Professional and amateur ghost hunters alike will find plenty of places in California to connect with the supernatural. And if you don’t believe in any of that stuff, many of these spots are still historic and worth visiting.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Los Angeles
Guests can check into the glamorous hotel for a chance to see the rich and famous, dead or alive. Marilyn Monroe’s ghost has been rumored to frequent the upscale hotel from time to time. One room attendant claimed to see Monroe’s face while cleaning the suite she stayed in, Amuse reported.
Others have reported hearing trumpet music coming from suite 928, where Montgomery Clift, an actor, used to practice his skills before his death in 1966.
The Cecil Hotel, Los Angeles
The Cecil in downtown Los Angeles has gained notoriety in recent years after the body of Elisa Lam, a Canadian college student, was found inside a water tank on the hotel’s roof in 2013.
Before Lam’s body was found she had been missing for weeks, L.A. police released video from a hotel elevator that showed her acting strangely in the hours before her disappearance. She can be seen stepping into the elevator and pressing multiple buttons, then peeking outside. Later, she steps out of the elevator and waves her arms, but no one else is ever shown in the video.
The 600-room building, built in the 1920s, was once a popular destination for the rich and famous in the 1930s and 1940s. But it later became known for crime and murder and was even a temporary home for serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger.
The Queen Mary, Long Beach
Queen Mary, a retired trans-Atlantic vessel seen from Shoreline Village in Long Beach, may have ghost residents aboard.
The ship operated from 1936-1967, hosting members of high society for much of that time. More recently it was turned into an event space and local attraction.
The site previously hosted multiple ghost-themed events. According to Visit California, guests could take haunted tours on the ship during Halloween or stay in stateroom B340 for overnight frights, but those offerings have been curtailed during the pandemic years.
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego
In 1892, Kate Morgan checked into the Hotel del Coronado but never checked out. The 24-year-old stayed there for five days waiting for a visitor. After the mystery guest never came, Morgan took her own life.
Guests who have stayed in Morgan’s old room have reported seeing flickering lights, items moving on their own, sudden changes in the room temperature and mysterious voices and sounds, according to an account from the Hotel. Paranormal researchers say they have recorded supernatural activity in the room using high-tech equipment.
Despite that – or potentially as a result – that room is said to be the highest requested in the hotel.
Morgan’s last days are documented in the book “Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado.”
Point Sur Lighthouse, Big Sur
According to Visit California, the Point Sur Lighthouse has been keeping the shore lit since 1869. Legend has it that the lighthouse’s original keeper was such a faithful employee he kept keeping watch even after his death.
According to the Point Sur website, moonlight lighthouse tours are held throughout the year.
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose
The Winchester Mystery House, which started as an eight-bedroom farmhouse, was purchased and renovated by Sarah Winchester after her husband and daughter died.
The house eventually grew into a 24,000-square-foot property with 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, six kitchens and 10,000 windows, among other quirks.
The urban legend is that Winchester couldn’t cope with the death of her family, so she made a house that would keep the spirits away, though SF Gate has called that theory into question.
The house does transform into a haunted mansion for Halloween, but guests might find the labyrinth of rooms creepy any time of year.
Bodie State Historic Park, Bodie
This Gold Rush-era ghost town is an area frozen in time. The town in Mono County, located near the California and Nevada border, is rumored to have some permanent ghost residents.
Park visitors can see nails and broken dishware in the streets, but anyone who dares to take a memento home risks inflicting the curse of Bodie, according to legend.
The curse imposes lousy luck, health problems and unexplained accidents, KQED once reported. Taking an item home is also against park rules.
Preston Castle, Ione
This former reform school sure looks like the setting of a creepy Scooby-Doo episode. According to lore, the facility’s walls saw corporal punishments, toxic dunking baths and a murder.
Now the Preston Castle, located near Sacramento in Amador County, transforms into a haunted house during October each year.
Fort Humboldt State Historic Park, Eureka
Rumors say that this remote fort location – once home to Ulysses S. Grant – is home to the ghost of a deceased commander from the late 19th century. According to the Visit California website, the military official died in 1897 after contracting malaria, but his spirit never left. His ghost allegedly watches hikers through hospital windows as they stroll through the historic site.
Chilnualna Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park
This challenging trail in Yosemite takes hikers past three waterfalls and Grouse Lake – just be sure to avoid the water. Based on Native American legend, a young boy once drowned in the lake and some claim to hear the child’s spirit crying for help.