Halloween Night in the Castro Neighborhood of San Francisco
A Nostalgic Look Back


This was the official website for the 2008 SF premiere Halloween night event in the Castro neighborhood.

Beginning in the 1940s as a neighborhood costume contest, this event became known as the leading Halloween celebration in the U.S., where costumes ranged from "the outrageous to the spectacular. By 2002, the Halloween crowds had grown to the hundreds of thousands and became difficult to control. In 2006, nine people were wounded when a shooter opened fire at the celebration. Halloween in the Castro was canceled. For the next few years a heavy police presence kept the event from happening spontaneously. From 2007 through 2009 police were deployed in the Castro on Halloween, with the police press announcing a "zero tolerance policy for public drinking and other crime. By 2010, the city had cracked down completely on Halloween in the Castro.
Content is from the site's 2008 archived pages as well as other outside sources.




2008 SF Halloween Free Live Event San Francisco Halloween
Interviews with the key members who are bringing you San Francisco's premiere Halloween night event!!




Donna Sachet
8:00 to 8:10

Greg & Fernando - from 92.7
8:10 to 8:15

8:15 to 8:20

8:25 to 8:45

Caroline Lund
8:45 to 9:05

Martha Wash
9:10 to 9:30

Christian George
9:30 to 9:50

High Decibles
9:50 to 10:10

John Santos
10:10 to 10:50

Latin All Stars
10:50 to 11:30



from 4pm to 9pm

Stages sponsored by




Bottle rock

Youth band








ACOUSTIC SACRED MUSIC [Singing Bear & Friends]

















"This was a wonderful event that we all looked forward to and were dismayed at the problems created by a few jerks that caused it to be cancelled and heavily policed. I remember the incredible outfits that some of the participants created including a goat superman, a walking martini, and my fav, Lassie. The woman who dressed up as Lassie looked like a dog sleeping in a dog bed, but walking around with magical feet below. I interviewed her for La Prensa and she told me that Lassie was her favorite tv show when she was a kid, so she had to be in her 70's. She created her outfit using an actual dog bed, ordered from GoodNightDog.com, then she sewed her costume onto it in a very clever way so that her Lassie mask appeared to be lying in the bed. The dog bed she used was a round pillow style bed with a cool print fabric. You can see some examples of these beds at this online store. She also amazed me with her knowledge of San Francisco history and we spoke for over an hour after the parade about the origins of the street cars and some of the arcane laws from the 1800's. I really miss this event and hope that the organizers get their act together to recreate the fun at some future date. I'll definitely support that effort!" RG Rayner


Halloween in the Castro
Halloween night on Castro Street, San Francisco, Oct 31, 2000. Copyright shunya.net.



San Francisco on Halloween Turns Violent; 10 Are Injured


SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 1 — The authorities here were still searching Wednesday for two groups of young people whose name-calling escalated into gunfire at a public Halloween celebration, injuring 10 people.

The violence erupted at the end of a street party in the Castro neighborhood, the city’s famed gay district, an annual event attended by tens of thousands of costumed partiers. Sgt. Neville Gittens, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department, said the problems started at about 10:40 p.m., just after the police had begun to urge crowds to leave the area, which was blocked from vehicle traffic and had a stage for performances.

Sergeant Gittens said two large groups of people about 15 to 25 years of age began tossing insults back and forth. A member of one group then hit a member of the other group with a bottle, a gun was pulled, and shots were fired.

“The cops heard the shots,” said Sergeant Gittens. “They were that close.”

Nine people were hit by bullets, including bystanders; one woman was trampled in the chaos that followed, as people crouched in fear or fled to side streets. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening, the police said, though two people were hospitalized.

Sergeant Gittens said there was no indication that the shooting was a hate crime or gang related. No arrests have been made.

The shooting was no doubt frustrating for city officials who had taken over the once impromptu event after several people were stabbed in 2002. Law enforcement officials said they had hundreds of officers and deputies on hand on Tuesday, and the authorities had checked bags and confiscated a variety of objects, including fake swords, plastic pitchforks and a life-size wooden crucifix. But no metal detectors were used at checkpoints, nor were people patted down, steps that Sheriff Michael Hennessey said would have aggravated congestion in already packed city streets.

