Mary Ellen Pleasant

San Francisco's greatest ghost


Pleasant was a person of African heritage who lived as a white woman during the mid-1800s. However, she was never far from her Creole ancestry and was a secret agent for the Underground Railroad. After she moved from the Canadian border to New Orleans, Pleasant allegedly studied under the voodoo high priestess Marie Laveau.

In 1852, Pleasant moved to San Francisco and amassed over $30 million with her husband Thomas Bell. Over the years, she used her position of power to fight file several successful civil rights cases which earned her the title of “The Mother of Human Rights in California”. As she grew older, jealous relatives attacked her and publically exposed her voodoo practice. This lead to her being accused of being a baby stealer, a baby eater, a multiple murderess, a madam, a lying, conniving, cunning, schemer, and maybe, worst of all, hung the epithet of “Mammy” upon her. As a result of all the hounding, Marry Ellen died in poverty on January 4, 1904.

Be it the anguish of her unjust treatment or the power she wielded as a mambo, Mary Ellen Pleasant’s ghost still roams the City. Unlike other famous San Francisco ghosts, Pleasant does not haunt one location. Instead, her essence is claimed to be felt in dozens of local addresses. If anything, he ghost has grown more powerful than in life but she is also much more grim.

She appears as she did in life except her skin is an almost pure black. She is well spoken and proud, showing kindness to minorities and street people. She has a short temper when dealing with whites, especially journalists and the wealthy, and she takes some delight in frightening such folk. She should be approached with respect and good manners, and by no means should one ever call her “Mammy”.

Mary Ellen Pleasant

Shadows of The City JohnThompson JohnThompson