Cruise Into These Two Port Cities For Some Haunted History

There's an old quote of unknown provenance about how there are only three or four truly unique American cities. Everyone has their favorites, so the shortlist of cities tends to change with each version of the quote that people share. However, two port cities that usually make the list are New Orleans and San Francisco. Both places hold historic sites with a reputation for being haunted, making them an ideal cruise destination for anyone who loves a good ghost story. The rich folklore and history — haunted or otherwise — that's sprung up around New Orleans and San Francisco might make disembarking in these two cities worthwhile.

As just one example, you can do ghost tours in New Orleans, and it's where Tennessee Williams — one of the famous writers who is said to have repeated that quote in his lifetime — made his home. To this day, the Hotel Monteleone, which has overlooked the French Quarter since 1886, still offers literary suites named after Williams and other prominent guests like Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and William Faulkner. Like many hotels that seek to avoid superstitions associated with an "unlucky" number, there's no elevator button for the 13th floor in the Hotel Monteleone. In reality, the 14th floor is the 13th, and it's supposedly haunted by the playful ghost of a boy named Maurice Begere who died there in the late 1800s. Guests on other floors have reported that the elevator will erratically stop on the 14th floor as if someone's inviting them to get out there.

Ghosts of New Orleans

The International Society for Paranormal Research investigated the Hotel Monteleone and allegedly found that over a dozen ghosts linger there. It's not just Maurice; other 14th-floor ghost children have been sighted, with guests claiming to have heard their laughter at night and experienced cold spots. Even if you don't stay at the hotel, you can visit its revolving Carousel Bar. Some say doors in the lobby open and close on their own, due to a feud between two spirits, a restaurant server and a chef.

Speaking of restaurants, Napoleon House, which opened in 1914, is known for its muffuletta sandwiches—and occasional ghost sightings. The Mayor of New Orleans originally meant for this place to house the exiled French ruler, Napoleon Bonaparte, in the 1800s, though the building was never used for that. During the Civil War, it functioned as a hospital, leading to stories of a Confederate soldier's spirit haunting the second-floor balcony. According to one chef, an old woman's ghost has frequently been spotted sweeping there, too.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the city's oldest cemetery, established in 1789, is a fascinating example of a maze-like "city of the dead" where every above-ground tomb holds a story. Adding to its mystique is the fact that the cemetery is walled off to the public and can only be visited through official guided walking tours. One of the most famous tombs, said to be haunted and grant wishes, is that of the voodoo queen, Marie Laveau.

Ghosts of San Francisco

San Francisco has its share of ghosts, too. Major cruise lines, like Carnival and Princess, call San Francisco their homeport. If you cruise into San Francisco, you can still get a feel for it as a port city by riding a ferry to Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz has many spooky tales surrounding it, from the legend of a lighthouse keeper's ghost, to the account of a haunted solitary confinement cell (14D), to the story of the spirit of an incarcerated hitman named "Butcher." The former federal prison also held notorious inmates like the gangster Al Capone, and it offers an eerie look into San Francisco's past. 

The city has also historically welcomed many immigrants, though some had a hard life. In an imposing brick building in Chinatown, the social services center Cameron House, founded in 1874, once held secret passageways hiding women who had escaped from slavery. When a basement fire tragically claimed some of their lives, the basement was sealed off and decorated with protective charms as reports of apparitions in photos arose.

You can also pay a visit to Lombard Street, nicknamed the "Crookedest Street in the World," which numerous cars wind down each day. It may look bright and lovely when the summer hydrangeas are blooming. However, a chill may overcome you as you near 1000 Lombard Street, where a tarot card reader once cursed socialite Pat Montandon's home. As the story goes, the curse led to a mysterious fire, one unexplained death, two suicides, doors locked from the inside, and other strange occurrences in the house.