4 Most Thrilling Haunted Tours in San Francisco

4 Most Thrilling Haunted Tours in San Francisco

Photo credit left: flickr/hyro0o0 right: flickr/thelotuscarroll

San Francisco is one of the great cities of the United States, full of great things to do and places to explore.

Readers of this site might be especially interested in haunted tours in San Francisco, CA, and there are plenty to choose from.

This article is our guide to the finest haunted tours in SF. We carefully evaluated a number of tours, and present the best here.

We selected these tours not only on their routes and stops, but also on the quality of their presentation, the knowledge and enthusiasm of their guides, and even their comfort level and “family-friendly” factor.

Rest assured that you’ll have a great time on any of these tours, and you might even learn a little history.

You might even see a real ghost! We have, more than once.

If you're in a hurry then simply check out these two ghost tours:

1) Haunted SF: Murder, Mystery and Ghosts - The most popular, and fun, haunted tour in SF

2) San Francisco Chinatown Ghost Walking Tour - Discover the spookiest haunts in Chinatown 

The 4 Best San Francisco Ghost Tours & Night Walks

As the home of such spooky sites as Alcatraz and The Richmond, San Francisco is the place to be for all the sites and stops.

There’s so much history in The Golden Gate City that it’s no surprise at all that a variety of ghosts, spirits, poltergeists, and even cryptids can be found there. A lot has happened over the last couple of hundred years, and every death and crime leaves its psychic mark. So, when planning your vacations in San Francisco, don’t forget to make room on the itinerary to indulge your macabre leanings.

Whether you’re a true believer or just someone hoping for a fun time with the kids or a date, it’s tough to beat a nighttime jaunt through the myriad haunted places in San Francisco. Make your choice based on your own personal interests, where you’d like to go, and of course, just how fear and terror you think you can stand.

We vouch for all of these tours, and we think they’re all a fun and informative time. They’re listed in no particular order, so be sure to consider all of these haunted tours in spooky San Francisco.

1 – San Francisco Chinatown Ghost Walking Tour

Chinatown Ghost Walking Tour - from 4 Most Thrilling Haunted Tours in San Francisco

Photo credit: flickr/lennygreenwald

Chinatown Ghost Tours in San Francisco are surprisingly hard to come by, considering the incredibly rich culture and history of the area.

Chinese folklore and legends are wonderful to explore, and the Chinese conception of ghosts and spirits have some fascinating differences to Western lore, as well as some shocking similarities.

This is a walking tour that takes place at nighttime, led by a very knowledgeable guide. It’s clear the guides really enjoy their job, and it’s a pleasure to hear their numerous stories and anecdotes.

Like many of San Francisco’s haunted tours, the Chinatown tour hits some famous spooky landmarks as well as a number of lesser-known local haunted hotspots. Seeing everything lit up at night is a treat, and it’s easy to feel like you’ve entered a whole other world.

Highlights

  • Well-run and well-managed tour of the historic Chinatown neighborhood
  • Learn about Chinese folklore and legends as well as hauntings specific to San Francisco
  • Safe and guided nighttime walking tour is a great way to get a feel for the area
  • Features local history and hauntings

What You Should Expect

Chinatown is a popular area during the day, but at night it’s a whole different ballgame. Other ghost walks in San Francisco take place at night, but it’s tough to find one that focuses on the Chinatown area.

The tour goes through old passageways and alleys, spookily lit with lamps and known to be haunted by spirits of the past. The ghosts here are numerous, and local lore has it that they emerge just after dusk.

Chinatown has had as many murders and bizarre deaths as any other place in a big city, and paranormal activity is more common than you might think. The sections of the tour that focus on Chinese mythology and ghost lore are particularly fascinating.

Tales of the Goddess Kwan Yin and the rituals centered around her, the magic moon cake, and the ways in which Chinese immigrants integrated their ancient culture into their new home really get the imagination going. Even more than other San Francisco ghost tours, you’ll likely step away from this one feeling that you’ve learned something. It’s eye-opening.

Duration: 90 minutes

2 – Haunted SF: Murder, Mystery and Ghosts (Previously called The City After Dark tour)

Haunted San Francisco - The City After Dark Tour

Unlike the Chinatown tour, this San Francisco ghost tour is not for the whole family. This walking tour focuses firmly on the very dark, macabre, and downright chilling. There are so many ghosts and restless spirits in San Francisco’s history. So many murders, murderers, assassins, and mysterious deaths.

Haunted San Francisco meets near Union Square and will do its best to give you a sleepless night. Haunted tours in San Francisco are often light and fun, which is great, but it’s good to have one that is strictly for adults.

The tour visits the notorious Red Light District, murder sites of the infamous Zodiac Killings, and even the Glide Memorial Church, where Jim Jones first began his dark rise to power. After all the walking and scares, you’ll end up in a local bar for a much-needed drink.

Highlights

  • Not recommended for children. Too scary!
  • Expert tour guides are also fine actors, playing creepy characters to add to the ambiance
  • Visits places connected with the Zodiac Killer, Jim Jones, Tessie Wall, and more
  • Strong historical basis with a spooky bent

What You Should Expect

Tour groups assemble under the Heart Statue in Union Square. You might be pretty startled when you see your guide. Sister Zylow and Wild Wes are both interesting characters, to put it mildly, and their rantings and ravings really do add to the tour.

