by Daniel Hirsch
San Francisco has got spirits of all kind. Lively, independent, queer, entrepreneurial, festive, and spirits
served up with a twist make up just some of the diverse energies of the city. However, mingling among
the living there are other spirits commuting from the great beyond—and we're not talking about the
East Bay. This Halloween season, if you need a break from partying, gorging on candy, and deciding
where you fit on the slutty-scary spectrum, you might be interested in activities of the spiritual variety.
Here are five of the best ways to make an afterlife connection in SF.
1. Celebrate Dia de los Muertos
Don't let the sugar skeletons and face painting fool you: Dia de los Muertos is not “Mexican
Halloween.” The holiday, occurring on November 2, is a more reflective affair, mixing Catholic and
indigenous Central American traditions to memorialize and celebrate the dead. Families visit and
decorate gravestones and set up colorful home altars for loved ones who have died. This year, the
Marigold Project leads a procession through the Mission, starting at 22nd and Bryant and ending at
a display of altars in Garfield Park. But it's not all somber memorializing: expect music, fabulous
costumes, and plenty of irreverent skull humor.
2. Walk with ghosts
Why hop on one of those silly yellow go-cars or (gasp!) a Segway to take a tour of San Francisco when
you can visit SF's paranormal hotspots? After the sun sets, numerous companies promise to show you SF's
haunted side. Tours range from more historical to mystical and are likely to intrigue tourists and locals
alike. For a glimpse into the narrow alleys and storied history of Chinatown, try Chinatown Ghost
Tours. For a slightly trippier trip, there's the Haunted Haight Tour or SF Ghost Hunt. If you've been to
the Rock but have never dared to visit after dark, you may want to venture on an Alcatraz Night Tour.
Real ghost sightings are never guaranteed, but you're sure to learn a thing ... or boo.
3. Take a midnight stroll around Stow Lake
Everybody knows that Stow Lake is a charming place to take a romantic boat ride, but did you know
that you can also go there for a date with death? City lore tells of a young mother who jumped in
the lake after her baby tragically drowned. Neither mother nor babe were seen again, but rumors
have spread about a strange mist appearing over the water at night and calls from a spectral voice
asking “Have you seen my baby?” If you don't have the nerve for witching hour lake explorations, you
can always just opt for a charming daytime float at the Stow Lake Boathouse.
4. Have a seance
Spiritualists believe that souls of the dead can, and do, communicate with the living. During San
Francisco's Gilded Age, Spiritualism was the belief system of choice for many of the city's elite. Jane
Stanford, wife of California governor and railroad tycoon Leland Stanford, held frequent seances in the
family's Nob Hill mansion to communicate with her dead son. These practices are still alive and well
at the Golden Gate Spiritualist Church, which holds regular classes on how to be a medium and host
seances on your own.
5. Visit the city of the dead
Due to rapidly growing population at the start of the 20th century, San Francisco underwent a massive
transfer of interred bodies to the city of Colma. Today, almost all of Colma's land is still zoned for
burial use. The city has cemeteries of almost every stripe—Catholic, Japanese, Greek, Jewish—and holds the tombs of numerous notable figures such as Joe DiMaggio, William Randolph Hearst, and
Levi Strauss. The Colma Historical Association offers a tour for those interested in learning their way
around this veritable necropolis.