San Francisco History

Ghost in City Hall

Ghost in City Hall — Ooh!

Mysterious Rappings Cause of Terrors

Sound Detector Is Nemesis

The City Hall is haunted!

A ghost, spook or eerie presence of some sort has created all sorts of excitement in the chambers of the Board of Public Works.

Today clairvoyants, ouija board experts and authorities on spookcraft are invited to attend a seance at noon sharp. Timothy A. Reardon of the Board of Works wants to find out what it is all about, and, incidentally, quell for once and all the rising nervousness of his negro messenger, Louis Tyrrel.

The spook made its appearance six months ago, in the office of John B. Gartland, attorney for the Board of Works.


One day, shortly after the noon whistles had shrieked, Gartland heard five distinct rappings on the wall of his room.  A moment later there were three more raps.

The rapping caused no excitement at the time but when it was repeated the next day and the next and has kept on every day since Gartland felt that something should be done in the matter.


Not having Sir Oliver Lodge or Harry Houdini or other spook experts within calling distance, Gartland called in Louis, the messenger. The two waited in silence yesterday noon, and at ten minutes past the hour came the five raps.

“What’s that?” was the querulous remark of Tyrrel. His gray hair grew a shade grayer.

Three more raps.

“My gosh,” was the ejaculation that came from the messenger’s lips. “That sure is spooks!”

Tim Reardon came in to find out what the excitement was all about.

A sound detector from the building department will be put into service today to end the reign of the spook, if possible.

“The City Hall is no place for ghosts,” Reardon said. “We’ve had goats up here before, but I draw the line on ghosts.”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle. 1 October 1924. 9.

City Hall “Spooks” Active

“Rappings” Continue to Excite Attaches

Scientific Explanation Sought

The mystery of the “spook rappings” at City Hall still remains unsolved.

Yesterday a solemn assemblage waited patiently in the office of Attorney John B. Gartland, attached to the Board of Works chambers, to verify statements made by Timothy A. Reardon and others that eerie spirits were about.

A few minutes past the noon hour, the time selected by the spooks for their daily visits, the credulous crowd was convinced. Just when the listeners were about to “give up the ghost” Reardon commanded silence.

“There it is again,” he whispered.

“Rap, Rap, Rap, Rap” came distinctly from somewhere in the walls.

In a moment there was another knock, followed by three more.

“Well, what is it?” Reardon inquired of City Architect John Reid Jr., who had heard the rumors of spooks.

“Search me,” Reid replied. “I heard the rapping all right. it might be that a natural aerial exists somewhere in the building, and is affected by certain sound waves every day at a certain time.”

Louis Tyrrel, messenger of the Board of Works, who was one of the first to discover the daily rappings is also convinced that the “spook” rappings can be explained by some scientific reasoning.

Whatever the rappings are, they have caused considerable speculation at the City Hall, and Reardon will not be satisfied until he has solved the riddle.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle. 2 October 1924. 5. 

City Hall ‘Spooks’ No Joke

“Ghost” Raps for Savants

Mysterious midnight messengers from another world — or somewhere — meandered mischievously through the City Hall last night, now and again tapping here and there with an “ectoplasmic rod” to attract the attention of psychics, skeptics and cynics who had bated their breath for the occasion. Earlier in the day the eerie prowlers had promised by a system of faint raps to “do their stuff” at midnight. They were twenty-five minutes late, but rewarded the waiting delegation from the California Society of Psychical Research with a very fair grade of spirit rapping when they arrived.

At the witching hour when graveyards are supposed to yawn and “almost anything is rather more than likely to happen,” Edward Morgan, heading six members of the society sat patiently in room 250 waiting for the promised signal. It came at 12:25, three distinct raps.

Taking out his fountain pen, Morgan solemnly asked: “Is there some intelligence trying to communicate with us? If so please answer the following sounds.” He rapped sharply on the table with the fountain pen.

Immediately three loud raps emanated from some indeterminate point in reply.

“Is there any discarnate spirit who wishes to communicate with us?” queried Morgan.

No answer.

Morgan than asked the spirit to give his name, repeating the alphabet slowly and asking the “discarnate intelligence” to signify the right letters by raps. There was no response. After waiting for several minutes for the “ghost” to return the party broke up.

Morgan said the raps had a metallic character foreign to spirit rapping and expressed the opinion that they were the work of a practical joker. But the mystery still remains unsolved.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle. 4 October 1924. 15. 

City Hall ‘Spirit’ Keeps on Rapping

Bit Unpunctual, but Still Going Strong

The City Hall “spirit” was late yesterday.

Instead of giving forth its rappings at 12:10, as on previous days, the knocking came at 12:25 p.m.

A group of psychical researchers had left room 250 in disappointment when the ghost failed to deliver its usual message shortly after the noon hour.

Mrs. Addie Pierce, Pentacostal worker, and Mrs. Alice Knowles, however, stayed a bit longer. The three raps came as distinctly as ever and two more followed. The psychists who held a seance Friday midnight are planning another visit to locate the “knocker” in Timothy Reardon’s department.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle. 5 October 1924. 15. 

City Hall ‘Spook’ Fails Experts at Seance

The City Hall “spook” for the first time in weeks failed to present its daily rapping program. Two groups of psychical researchers assembled in haunted room 250 at the noon hour and precipitated a heated argument over the “spiritual manifestations.” The argument grew in fervor, until one self-appointed investigator commanded silence. The seance continued for some time but no rappings. “Too much interference today,” the leader of the group declared bitterly as he gazed in the direction of the other group. Al Rhine, amateur magician was on hand to “expose” the spook, but couldn’t do his stuff.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle. 7 October 1924.  9. 

Steamfitter Routs City Hall ‘Spook’

The City Hall “spook” whose daily rappings caused much excitement for several weeks has been trailed to its lair, according to Sid Hester, secretary to the Board of Public Works.

Engineers working over the “haunted” room occupied by Attorney John B. Gartland, found a cracked steam pipe on Saturday. The pipe was repaired and since then the “spook” has failed to broadcast.

Several psychical researchers who appeared at the City Hall yesterday were much disappointed at the explanation offered by Hester.

“The spirits were ether alright,” one declared unconvinced. “The rappings have stopped because of some disturbing influence.”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle. 8 October 1924. 13.


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