This past weekend, one of my brothers and I took the San Francisco Ghost Hunt tour, hosted by Jim Fassbinder, out of the exquisite four-floored Victorian Queen Anne Hotel. What the Queen Anne website does not tell you, however (at least I didn’t find it on their site), is that the hotel is…haunted. By one very deceased Mary Lake. Now Mary, Mr. Fassbinder will tell you, makes her way around the hotel pretty regularly, creating cold spots and occasionally tucking in guests. Orbs have also been captured in photographs. Well, the whole group of us, which had to be some 30-odd people (Fassbinder had said it was one of his larger groups), had pretty much free reign of the hotel—short of actually entering guests hotel rooms. After Mr. Fassbinder’s charming little Get-to-Know-Him presentation in the main lobby (he is quite charming and practiced in his presentation), he herded us all up to the fourth floor, and shortly after another presentation in the hallway to the amused surprised of several sets of guests trying to exit their rooms into a hallway full of people, herded us into “Mary Lake’s suite,” room 410. Room 410 is reputed to be haunted. I don’t know that anyone found anything, though one very adorable little blonde child was quite the animated and inquisitive little future ghost hunter! She kept asking Mr. Fassbinder about a haunted chair (among other things) and Mr. Fassbinder said he’d tell her privately later, but I never found out the outcome of their tête à tête. I’d heard nothing out of anyone else in our group about discovering any manifestations, however Mr. Fassbinder told us that on his way up to meet us on the fourth floor, he’d talked with a gentleman who had sat down in a chair in the hotel and had experienced cold spots (and/or other extreme relaxation—I think I’m mixing up two different stories about the ghost and chairs, now…). Also in 410 Mr. Fassbinder had told us about a guy who came in one night and immediately plopped himself into bed without taking off his clothes or getting under the blankets. This man had then awoken the next morning to find himself covered in a blanket he had not placed on himself, and what’s more—had been totally tucked in all the way around himself.
What that meant was that someone (not him) had used their hands and “speared” the blanket snuggly underneath him entirely around the perimeter of his body.
After the relation of other stories, we were set free for ten minutes to check things out on our own. My brother had a camera and took pictures. Neither of us found anything (well, not entirely true—I had found a rest room…).
We then set out for our evening trek around several blocks of San Francisco, bordered by Sutter, Octavia, California, and I think, Gough, Streets. It was a beautiful night and was kinda cool walking around the night with a bunch of people we didn’t know, hearing ghost stories, and enjoying a rather pleasant evening. In talking with Mr. Fassbinder, I found that he had been a steel/aluminum worker in Chicago and (the long and short of it) come to San Francisco to ply his trade as a Ghost Hunter Paranormal Dude. He felt he could do ghosts one better, and has been doing these tours 6 days a week, since 1998. He says all his stories are thoroughly researched, he’s part of several paranormal organizations, and has had paranormal experiences his entire life. He is frequently on the Travel Channel’s Haunted Hotels, and has even been used, he says, as a source in books. He was most recently on a March 3rd 2010 episode of TAPS. In that episode they had gone to Alcatraz and validated the presence of ghosts. My brother, Chris, and I’d also been there (in 2007), but we hadn’t experienced any ghosts, though I certainly picked up on all the gloom and despair there.
On our pedestrian ghosting excursion Mr. Fassbinder informed us about hauntings involving Buddhist temples and SF townhomes. About the rich and well-to-do. About Pacific Heights’s (the neighborhood where we were) rather bawdy reputation. About a once-woman named Flora who apparently still wanders California Street (as we stood out on the corner of California and Octavia, a passerby in a car leaned out the window and loudly gave us all a scary “wooo-hooo!” as they drove by!). A long-gone Voodoo heiress, Mary Ellen Pleasant, who thumps ne’er-do-wells with gum nuts from the eucalyptus trees that cover the sidewalks in the area where her home once was, and of a couple people, including an LAPD homicide cop who was temporarily overcome by an apparently never proven murder victim. And at this location where the LAPD cop was overcome, a duel-turreted building, Mr. Fassbinder, showed us…a “haunted key.”
But through all this neither my brother nor I ever saw anything strange. Somehow I’d had the expectation that we were to be going inside buildings, but that never…materialized. Perhaps this was mentioned up front and we’d missed that little announcement, perhaps I’d made it up, since we’d arrived a few minutes late for the 7 p.m. start time? Throughout the tour, Mr. Fassbinder frequently mentioned actually taking people inside buildings, but we never entered any, except for the Queen Anne. But overall I found Mr. Fassbinder an outgoing, amusing, and charismatic character, and really enjoyed the “ghost hunt” experience, even if no one saw anything….
The next day, Sunday, I’d found a cemetery near where I was staying, so I went out to investigate. It’s called the Laguna Cemetery. See also this link. It’s part of the Ed R. Levin Park. One can either enter the park entrance off Route 237, go left after passing the booth and continue driving around to the left, and park across from some horse stables there to take a short foot path (and go left, not to the right, where the trail marker sign is)…or one can bypass the park entrance altogether and drive up a little ways still on Rt 237 around a bend and pull off the road on your right. That was a long sentence! There’s really no parking by the cemetery, it’s just a little pull-out alongside 237. Anyway…I came to the cemetery’s entrance only to find that it is indeed, off limits to everyone. The “renovation” was a stone with a historical presentation of the history of the cemetery. Apparently too much vandalism over the years has caused it’s area to be fenced off, and those gravestones that did remain to be removed for preservation. I saw no remaining gravestones—only one possibly scared wild turkey hiding among the trees from circling hawks above. I did find the location calm, peaceful, and quiet—but no ghosts. I found the fence cool looking.
One other curious thing happened on the way up to San Francisco Saturday. As I drove up 101, off to the left I spotted a really cool object in the hazy sky—a Zeppelin. I’d read earlier in the day about Zeppelin rides, so it was quite synchronistic to actually see one, especially since all the times I’ve driven up to SF over the past 7 years, I’ve never seen one before. So, as I drove 101 that afternoon, it was very Twilight Zoney, like I was in another time watching it through all the bay haze. It was kinda ghost-like itself…partway in this time, partway in another….
So, had either my brother or I experienced any ghosts?
Do I believe in ghosts?
Without a doubt—I’ve seen two of my dead dogs as ghosts. But no matter, because it was a great weekend, I did get to spend time with one of my siblings, see some cool stuff, hear some weird stories, and meet some interesting people. We have some photos, but I’m having issues trying to figure out how to not only add them to this blog, but pull them from a drop site. Once I figger this out, I’ll post them.
And such was my ghost hunting experience for the weekend!