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Nine Iconic & Haunted Tourist Attractions to Visit in California!

Santa Monica Pier at sunset
Written by Staff Writer

This blog post was updated on June 8, 2022.

California is such a large state, it’s no wonder it’s home to so many of the most infamous haunted sites in the United States. While some of these spots are closed off to tourists, the Golden State does welcome guests–and ghosts!–at a number of its most iconic tourist attractions. From a home deemed the most haunted in America to a former prison on an island, these iconic California sites are downright spooky. Fork over the admission fee and settle into for the scare of your life!


The Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House Museum

Located in Old Town San Diego, the Whaley House Museum was built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley. It showcases mid-19th century Greek Revival architecture and once served a number of purposes in town. The home functioned as a granary, the County Court House, San Diego’s first commercial theater, and housed various businesses. Perhaps because the home has worn so many hats, the Whaley House Museum is believed to be the most haunted house in America. Many television shows have featured the home on ghost hunts, documenting the spirits who never seemed to have left. It’s no wonder the home is believed to be haunted, with a suicide in its past and the fact that the grounds were once a site for execution by hanging. While you can tour the home by day, the museum also offers a ghost hunting tour where you can go on a paranormal investigation of San Diego’s most haunted site.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

Owned by the National Park Service, Alcatraz sits on the island of the same name in San Francisco Bay. While the NPS denies any sort of hauntings have occurred at the former fort and prison, guests have noted otherwise. Alcatraz is perhaps best known for its role as an infamous federal penitentiary long off-limits to the public. Some of the worst criminals in the world were held at Alcatraz to suffer and freeze to death. Although the site has been closed to prisoners for over 50 years, many claim that a few have never left. Evening tours of the site are available, beginning with a tour around the island with live narration about Alcatraz’s history. While not a haunted tour, per se, the evening romp through the prison cells in the dark is enough to give you the spooks.

Old Sacramento Underground Tunnels

man walking through tunnel

Did you know about the underground tunnels and the hidden town below Sacramento? Due to the floods from the Sacramento River in the 1860s to 1870s, Sacramento was rebuilt and raised up higher to prevent damage from future floods, leaving a network of underground tunnels behind. The tunnels are said to be haunted and ghost tours are available starting at the Sacramento History Museum. Beware: you’ll come across low ceilings and slanted floors! (And maybe some ghosts…)

The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary Ship, Long Beach, CA

Docked in Long Beach, the Queen Mary represents an impressive example of a 20th-century cruise ship. The art deco-style ocean liner first launched in 1936, making 1,001 transatlantic crossings before finding a permanent home in Long Beach. Now a hotel and tourist attraction, the vessel is said to be one of the most haunted places in the state. When the sun goes down, the spirits of the Queen Mary are allegedly stirring so much so that the legendary ship offers a number of haunted tours. Visitors can join the paranormal ship walk — a tour through all of the ship’s reportedly haunted locations. If you want to take things up a notch, the ship even offers its own paranormal investigation tour in which tour-goers can play ghost hunters and head to the ship’s paranormal hotspots like the infamous boiler rooms and First Class swimming pool.

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

You’ve never seen anything like the Winchester Mystery House. Filled with hidden passageways, doors that won’t open, staircases going nowhere, and windows opening to fatal drops, it’s a strange and bizarre piece of architecture that cost millions and took nearly 40 years to build. It was commissioned by Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearms manufacturer William Wirt Winchester. She suffered many losses in her life and was politely thought of as “eccentric.” Legend has it that she built her labyrinth-like mansion to lose and confuse the vengeful spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles. Today, you can sign up for tours of the house or participate in themed events on Halloween or Friday the 13th.

Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

The Hotel del Coronado is unique among California’s haunted destinations. It doesn’t just tell a spooky story; it has decades of paranormal investigation to supposedly back up its claims. In 1992, for example, the hotel contracted a parapsychologist to conduct a year-long investigation to document the flickering lights, disembodied voices, moving furniture, and visions that guests have claimed to experience. In 2002, the hotel invited ghost hunters to bring infrared cameras and night vision goggles to check out some of the hotel’s more notorious rooms, including the site of a 1800s suicide that would eventually inspire the book Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan. If you’re looking for a haunted hotel with some real bite to it, you might want to give Kate a call!

Battery Point Lighthouse, Crescent City

Originally constructed in 1856, the Battery Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in California, and it’s also one of the most remote. It was built on a small, rocky peninsula constantly battered by waves, and it’s only accessible when the tide is low: When the tide rises, the land bridge is flooded, and the peninsula becomes an island that’s completely cut off from the outside world. Visitors have reported seeing and hearing strange phenomena, such as the trudging of sea boots on the stairs even when no lightkeepers are present. “Shutter Island” fans, this one’s for you!

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel was built in 1926 during the “golden era” of Hollywood architecture. Its grandiose white building is surrounded by palm trees and sidewalk stars from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and its lavish, luxurious suites have been booked by scores of old-school celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple, and Charlie Chaplin. To paranormal investigators, however, there’s more to this hotel than just its glamor. Hauntings have been reported for decades, and visitors have claimed to experience things like cold spots, mysterious noises, faces reflected in mirrors, and strange shadows moving through the halls. Some people even say that Marilyn Monroe herself is a ghost in the hotel! If you’re ready for you close-up, this could be a great destination among California’s haunted tourist attractions.

You may also like: 7 Haunted Hotels With Ghost Tours That Will Give You Goosebumps

Preston Castle, Ione

Also known as the Preston School of Industry, Preston Castle was a reform school built in the late 19th century for troubled young boys. Almost two dozen deaths have been documented on the grounds, including one boy shot to death during an escape attempt. Another death was a housekeeper who was beaten and killed in the school’s basement. With such a grisly history, it’s no surprise that the castle is said to be haunted, and many paranormal investigations have been conducted over the years. And now, you can even join one! Preston Castle hosts overnight paranormal tours for small groups of visitors, so whether you’re an amateur ghost hunter or just a tourist with a strong sense of adventure, don’t be afraid to book cheap flights to California in order to walk the halls and experience the thrills and chills for yourself.

Have you visited one of these spooky spots? Or have you been to a place even scarier? Let us know in our comments section below!

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