October marks the beginning of Fall holiday festivities, including the “scariest” holiday of them all: Halloween! To celebrate, we have a list of synonyms for the word “scary.” Use this vocabulary to describe the costumes you see around Halloween, and you will be known as a master of words!

Synonyms for “scary”

  • terrifying
  • frightening
  • alarming
  • chilling
  • creepy
  • eerie
  • horrifying
  • spooky
  • bloodcurdling
  • hair-raising
  • horrendous
  • spine-chilling
  • unnerving


Celebrating Halloween while studying English in the United States

Americans celebrate Halloween in a number of ways. Both adults and children enjoy dressing up in costume: children usually Trick or Treat on Halloween night, while adults have house parties or go to Halloween-themed events at bars and clubs. Adults and children alike enjoy visiting haunted houses that are set up during the month (check out San Diego’s incredible Haunted Trail through Balboa Park for an unforgettable haunted house experience!).

Haunted Trail
Are you brave enough to go through Balboa Park’s Haunted Trail?

Many also enjoying celebrating “all things scary” by going to local places that are considered haunted. There are plenty of these sites in San Diego and San Francisco. If you are brave enough, check them out!


San Francisco’s Most Haunted Places

In 1851, civil engineer and local judge J.P. Manrow built a hour on Larkin and Chestnut Streets. Manrow reported paranormal activities at the house, including sounds of tapping and knocking. In 1856, guests at Manrow’s house confirmed these paranormal activities when they witnessed sugar being emptied into salt bowls, heard knockings, saw sofa cushions and books and chairs being thrown, had their hair pulled, and saw a goblin. The events were published in a local newspaper, and to this day the house remains known as one of the most haunted places in San Francisco.

Building anything on a cemetery is like asking to be haunted, so it is no surprise that the San Francisco Art Institute and Trinity Episcopal Church, both built atop graveyards, are said to be haunted. Ghost sightings, unexplained sounds, and cold spots keep the rumors going. Similarly, the Neptune Society Columarium, which was a part of Odd Fellows Cemetery, is reported as having “uninvited guests.”

It looks peaceful . . . but don’t be fooled!

Several specific rooms of buildings in San Francisco are also said to be haunted. Room 410 of the beautiful Queen Anne Hotel is said to be haunted by Mary Lake, a woman who inspired the name for Miss Mary Lake’s School for Girls; workers at the Presidio Officers’ Club (used as the Visitor Center for the National Park Service) have reported seeing men dressed in Army uniforms knocking on doors; the ghost of a ticket attendant who was murdered in a ticket booth at Union Square’s Curran Theater is said to appear in the theater’s lobby mirror; room 207 at the Hotel Union Square is famous for being haunted. . . the list goes on and on!


San Diego’s Most Haunted Places

It may be known as a city of surf and sun, but there is a “dark” side to America’s Finest City! Some of its most famous landmarks are also places of mystery and horror.
On the corner of Carlsbad Boulevard and Carlsbad Village Drive is the beautiful  (and supposedly haunted) Carlsbad mansion (pictured above). According to Paranormalistics:

Tenants say there are multiple spirts in and around the property. Strange unexplained noises are often heard at all hours of the day. A delivery driver was walking up the stairs to an office on the top floor. He passed an oddly dressed little girl sitting near the top of the stairs who smiled at him. When he delivered the package he told the two people in the office “cute kid”. They said there where no kids around. The driver described the young girl who he stated was dressed in old fashioned clothing.They looked at each other and then told him that he had seen one of the ghosts they have around here. Her spirit has been seen many times, throughout the mansion. Other apparitions include an adult woman who is seen looking out the very top windows of the building. People walking near the property have reported seeing a group of transparent little girls playing . One man stated “I saw a group of ghost children playing games like ”ring around the rosey” near the courtyard fountain of the Carlsbad Village Faire on a early Sunday morning.”

That’s some scary stuff!

Several other locations in Carlsbad have been reported to be haunted as well: some claim to have seen ghosts and heard strange noises at the Carlsbad Train Station, and the Carlsbad Lagoon (which is across from what was once Oceanside’s Buena Vista Cemetery) is also said to have spirits. Locals claim this is because the bodies from the cemetery were disinterred and moved to another cemetery after the land was purchased for developing. A worker at the Carlsbad Plaza Cinema (now closed) claimed to see a trashcan rolling up the hallway and another heard whispers in theater.
Workers at the Del Mar Fairgrounds have also reported eerie events: for years, Fairground employees have claimed to experience paranormal activity on the fifth floor of the grandstand. From furniture mysteriously moving to doors opening and shutting on their own, it appears this place is haunted by someone or something!


Perhaps San Diego’s most famous haunted location is also one of its most famous landmarks. The Hotel del Coronado, the beautiful wooden hotel located on beach Coronado Beach, is said to be haunted by the ghost of Kate Morgan, a guest from 1892 who checked in to the hotel . . . but never checked out. Kate is said to have spent five days at the hotel, waiting for her love to join her. When he did not, she took her own life, and has spent the years wandering the halls ever since. Read all about Kate on the hotel’s website.


Another famous haunted destination in San Diego is the Whaley House (pictured above). Titled the “Most Haunted House in America” by Life Magazine, the house (which was built in 1857) is said to be haunted by several beings: the ghost of a man who was hanged on the property, and the house’s original owners, the Whaleys. Today the house is a museum and offers ghost tours: it has also been featured on several nation-wide TV shows about paranormal activity.


Would you like to get into the scary spirit? Check out the local Haunted Tours in San Diego and San Francisco and make sure to visit a local haunted house during October! Happy Halloween to all of our students who have the opportunity to experience Halloween while being an international student in San Francisco or San Diego!