Six years ago, just a few days before Halloween, some spooky security footage emerged from Mission music venue The Chapel. 

In the video, a night janitor locks the door around 5 a.m. A few seconds later, what appears to be a little girl in a white dress runs towards the door, then quickly out of frame. 

Later, when cleaners were shown the video, they were terrified, reported 7×7 at the time. No little girls had been in the building that morning, and no one had an explanation for who the figure was … except, well, something otherworldly. 

Erica Westly, who managed The Chapel’s box office at the time, was one of the first to see the video. 

“The way she moves is really weird,” she said. “… And the way that The Chapel is, it’s like a fortress — once it’s locked at the end of the night with that guy leaving … somebody would have known if she would’ve left. She probably would have just been there in the morning if it was an actual person.” 

The only reason anyone was reviewing that particular security footage was because there had been a theft earlier that night, according to Westly. And while the video appears to show the girl just seconds after the janitor locked the door, closer to half an hour had actually lapsed: The camera was activated by a motion sensor. 

For a while, Westly recalls being told to keep the video on the down-low.

“We were all sworn to secrecy,” she said. “We couldn’t talk about it, we couldn’t show anybody. … We were really afraid it would be bad for business, so it was a tight-lipped secret for like a year.”

The Chapel, a music venue that opened in 2012, is housed in a former mortuary. The Gantner-Maison-Domergue Funeral Home, built in 1914, was one of many mortuaries on Valencia Street, where a streetcar ran directly from the cemeteries in Colma (where the dead were brought once San Francisco ran out of room for graveyards in 1901).

Since roads to Colma were not well maintained, funeral streetcars took on the task of transporting caskets and funeralgoers. Bodies could be prepared at the mortuaries, then plopped straight on a train to the cemetery. These trains were stylish affairs, designed to carry the deceased and mourners in different compartments: We’re talking velvet-cushioned chairs and wood-paneled interiors. 

Today at The Chapel, you can still see the crank once used to hoist bodies between the embalming room and the incinerator. Now, that basement space formerly used to store bodies is a wine cellar. It’s also where a lot of strange incidents have happened. 

An ad for the Gantner-Maison-Domergue funeral home in San Francisco's 1948 directory.

An ad for the Gantner-Maison-Domergue funeral home in San Francisco’s 1948 directory.


“It was 4 o’clock in the morning and we were still partying at The Chapel,” said Alicia Onnigian, a former Chapel bartender. “I went down to the wine fridge, and it slammed on me. … There was nobody there, nobody even in that side of the building.”

Westly claims her roommate, barback Rick Altieri, saw a beer can float off a shelf down in the wine cellar, hang in the air for a few seconds, then fall to the ground. She also experienced odd occurrences in other parts of the building. 

“I’ve seen a girl with long hair in the bathroom a few times, and also shadows in the bathroom,” said Westly. “I’ll look in a mirror and there’s s—t behind me.”

Interviewing former employees about the 2015 video years later, I sort of expected someone to admit it was a hoax. But surprisingly, everyone I spoke with remained steadfast in their conviction: It was a real ghost. 

Chapel ghost stories were plentiful in this time period. There’s one in which Westly claims she heard a bunch of wine bottles crash to the floor in a locked liquor closet, only to open the door and find no one in there. Chef Elaine Osuna told KALW that she used to see a shadowy figure in the kitchen who smelled like roses. Candles flew off a mantel and into the center of the room. People heard voices. Syrup bottles would mysteriously explode. One bartender even claimed to have seen the little girl ghost six months before the video surfaced. 

Spine-tingling experiences became so common, in fact, that by the time the video surfaced, some employees weren’t even surprised.

“My reaction was just, of course there’s a ghost! Of course she’s running from the wine fridge!” exclaimed Onnigian. “We’ve all experienced a slammed door here and there.” 

This also apparently wasn’t the only instance of haunting security camera footage, although SFGATE wasn’t able to obtain these videos.

“There’s one that … shows one bottle tipping over from the ledge of a shelf,” said former bartender Javier Castro. “And there’s the box office one, where there’s a stack of books that tips over for no reason.” 

Concertgoers wait for a show at the Chapel on Nov. 11, 2014.

Concertgoers wait for a show at the Chapel on Nov. 11, 2014.

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While both Westly and Onnigian believed in ghosts before working at The Chapel, Castro was slightly more of a skeptic. 

“Growing up I was kind of like, if it exists, it exists, it doesn’t really bother me,” he said. “But this kind of made me more on the believer side. It could also be your brain playing tricks on you, but there’s also those two other videos.” 

At some point, the idea that The Chapel was haunted just became widely accepted by those who worked there. Employees named the little girl ghost Valencia, after the street. They even started to joke about it. 

“It was just more of an acceptance overall from the whole staff, like, ‘Yeah it’s haunted, so why don’t we have fun here?’” said Castro. 

“It also tended to happen on nights, where there was electronic music or it was really loud,” said Westly. “We joked that ghosts don’t like EDM.” 

Being a former mortuary makes for an appropriately creepy ghost origin story, but Westly has another theory for why spirits might haunt The Chapel. 

“It’s almost like the Winchester Mystery House,” she said. “If you go up in the higher levels of it, you could open a door to nowhere, or you look behind a wall, and there’s a room. Because it’s so old and has been changed so many times, the place is just nooks and crannies, all over. So I could see if that was like a selling point to a ghost, The Chapel would be the place.”

In the end, when the ghost girl video finally leaked, it didn’t hurt The Chapel’s business like they feared. If anything, it made some people more interested in coming to a show.

“I think people think it’s kitschy or spooky or cool,” said Westly. “… But a lot of people laugh and ask, ‘So is it haunted?’ 

“We’re like, ‘F—k yeah it is.’”

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