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The Ghost of Mary Lake
Who’s the friendliest ghost in San Francisco? If you guessed Casper, then you’re wrong. It’s none other than Miss Mary Lake and she’s made her home in the city's historic Queen Anne Hotel.
by Tom Crawford
October 31, 2011
Tucked away in San Francisco’s quiet Nob Hill, the Queen Anne Hotel seems atypical of a haunted location. Quaint and extremely pink, it does not give the passerby any uncomfortable feelings. Upon entering the main lobby, one is immediately taken back by the lush, authentic, and somewhat creepy Victorian décor that blankets the structure. Most can immediately sense that the hotel is haunted, but the Queen Anne Hotel and its ghost exude a warmth that seems to invite visitors to stay, relax, and experience all that is within.
Built in the late 19th century, the Queen Anne Hotel is very different today than it was in its beginning. Although much has changed within the Hotel and within the neighborhood itself, its ghostly inhabitant serve as a continual reminder of the building’s roots.
The Queen Anne Hotel was first constructed in 1890 for Senator James Fair (who later went on to build the famous Fairmont Hotel). Fair had become quite wealthy from the silver rush in neighboring Nevada and used his fortune to establish himself in San Francisco. Because he wanted his two daughters to remain close to him, he paid for the construction of a boarding school where they could be educated.
After construction was complete, he hired one of the city’s finest educators, Mary Lake, to run the school and take charge of the girls’ education. Mary Lake took great pride in her work and was dedicated to making the girls into independent women who could serve as model citizens for the community.
She cared dearly for the girls and was known for being quite strict. Visitors had to be approved by the school and no girl was allowed to leave without a chaperone. Mary undoubtedly did this to help focus the girl’s attention on their studies and self-refinement.
Although the school was quite successful and produced exceptional women, it was shut down only nine years after opening. It is believed that Fair closed the school soon after his own daughters graduated, since they were the key reason for opening the school in the first place. After the school closed, Mary Lake left San Francisco. It is unclear where she went or what became of her.
In the years after the boarding school closed, the building changed hands several times. It wasn’t until the 1980s that it was purchased, restored, and reopened as today’s Queen Anne Hotel.
While the entire building itself has a sense of being haunted, the hauntings seem to focus on two primary locations within the hotel; rooms 410 and 414. Of the two, the hauntings seem to be the strongest in 410. This is probably due to the fact that during the days of the girl’s school, 410 was Mary Lake’s suite and contained her office her residence.
Many visitors of the Queen Anne hotel have encountered what they specifically believe to be the ghost of Mary Lake. Those who have experienced the haunting claim that she appears to be taking care of the visitors much as she did with her students in life. Visitors have reported having their luggage mysteriously unpacked, having fallen pillows replaced on the bed and, most commonly, being tucked into bed on cold nights. Some have also reported cylindrical cold spots appearing in various locations within the room and in the hallway just outside of the room.
The Queen Anne Hotel is an interesting location that provides a haunting that is neither threatening, nor frightening. Rather, it serves as a comforting reminder of the Hotel’s past and an assurance that as long as you are within the walls of the Queen Anne, Mary Lake will be there to take care of you. The next time you’re in San Francisco, be sure to stay at least one night in the Queen Anne Hotel. If possible, try to stay in room 410 or 414 so that you can have the pleasure of meeting the ghost of Mary Lake.