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.

10 thoughts on “The Donaldina Cameron House in San Francisco

  1. Oooh my God, but why. Women who were seeking for refugee and they had no where to hide or go, burned to ashes. Life sometimes is very unfair. I have no doubt this accident happened because after reading your post, I had some few researches and I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that it truelly happened. Was Donaldina Cameron’s body ever found, he is a hero.

    Great article as ever, I love your article, they are always filled such thrilling ancient stories, awesome.

    1. Okay, I should point out that Donaldina Cameron was a ‘her’, not a ‘he’ 🙂

      But cheers mate – great to see you back here again enjoying the work we’ve put up! 

  2. They say seeing is believing and in this case, those that don’t actually see these events occurring would have serious doubts whether they are real or just rumors to scare off some people from the property. Personally, I think there might be some level of truth in this because we do live in a strange world where a lot of strange things happen.

    Has anyone actually entered into this mansion and experienced these events? Because from your post the Reverend that did occupy the house did not report anything about seeing ghost inside the house and he was able to stay in the house without experiencing any such event.

    1. Hi Jay,

      Yes there have been many paranormal incidents linked to the house over the years. There have also been a number of paranormal investigations carried out there. 

  3. I love all these legends story, so juicy. Now now, why the crazy reverand unsealed the charm? Omg he is insane!!. I get it that he want to use the facility to molest little boys but to molest them in a place that is hunted? He got the 5 stars for a total creep. He just gotta have to make it worsethat it was. Oh well, I wish we know the truth of what went down back then. I do believe that the spirits live among us, I never experienced and never wanted to. As long as they mind their own business they can live around me lol great story, perfect like a nightmare before Christmas. Happy holidays

  4. I do enjoy your posts however  I wonder if you went in this property you would already have the mindset that t was haunted so you would be expcecting something? 

    I say this as you mentioned in your post that t is not possible to separate fact from fiction?

    With such terrible things happening in this property prior to the reverend Wichman moving in it is sad to read more tragic event place. I would think it better to knock this house down and rebiuld it? 

    1. That is a good point Darren, and it applies to all paranormal hot-spots – people do have a coloured view of their experience because they are expecting to see something supernatural. 

      Good point – thanks for including it here! 🙂

  5. Hi Chris,

    I believe that there are other forms than us, humans, but also ghosts or other form of consciousness when soul leaves the body. When I was a kid, my friends invited me to summon ghosts, they thought of it like it was a game. Of course, I refused because I know that it is possible. I think that bigger the possibility is to see them or feel them, when you believe in that. Nonetheless, people shouldn’t joke or do it for fun, because they will react.

    This case you wrote about – there is a real possibility that some of those souls dwell in the house or around it.

    I read some stories years ago in a magazine called ’Twilight Zone’, if I remembered correctly… maybe it was just ’Zone’. Anyway, there was a real confession of person who experienced a presence of a ghost in an old house that she rented for a weekend. It was not so pleasant at first, cause she never saw something like that before, but she mentioned that the ghost wasn’t agressive, it just moved flowers in the vase and similar. She was 100% sure that there was someone else there, because she saw those ’signs’ and felt different energy.

    So, I think that people in San Francisco should either avoid that place or just bless it… and have positive thoughts and energy.

    I do believe that there are also angels, fairies and ’positive’, good-natured creatures.

    Our relationship with them depends on our beliefs and on our attitude. : )

    Best wishes,


    1. Hi Susan, 

      Well I don’t often say this on the site, but I really like your outlook and your beliefs on forms of consciousness and positive good-natured creatures. We seem to believe in the same sort of things! 

      Thanks so much for leaving this comment with us. 

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