San Diego

Get Spooked at the Most Haunted Places in San Diego

Who you gonna call?

Flickr/slworking2
Flickr/slworking2
Flickr/slworking2

It’s the time of year when we see San Diegans dressed in spooky attire, but did you know that San Diego is a hotbed of paranormal activity? We’re known to have some of the most haunted places in the United States, and ghost hunters come from all over the world to explore our ghoulish Victorian homes, haunted hotels, ghostly graveyards, and lonely lighthouses. In the spirit of the season, we’ve gathered nine of San Diego’s most terrifying haunted spots-visit them if you dare!

El Campo Santo Cemetery

Old Town
Founded in 1849, El Campo Santo Cemetery once housed 477 souls, but as San Diego boomed, parts of the cemetery were unceremoniously paved over, beginning in 1889 with a streetcar track. As any horror film fan knows, such desecration is often a catalyst for paranormal activity, and El Campo Santo Ceremony has its share of reported sightings. Pockets of cold air, a common signal of a ghostly presence, are often accompanied by luminous orbs and flashes of light, spectres of floating torsos, and a woman, clad in white Victorian clothing, has been sighted near the south wall of the cemetery. Car alarms often pierce the air for no apparent reason, perhaps activated by those still buried underneath the pavement, and local businesses and homeowners report flickering lights and machinery that randomly turns off and on. After you visit the main part of the cemetery, walk along San Diego Avenue and look for small brass “Grave Site” medallions on the sidewalk and even in the street.
How to visit: A quick internet search will provide several groups and businesses that conduct tours of El Campo Santo Cemetery, but it’s equally interesting to visit on your own.

Whaley House

Old Town
Just a few blocks from El Campo Santo Cemetery is the notorious Whaley House, reputed to be one of the most haunted houses in the United States, according to the Travel Channel. Built on the site of the public execution of Yankee Jim Robinson, a thief who was hanged for stealing a row boat, the gorgeous two-story Greek Revival home was almost immediately the site of tragedy. Shortly after his family moved into the home, 17-month old Thomas Whaley died; years later his sister Violet, depressed and humiliated over an adulterous husband, died by suicide in the home as well. Even the Whaley family themselves reported paranormal activity in the home, particularly the sound of heavy boots stomping throughout, attributed to the restless spirit of Yankee Jim. Visitors have reported cold pockets of air, the distinct odor of cigar smoke, the sound of a laughing or crying child, and the impressions of sleeping bodies on the beds.
How to visit: Daytime or evening tours can be booked through Old Town Trolley Tours.

Flickr/Bisayan lady
Flickr/Bisayan lady
Flickr/Bisayan lady

Julian Pioneer Cemetery

Julian
During the San Diego Gold Rush of 1870, hundreds of ore miners flocked to the newly established town of Julian in search of their fortunes. Unfortunately, along with the influx of pioneers, many of whom were ill-equipped to deal with the primitive living conditions, came disease, violence, alcoholism, greed, malnutrition, and hazardous working environments that necessitated the establishment of a cemetery to bury the dead. The first recorded burials were of two teenage boys in late 1875. The cemetery soon became the resting place of many, from families who purchased large plots to the destitute, whose final marker is often only a crudely scratched stone. Now in a state of disrepair, visitors to the area report ghostly apparitions that glide effortlessly through the tombs, possibly including the spirit of Drury Bailey, one of the founders of Julian.
How to visit: The cemetery has no stated hours of operation and can be visited without reservations.

Hotel del Coronado

Coronado
San Diego’s most iconic hotel, a favorite of celebrities, politicians, and royalty from all over the world, has an equally iconic history of haunting. On Thanksgiving Day in 1892, a young housekeeper from Los Angeles, Kate Morgan, checked into Room 302 (now Room 3327) at the Del under the name of Mrs. Lottie A. Bernard from Detroit, although she was actually married to Thomas Edwin Morgan and from Iowa. Described as attractive and refined, she arrived without luggage and was occasionally seen wandering through the hotel for the next five days. She was discovered by an electrician the morning of November 28 on the outside stairs leading to the beach, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. Was Kate Morgan waiting for a lover who never showed up? Or was she depressed about a serious medical condition, as one of the housekeepers claimed? The answers to those questions remain with Kate Morgan, who wanders the halls of the Del to this day, flicking lights and televisions on and off at random, and appearing in sea-facing windows at night.
How to visit: Stay in the room where Kate Morgan spent her final days, or book a Haunted Happenings Tour, now through November.

