Want to visit a scary haunted house? Check out the real haunts in San Fran
What’s scarier than ghosts? Locations haunted by said ghosts! Nothing makes the human imagination run wilder than old, rundown buildings surrounded by whispers of horror stories. In fact, many love to entertain their curiosity by visiting such places.
This is why exciting services like the San Francisco Ghost Tours exist. You can read the story behind one such scary haunted house located in San Francisco before planning your visit!
The mirth of the owner
In 1977, Robert Pritikin bought the Chambers Mansion, a rundown boarding house, and converted it into a sixteen-room hotel. Pritkin rechristened it the Mansions Hotel. Soon, the hotel became a popular landmark in the neighborhood due to Pritkin relentlessly advertising the hotel as haunted to tourists & onlookers.
On the opening night of the haunted hotel, the eccentric hotel owner staged a fake murder on the staircase to promote his friend Gwen Davis’s new book. He also invited a shaman to “bless the premises” of the hotel as reported in The San Francisco Chronicle’s archives.
In the three weeks leading up to the murder-themed opening party, Robert Pritikin had the entire Mansions Hotel furnished in all its nineteenth-century glory and decorated the grounds with Italian-American sculptor Benny Bufano’s sculptures.
Before the hotel: the mansion’s past
Long before the new owner ignited all sorts of crazy rumors about the hotel being a scary haunted house, the mansion itself had a horror story to carry from the past.
The story involved the mysterious death of Claudia and her reappearance as a ghost. Claudia was the niece of an early owner of the mansion. At the turn of the 20th century, she died a strange but frightening death according to locals’ tall tales – some even spun yarns that she was sawed in half.
Of course, Robert Pritikin cherished this anecdote and continued using it as a marketing tactic for his hotel. It inevitably became one of the irresistible charms for the hotel and its vibrant guests.
Speaking of vibrant guests, the inn had some notable personalities as guests during its prime. Celebrities like Barbra Streisand, Joel Grey, Robin Williams, and John F. Kennedy Jr. would often stay at the hotel to escape the glitz & glam in their lives.
People vs. Robert Pritikin
What’s scarier than ghosts & scary haunted houses? To Pritikin, it was probably his neighbors.
Right after opening the Mansions Hotel, Robert Pritikin wasn’t only in conflict with the influential residents of the Pacific Heights Neighborhood Council but also with the neighborhood’s planning committee & police department.
Complaints of increased traffic, taxis, decreased parking spaces, loud & flashy events that would later end up in the paper, etc. were unleashed from the council at a planning department meeting in 1980 as detailed by a Chronicle reporter. The locals clearly disliked the disruption in their traditional neighborhood.
Nonetheless, the Mansions Hotel had its admirers too. Letters of support from politicians, business executives, and artists & writers were presented to the commission. “The city has a chance to save a nice thing it got by accident,” said lawyer William McGrane in support of the hotel.
Pritikin’s battle with the neighborhood & the city continued until 2000 when the hotel finally closed down. The city sued Robert Pritkin for $15 million per year on the grounds his hotel was “dangerous to human life”.
What happened to the Mansion Hotel?
As the fate of most scary haunted houses, the Mansions Hotel building is still a stop on various ghost tours of San Francisco city.
Though it was later discovered there were no records of the scary haunted house’s early residents having a niece named Claudia, or any niece at all, this didn’t stop Antoinette May, the author of Haunted Houses of California, from writing about Claudia and various stories about the Mansions Hotel in the book.
After the sale of the hotel, the “haunted” Victorian-styled mansion was transformed into two large family townhouses that took over two years to restore. According to Sam Whiting in 2018, Robert Pritikin resorted to keeping “a low profile” and became the proud owner of another giant mansion in Glen Park, his personal home away from the noisy crowds.