During the foggy nights driving for DeSoto Cab in San Francisco, I was invariably asked to whizz the awestruck tourists down the long and winding section of Lombard Street. The serpentine stretch between Hyde and Leavenworth is noteworthy for being a chaotic mix of cars, camera-wielding tourists, and cable cars, as you are spit out of the curve onto Hyde Street.
Standing at the head of the snake at the bottom of the twisty hill is the mammoth three-story structure that is 1000 Lombard. Overlooking the sweeping view of Telegraph Hill, 1000 Lombard is in the heart of the neighborhood known as Russian Hill.
Russian Hill is an affluent San Francisco neighborhood, north of Nob Hill, south of Fisherman’s Wharf, and west of North Beach. At one time it was a goat pasture, with a cemetery that contained the remains of Russian seal hunters. Children living in the area during the Gold Rush tripped over their headstones, so it was decided to call the area Russian Hill. There were also a lot of hangings in the area in the early 19th Century, which have drawn many a psychic to try to find the source of supposed “bad energy.”
Pat Montandon was an Oklahoma native, and the seventh child of a Nazarene pastor. She moved to San Francisco as a young lady with big aspirations, but for now she was divorced, jobless, and without any connections. Pat eventually took a job at a hip clothing store called City of Paris, and began to expand her social circle.
A popular, attractive blond, Pat began hosting parties at her new digs, a charming third-story flat at 1000 Lombard. She soon became a well-known socialite, meeting the right mix of San Francisco high-society, yet engaging hippie types on the party scene to keep her credibility with the young folk.
She reveled in her life as party hostess, and even penned a book in 1967, How To Be A Party Girl. Her notoriety opened up many local opportunities, and she soon began hosting a movie of-the-day show on local station KGO-TV called “Pat’s Prize Movie.” During commercial breaks, Pat would discuss dating, philosophy and current affairs, or sometimes read poetry.
Her show became so successful she hired a Girl Friday, Mary Louise Ward, aka Mary Lou. Pat and Mary Lou became fast friends. In 1968, Pat had a request from a viewer for a love potion. Mary Lou suggested they visit local celebrity and founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, to get his assistance with the love potion.
The Black Pope himself answered the door, never one to shun the calling of two attractive girls. He led them down a dark hallway and into a sitting room. After a few minutes, he materialized with two glasses of a pink and purple-layered alcoholic beverage. Pat and Mary Lou sipped their cocktails while LaVey gave them a brief tour of the house, and specific instructions on a potion of love.
They left LaVey’s black house on California Street with love potion in hand and a new idea for a party. Astrology and occultism were all the rage in the swinging sixties, so they hatched the idea to have an astrology party, complete with cabalistic trappings like palmists, tarot card readers, and crystal gazers. They giggled as they left the black house, exited to begin preparations for their shindig of sorcery.
The party was slated to begin at nine o’clock sharp, but guests began pouring into the Lombard Street house uncharacteristically early. The furniture had been moved out to allow the free roaming of guests, candles were lit, and the whole space was buzzing with chatty attendees. Each sage had their own little section of the house cordoned off to accommodate lines of guests desiring their services. Noticeable was the absence of the tarot card reader, who eventually arrived, albeit very late.
Things got weird quickly. The tarot card reader, with his uninvited entourage in tow, began rudely demanding drinks. He had a fierce red beard, and a green velvet suit decorated with feathers. He quickly set up shop and began reading for the enthusiastic line that had formed since his uncivil arrival.
Pat made a reasonable effort to get the agitated oracle a drink, but stopped several times along the way to mingle, and finally forgot the drink altogether. A half hour passed, and suddenly the tarot card reader, now frothing with rage, firmly reminded Pat that she forgot his drink. As Pat tried to apologize, the soothsayer jumped to his feet and exclaimed that he was leaving, and that he had never been treated so rudely. In a dramatic gesture, he cursed Pat and the Lombard house, shocking everyone within earshot.
“I lay a curse upon you and this house. I do not forget, and I do not forgive. Remember that!”
Two weeks later, Pat arrived home from shopping to find that the Lombard flat had been ransacked. Some things had been taken or destroyed, but there was no evidence of a break-in. The police were called, and a full report was taken, but the whole incident left Pat understandably shaken.
Things were never the same after the curse of the mystic. Breaking and entering cannot necessarily lend itself to a supernatural origin, but other unexplainable things began happening to Pat Montandon in the house on Lombard.