Hunter Steakhouse

Oceanside
A plaque near the restaurant tells the story-“Dedicated to the memories of those who were buried at Buena Vista Cemetery”. It’s believed that at least forty early settlers of the Oceanside area were interred at Buena Vista Cemetery from its inception in 1888 until it fell from use in 1906 when a newer, larger cemetery was established nearby. Over the years, it declined into disrepair and while some of the souls buried there were moved to other locations, a good number remained. The property was purchased by a private citizen in the late 1950s before being sold to developers in the 1970s. Another feeble attempt was made to relocate the remaining bodies prior to the development of a commercial project, but witness accounts of the early construction process revealed that several remains were unearthed and unceremoniously dumped into or near the Buena Vista Lagoon. All this, of course, lays the groundwork for the abused and neglected souls to restlessly inhabit the Hunter Steakhouse, which is widely recognized as one of Oceanside’s most haunted locations. Customers of the restaurant report seeing the floating apparition of a woman near the bar stairs, and employees report chilly spots, disembodied voices that call their names, random power surges and unexplained flashing lights.
How to visit: Reservations can be made online or by calling 760-433-2633.

Flickr/jkozik
Flickr/jkozik
Flickr/jkozik

Horton Grand

Gaslamp Quarter
Old hotels seem to be prone to paranormal activity and restless spirits, and the Horton Grand is no exception. Built in the late 1880s, the Horton Grand is a restoration of two original properties, The Grand Horton Hotel and the Brooklyn-Kahle Saddlery Hotel. The most famous ghost in the Horton Grand is Roger Whitaker, a permanent guest at the hotel and a notorious drinker, gambler and card cheat. After racking up a sizable debt, Whitaker was gunned down, supposedly by creditors, in Room 309. Visitors to that room report that the bed shakes and rattles, objects move around the bathroom without explanation, the armoire closet doors open by themselves at night, and the lights go on and off randomly. Another poltergeist, brothel owner Ida Bailey, whose establishment once stood on the spot where the Horton Grand now sits, appears throughout the property as a wraithlike form, and sometimes as a white mist.
How to visit: Book Room 309 online if you dare.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Point Loma
Dark, secluded and lonely, lighthouses are prime targets for spooky haunted happenings. The Old Point Loma Lighthouse, guardian of the mouth of the San Diego Bay, was completed in October 1855 and first lit on November 15 of the same year. It was, at an impressive 462 feet above sea level, the highest elevation of any lighthouse in the United States at the time. The location proved to be its undoing, though, as low clouds and fog often obscured the light from incoming and outgoing ships, forcing the lighthouse operator to fire a shotgun in warning. A new lighthouse was constructed at a lower elevation and Old Point Loma Lighthouse’s beam was permanently extinguished on March 23, 1891. The lighthouse remains as a tourist attraction, giving visitors a glimpse of how the keepers and their families lived in the mid-1800s. And while no untoward incidents have been recorded at the site, guests report heavy footsteps and breathing, moaning sounds, flickering lights, and cold spots in the winding staircase, which have been attributed to the ghostly return of former keepers, ready to stand on eternal watch.
How to visit: The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is in the Cabrillo National Monument Park, which is open from 9 am–5 pm daily, except for certain holidays.

Davis-Horton House

Gaslamp Quarter
Built in 1850 and formerly named the William Heath Davis House, the Davis-Horton House is the oldest standing building in what is now known as the Gaslamp Quarter. The original house was a saltbox-style structure that was shipped from Portland, Maine, and became part of a settlement at State and Market Streets known as “New Town” (as opposed to San Diego’s original settlement in Old Town). After the home was moved to Eleventh and K Streets, it was purchased by Anna Scheper in 1873. Anna ran the home as a county hospital, in contract with San Diego County, for which she charged each patient $1 per day. Throughout the years, the home was purchased and cherished by numerous owners, and was eventually donated to the city by the Lanzua family. A years-long restoration project, led largely by former museum curator Mary Joralmon, returned the house to its current location and state. Each room has been furnished in the style of different periods of the home’s history, from its incarnations as a pre-Civil War officers barracks, a hospital, and a private residence. Visitors to the museum report seeing the regal-looking apparition of Anna Scheper at the top of the home’s staircase, as well as various soldiers, hospital patients and even a German WWII spy is rumored to lurk around the property.
How to visit: Self-guided, audio, and guided tours can be booked online six days a week. Walk-ins are welcome. Closed Mondays.

