We’re delving into the history behind two haunt-loaded locales on Octavia Street this week and next, starting with a hotel that boasts the most haunted activity in the city and ending with the once-home of the late, great San Francisco Voodoo Queen. If you guessed The House of Mystery and the Queen Anne Hotel, you guessed correctly.
Let’s start off with The Queen Anne Hotel.
The Queen Anne is a small, elegant hotel on a corner a few paces away from SF’s quiet Japantown neighborhood. It is well-maintained, somewhat pricey, and popular among visitors. Its website boasts lavish Victorian detailing and luxury amenities.
It is also one of the most famously spooky spots in San Francisco and goes out of its way to brandish its title if anyone asks. It is the meeting place for ghost tours and is one of the first buildings listed in archives of the city’s haunted past. We went down to take a tour and ask some of the employees about its history and what they think is just so haunted about it. How bad could this beautiful hotel, which still gets plenty of business, possibly be?
As it turns out – not bad at all. According to my generous host, Michael Wade, director of sales, the building was originally Miss Mary Lake’s School For Girls in 1890. It was a charm school for modern young women and featured a dining hall (still there!) and dormitories for over 100 girls upstairs, which are now hotel rooms. Mary Lake herself, a kindly and dedicated educator, is believed to be our ghost of the evening.
Room 410 is the spot where Miss Lake’s office used to be, and it is claimed to be the most haunted room in the hotel. The staff say their ghost is kindly; guests claim that they’ve seen orbs of light in the hallways and have woken up to find extra blankets on their bed and a comforting presence in their rooms. The Bishop’s chair at the end of the downstairs parlor is also rumored to have a particular presence, and the sitter will find themselves feeling a distinct, gentle, motherly touch on the shoulder or arm.
Legends say that Mary Lake can also be mischevious and will occasionally tug on the staff’s hair or clothing. Some say they’ve seen her in mirrors, primping. I kept an eye on the mirrors as I explored, but — no Mary.
Stepping into the hotel is perhaps as close to stepping into a time machine as you can get in San Francisco. It is fantatically maintained and clean, despite the ancient furniture, intricate Victorian detailing, and lush upholstery. If you look closely, you’ll find a multitude of strange old artifacts in the parlor, most interesting of which was an old iron safe on claw-footed legs and an extraordinarily creepy doll. The entire building is absolutely stunning – a testament to both Mary Lake’s love for the property and the current owner’s care. Even back when it was built in 1890, it was praised for its innovative design and detailing.
Just the atmosphere alone is creepy, despite the upkeep and the modern addition of an elevator. I would imagine if you were staying here overnight, the idea of a haunted housekeeper might be enough to keep you up and the creaks and groans of the old foundation don’t help.
But at least she’s friendly.
A huge thanks to the staff at the Queen Anne for letting me snoop around their beautiful hotel – especially Alberto and Michael. If you have any questions, they would be delighted to help you see if you can meet Miss Lake herself.
If sleeping in the care of spirits is your thing, book a room or take a peek for your self at the hotel’s website: The Queen Anne Hotel