Peterhof Castle was the strange home of Dr. Peter Wilhem Poulson, on Lynde Street near Fruitvale Avenue. Besides being a dentist and homeopathic doctor, Poulson was also into mysticism and a founder of The Order of the Black Cross. He appeared in public as Count Peter Poulson of Peterhof Castle. Followers would meet at the castle in monastic garb for strange rituals. 1

Poulson and his wife Edna Snell Poulson divorced in the 1890s, and Peter claimed the spirits had told him to wed Alice Staples of San Francisco (whose mother was said to be a clairvoyant.) Peter gave much of the property including Peterhof Castle to Edna when they divorced. Or maybe it was his first wife Elizabeth? In any event, Peter moved back to Iowa, but in 1895 some time after Poulson's death, Mrs. Lizzie Carter (Hedley) appeared in Oakland, claiming that Poulson had left Peterhof Castle to her. Members of The Order suggested the will was delivered via spirit message. 2

"Mrs. Poulson, the widow of the Count, is not a believer in the supernatural and has intrusted her legal affairs to Judge Gibson. The Judge says the spirit will may be produced in court, but says that it will never go to probate." 2

Charles F. Whitton, a court reporter, ignored all the strange rumors and leased the home in November, 1895. 4

In 1897, Judge Ogden finally ruled that Peterhof was the property of the Count's widow, Elizabeth Peterhof. 3,5 Perhaps there was some truth to the dire warnings of Black Cross follower Primate Smith (who lived on an 'ark' in the estuary), as Peterhof Castle burned to the ground in November, 1901. The fire department was called, but there was no water available to fight the fire. 1,6

Links and References

  1. Mystic Castle Now in Ashes San Francisco Call November 30, 1901
  2. Mrs. Carter Arrives San Francisco Call August 31, 1895
  3. Curtain Falls on Peterhof San Francisco Call February 14, 1897
  4. To Dwell in a Castle San Francisco Call November 22, 1895
  5. Gets Peterhof Oakland Tribune January 29, 1897
  6. Count's Castle is Destroyed Oakland Tribune November 30, 1901