Flickr/Hidden San Diego
Flickr/Hidden San Diego
Flickr/Hidden San Diego

Crime Victim’s Memorial Oak Garden

Scripps Ranch
On December 27, 1986, on duty CHP Officer Craig Peyer pulled over, then bludgeoned and strangled 20-year old SDSU student Cara Knott, before throwing her body off an abandoned bridge and continuing his shift as if nothing had happened. He was convicted of her murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. In 1996, after nearly a decade of lobbying by Cara’s father, Sam Knott, the area where her body was found was designated the Cara Knott Memorial Garden. Three years later, Sam Knott transplanted several dozen oak trees, which the Knott family had grown from acorns, to the area, and it was rededicated as the San Diego Crime Victims Memorial Garden. Sadly, Sam Knott died of a heart attack in 2000, while tending his daughter’s memorial garden and just feet from where her body was found. Today, the garden contains a gazebo and table, and scores of memorials, painted stones, small statues and other remembrances of San Diego’s victims of crime and violent death, and has become a place of refuge and healing for the families and friends of those remembered there. Visitors report overwhelming feelings of grief and sadness, pockets of chilly air, crying or screaming voices, and sometimes an air of foreboding.
How to visit: Exit Interstate 15 at the Mercy Road/Scripps Poway Parkway exit, go east and make a U-turn at Scripps Highland. Drive 300 yards from the freeway, take the first right into Cara Way and proceed north to the park.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.

San Diego

How to Celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego

Check out female-led dance programs, pop up markets, beer dinners, and more events this March.

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Women have played a huge part shaping San Diego into the city it is today. In celebration of Women’s History Month, there are a variety of events across the city that commemorate women’s contributions to our community and culture. Home to the Women’s Museum of California, which hosts events throughout the year, be sure to check out all the ways to support and honor women this month. From art exhibits to dance performances, pop-up markets and yoga, check out the best events to celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego:

Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art

Discover works from overlooked women artists

Ongoing through November 7, 2023
Balboa Park
The San Diego Museum of Art currently has 20 modern and contemporary works of art on display from women who unjustly didn’t receive the same amount of fame as their male contemporaries. The museum’s Modern Women exhibit is your chance to see work from artists like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner, who were overshadowed by artist husbands Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock but whose work has long deserved its own moment in the spotlight. The collection showcases pieces that range from acrylic paintings to photography, inviting us into an untapped artistic sphere.
Cost: $20

Practice Sun Salutations while supporting a good cause

Saturday, March 4, 10 am to 11 am
Pacific Beach
Make a difference in the lives of teen girls of colour while taking a yoga class at Kate Sessions Park. Organized by local nonprofit One Love Movement, all donations for the event go towards college scholarships for girls of the DETOUR F.A.N.C.Y. Expo & Leadership Academy, a mentorship program that promotes equity and inclusion in higher education for girls of colour. All while enjoying stunning views of Mission Bay.
Cost: Donation-based

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Shop local women-owned businesses

Sunday, March 5, 1 pm to 5 pm
Middletown
What better way to celebrate the women in your community than by supporting their local businesses? The Women’s History Month Market, located in the FEMX Quarters venue, is a pop up market you don’t want to miss. The market will feature over 35 vendors from women artisans and you’ll find uniquely crafted sunglasses, jewellery, clothing, and more. The family-friendly (and pet-friendly) event will also include food and music.
Cost: Free

Drink beer crafted by female brewers on International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 8, 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm
Escondido
Women were the original brewers of ale, after all, so it only makes sense to honour our past and present beer connoisseurs with dinner and brews. Located at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Stone International Women’s Day Beer Dinner features three courses, each paired with a tasty beer specially brewed by a team of women at Stone Brewery. The event is part of a larger global celebration for International Women’s Day, where brewers all over the world brew a speciality beer that supports The Pink Boots Society, a non profit that empowers women and non-binary people in the beer industry through scholarships and education. Grab your tickets while you can! 21+
Cost: $50-$70

Attend an exhibition celebrating female and non-binary artists

Saturday, March 11, 5:00 pm
Barrio Logan
Head over to the entertainment and community venue Corazon del Barrio and show your support to female and non-binary artists, whose art and music will be featured in the Diosa Art Show. Around 40 artists are on the bill at this all-ages event.
Cost: Free

Drink some pints for the pups

Saturday, March 11, 12 pm to 4 pm
Carmel Mountain
If you need another excuse to down some brews, Second Chance Beer Company is hosting its first ever Ladies & Pups Market for Women’s History Month. The brewery, which holds various events throughout the year, donates a percentage of its sales to animal rescue organizations in California and Arizona. The dog-friendly market will include pop ups from women-owned businesses such as Bold Bouquet, Wet Nose Pottery, and No, You Sit! Treats. For the occasion, Second Chance will serve Fistful of Gummies – Berry Edition, a rendition of their fruited sour beer created in collaboration with Pink Boots Society, an organization that supports women and non-binary individuals in the beer industry.
Cost: Free

Photo courtesy of Women's Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California

Attend a ceremony at the Women’s Museum of California

Saturday, March 18, 11 am to 1 pm
Rolando
Perhaps San Diego’s largest Women’s History Month event, the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame recognizes local women for their achievements in the community. The annual event, which takes place at Joan B. Kroc Theatre, is a project of the Women’s Museum of California, a museum dedicated to educating the public about women’s contributions through history with exhibits, programs, and events. Over 100 women have been inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame since the program was founded in 2001, and this year’s class includes notable women like activist Norma Chávez-Peterson and Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. The event includes a VIP brunch followed by the Induction Ceremony. Be sure to purchase tickets early to secure your spot.
Cost: $20-$150

Join a community of local women and get inspired

Monday, March 20, 5 pm to 7:30 pm
Miramar
The Women’s Speaker Series at Alesmith Brewing Company is a monthly community gathering where local women come together to support one another in achieving professional and personal goals. The event includes a social hour followed by a selected speaker. For this month, the Women’s Speaker Series features career coach and small business owner Laura Bashore, who will share her insight on how you can advance your career or business. Make sure to reserve your spot before attending!
Cost: Free

Come hear about the roles San Diego women played during World War II

Tuesday, March 21, 1 pm to 3 pm
Mission Valley
In the early 20th century, many women were not allowed or expected to be the breadwinners for their households, but things suddenly changed with the United States’ entry into World War II. Here’s your chance to learn about the real experiences of women who lived through WWll and how they navigated through it all. Presented by Oasis San Diego, head over to Mission Valley Library to attend this in-person event.
Cost: Free

Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project

Attend a ballet program choreographed entirely by women

Thursday, March 23 – Saturday, March 25 & Monday, March 27, 7:30 pm
Liberty Station
Experience not one but three world premiere ballet performances at The Rosin Box Project, a contemporary ballet company that works to redefine the concept of dance and how it’s experienced for both artists and audiences. To coincide with Women’s History Month, TRBP is kicking off its 2023 season with Empower, a female-led ballet program choreographed by TRBO Residents Lauren Flower, Bethany Green, and Carly Topazio. The program, which takes place at Light Box Theater, offers a fresh take on dance by pushing the boundaries of traditional ballet. Your ticket includes a post-show reception.
Cost: $45

Hear music by a little-known female early 20th-century composer

Friday, March 24, 6:30 pm to 7:45 pm
Balboa Park
While you may not be familiar with composer Alice Barnett Stevenson, she played an integral part in San Diego’s music scene during the early 1900s. Stevenson was an active member of various music organizations at the time, and she composed art songs for voice and piano and performed at schools all over the country. Her home became a hub for local recitals from visiting musicians, and was also where the San Diego Symphony was founded. This month, you can hear her compositions performed live for the first time in nearly 100 years at the San Diego History Center. Selected works by Stevenson will be performed by musical scholar Katina Mitchell and pianist Yewon Lee. Be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time.
Cost: $25-$40

Listen to Black San Diego women discuss important community issues

Saturday, March 25, 12 pm to 4 pm
Valencia Park
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Friends of Malcolm X Library are hosting Ain’t I a Woman, an event featuring Black women who will be speaking about their professions and discussing the challenges faced within the workplace and the community while offering suggestions on how to further enhance and embrace equality. The event includes a Q&A panel discussion, door prizes, free raffles, as well as music, poetry, and dance. Seating is limited so be sure to reserve your spot early.
Cost: Free event. Lunch purchase is $15.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Michelle Harris is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Over the years her writing has also appeared in Atlas Obscura, Mental Floss, and Audubon Magazine. When she’s not busy typing, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and cooking vegan food.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.