What we are about to suggest is not for the faint of heart. This Halloween, we invite you to take a sojourn into the supernatural. To aid you in this bone-chilling quest, we scoured the California countryside – every dark cemetery, decaying farmhouse, underground ossuary and abandoned asylum – to come up with the Seven Most Haunted Sites in California. If you’re feeling brave and want to step up your campfire story game, we also included information on where you can camp near, but not too near, these ghoulish haunts.
Black Diamond Mines
This legend revolves around The White Witch. In the late 1870’s, there was a nanny named Mary who was a caretaker for many of the miners’ children. Over time, many of the children under Mary’s care fell mysteriously ill and died shortly thereafter. The townspeople had already suspected Mary of witchcraft and when they uncovered evidence of her sorcery rituals, their fears were confirmed. Mary was dubbed ‘The White Witch’ and was hanged for her crimes. Since then, there have been numerous sightings of a ghostly white apparition, hovering effortlessly and mysteriously in the foggy evening twilight of the Black Diamond Mine.
Camp Nearby: Brannan Island State Recreation Area
The campsite is about a 25 minute drive from the mines. Take Highway CA-160 S and then a right on CA-4 W until Antioch. The mines are located to the south of the town.
Bodie Ghost Town
As a deserted mining town whose population once swelled to 12,000 during the gold rush, the designation “ghost town” now takes on a double meaning in Bodie. Inexplicable reports – such as smells of food cooking, wafting from the Mendocini house, giggles in the cemetery from a girl accidentally killed by a mining axe and a woman peering from a window of the Dechambeau house – are a common occurrence here. It’s also said that the spirits are still protective of their property; stealing anything from Bodie will bring a curse of misfortune upon the burglar, so you can put that rusty can right back where you found it, mm k?
Camp Nearby: Yosemite National Park
Bodie is about an hour drive northeast of Yosemite. To get there take highway US-120 E to US-395 N, and then CA-270 E until you reach Main Street.
This hospital once accommodated many tuberculosis, polio and mentally ill patients. Some say that many deaths resulted from experimental testing in the purported “insane asylum.” One story describes a psychiatric patient who slit the throat of a priest during a ritualistic exorcism. To this day, there are reports of unidentified noises echoing from its vacant halls and strange shadows flickering in the windows. The grounds can be investigated by touring the perimeter. Trespassing inside is unfortunately illegal, but would probably be an incredibly stomach-churning experience.
Camp Nearby: Bolsa Chica State Beach
From the beach take CA-1 N and then CA-22 E. From there, get on I-605 N exiting eventually at Firestone Boulevard. The hospital is not far from the center of the city. The drive is about 30 minutes long.
Camp Pendleton Area 41
Camp Pendleton is a coastal marine corps base with a history of inexplicable phenomenon. Locks have been tampered with, furniture displaced, items gone missing and strange noises heard throughout the camp. Some of this has been attributed to a storied past of murdered priests and conflict with local native people, but many draw a link to one broken-hearted marine in particular. This marine, deeply in love, was shocked when his fiancé abruptly called things off. In his despair, he shot himself in a second-story room of the barracks. A general feeling of unease is common here and, to this day, marines claim to hear the faint sound of a man softly humming the “Jeopardy” game-show theme around the grounds.
Camp Nearby: San Onofre State Beach
30 minutes by car, you’ll take I-5 S from San Onofre then the exit for Oceanside Harbor Dr/Camp Pendleton. To enter the base itself there are certain procedures for visitors. See their site here for more information on visiting requirements.
Doors opening and closing on their own, frightened pets and small items disappearing around the house are a common occurrence here. Georgetown was once a flourishing mining town in the mid 19th century. Some miners made the mistake of drunkenly boasting of their riches at the saloon. Competing miners would ambush these unsuspecting braggarts on the dark road home, their bodies never to be found. One particular tale on the seven-mile stretch between Georgetown and Lotus, involves an angry apparition commonly seen near the road’s embankment, pointing a finger and silently mouthing “Get off my claim.”
Camp Nearby: Auburn State Recreation Area
40 minutes by car, take CA-49 S to CA-193 E until you arrive in Georgetown. To access the road itself, head toward Lotus via Marshall Road until Garden Valley. Here, Prospector Road branches off from and runs parallel to Marshall.
The Vineyard House
A once-successful vineyard owner, Robert, started to lose his mind. Prone to fits of rage, would walk about the cemetery and lie down in grave plots with his arms crossed, as if a cadaver. His wife constructed a small basement cell and locked him in it for fear of her own safety. Falling deeper into the throes of madness, Robert would groan and bang his head on the bars. He thought his wife was poisoning him so he stopped eating, dying of starvation shortly after. The vineyard eventually became a rooming house and restaurant. Over the years, guests have heard ghostly footsteps, deep breathing and banging noises. In one instance, a man fled his room late at night, refusing afterwards to reveal what he’d witnessed.
Camp Nearby: Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
From Folsom Lake, head northeast on Rattlesnake Bar Road then CA-49 S which goes to Coloma. The drive is about 35 minutes and is just next to Prospector Road (see above)
Black Star Canyon
As early as the 1800’s, the canyon was the site of a Native American massacre by fur traders. In 1899, a man by the name of Henry Hungerford, shot and killed James Gregg over a $2.50 conflict that was a result of a horse trade. It is said that to this day, Gregg’s spirit can be heard and seen, looking for Henry, so he can get his revenge. Yet another tale speaks of a driver losing control of his bus and killed all the children on board. Some have claimed to hear the sound of screaming and have experienced a dark sadness. There have also been allegations of cultic rituals occurring near the valley’s creek. Finally, there is the myth of Black Star Bill, a homeless man who wants to be left undisturbed and fires his rifle at trespassers.
Camp Nearby: O’Neill Regional Park
About 15 minutes from O’Neill, head south on Live Oak Canyon Road. Take a right on E Santiago Canyon Road, another right on Silverado Canyon Road, and finally a quick left onto Black Star Canyon Road.
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