April 6, 2008
I love San Francisco, I love history, and I love walking. Luckily for me, there are a billion walking tours out there. Every so often I participate in one of these, try to pick up a thing or two, and take some notes for you. Ratings systems provide a useful shorthand, but your mileage may vary.
subject: San Francisco Ghost Walk
time: 3 hours
cost: $20 adults, $10 kids, discount for groups (cash only)
NOTE: A couple of weeks ago an email from a regular reader dropped into my inbox. She was curious about this Ghost Walk, and had unsuccessfully scoured the Sparkletack website for a review. Well, I’d heard of the tour, but — though curious — just never got around to putting on my calendar. In a flash of inspiration (call it laziness if you must), I wrote back: “How about you go on the tour and write it up?”
So. Allow me to introduce the very first “Guest Sparkler” to this blog: EB of SpiceDish — San Franciscan, Sparkletack fan, and highly entertaining writer about eating and living in the Bay Area. Take it away, Erin …
It was a dark and rainy night …
… no really. It was. It was raining last Friday night when a troupe of my friends and I decided to partake in a ghost hunt!
Since 1998 Jim Fassbinder has offered the San Francisco Ghost Hunt tour. A walking tour that introduces you to the cityâ€™s illustrious departed who refuse to leave.
Our host, at first, had a goofy touch of â€˜Disneyâ€™s Haunted Mansionâ€™ about him (costume and all), but soon we were taken in by his infectious enthusiasm. Fassbinder takes his job very seriously, itâ€™s obvious he loves not only deceased of San Francisco, but also the city and itâ€™s history as well.
After an introduction to what he does and how, the tour starts with Fassbinder encouraging everyone to investigate the 2nd & 4th floors of the Queen Anne. These are reportedly the most haunted floors. Mary Lake, the spirit who walks these halls, has apparently taken to tucking in guests with a fresh blanket while they sleep — all out of love of course. He encourages picture taking and tells you what to look for (a glowing orb or figure) to see if youâ€™ve captured a ghost. My photo from the 4th floor does seem to have few ghostly orbs floating around there. Sparkletack note — This is the same mansion that I visited as part of the Victorian Home Walk in January … have the owners got their PR ducks in row or what?
The rain, adding to the atmosphere of the evening, accompanied us as we left the hotel and walked about 1 mile around the gorgeous neighborhood of Pacific Heights learning about the some ghosts with illustrious and infamous pasts:
Claudia Chambers, a murdered heiress (a gruesome family secret), Flora, who haunts the corner of California and Pine in a white Victorian dress (she once scared an entire cable car full of tourists by walking straight through them!), Gertrude Atherton (yes that Atherton) a moneyed widow known for partying, whoâ€™s still at it in her gorgeous mansion and Fassbinderâ€™s personal patron saintâ€¦. Mary Ellen Pleasant â€œThe Voodoo Queen of San Francisco.â€
Fassbinder gleefully shares the ghostsâ€™ history, why and where they haunt, and how they make themselves known. He imparts all the information he knows about the dead (except their ghostly appearanceâ€”how else could he verify that you really saw one or just imagined you did?) He even attempts to attract the spirits to make your experience all the more intriguing.
Fun Facts that were uncovered:
- Dead husbands can be delivered in booze barrels.
- You really can have too many cats.
- Young girls donâ€™t want to marry old men.
- Blackmail and insider trading may just be good career options, and
- If you are good to your Voodoo priestess she will be good to you.
Do I recommend going on a ghost hunt?
Yes. Even if youâ€™re more into San Francisco history, than ghosts in particular, Fassbinder really is open to any and all questions, he allows you to take pictures freely and he engages tour-goers at every turn. There are a few parlor tricks to be had (or supernatural experiences depending on your point of view) and while he doesnâ€™t guarantee that you will see ghosts, he guarantees that you will have one of the more unique evenings you can have in San Francisco. For 20$ per adult and 10$ per child you get 3 full hours of entertainment.
The tour even enticed me to take advantage of the 25% off coupon you are given for a stay at the Queen Anne. I booked an in-town weekend â€˜awayâ€™ and while I wonâ€™t be staying in room 410 (the most haunted room)â€¦ I do hope to see myself a spirit.