Post Street Home: A Moving Haunted House in San Francisco
What determines the location which a ghost might haunt? In general, it is the site where a tragedy occurs. In some cases, it is the favorite location of a deceased person who wants to return to happier times. In other cases, the spirit seems to be following the movements of a loved one in the hopes of sending them a message or just in the interest of watching out for them. In the case of the Post Street Home, it is difficult to say what the motivation might be for the spirits who stuck around within its walls, because the home itself has been moved multiple times.
This fact reveals an interesting part of San Francisco history. Today, of course, when we buy a home, we also buy the property on which that home is built. The two purchases almost always go hand-in-hand. However, in the late nineteenth century, this was not how such things were done. At that time, a home and the property upon which one might live were purchased separately, and the home would be deconstructed and reconstructed on the new property. In effect, you would purchase the lot or location on which you would like to live and then you would separately purchase the home that you found most suitable to your preference and then you would merge the two by moving the building to the new site. It was almost similar in fashion to the concept of the mobile home in modern times, although the process was one which required considerably more effort considering the fact that the homes were generally designed to last in one location for a long period of time.
Such was the case with the home that was once located at 924 Post Street, near the intersection of Post and Larkin in what is known today as the Tenderloin neighborhood. Originally, the Post Street home was located several blocks down from the address at 924 Post Street, although it became known as The Post Street Home because it was on Post Street even in its original location. Upon first being built at this original location (in the middle of the nineteenth century), the exterior of the Post Street Home was constructed and of course plans were made to complete the internal design. However, the owner of the home ran out of money and the interior was never built. In an interesting architectural twist, the home didn’t even have a door; entrance to the building was gained through an underground passageway that decomposed after a time, leaving the exterior shell of a house without any way to access the inside.
Well, at least no way for the living.
From the time that it was first built back in the 1860’s, the Post Street Home was reported to be haunted. Neighbors of the area would gather outside to see if activity was taking place, as this was big news in what was a small city at the time. And news it was, because it was presented in quite a factual manner, during a time when most people believed in ghosts without question. The story of the haunted house made headlines when it was happening and it re-appeared in the San Francisco Examiner in 1893, approximately thirty years after the house had been built but not lived in.
There were several different ghosts sightings reported at the original Post Street location of the home. The gray-haired ghost of an elderly woman would appear in an upstairs window – a location where it would be impossible for a living woman to be since there was no interior floor built which could reach the area. Her apparition would hover there in the window, looking down at the onlookers who were looking back at her in astonishment as they tried to figure out who she was and how she had managed to find her way in to the home. She made only slight movements and never gave any indication as to what it was that she was seeking from her position inside of the half-built home. She bothered no one intentionally but many in the neighborhood felt bothered by even the idea that she was present there among them. Although acceptance of spirit activity was more widespread among the general population at the time that she was seen than now, scientific advancements were making it less acceptable to those in the area to consider that she might be a ghost. And yet, there was no other explanation for how this elderly woman, who only appeared occasionally and who never seemed to change in appearance, could possibly be looking out from the second story of a home that had no staircase.
In addition to this woman, the spirit of a man apparently spent time in the home because the screams of an adult male would be heard by people passing by. For a period of several months, it seems that these two spirits – or perhaps others who had also found a way in to the doorless home – were deeply engaged in a heated debate. The clattering of ongoing arguments was recognized around the neighborhood as originating from that home; and yet when the home was finally accessed, there was no sign of any sort of debris or damage at all. Whatever had been slamming and cracking and slapping on all of those nights when the neighbors gathered to determine the source of the sound was apparently something which did not leave any sort of mark behind. The neighbors were never able to explain the happenings of the home.
The activity continued during the entire lifetime of the home as it was at that location. Eventually, a new buyer became interested in the house despite the history of spirit activity associated with the location. Perhaps he was a disbeliever in the presence of ghosts. Or perhaps he thought that the ghosts were likely to be attached to the physical property on which the home was built and that by moving the home he could avoid having to deal with the spirits. Indeed, he purchased the building and moved it to the location at 924 Post Street, which is the location where it spent the longest amount of time and the location which turned out to be the one which was best known in the area by those interested in spirit activity.
Although the new owner originally planned to live in the home, his interest waned when the hauntings continued despite the physical move of the building to the new property. In fact, the activity was so intense from the very beginning of the owner’s purchase of the home that he never built the inside of the house at all. He left the building to near-total abandonment, a decision that only increased the activity there. Although sounds and sightings were regularly reported at this time, there is no known record of who the ghosts might be that were apparently present in the home. It is only known that many of the people who lived in the area surrounding the unfinished house felt a sense of eerie discomfort during the time that the home was there because of the significantly large amount of ghost activity that was taking place within the walls of the unfinished building.
The haunted home was later purchased by a man by the name of Mr. Campbell who moved the building once again, this time to Fulton and Divisadero. Perhaps the move of the building unsettled the spirits enough to move them out of the house, or perhaps when Mr. Campbell finished the interior of the building the ghosts got bored with their play space, because they seem to have neither followed the home nor remained in either of the original locations of the building on Post Street. No reports were made about those same spirits at any time after the building was moved by Mr. Campbell.
It is impossible, of course, to say what motivates a spirit to show up in any particular place. History usually indicates the identity of the spirit and points to some clues from which the living can infer; but the case of the Post Street Home is truly the Mystery of a Haunted House.
Note: This is an excerpt from my book titled Ghosts of San Francisco.
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