Tucked away in a forgotten corner of the old Presidio in San Francisco lies a secret place. A creepy place. A haunted place, you could say. It’s a pet cemetery. You’ve probably read a novel or seen a movie about such places, about what can lurk within. And as we all know, there’s a grain of truth at the heart of every story. Or perhaps not. Regardless of the presence of real psychic phenomena, cold spots, and EVPs, it’s a wonderfully spooky little cemetery to visit, littered with sad, tiny grave markers.
Many of them tip over at odd angles, or wear down, or are conspicuously well-maintained. And of course there’s that San Francisco Bay fog over everything. It looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie at times, and then there are the names.
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The Heartbreaking Haunting of the Presidio Pet Cemetery
Names like Poochie and Sheesa-Nut and, perhaps most heartbreaking of all, a tombstone merely inscribed “Pet” speak of loves lost and ultimately forgotten.
The entire Presidio is extremely haunted, famously so, and the Presidio Pet Cemetery is a part of that.
Many of the soldiers and other spirits inhabiting the area had pets, and many of them are still accompanied by their animals even in death.
Animals don’t have much conscious thought, but they are beings of pure emotion. Their love for their owners takes over their whole soul, often far outstripping the feelings of the owner for their pet.
Ghosts and spirits are often echoes, remnants, of living beings. One thought as to why ghosts don’t often interact with the living is that they are barely aware of us, and perhaps barely even aware of themselves.
Like animals, they aren’t really capable of clear and rational thinking, but they can feel, emote, and react.
The parallel makes it seem absurd that a pet would not hang around their gravesite, waiting for their beloved people to return.
Of course they would do that. The question is merely what other mischief would they get up to while they wait?
What would a ghostly dog do to protect its perceived territory? How would a disembodied cat express its prey drive?
“And the most terrifying question of all may be just how much horror the human mind can stand and still maintain a wakeful, staring, unrelenting sanity.”
― Stephen King, Pet Sematary
That’s pets who are now ghosts, not the slightly discomfiting but strangely appealing idea of keeping a ghost as a pet.
One of the most famous in California is the spectral dog of Agua Mansa Cemetery. Killed with his owner while walking up the road, the pair of them are now a common sight in the area.
The man appears directly in front of speeding cars, holding up a hand to stop them and more often than not causing a crash.
The dog stands faithfully by his side. He’s likely happy as a kid in a candy store to spend eternity on a walk.
Not all animal spirits are as content and amiable, of course.
A family in San Francisco, not too far from the Presidio Pet Cemetery, tells of how they are haunted by a former furry resident of their home.
Shortly after moving into the house, the entire family began experiencing chills and cold spots, especially in the living room and kitchen.
The paranormal activity intensified quickly over the next few weeks, and it was not uncommon to hear growls and the clacking of claws on hardwood floors. The strangest thing is, the family had installed new carpeting.
A visiting family member experienced the worst of it. Sleeping on the couch, she was awoken in the middle of the night, freezing cold.
Her blanket had fallen to the floor. Reaching down to retrieve it, she was shocked to see a pair of enormous black paws on the corner. A quick glance up revealed a glimpse of a black dog with unnaturally red eyes, snarling and baring its teeth.
The vision lasted only a moment, but was enough to ensure a sleepless night for the poor houseguest.
Eventually, the haunting became so intense that the family moved out.
The last straw for them was when they began seeing the creature stalking the backyard, occasionally raising its head to glare at them through the windows.
Ghost Sightings at the Presidio of San Francisco
The Presidio of San Francisco, originally El Presidio Real de San Francisco, is today part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
An imposing fortress, the Presidio was built by New Spain in 1776 and given to the burgeoning United States in 1848. It served as an active military post until it was finally decommissioned in 1989.
As a US military installation, the Presidio very large and well-equipped. It incorporated not just the base itself, but also a stockade (military prison), a hospital and of course the Pet Cemetery.
All of these kinds of places are ripe for ghost activity, and the Presidio has far more than its fair share.
Visual apparitions can be found all over the grounds, including the Pet Cemetery.
It’s not unheard of to see a squad of spectral soldiers doing drills right past the cemetery. They’re most commonly dressed in World War II era uniforms, getting ready to head to the Pacific Theater.
In the basement of the First Republic Bank, which occupies the former stockade, prisoners can often be heard and sometimes seen.
Shuffling around, grumbling and speaking so low that they can only be heard with the aid of a special recording device, these ghosts seem to be more of a curiosity and a nuisance than a real danger.
The Officers Club on the old base was once home to a beautiful ballroom for formal dances. One particular guest seems to remain from those days.
She wears a full-length ball gown and strides confidently across the floor, quickly vanishing without a trace.
At the old hospital site, the ghosts are far more numerous, if less obvious.
Cold spots and floating orbs of light are everywhere in there, especially around the windows.
It’s thought that the ghosts of patients and doctors like to sit near those windows, looking out onto the Presidio grounds.
Exploring the area, paranormal investigators will sometimes experience a sudden, chill wind. If you should come across this, take a quick look around for objects blowing in the breeze.
Cloth or papers are best. If you’re lucky, or not so lucky, you might notice them blowing the wrong way.
Move on quickly if you do see this strange phenomenon. You won’t like what comes next.
A Playground for Paranormal Enthusiasts
As part of a national historic park, the Presidio is open to the public.
Visitors are encouraged and invited to explore the area, day or night, including the Pet Cemetery and the hospital.
The entire area is regarded as one of the most haunted regions in California, and it’s really not to be missed by any devotee of frights and scares.
Of course, for the serious ghost hunter, nothing beats gathering your gear, gathering your crew, and pounding dirt with your close group of trusted friends.
Pretty much every type of paranormal phenomena you can imagine is on display at the Presidio.
And of course, there’s the Pet Cemetery.
Although there haven’t been many recorded sightings in the Pet Cemetery itself, it’s certainly ripe for haunting.
It’s a sure thing that there are ghosts there. The only question is, where are they hiding? What will draw them out?
Who will be the first to find them?
Could it be you?
Directions to the Presidio Pet Cemetery
It's time for you to check out this surreal place for yourself.
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