The Donaldina Cameron House in San Francisco

The Donaldina Cameron House in San Francisco

This article will be covering the Donaldina Cameron House in San Francisco – a property that used to hand Chinese sex trade workers a second chance at life…until a tragic fire broke out in it’s basement…


The Fire

The great San Francisco Earthquake took hold of the North Coast of California in April 1906, and managed to claim over 3000 lives.

The earthquake was bad enough…but the fires that followed the event managed to claim the homes and livelihoods of tens of thousands of victims.

During these tragic events, a Presbyterian Home that had been the center for helping to free Chinese sex workers and servants, caught fire. The Superintendent of the home, Donaldina Cameron, went back into the flaming building to protect the important papers which gave her guardianship over these unfortunate sex workers.

The Fire

Unfortunately what happened next is a little mixed up between fact and fiction – a bit of an urban legend.

It is near enough impossible to separate the facts from the legend…so make your own mind up…


The Safe Haven

The building at 920 Sacramento Street was built as a safe haven for the unfortunate women it housed. When they finally managed to escape their trade, more often than not, their heartless employers would try and track them down, and use them once again.

As a result, the building was constructed with a system of secret sections and passageways in place, with a basement that had a hidden entrance.

The ex-sex workers found sanctuary in these hidden locations – they could finally live some sort of life away from the threat of their past employers hunting them down.

When the fire struck the sanctuary, the women who were in these secret underground sections were completely trapped, and ended up suffocating to death, as the smoke filled each room.

Locals believe that the paranormal activity at the location began a matter of days after the fire claimed the lives of these women – their souls were trapped in the underground system.

At first, disembodied voices were heard coming from the building…and before long, passers by began to notice strange moving lights traveling past the windows.

920 Sacramento Street

These paranormal happenings seemed to get worse, with each day that passed, and eventually the basement was sealed with a special Chinese charm.

The building eventually changed it’s name to the Donaldina Cameron House in 1942 – to honor the woman who once ran the setup and looked after the Chinese women.

Apparently (according to the legend), a Reverend Wichman moved into the property in 1947 and went about unsealing the haunted basement area. Locals then believe that he used the area to assault and abuse young boys in his care.

Legend suggests that the souls of these young men joined the souls of the dead Chinese sex slaves, and they both now haunt the building.

The Donaldina Cameron House is now thought to be one of the most haunted properties in San Francisco, but it’s impossible to find out how much of it’s past is actually based on truth.

What do you think?

Do you believe the legend that surrounds the Donaldina Cameron House in San Francisco?

Please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.