Pat’s dog never had a problem living in the house before, but now he refused to go indoors. When he was finally dragged in, he was fearful and cowered in the corner. Pat began hearing footsteps on her balcony at all hours of the night, and a photograph of her had been placed under her bed with her face scribbled out with a ballpoint pen. She called the police again to try to locate a point of entry for a possible intruder, but found none.
The house soon became almost uninhabitable, due to an unexplained chill in certain rooms, and Pat soon developed pneumonia. A peculiar band of unfriendly hippies moved in upstairs, and the hallways and balconies outside were soon littered with cigarette butts and spit, despite being cleaned weekly. The walls to the foyer were suddenly filled with strange symbols and obscenities. Pat considered moving, but she had just signed a lease. Besides, huge apartments were difficult to find in San Francisco at an affordable price, so she decided to stay put.
As Pat burrowed in bed with piles of blankets, any attempt to sleep was thwarted by screams, sobs, and moans coming from upstairs. The last straw was a large blood-colored stain that appeared directly above her on the ceiling and then disappeared. She immediately called the police and her landlord.
The hippies were promptly ejected from Apartment 3. They had made a mess of the place, and all their furniture was in a pile in the middle of the room. It seems they attempted to burn it in some sort of ritualistic way. Soon after the move, the doorbell began buzzing at all hours of the night, and to Pat’s horror, she discovered faces pressed up against her windows. The following morning, security guards were stationed outside her residence.
Pat was slated to begin a whirlwind book tour for How To Be A Party Girl the following week. She hoped the tour would give her some distance from her life in San Francisco, and perhaps initiate a fresh start upon her return.
Pat returned to Lombard Street to discover that Mary Lou had put a large bouquet of flowers in the front room. A nice gesture, but she felt the place was still cold and gloomy. She began having headaches, backaches, and dizzy spells, which often became so severe that she had to lie down to keep from fainting. The doctor prescribed her some little white pills that helped the pain, but not the dizziness.
Pat had been dating a man who lived several blocks from her Lombard residence, and there was a perfect view of her place from his 33rd-floor penthouse. She began sleeping at his pad a few nights a week, and her health seemed to bounce back to normal. Her dog stayed with her, wanting no part of the Lombard residence.
Mary Lou had been staying at the Lombard house when Pat was there, but was occasionally there alone. She braved the unbearable cold, but any type of supernatural force had no interest in her…. or so she thought.
On June 21, 1969, Mary Lou Ward was found dead in Pat’s bed, a victim of a violent fire. She was found in a prone position, face down, burned beyond recognition, with charred lower extremities. The cause of the fire was never determined. Mary Lou didn’t smoke. The door was locked from the inside, and the bedroom was the only room impacted by fire. She was apparently dead before the fire started, but toxicology reports came back and nothing suspicious was found in her blood. The cause of death was undetermined.
In the ensuing months, racked with grief, Pat tried to find answers. Was Mary Lou murdered? Pat moved in with her beau, but employed a psychic to have a look at the cursed apartment and conduct a complete investigation. The results were intriguing. The psychic concluded that this was a supernaturally “active” house, and suggested Pat stay as far away as possible. The report cited areas of coldness in the apartment and the smell of smoke in certain areas. The report also included several creepy photographs of areas of the house with blurbs of ghostly light, particularly in areas that Pat’s dog seemed most afraid.
Pat continued her research by investigating the history of the home. It was originally a large house, but was split up into apartments in 1949. There had also been at least four tragic, untimely, and unexplained deaths associated with the house. All of these deaths were unmarried females.
Whenever I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll often stop and gawk at the monolithic edifice beyond the gate that is 1000 Lombard Street. As beautiful as it is, there is something unsettling about the place, especially at night. As far as I know, there were no more ghostly shenanigans at the house after Pat finally vacated it for good. The skeptic in me tries to rationalize and explain away all that took place there, but there is no explanation for the death of Mary Lou Ward and the others. The only answer I can come up with is that if you are a single woman, 1000 Lombard is indeed haunted.
Montandon, Pat The Intruders (1975) Coward, McCann, & Geoghegan, Inc. New York SBN 698-10636-9
SF Memoirs: Pat Montandon, San Francisco’s Golden Girl SFist.com, May 2, 2012
The House On Crooked Street: A review of The Intruders, by Pat Montandon The San Francisco Examiner, February 6, 2010
Weirde, Dr. Dr. Weird’s Weird Tours: A Guide To Mysterious San Francisco (1994) Barrett and James Books ISBN 0964355906