5 Places to Visit for the Californian Dark Tourist

Thanks to the Netflix show Dark Tourist, I finally know what to call my fascination with going to places that conjure up weird vibes and interesting stories. Although the show’s host isn’t my favorite person in the entire world, I still give him props for the great idea that unfortunately had a poor execution. If you’re like me and love to go exploring around the darker side of things, here is a list of five equally luring places that are worth checking out across the wild, wild west:

1. Winchester Mystery House // San Jose

Doors that lead to nowhere, secret rooms and hallways, and its supposed spiritual inhabitants lure tourists from all over to take a look around and marvel at this grand mansion. Sarah Winchester was said to be haunted by victims of the infamous Winchester rifle. After the subsequent losses of her husband and child, she started what would be a 36-year renovation project. The most famous explanation for its unique architectural design is to confuse the spirits in the house and for Sarah to avoid them altogether, although no one can ever be certain. Since there’s so much hype surrounding this house, it’s definitely on my bucket list of places to visit ASAP.

2. The Cecil Hotel // Los Angeles

The hotel that inspired American Horror Story’s season 5 is a chilling landmark for Los Angeleans like myself. I’ve only walked past this place as it was under renovation, but as much as they want to (they even changed their name to Stay on Main), this hotel can’t get rid of its dark past as it’s been known as a hot spot for sketchy characters such as serial killer Richard Ramirez, who brought his unfortunate victims to the hotel who never got to check out. This place has a long history of darkness, but as recently as 2013, guests noticed something funny in the water. Turns out there was a dead body of a woman floating in the hotel’s water tank for days, maybe even weeks, and to this day no one knows the exact reason why. Many curious dark tourists have been brave and stayed a night there… maybe you can too?

3. The Martinez House // Sacramento

Only about 25 minutes from the UC Davis campus, the story of the Martinez house is one with the status of urban legend. Rumor has it that one night a man, possibly possessed by an evil spirit, killed his entire family (including the family pet) and eventually himself. The house itself seems to have a negative energy surrounding it, although its history hasn’t been explicitly disclosed. Just like the Cecil Hotel, the Martinez house is said to have a history of deaths that have occurred on the property. However, there are still many questions regarding the validity of these tales. The mystery about whether or not the house is actually haunted makes me want to experience it for myself, but unfortunately, we can only observe from the eerie exterior since people currently live there.

4. The Queen Mary // Long Beach

This ship is infamous for its spirits, and it isn’t afraid to cash in on the hype by hosting Halloween mazes and year-round ghost tours. The Queen Mary has been around since 1936 as an ocean liner, then a converted troopship during World War II. Now operating in present day as a hotel, it’s inevitable that unfortunate circumstances have occurred throughout the ship’s long history. Many people try to stay in what is supposedly the most haunted room, B340 where guests have seen dark figures, lights and faucets mysteriously turn on and off, or had their covers pulled off of them at night. I’ve visited The Queen Mary a few times but never experienced anything paranormal, so I’m skeptical of this place, especially since they really try to sell the novelty that the ship is haunted. I’ve never actually stayed overnight though, which when it happens, will probably be the deciding factor on whether or not I think there’s actually something spooky there.

5. The Dorothea Puente House // Sacramento

Another spooky place less than 30 minutes away from the UC Davis campus is serial killer Dorothea Puente’s house in downtown Sacramento where she ran a boarding house for the elderly and disabled. She would murder and bury seven of her tenants in the backyard before cashing their Social Security checks. I think being there with the knowledge that several bodies were buried on the property at one point makes it even more eerie, but overall it looks like an average Victorian-style house. It wouldn’t be surprising if the house is haunted since so many innocent lives were taken in such a malicious way.

Even though Halloween is over, ghosts still continue to haunt year-round! It’s a great experience to explore new places for yourself with such rich histories and legends, even if they are unfortunate ones. Stay safe and spooky, Aggies!