The walk takes you through the St. Francis Hotel, where a suspiciously large number of unsolved deaths and murders took place. The place isn’t known to be haunted, in particular, but it’s creepy enough. The ghosts come later on, in the Tenderloin, Pinecrest Diner, and especially the Curran Theater.

If you think you might be psychically sensitive, the Curran will put you to the test. If you have an ounce of the Gift within you, you’re very likely to pick up a strong impression of the pain and suffering that took place here. The remainder of the tour continues in this vein, with a particular highlight being the site of the Zodiac Killer’s final victim.

Nobody ever caught that particular villain, and it’s a sobering thought as you look over his final “workplace”. Be sure to partake in a cold beer or cocktail in the bar at the end of the tour. There’s a lot of heady stuff you pick up during haunted jaunts and tours within SF, and this one more than most. You’ll have earned it.

Duration: 60 minutes

3 – San Francisco Ghost Walk

San Francisco Ghost Walk

Photo credit: flickr/johnlouie

The San Francisco Ghost Walk is a venerated elder in the world of SF’s haunted tour history.

It’s been running a long time, and it’s even expanded to other cities around California. They run a tight ship, and the guides are excellent both for their knowledge and enthusiasm.

It’s a family friendly tour at a good price, and the fact that they only take a few people at a time means everyone gets the best possible experience.

This is sort of the Disneyland of haunted tours in San Francisco. It may not have quite as much local flavor as some other tours, but it more than makes up for it in quality and research. The guides really know their stuff, and the route is meticulously planned.

Keep your eyes open on this one, and you might actually see something nobody expected. There are plenty of ghosts in San Francisco, and this tour hits all the right spots to meet one.

As the tour guides themselves will tell you, San Francisco is home to one of the densest concentrations of paranormal activity in the country.

Highlights

  • Fun, family friendly tour
  • Immaculately planned and executed
  • Exceedingly professional tour guides with a great deal of knowledge to impart
  • Excellent price

What You Should Expect

This lengthy walking tour visits a great number of San Francisco’s most haunted locations. The Chinatown section is a great highlight, focusing on the alleyways and dark history of the place. Ghosts are known to infest those passageways to this day, and the tour guide fearlessly leads you right through them.

One of the best parts of the tour focuses on the famous mystery and suspense film director Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock loved San Francisco, and considered it to be the primary inspiration for much of his work.

Think about that for a bit, and realize you should be very, very afraid as you explore some of his favorite spots. The director had a twisted mind, and he credited (or blamed) the Golden Gate City for that. The ghost stories and legends on the Ghost Walk are numerous, and it’s clear that the guides relish and treasure them.

Whether or not you’re a believer, you’ll step away from this one with at least a healthy respect for those who are.

Duration: 2 hours

4 – Vampire Tour of San Francisco (Halloween Only)

Vampire Tour of San Francisco

As the only San Francisco Vampire Tour featured in this article, this particular tour had better be pretty great. And it is, it really is! This family-friendly tour is truly unique for its focus on bloodsuckers, and it still manages to be an excellent introduction to the city as a whole.

There are all sorts of unique facts and history here that aren’t present on other haunted tours in San Francisco, CA, and it’s all shown through the angry red lens of vampirism. The guide, naturally, is Mina Harker.

Miss Harker, of Bram Stoker’s Dracula fame, seems none the worse for wear after her Transylvanian mishaps, and is delighted to regale groups with character and fun during the 90-minute walking tour.

The guides who play this character do a truly excellent job, and you’ll likely not see her drop the act for even a moment. And if you’re wondering why vampires, well, why not? San Francisco’s a big city. It’s full of great food, wine, and tasty, tasty necks.

Those are probably all the same thing to vampires.

Highlights

  • Lengthy one and a half hour walking tour
  • Tour guide “Mina Harker” is a blast
  • Learn history and legends of the city during an easy, family-friendly walk
  • Visits some of the city’s most famous attractions

What You Should Expect

This tour only takes place on Halloween.

As you get going on the vampire tour, you might be a little skeptical. After all, Mina Harker is a fictional character. Can you suspend disbelief? The answer is, yes. Oh man, yes. Some San Francisco ghost walks and haunted tours can be a little bit stodgy and self-serious, so it’s impossible to beat the Vampire Tour for sheer fun.

You’ll be happily crying out for blood by the end of it, and Miss Harker clearly delights in it. The tour is very extensive and well-planned, and visits spots from the Nob Hill Café to the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

Each of them have had more than their fair share of dark and haunted history, but it’s all presented through that fun, spooky, and dare I say vampiric lens. Vampires have style if nothing else, and that shines through on the Vampire Tour.

Topics covered on this tour include the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the very colorful character Emperor Norton, and more. Not to spoil the fun, but suffice to say there are some topics covered on this particular walk that you might not see on other haunted tours in San Francisco, CA.

It’s a good time for kids and grownups alike.

Duration: 90 minutes