All that jazz and rock’n roll with witchcraft and satanic rituals clearly took its toll on the Victorian house known as the Westerfeld House. But is it still a hint of paranormal presence lingering there? Or has the restoration brought it back to its original sweet glory?
In the beautiful city of San Francisco there is a house that catches the eye of those passing by. Gothic, beautiful, bold and old as many of the surrounding houses are. But perhaps none other than this house has acted like a magnet for its peculiar tenants over the years.
The William Westerfeld House, or simply the Westerfeld house is an historic building right by Alamo Square. The picturesque Victorian Italian styled villa at 1198 Fulton Street is today steeped in history, some more haunting than others, as well as some are more true than others.
The origin of the house however is a sweet tale as the building was built for the German confectioner William Westerfeld in 1889. By this time he had already established a chain of bakeries and built this 28 room mansion. Business was good for Westerfeld, however, he died only a few years after the house was built in 1895 and since then, sweet turned darker to pitch black.
It was bought by John Mahoney and the building’s cultural reputation started to take place where strange occurrences happened. He loved to entertain his guests with spectacular shows, and among others, Harry Houdini himself tried to send telepathic messages to his wife across the Bay. So the experimental and spiritual part of the house started early on. However, no one could have guessed just how dark it would get.
Czarist Night Club And All That Jazz
After the Westerfeld House had served as a home to Mahoney, it fell into the hands of many different people with different purposes. A group of Czarist Russians turned it into a nightclub called Dark Eyes in the roaring 20s. It was informally known as the Russian embassy because of all the meetings taking place on the upper floor.
After the second world war the home was converted into apartment buildings, mostly rented out to African-American jazz musicians playing in the nearby jazz clubs during the Beat area. This house jazz area lasted until the 60s, when jazz was replaced with rock and the political and philosophical beatnik area morphed into the wild and spiritual 60s.
The Occultists In the Westerfeld House
In the 60s the Westerfeld House was used as different types of collectives, and one of those who set a mark on the house as well as recorded it, was occult filmmaker, Kenneth Anger who lived there from 1966 to 1967. During those times it was a rather rough area in the city and the people frequenting there, darker and rougher than many.
It is here the story of the Westerfeld House turns from strange to occult. At best, the time Anger and his peculiar guests spent in the house was a terrible nuisance to all the neighbors with all the acid being taken and satanic rituals being held. At worst, they stirred up the rumours of paranormal activity to the house as well as opened the gate to hell.
“Up at Fulton and Scott is a great shambling old Gothic house, a freaking decayed giant, known as The Russian Embassy.”
This is how the writer Tom Wolfe talks about the Westerfeld House when he introduces it in his book: ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’, chronologizing his time spent there with a group of hippies.
Anger himself was an occultist and drew much of his elements in his films from Thelema, a pagan oriented religion founded by perhaps the most well known occultist, Aleister Crowley.
Another notorious person that stayed under the roof was Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil lived here for a while before he joined the cult of the Manson called, the Family. Beausoleil was chosen by Anger to inhabit the role of Lucifer in a movie he was working on. Together they spent their nights in the tower, trying to look for UFOs. And according to Anger, he did indeed have a “a couple of very good flying saucer sightings.” Here it is important to note just how important taking acid was to Anger.
Allegedly, Beausoleil stole reels of Angers film: Lucifer Rising and took off with them being on bad terms. Manson himself made frequent visits to this house, and according to caretaker, Kelly Edwards, it was here that Beausoleil were drawn into the cult that eventually was behind the Helter Skelter murders.
Black Masses of the Church of Satan
Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey also spent time in this very tower as shown when Anger shot the movie ‘Invocation of my demon brother’ where we in this psychedelic experimental movie can see LaVey, aka, ‘The Black Pope’ himself holding a black mass. According to Anger, the film was assembled from scraps of the first version of Lucifer Rising. It includes clips of the cast smoking out of a skull, and the publicly filmed Satanic funeral ceremony for a pet cat.
But he did not look after UFO’s as Anger did on his acid trips. Instead, he spent his time practicing witchcraft, as well as worshipping Satan with around 500 candles in this wooden building. This tower used to have a large pentagram etched into the floorboards to keep the wiccan and satanic rituals more permanent. He also owned a lion cub as he used to be a lion tamer before starting the Church of Satan. You can see proof of that very lion because of the scratches in the wooden paneling, even to this day.
As well as spending time in the tower, he also performed satanic rituals in the ballroom on the ground level of the house.
Rock n Roll
After Angers departure from the Westerfeld House, the occult was turned into rock’n roll as the likes of Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Tom Wolfe and Jerry Garcia among many others passed through the halls, either as tenants, or holding concerts at the Avalon Ballroom. It continued to be used as an underground rock scene until the 70s, when the first attempts to rehabilitate the much used building began.
And although the owner that took over in 1986 had no occult interest, he also wanted to be on the safe side when initiating the old house with a particularly rocky history. The new owner of the Westerfeld House, Jimmy Siegel told hoodline that:
“I was always attracted to the architecture of the building,” he told us. “The occult happenings in the house were of little interest to me but to be on the safe side I had the monks from the Hartford Street Zen Center do a cleansing and a blessing for the house when I bought it in 1986. I have never experienced any darkness or paranormal activity in the house.”
The Addams Family House
Siegel bought the Westerfeld House because it looked like something the Addams family could have lived in and he had always loved the architecture and design from the Addams family. And under a LSD trip in his teens, his dreams of owning this particular house started to take hold.
Siegel turned his drug induced dream and turned it into his life mission. He spent his time restoring the Westerfeld House that had long been neglected. And with it, he also preserved the history of it.
Today the rooms in the Westerfeld House are rented out to various people and as movie sets. According to reports, none of them have complained of any malevolent activity or remains of satanic activity. But they have reported about ‘overwhelming emotions’ as well as a physical presence in their home, with nightmares being a common trait of the tenants. Paranormal activity of psychological manifestation of knowing the house history?
Even Siegel himself mentioned he had what he called a paranormal experience in the house to SFGATE:
“I was in bed watching TV and my bed violently shook. I assumed we were having an earthquake, only nothing else was moving. Then I felt someone get into bed with me even though I was alone. It was quite unnerving.”
So what is it Siegel? Was the Westerfeld House haunted or not?
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