October is here and you know where there are probably a shitload of ghosts? The Mission District! First of all, that is a very old part of town. It was occupied by Native Americans before the Spanish got here, and then when they did . . . it wasn’t great, was it??? Mission Dolores was established in 1776, and its footprint spread out over most of what we call the Mission District today. A lot of indigenous people suffered and died under that regime, and you have to think that leaves an imprint on the land. The Spanish named the Mission for the “creek of sorrows” in a hilarious failure of self awareness.
But the joke was on the colonizers because in the 20th century, the area became known as a Latino neighborhood as migrants from Mexico and Central America took refuge here. Of course, many were fleeing chaotic conditions created by American meddling, which brought its own challenges and sorrows.
The Mission is known for its nightlife – and a bunch of our ghosts are found at restaurants and bars. This is the excuse you have been waiting for to go out for several cocktails and sushi rolls in the pursuit of history, I mean GHOSTS. Happy Halloween!!
The Handroll Project is a newish restaurant at the corner of 18th Guererro. I drive by it every day when I take my daughter to school, and every OTHER day I tell her “hey did you know that place is haunted” to which she rolls her eyes and keeps snapchatting because life is short and the phone is king. But! It’s true! Allegedly!
As the story goes, employees have seen some weird shit in there. One reported walking into the breakroom and seeing a person with long hair, dressed in black, sitting facing away from him on a folding chair. The employee was alarmed because it was late, and no one should have been there, AND WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THIS RINGU SHIT!!! He did a double take and the person was gone. No one else saw a customer or employee or anyone else come in. Employees also report flickering lights, faulty wi-fi, and according to the owner, the neighborhood thinks it’s cursed. Obviously.
@eater did a fantastic write-up of the space and its ghosts, and reported that the site has a haunting past. In 2003, it was the home of Platanos, a restaurant serving Central American cuisine. One night after closing, the head chef, Carlos Perez, got into a fight with a neighbor, who stabbed him to death. The news covered the killing, but not the aftermath. I can’t find any information on whether the neighbor was prosecuted, but the restaurant floundered for a bit before coming back to life.
In terms of folklore, and the stories we tell ourselves, this is where the rubber hits the road. That spot IS haunted, right? A talented young chef lost his life to mundane city violence – a neighbor confronted him about his music being too loud, they fought, and he died. It taps into the undercurrent of the gentrification of the Mission – questions over who belongs and who gets priority, but also just the usual city bullshit, people fighting for space and peace in these crowded 7×7 streets. It’s tragic, plain and simple. And that has a way of casting a pall over a space; a way of reminding us of the layers of the past.
We went to Handroll to check it out. I couldn’t write about it without at least eating their food, and it was delicious. The space is small and airy and colorful, the vibe is immaculate. It didn’t feel spooky to me – quite the opposite! All of the seating is at the bar, and the chef is making the rolls right in front of you. The staff was super friendly. It’s hard to get a reservation, so plan ahead or go on a weeknight. Bring an open mind and full wallet, and maybe you’ll spot that scary shit in the bathroom!!!
The Chapel is a music venue in a former funeral home. OF COURSE IT’S HAUNTED, YOU GUYS. This could be a one-sentence essay, but that wouldn’t give me the excuse to share the weirdest fucking ghost video I have ever seen in my life, so here we go.
The Chapel is located on Valencia Street, which was once home to a lot of funeral homes. You guys know that at the turn of the century, San Francisco banned burials. New cemeteries opened up in Colma, which is close, but this was before most people had cars. In 1902, the United Railroads Company opened a funeral train service that went to Colma. These were fancy streetcars kitted out in deep, beautiful colors, oak paneling, and gilding. They were draped for privacy and used lead inserts in the wheels to quiet the ride.
The site of The Chapel was once the Gatner-Maison-Domerge Funeral Home. When it was operational, the bodies were stored in the basement. Remember that we all hate basements, right? A body crank was used to move the dead between the floors, which I guess is practical but also I don’t ever need to hear the words “body” and “crank” together in a sentence again.
The former BODY STORAGE AREA is now a FREEZER SPACE and WINE CELLAR because of course it is! Delicious vintages now available with a side of curse! Listen to me, a cellar is a basement and you need to stay out of both. Especially in San Francisco – has no one heard of earthquakes? Are we trying to make more ghosts down there??
Because that cellar is obviously haunted. Employees say wine bottles explode. The wine fridge door slams shut on them, a beer can once floated off the shelf. In other parts of the venue, people have smelled the rose perfume of an elder lady ghost, seen candles fly off of shelves and bartops, and syrup bottles explode. This ghost does not like bottles!! Door slam, whispers are heard, things off shelves unexpectedly. One employee saw the ghost of a girl with long hair in the mirror in the bathroom, which would 10000% send me right back into the stall to shit my pants.
The BEST story, however, is about the child ghost. Employees have reported seeing the ghost of a little girl in a white dress in various parts of the venue, but in 2015 she was caught on video!!! Stop everything you’re doing right now and go watch this shit. I have no idea whether this is real or a very well executed hoax, but it’s scary as hell and I have watched it a thousand times. What is she doing there! She looks like she’s checking to see if the security guard left! Why! Maybe to get up to some hijinks like knocking shit off shelves and slamming doors!
You should absolutely go check this place out because (1) this bar is cool as hell. It’s full of gorgeous murals and cocktails are named after creatures and they’re STRONG. Only took me one chupacabra to get in that bathroom and try to catch a ghost in the mirror. (2) this is supposed to be a great music venue, but I wouldn’t know because I am actually a dusty old mummy who can’t handle noise, crowds, or staying up past 9pm. Live music at the Chapel is a young man’s game and I encourage you to go and report back with photos of the body crank.