“There was more security there than any other outdoor public event in San Francisco,” Mr. Hennessey said. “It’s just one jerk with a gun who had an enemy there.”

While Sergeant Gittens said he believed the culprits were San Francisco residents, on Wednesday many in the Castro neighborhood were blaming party-happy outsiders for the shooting. A fact sheet on the city’s Web site before this year’s Halloween celebration essentially disinvited those from outside the city.

“This is a year of transition for Halloween in the Castro,” the announcement said. “For this reason, we encourage individuals from outside San Francisco to make plans to attend clubs or entertainment venues in their areas,” adding that the celebration was a “neighborhood event that seeks to be safe and fun.”

But neighborhood residents said it was often none of the above, with some saying they felt menaced by the Halloween crowds, some of whom were drinking despite a ban on alcohol on the street.

“It’s not a neighborhood event anymore, and it hasn’t been for a long time,” said Bill Ambrunn, 44, who lives near the shooting site and works for a nonprofit organization. “I’m gay, and gay people don’t really go. It’s not a welcoming environment; it’s almost all people from out of town that come to gawk.”

Bevan Dufty, who represents the neighborhood on the city’s board of supervisors, said he had met with Mayor Gavin Newsom and police officials on Wednesday to try to figure out why “a residential neighborhood should bear the brunt of a regional street party.”

“All the options are on the table,” said Mr. Dufty, including canceling next year’s event. “What worse am I going to have happen than have 10 people shot?”

For others, the violence only led to laments about the old days of the Halloween celebration in the Castro district, when it was a raucous neighborhood affair dominated by drag queens and others fond of fantastic costumes.

“The Castro is a place of civility, but you get these people coming in who don’t understand the civility and the tolerance of the whole place and they act like fools,” said Vince Quackenbush, 55, a teacher and longtime neighborhood resident. “You know, if someone’s wearing a dress, he’s fun and funny. It’s not something you deride.”

Explosion in San Jose

SAN JOSE, Calif., Nov. 1 (AP) — An explosion shattered a window at offices for the PayPal division of eBay on Tuesday night, forcing dozens of employees to evacuate.

A PayPal spokeswoman, Amanda Pires, said Wednesday that the company had not received any threats, but declined to comment on the investigation. The blast hit the first floor of the company’s network operations center. Business was not disrupted, but the complex was closed Wednesday and cordoned off by police tape.

About 1,900 eBay and PayPal employees who work in buildings on the campus where the explosion occurred were asked to work from home or at another eBay campus in San Jose, Ms. Pires said.


No Castro Halloween this year, and no official S.F. alternative

san francisco
By Wyatt Buchanan Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Great Pumpkin will skip San Francisco this year.

City officials said Wednesday that there will be no official Halloween celebration anywhere in San Francisco in October - not in the Castro neighborhood, the traditional home of the event, and not at a parking lot near AT&T Park, which had been considered as an alternate site.

"There will be no party," said Audrey Joseph, president of the city's Entertainment Commission.

Officials had been quietly working on plans to snuff out the Castro event, where a shooting last year injured nine people. The goal had been to instead hold a large outdoor concert near the ballpark. But the concert promoter has pulled out of the effort, and there is not enough time to find another, Joseph said.

But officials are still trying to prevent any festivities in the Castro. On Wednesday, Supervisor Bevan Dufty sent a letter to 110 owners of bars, restaurants and stores in the Castro, asking them to close shop on Halloween night to discourage partygoers.

The Halloween event was marred by violence last year after the shooting near the main stage on Market Street. Another person was injured as the crowd fled the area. Dufty and other city leaders had already been concerned about violence at the event, including the potential for attacks on members of the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population.

Halloween traditionally has been a major community event - sometimes referred to as the "gay Christmas" - but Dufty said that era has passed.

"It's not a holiday in the Castro. It's a night in which the neighborhood is overrun by people who come to gawk, not celebrate, and unfortunately it turns into gang night out in the Castro," he said.

To quell the Castro event, which draws several hundred thousand people, no roads will be closed, no barriers will be erected and no portable bathrooms will be set up, Dufty said. Police will be out in numbers akin to last Halloween, but they will be patrolling with "zero tolerance" for anyone breaking the law, he said.

