The William Westerfeld house, that iconic building on the corner of Scott and Fulton, has enough stories behind it to keep any history buff busy for days.
Constructed in 1889, it was designed in the Stick/Eastlake style for owner William Westerfeld, a German confectioner, and cost about $10,000 to build.
Westerfeld died just six years later, but the place lived on to host an unimaginable cast of characters, including John Mahoney, who built the St. Francis and Palace Hotels, a group of Czarist Russians, jazz musician John Handy, The Calliope Company (a 50-person commune mentioned in The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test), and members of The Family Dog (famed promoter Chet Helms’s production company).
But all of these stories will have to wait for another day, because today is Halloween and it’s time to get spooky.
Amidst the epic roster of Westerfeld House occupants, you will also find Kenneth Anger, the infamous underground occult filmmaker who lived there from 1966 to 1967.
It was here where he developed his film, Invocation of My Demon Brother, which featured a soundtrack by Mick Jagger and appearances by Bobby Beausoleil. Beausoleil later went on to join the Manson Family and commit one of the first Helter Skelter murders, the brutal stabbing of music teacher Gary Hinman, which Beausoleil has said was on Manson’s orders after a mescaline deal went sour.
Kenneth Anger’s residence no doubt attracted a darker crowd during this time period. In fact, according to caretaker Kelly Edwards, who was nice enough to show us around the place, it was Manson’s frequent visits to the house while Anger lived there that ultimately drew Beausoleil into his homicidal cult.
Another frequent resident was Anton LaVey , founder of the Church of Satan. During his near daily drop-ins, it’s said that many satanic rituals were conducted in the ballroom located at the ground level of the house, as well as the tower found on the top floor, which used to have a large pentagram etched into the floorboards.
Here's the interior of the tower today:
The former occupants removed the ceiling of the tower to expose the rafters (see below) so that they could more directly channel their dark energies to the sky. They also spent a decent amount of time up there looking for UFOs, claiming to have seen many.
It should be noted that Kenneth Anger was also really, really into acid.
By the way, Anton LaVey was a lion tamer before the whole Satanism thing, and used to keep an African lion cub in the tower during his rituals. The lion’s claw marks are still visible on the doorframe today:
The decidedly occult period of the house ended with Anger’s exodus in 1967. After that, the Family Dog folks moved in and operated out of the place while putting on Dead shows and the like at the Avalon Ballroom.
After that, the house survived the test of time through various owners, escaping the destruction of 6,000 other Victorian-era buildings in the area during San Francisco’s Urban Renewal project.
Today, the Westerfeld House is owned by Distractions on Haight owner Jimmy Siegel, who bought it in 1986 and was in no way drawn to its darker past.
“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.”
Happy Halloween, everyone!
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