The San Francisco Dungeon: A Step Back in Time to San Francisco’s Darker Side

The San Francisco Dungeon

The San Francisco Dungeon was an experience I wasn’t expecting.  I had already made up my mind as to what the tour would be like before I arrived and it turned out to be nothing like I anticipated.  Thinking it would be more of a kid’s attraction I soon discovered the adults had just as much fun (if not more so).

The Dungeon

Located on the Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco, the Dungeon is an unassuming piece of history. What better way to learn about the history of San Francisco’s darker side than through a combination of live actor reenactment and storytelling? The actors are the perfect fit for their roles, complete with accents and era-appropriate costumes. You’ll soon find yourself lost in the world of Jack the Ripper or deep in the heart of Alcatraz.


Cast of Actors

Upon entering the Dungeon entrance, I walked cautiously up to the ticket booth and right from the start I felt like I had stepped into another era. Being a bit of a history buff, I was immediately enthralled with the atmosphere. The first area I entered had a warm, stuffy prison feel to it, something like you’d see in the early 1900’s. There were rats in a glass cage and rattling wooden cell doors, complete with dim lighting and a scent you might imagine in that kind of setting.


Our tour group was first greeted by a man with a top hat who reminded me of a circus announcer but much creepier. As my luck would have it, I was picked to spin the wheel that decided the fate of the group for the next phase of the tour.

The entire tour ranged from a holographic monk to a moat boat ride in the dark, a torture room, an autopsy of a plague victim, Miss Piggott’s Saloon, a courtroom with a animated judge and a haunting tale of the infamous Alcatraz.

The audience participation made the tour all the more exciting. The torture room had unspeakable torture devices, from finger cutters to “below the belt” scissors.

The Torture Room

The Torture Room (cell)

The doctor explained the plague and what happened when it became an epidemic. The skit was complete with a “dead body” on a table and a partial autopsy was performed while we sat in bleacher style seats.

The Plague

The moat boat ride in the dark was rather scary because you couldn’t see in the pitch black and we had to wait on the edge of our seat for something to happen at any moment. There was never a dull moment the entire hour of the tour.

Boat Ride

The courtroom scene was a lively set with a very outspoken and loud judge who picked a couple of people from the tour to be “sentenced”.

The Courtroom

Miss Piggott’s Saloon was an interesting tale and one that had me enthralled to here the tale. According to the story, Miss Piggott would drug sailors with a special concoction that was laced with opium. Once the sailors were passed out, she was hit the trap door switch and they would fall into the cellar, landing on a mattress. These men were to be sold later to sea captains.


Miss Piggott's Saloon

We also heard the story of Jack the Ripper whose gruesome murders were explained from the vantage point of those living in that era and close to some of the girls he murdered.

Sam Roberts

The last scene was a save the best for last situation. It was the reenactment of Alcatraz. We were ushered into a room with benches on either side of the room and a table in the middle. A guard came in and the lights went out. Each time the lights went out briefly, the guard, as he was telling his story would end up appearing in a very different location when the lights came back on. Once, he was staring me in the face when the lights flickered on.


Spooky piece of history

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at The San Francisco Dungeon. I was fully entertained from start to finish and learned a lot about some quirky history facts. I always thought San Francisco was a great place but with the new attractions like the Dungeon, it’s well worth the trip.


To many, history is a boring topic but The San Francisco Dungeon makes it a total blast and I left with a big smile on my face. It’s a must see attraction for both local residents and tourists too. Your San Francisco trip wouldn’t be complete without taking a tour of the Dungeon and the historic stories it reenacts so well. I’m a frugal person and only buy something if I believe it’s worth it. The Dungeon’s ticket prices are very reasonable and it’s well worth it.

I know I'll definitely be back for a visit again and will recommend this attraction to those wanting to enjoy a little spooky piece of history.


About the Journalist:

Michelle Arbeau is an internationally recognized Celebrity Numerologist, author, inspirational speaker and radio/tv host. She has a Hollywood clientele base that includes Twilight vampires, Big Bang Theory actress, Pirates of the Caribbean actor, NBC Director, Celebrity stylist and many more. 


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