Dufty has commitments from five businesses in the Castro to close on Halloween night, and he will try to persuade more to do so at a community meeting in the neighborhood next week.

One business that will close that night is Café Flore, one of the neighborhood's most well-known establishments.

"It's normally a big-money night, but it's just too crazy," said Doug Forrester, who manages the cafe, which is a few yards from where the shooting occurred last year.

The city is working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to encourage people to support business that agree to close by patronizing the establishments on other nights. The city also wants to promote private events at museums and other locations. The city also plans to hire a public relations firm to put out the message within a 100-mile radius that there will be no large, public event in San Francisco.

City leaders had hoped to offer an alternative event to the Castro. The popular singer Pink had given a verbal commitment to play a show at the other venue, and there also were plans for a motocross event there, along with DJs and other bands.

But the promoter the city was working with on the event, Big Billy Inc., decided the Halloween party would be too much to handle, as it is putting on the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park earlier that month.

Also, neighbors in Mission Bay, Potrero Hill and other areas around the ballpark had complained to the city that they had not been consulted on the plans for the concert near their homes.

Castro area residents have similarly complained about the lack of public involvement in Halloween planning. After last year's violence, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Dufty announced they would convene a task force to analyze the problems and organize a 2007 event.

That task force never met because it was unanimous among city department heads - and residents who contacted those departments - that there should be no Castro Halloween, thus eliminating the need for a task force, said Nathan Ballard, Newsom's spokesman.

Despite that opposition to a Castro Halloween, some residents in the area do think the party could go on with more planning.

"Other cities do this kind of thing all the time, and you don't hear about excessive violence, you don't hear about gay bashing," said Alix Rosenthal, who unsuccessfully challenged Dufty during his re-election campaign last year and made the Halloween event a central issue. She said she thinks that the city has not put enough resources into the event to make it successful.

And Café Flore's Forrester said he is curious to see how many people still show up in the Castro.




Peaceful night for the Castro

November 1, 2008
By Matt Keller and Don Sanchez


It was a happy Halloween for police in San Francisco determined to keep the Castro from becoming party central. The message is clear for outsiders to stay out.

At the city's official Halloween party, "Home for Halloween," it was a family-friendly event with food, live music, booths, and free masks. There was also heavy police protection at the location to promote safety.

"The deal is, last year was the first year for the Home for Halloween Campaign which encouraged people to find Halloween events in their own neighborhood. So this is the second year of that to discourage people from overwhelming any one neighborhood, specifically the Castro and this is the first big event to draw crowds away from the Castro," said David Perry, Home for Halloween organizer.

City officials wanted the Castro to be a ghost town Friday night, without the spirits and laughs. The street was open, along with the normal bars and businesses. This was the second year the party street was closed, after thousands of people jammed into the space in 2006 and it erupted in violence, with gunfire and stabbings. That's when the city pulled the plug.

"It's a shame really sad and they're taking away very few traditions San Francisco has," said Victor Avila, from San Francisco.

"San Francisco has always been a Halloween and costume city," said Michelle Cross, from Halloween Headquarters.
"The most popular items would be?" asked ABC7's Don Sanchez. 
"Definitely Sarah Palin," said Cross.

Wigs to go and pirates are always popular. Kids went trick-or-treating in neighborhoods where they'll found a few haunted houses. Tony McCullom has been decorating his Mill Valley home for eight years.

"They get really scared. For the little ones we keep it really mellow, but when the kids get older, like seven and up, that's when we bring out the really scary stuff," said McCullom.

The party at the Giant's ball park got more adult as the night went on and yes, following tradition, there was a drag queen contest.

Police in the Castro

A San Francisco police lieutenant said things went well, there was no violence, and it was no different than a normal Friday night in the Castro.

It's been two years since the Castro was open for business on Halloween night. Violence at the 2006 event sparked a new citywide campaign called Home For Halloween, encouraging people to celebrate in their own neighborhoods.

"There's obviously more police presence, but they seem nice and they're just here to make sure nothing happens. And people seem mellow and we hope it stays that way," said John Casey, a Castro resident.

