Saturday, July 02, 2005


It's been so foggy, it's made me think of old scary ghost stories. Here's a local ghost tale from Discovery Travel Advenures.

An Affair of Honor

After her husband died and left her a good-sized fortune, Dominga de Goni Atherton left suburban San Francisco and moved into the city proper. She built the Atherton Mansion at Octavia and California streets in the exclusive Pacific Heights district in 1881. Dominga lived there with her son George, an aimless bumbler, and his wife Gertrude. George was somewhat of an embarrassment to the socially prominent Athertons, and the two strong-willed women with whom he lived constantly called his manhood into question. That is probably why, in 1887, he accepted an invitation to sail to Chile. Ostensibly he was going to visit friends, but in actuality he sought to prove his mettle and earn a place of honor in his family.

The trip proved to be his undoing. George Atherton developed kidney problems during the voyage and died. The ship's captain preserved George's remains by storing the body in a barrel of rum, which was shipped back to the Atherton household several weeks later.

George was duly dried out and buried, but shortly thereafter, his spirit apparently decided to avenge itself on the women who'd tormented him in life. Dominga and Gertrude reported being awakened at night by knocks at their bedroom doors and by a cold and disturbing presence. The phenomenon grew so troublesome that Dominga sold the mansion and moved out. Subsequent tenants also have been unsettled by phantom knockings and roaming cold spots. A séance conducted by a local psychic identified several spirits active in the house, including those of George and Dominga.

Where: 1900 California Street, San Francisco
Tours: San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tours; (415) 922-5590;

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