted. On dark and windy nights, it is said, you can hear the erstwhile owner madly sewing away on her machine.
Another ghost, that of a laborer who lost his finger while working on the house, is said to be heard scratching on the rocks in search of his lost digit! If true, these stories would certainly make for a romantic and exciting tale. If one believes in ghosts, the interior of the house with its long, dark, musty halls and numerous nooks and crannies most certainly is the prescribed environment.
26. Questhaven Rd.
This area, along with the Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove, are the types of places that are brimming with many stories and mysteries that quite possibly will never be revealed to the public. It is only natural for us to respect that. When I was younger I used to pry so hard into these places. I would go in areas that I shouldn’t have gone and could sense that I was upsetting something far more powerful than me. Through my exploration I found many interesting places and really felt that I was beginning to unearth some of the secrets that we aren’t supposed to know. I will not be writing about those discoveries here and most likely never will.
It was one fateful night in 2007 that everything came crashing down on me. I learned a powerful lesson that curiosity with places like these can be extremely dangerous. Let’s just say the night ended a bloody mess.
27. Pioneer Park
Over the years, Pioneer Park has become a popular spot for family picnics, summer concerts and various community events. It is not uncommon to see children from the school next door playing in the grass and families having outings. Take a stroll along the outskirts of the park though you will be in for an awful surprise.
A once prominent pioneer cemetery has now been reduced to a lone row of headstones which are displayed as a memorial for those buried at this park—yes, the bodies are still buried here. You can even find a plaque with the names of the 1800+ bodies whom are interred within, although it is rumored that there may be up to 4,000 bodies buried here.
28. Cosmopolitan Hotel
The Cosmopolitan hotel is one of the oldest standing buildings in San Diego County. Built in 1829, this hotel was once the home of Juan Bandini and his family, whom are some of San Diego’s first pioneers.
There have been multiple witnesses who claim to have seen a woman in a long dress wandering around the upstairs balcony. She is said to move through closed doors. Whether or not there is any truth to that story, there is definitely a thick energy felt throughout Old Town. Employees also speak of lights flickering and randomly turning on and off.
29. St. Francis of Assisi Chapel & Cemetery
For many generations, Warner Springs was the place that the Cupeño Indians called home. Their 200-acre village site is now abandoned but evidence of its historical importance remains. This chapel is said to be the beginning grounds from where the Trail of Tears was lead. There is a plaque commemorating this event. The land dispute in 1897 over the Native American residents unfortunately ordered them to leave.
30. Heritage Park
There have been reports of disembodied footsteps making their way around the houses along with many other unusual and unexplained annoyances in these homes. Many times these disturbances were loud enough to cause staff to peak around the corner to check out where the strange sounds were coming from – only to find hallways and rooms totally empty and silent.
Apparently, the spirits of Mary and John McConaughy and at least one of their sons are still active haunting one of the homes. According to the current occupants, things are always mysteriously moving around on the first floor. The most common occurrences are attributed to Mary, who keeps close tabs on what goes on inside the house. Her benevolent energy will often rearrange merchandise as well as toy with the electricity.
31. El Campo Santo Cemetery
If you want to really get a glimpse into the past, here is a good place to stop by. El Campo Santo Cemetery began its story in 1849. There are 477 bodies buried here and unfortunately not all of them retain their tomb. Take a look at the sidewalk and street directly outside for grave markers. Yep, some of the graves are literally in the street! If that isn’t going to upset the spirits here, how about injustice and grave robbers!
32. Santa Ysabel Mission & Cemetery
The Santa Ysabel Asistencia was founded on September 20, 1818 at Cañada de Santa Ysabel in the mountains east of San Diego (near the village of Elcuanan), as a “sub-mission” to Mission San Diego de Alcalá, and to serve as a rest stop for those travelling between San Diego and Sonora. It has been reported by several San Diego ghost hunting sites that this mission is said to be haunted. We did not experience anything when we visited but you never know!
33. Presidio Park Historical Spots
Witches Tower: This small building is known as the ‘Pattie Memorial’. It was once used as a Spanish guardhouse and a jail cell to hold an American named Sylvester Pattie. Pattie died here and is commemorated as the “First American buried in California soil.”
The top of the roof has a mysterious pentagram built into it with candle wax and dark stains in the center giving strong evidence of occult practices.
34. Old Point Loma Lighthouse
The original Point Loma Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on the Point Loma peninsula at the mouth of San Diego Bay in San Diego. It is situated in the Cabrillo National Monument. It is no longer in operation as a lighthouse but is open to the public as a museum. The lighthouse is said to be haunted. There are reports of of heavy foot steps coming from upper rooms, cold spots, heavy breathing, lights turning on. This site is no longer considered an “active haunted” location though.
35. Eichar’s Grave
John J. Eichar was believed to be a cook for the occupants of the Los Penasquitos ranch house in the late 1800’s. He came from Westmoreland Co., Pennsylvania. His grave seems to be the only one in the preserve. It tells about his life fairly well and includes good information on his ancestors.
