5 Haunted Bay Area Locations to Scare People into Social Distancing

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Petaluma's Phoenix Theater. (Dominic Davi/Tsunami Bomb)

A regency in Indonesia admitted last week to locking two people who violated self-isolation orders inside a haunted location as a punishment, practical solution and deterrent to others. Finding itself recently flooded with an influx of people from surrounding cities, Central Java’s Sragen regency took this unusual step in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Regent Kusdinar Untung Yuni Sukowati told Suara: “Two Plupuh residents agreed to self-isolate but they violated the order. So they were locked inside an abandoned haunted house. Had they obeyed their order they wouldn’t have been locked in there.” She was careful to emphasize that these and any future detainees would remain fed and monitored during their stays.

All of which makes you think. If the Bay Area employed such a policy, which haunted locations would best scare the bejesus out of shelter-in-place violators? Some suggestions...

Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz Island.
Alcatraz Island. (Eric Ward/ Unsplash)

Look. Is it a bit harsh? Sure. But it’s secure, it’s isolated and, according to multiple sources, it’s definitely haunted. Over the years, there have been reports of disembodied cries and moans on the island, mysterious banjo music, as well as eerie sounds emanating from a utility corridor. During a 2010 investigation, Syfy’s Ghost Hunters even managed to capture the voice of former inmate Harry Walter Brunette, a notorious Depression-era bank robber.

USS Hornet, Alameda

USS Hornet: Sunny tourist attraction by day, alleged ghost party by night!
USS Hornet: Sunny tourist attraction by day, alleged ghost party by night! (Johnny Dismal)

What better way to get people to behave than a show of military might? This imposing aircraft carrier is a sea, air and space museum by day, but by night—in addition to hosting parties and escape rooms—it is said to be guarded by the spirits of servicemen who once lived and worked on board.

Docent Bill Fee told KALW in 2018: “One particular Friday night ... I’m the only one here on the ship. But about 2:30 in the morning, I woke up, because I heard the click of the nightlight at the end of the passageway. Then I heard the next nightlight click on. So I got up, opened my stateroom door, looked down the passageway, and sure enough, all the red lights were on.” If anything’s going to keep you locked in your room, it’s inexplicable lighting changes.

The Claremont Hotel, Berkeley

The Claremont Hotel.
The Claremont Hotel. (Facebook/ @ClaremontHotel)

The Claremont is a sprawling, luxurious hotel complete with spa, swimming pool, gorgeous views and ... some mysterious goings on. Guests have reported weird temperature changes, seeing and hearing ghost children, and smelling smoke. (A mansion on the site burned down in 1901.)

When the San Antonio Spurs stayed there in 2014, basketball players Jeff Ayres and Tim Duncan both reported hearing the sounds of a baby inside Ayres’ room and being unable to unlock the door. After contacting the front desk to get a new key, the hotel decided to relocate Ayres to a different room. Duncan later told the San Antonio Express-News: “There was a baby there, absolutely. I heard about the history of the place, and I’d rather not (stay there again).”

Mills College, Oakland

Mills College, Oakland.
Mills College, Oakland. (Facebook/ @millscollege)

Mills College: Come for the liberal arts and sciences, stay for the supernatural! No less than five buildings on the 168-year-old campus are rumored to be haunted. Over the years, there have been reports of a horse and carriage speeding along the edge of campus before vanishing into thin air, as well as disembodied footsteps on the stage at Lisser Hall. There’s even supposed to be a deceased math nerd roaming around one of the libraries, doing sleepy students’ work for them.

Orchard-Meadow Hall would probably work best for housing shelter-in-place violators though—it comes with a built-in guard. The ghost of a Victorian woman has been seen hanging around, particularly on the steps outside.

The Phoenix Theater, Petaluma

The Phoenix Theater's main hall.
The Phoenix Theater's main hall. (Dominic Davi/Tsunami Bomb)

Once a movie theater, now a music venue, the Phoenix is locally legendary for being haunted. In 2000, AFI released a song about the venue which referenced “the ghosts on the stage” and the “secret tunnels below.” Other bands can attest. In the ’90s, a security guard traveling with metal monsters GWAR reportedly expressed confusion, followed by horror, after seeing the ghost of a small boy backstage.

In 2014, then-venue manager Tom Gaffey told the Argus Courier that, while completely alone in the building, he had seen floating blue lights, heard loud footsteps and dealt with ghostly phone calls from the empty projection booth. A psychic from the Berkeley Psychic Institute is said to have removed the spirit of an angry woman from the bathrooms, but the entity in the projection booth—a tall man with white hair and angular features—apparently remains.


Perhaps if locking people inside haunted buildings seems a bit cruel and unusual, Indonesia can offer a second supernatural solution to the issue of keeping people indoors. Back in March, the regency of Purworejo hired two people to dress as pocongghosts that remain trapped in their own burial shrouds. The pair sat at the main entrance to the village of Tuk Songo to discourage visitors. Perhaps patrols of Sarah Winchester look-a-likes would be similarly effective for the Bay. Stranger things have happened.