Six hundred extra police officers were spread throughout the city, many of them in the Castro, walking through the crowds making sure their presence is felt. They also set up barriers to keep pedestrians on the sidewalks because all the streets are open.

"We're here. We're not going to tolerate any drunk in public, any violent activity, anyone breaking the law, we're going to be here to enforce the law tonight," said Capt. David Lazar, with the San Francisco Police Department.

San Francisco tried to get some of the crowd to go to the first ever Halloween Festival an AT&T Park. It's billed as a family friendly event, but city officials say turnout was less than what they had hoped for.

However, with more than 100 events around San Francisco and the Bay Area, it could be people actually followed the advice of the Home For Halloween campaign and stayed in their neighborhoods.

"This is a year where you can go to North Beach, Fishermen's Warf, the Mission, South of Market and there are a lot of clubs and restaurants having events," said Bevan Dufty, a San Francisco supervisor.

Residents from the Castro are hopeful the other events in the city will keep trouble makers away, but despite the city wide effort some are skipping the Halloween celebrations all together.

"A lot of locals anticipated people coming from elsewhere to start trouble, so they leave town or stay inside," said David, a Castro resident.

There was one arrest for someone drunk in public, which caused a minor traffic delay. As for transportation, there was no extra service on Muni or BART.

Overall, it was a peaceful night in San Francisco.




Where You Do and Don’t Want to be on Halloween in SF

October 30th, 2009

Halloween in San Francisco is an interesting holiday. On the one hand, this is a city where nearly every resident has a closet filled with costumes that are used at various events all throughout the year. These people often outdo themselves at Halloween which makes San Francisco a terrific city for people who really want to get dressed up to party amidst a bunch of frivolous adults. However, there’s a mark of ugliness that hangs over this holiday in San Francisco as well. The Castro has long been considered a top neighborhood for Halloween parties and yet it’s also been the site of several Halloween fights, riots and shootings. So, do you want to do Halloween in San Francisco? Absolutely but where you do and don’t want to be on this holiday depends on what you’re looking for.

The Castro on Halloween

For many years, the place to be on Halloween was in the Castro. This gay nightlife section of the city really knew how to do Halloween right. People would dress up in elaborate costumes and hop from bar to bar to show off what they were wearing. Sometimes the streets were shut down for a city-sponsored Halloween block party. But then things started to get too crazy here. The crowds got too big and the city started to lose control over the event. In 2006, there was a shooting at the event. After that, the city stopped sponsoring Halloween in the area. Many bars and stores had to close down early on Halloween to prevent such a problem from occurring again. The Castro just isn’t the place that it used to be for Halloween. In 2009, bars will be allowed to be open but there will no block party and it’s expected to be a relatively quiet night on the streets of this neighborhood in comparison with years past. Is it safe to spend Halloween here? Probably but it’s not the top choice for a lot of people for Halloween 2009. If you’re sad about the fact that the Castro’s Halloween just isn’t the same as it used to be then you might want to spend your Halloween evening checking out the 8 pm showing of an opera called Halloween in the Castro which humorously describes all of the things that went wrong for this holiday here.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a San Francisco resident then your best bet is probably to find a local house party to attend. All of the good events in the city cost a bit of money plus you have to pay for your drinks (although some of them are well worth the cost if you have the money to spend). If you’re a visitor and a house party is out of the question then any of the events listed here should make you happy with your San Francisco Halloween.



Remembering the Castro's zany Halloween street party

By Douglas Zimmerman Saturday, October 31, 2015

Not so long ago, San Francisco was known for hosting one of the most spectacular and zany events in the country -- the annual Castro Halloween street party.

Every October 31st, attendees would head down to the Castro with the wildest and craziest outfits to celebrate Halloween. The event, which started in 1948 as a Children's costume contest and parade gradually transformed into a LGBT celebration and then a huge street party along Castro and Market streets.

As the event continued to grow each year (attendance was estimated in the hundreds of thousands by the turn of century), many in the neighborhood questioned the continued viability of hosting a safe event in the Castro. A shooting at the party in 2006 forced the city to re-examine the event and it was eventually shut down by the police in 2009.