36. Old Town’s Dia de los Muertos
Día de los Muertos is a very special time, when once a year, the spirits of loved ones who have died return to earth to celebrate this holiday with friends and family. Over fifty local businesses, museums, and shops will create traditional Día de los Muertos altars that make up the free Tour of the Altars can be enjoyed by the whole family in Old Town. Many of the altars will honor the historic figures from Old Town’s past, and others will reflect more current stories meaningful to that place of business.
37. Presidio Park Hiking Trails
Apparitions of the beloved white deer, Lucy, still haunt the back-trails of Presidio Park. Lucy was an albino deer that lived in Presidio. When the highway was put in, her life became threatened. As an attempt to relocate her, she was tranquilized for transporting. Unfortunately she was overdosed and died.
In 1769, shortly after the arrival of Father Serra, over 60 men were buried in the hills of Presidio Park. This burial ground was known as “El Jardin Del Rey” (The King’s Garden). The burials were recorded but during an Indian raid in 1775, the book was burned.
Between 1882 and 1887, fill dirt needed for work on the Derby Dike was sourced from The King’s Garden. Unfortunately, the job was done carelessly and burial remains were dumped in the San Diego River.
38. Grant Hotel
The Grant Hotel is said to have at least one resident ghost. Her name is Fannie Chaffee Grant, the first wife of the hotel’s builder who was instrumental in getting the hotel up and running. She died, almost a year to the day, before the hotel’s grand opening. Her husband remarried a few years later and moved with his new bride into the hotel. An apparition has apparently been seen walking the hallways.
Maids report that items will move of their own, oftentimes the instant you turn your back. There are many employee ghost stories that have taken place inside of the ballroom and they mention that they never go in there alone.
39. Hotel del Coronado
Kate Morgan was found dead on November 29, 1892, on the exterior staircase leading to the beach, of what was believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. This was five days after checking into the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado. A San Francisco lawyer, the late Alan May, speculated in the 1980s that her death involved foul play. Evidence for the alleged homicide was a passing statement (or misstatement), during the coroner’s inquest, that the bullet found in her head did not match that of her own gun.
40. Cara Knott Memorial and Garden
The 1986 murder of twenty year-old Cara Knott by California Highway Patrol Office Craig Peyer was a case that shook the San Diego region like an earthquake. It frightened women young and old, it horrified parents who wanted to believe their daughters were safe in our community, and it engendered a gut level distrust of police that persists in many to this day. It still evokes a visceral reaction from hundreds of thousands of San Diegans, and it was every bit as shocking back then as was the Chelsea King murder that brought the region to its emotional knees a quarter of a century later.
41. Gaslamp Museum
The home has housed many fascinating people, including pre-civil war soldiers, a a WWI German spy in hiding who was later captured and even Alonzo Horton, founder of San Diego. It was even a hospital for around 10 years where many sick and wounded patients died. But is it haunted?
Any house that doubled as a hospital where many people died and suffered is going to up its chances of being haunted. A 1977 San Diego newspaper article featured interviews with the occupants of the house who reported stories of the lights going on and off by themselves. What’s even more unusual about this is that the house was not wired for electricity until 1984 – the lights that went on and off were either gas or coal oil lamp flames which requires a match to light!
Even now, the house continues to have unexplained events related to its lighting. Respected officials of the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation report incidents of the electric lights going on, but never when anyone is there. Each evening all interior lights are turned off before the security alarm is set. In the morning, a light in a back room of the house may be found back on.
42. Proctor Valley
Proctor Valley is an extremely large, dry and mostly deserted area with one lone, dirt road taking you from Chula Vista to Jamul. The ghost stories of this area date back to over a century ago, with tales ranging from a large ape-looking beast to a screaming banshee to a hitchhiking lady dressed in blue. You will also hear stories of a demon car chasing after you, small hand-prints on your car and your car mysteriously breaking down or crashing out here.
43. Star of India
Ghosts of several unfortunate sailors and passengers still hant the decks and cabins. In 1884 a young stowaway still in his teens by the name of John Campbell was discovered and put to work. One day soon after, Campbell lost his footing high in the rigging and fell 100 feet to the deck, crushing both legs. He survived three more days before he died and was buried at sea. Visitors sometimes report feeling a cold hand touching them when near the mast where Campbell fell.
44. Harmony Grove
On this one road alone you will find a psychic village complete with little colorful homes & a seance room, ruins dating back to the early 1900’s, a two-story house on a hill with no doors or windows (only a garage and vents) a labyrinth, the remains of an old slaughter farm, and many other photo-worthy opportunities! Not to mention, this whole area is rumored to be haunted by a white witch and Indian spirits.
45. Captain Charles Kenneth Speakeasy
Captain Charles Kenneth is the only authentic speakeasy bar in San Diego that I know of. During the Prohibition era of the 1920’s and 30’s, one of Carlsbad’s most famous Victorian homes was providing a secret space for people to booze and socialize. There have been many reports from employees of paranormal sightings. Lights turning off and on on their own and apparitions of people who disappear once they enter the next room.