Friday, September 28, 2012

Atherton Mansion: San Francisco’s Most Haunted

There are several mansions in San Francisco, California that are considered haunted. Most of these mansions are located in the exclusive Pacific Heights district. 

They all have fascinating histories connected to them, but the mansion that has the most fascinating story is the Atherton Mansion located at the corner of Octavia and California streets. 

This mansion is considered haunted even today.

A very bitter lady by the name of Dominga de Goni built the Atherton Mansion after her husband died. Hers was not a happy marriage. 

Dominga, was the daughter of a prominent Chileno family when she met her husband Faxon D. Atherton who had traveled to Chili in 1834. Atherton made his fortune in trade, he married Dominga and moved to California where he was one of the wealthiest businessmen on the Pacific coast. 

He and Dominga had seven children, but Faxon was a notorious womanizer who alienated his wife and family.

Dominga left to her own devices used her husband’s wealth to create her own powerful social world. This included a strict dominance over her family. 

Her eldest son George Atherton, who later married one of California’s most prominent authors, Gertrude Franklin Horn was often the brunt of his mother’s domineering ways. 

Upon her husband's death, Dominga had the Atherton Mansion built. When it was completed in 1881, Dominga and George and his new wife Gertrude moved in.

Unfortunately, George never lived up to the standards his mother expected from his father’s son. He, in fact, became a social embarrassment for his prominent family. 

George’s wife Gertrude was also a strong-willed woman, so George found himself stuck between two very domineering women. His manhood was challenged regularly.

Finally, fed up, George in 1887, accepted an invitation to sail to Chili. He stated to his wife and mother he was going to visit friends. But he actually hoped that he might follow in his father’s footsteps so that he could prove his worth once and for all. 

But the trip proved to be disastrous. George developed kidney problems during the voyage and died.

The ship’s captain preserved George’s remains by storing his body in a barrel of rum, which was shipped back to the Atherton household several weeks later. 

No note arrived with the cask of rum, so the family butler assumed it was just rum. He and the rest of the household received a nasty shock when the barrel was opened to reveal the body of his former master.

George’s body was dried out and buried, but his spirit has never rested peacefully. Shortly after his burial, the two women that had plagued him in life began to have very unnerving experiences. 

Both Dominga and Gertrude reported being awakened in the middle of the night, by loud knocks upon their bedroom doors. Even more unsettling, both ladies described a menacing presence that seemed to lurk in their rooms. 

The activity became so pronounced that Dominga decided to move out of the Atherton Mansion—she sold it shortly afterward.

But the nightly disturbances didn’t end. Each new tenant described hearing endless knocks and feeling cold spots. The new owners never stayed very long. 

This pattern continued until 1923 when the property was sold to an eccentric lady by the name of Carrie Rousseau. Carrie took up residence in the mansion’s ballroom * surrounded by over 50 cats. She lived in the Atherton Mansion until her death in 1974 at age 93.

In recent years, the mansion was remodeled and made into several apartments. But the activity still occurs. 

Residents .report moving cold spots, winds that blow through closed rooms, and strange voices at night. The knocking sounds are still heard as well. ** 

People who have investigated the house state that there are three female spirits present, “who just don’t like men,” and there is also a frail male spirit in the house. Some believe these spirits are the ghosts of Dominga, George, and Gertrude Atherton, the third female spirit, is believed to be Carrie Rousseau.

* She converted the ballroom's orchestra chamber into her living space. Her cats lived in the adjoining apartment, formally the Atherton Mansion banquet hall.

** The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about one tenant--a singer by the name of Aurora Booth, who told them about a mysterious rushing wind that blasted through her small apartment. 

Another tenant, Jerry Ladewig, a dental assistant, claimed that a loud rapping would disturb her as she tried to fall asleep. Yet another tenant moved out of the tower room apartment after being harassed by several ghostly apparitions.

No comments: