The Whaley House – The Most Haunted House in America

I recently had to go to San Diego on business and being the paranormal addict that I am, I made sure to carve out some time to visit some haunted spots around the city. I originally booked a ghost tour so I could get more bang for my buck, but on the day I was supposed to go, they cancelled the tour. Ghost deprivation didn’t sit well with me, and as I stormed off to find a place to eat, I stumbled upon one of San Diego’s most famous haunted locations : The Whaley House!

Imagine my surprise when I saw the sign outside the old storefront. Here I was in Old Town (the best place on earth for great Mexican food), a stranger in a strange land with no ghostly tour van to take me around, and I just happen to find what is probably one of the top ten haunted locations in the country. Tacos could wait.

Now, I’m not going to go into the whole history of the Whaley House. You can get that right here. But briefly, it was built in 1857 when San Diego was a fledgling western town by Thomas Whaley. During it’s time, the old brick house was a mercantile, courthouse, playhouse, and site of public gallows as well the spot where criminal Yankee Jim Robinson was caught and hanged, with Thomas Whaley in attendance. And we can’t leave out that one of his daughter’s committed suicide on the property. It’s a location rife with sadness, extreme hopes and joy, bitter justice and broken dreams.

The ghosts that reportedly inhabit the house are numerous and even extend to dogs and cats. So, who are these unsettled spirits that roam the creaking floors? Let’s take a tour.

When you first walk in, you see the old mercantile counter, complete with antique goods. On the counter you’ll find 2 books. One that outlines the history of the house and the Whaley family, and another that contains photos of supposed ghosts that have been taken by visitors over the years. More on that later.

Right next to it is the old courthouse. This is where a woman in white has been seen, as well as ethereal Native Americans and Confederate soldiers. Mind you, when I went, it was a sunny day and the house felt as benign as a house can be, but I could feel the weight of history around me. Any place with a rich past has a capacity to become a beacon for lost souls.

Next, I went upstairs. There have been numerous reports of visitors feeling like they’re being choked when they are on the ninth step. Could this be the presence of Yankee Jim, making sure folks feel the pain he experienced as he took his last breath? I will admit, the staircase was pretty eerie, even during the day.

 At the top of the stairs was the old playhouse, still set up like it’s ready for the next show to go on. The man who was responsible for creating this area died right after the first show. I was told by one of the docents that furniture on the stage has been moved, with chairs being swapped out and lecterns moving off the stage entirely. A young, new docent was in the room reading while I was in the theater and I asked her if she ever saw or heard anything odd. Just a couple of months into her employment, she said she hadn’t…yet. I got the feeling she wouldn’t mind a little otherwordly show to open on the stage.

Next, I explored the various bedrooms where the spirits of the Whaley family, from Thomas to his wife, Anna, their children and a host of other unidentified wraiths have been seen. Many of the rooms have a plastic barrier that keeps people from going inside. That also means reflections off the surface can produce odd, but entirely natural phenomena. Notice the little dolls. For some reason, old toys give me the willies.

Then I came upon the parlor where Anna seems to spend a great deal of her time. This was one room that wasn’t blocked out, though you couldn’t walk inside. I can easily picture Anna sitting at the piano, playing a sad tune, mourning the loss of her children.

Exiting the house, I had to photograph the upstairs window where many people have seen a man staring out at them, and not always with a smile on his face. Many believe this is old Thomas, probably wondering why all these folks are tramping around his house.

Now, I will say that as a museum, The Whaley House is a must see. The historical society has done a good job keeping it in shape and the self guided tour was set up perfectly. You can take two minutes or two hours. It all depends on you. And it’s only a few bucks. You can’t beat that. You buy your tickets in the store right next door where you can pick up some Whaley House merchandise when you’re done.

I did speak to one of the more experienced docents and she was wonderful enough to go through the ghost photo book I mentioned earlier. She pointed out photos that were obviously nothing more than tricks of the light or camera lens, and others that were truly unexplained. She even took me to the spots in the house where the pictures were taken so I could get a clearer perspective and see how things could be misinterpreted or beyond doubt. I can’t thank her enough for the extra TLC.

Now for some odds and ends. If you book in advance, you can do a nighttime paranormal investigation. I wished I knew about that, but there’s always next time. As I was taking pictures, I noticed what I thought was a phantom face in this one –  Can’t you see it in within the upper right of the front facing wheel? Well, it turns out it was the sun reflecting off the mercantile counter, through the spokes and onto the wall. It only took 10 seconds to figure it out, but I wonder how many people would declare it a ghost photo without a second thought.

So, although I didn’t encounter anyone from the other side, I can cross this off my paranormal bucket list.  Like I said, book ahead of time and see if you can get into one of the night investigations.

I’ll leave you with this, possibly the creepiest thing I saw the entire day. Here’s a Whaley family member photo that will haunt you well into the night. Pleasant dreams!

OK, I came, I saw, but I didn’t experience anything particularly spooky or paranormal. I know that tons of people have been there during the day and night. Have you? Has anyone had a ‘ghostly’ moment at the Whaley House? Come on and give us goosebumps!

In the mood for all things ghostly and horrific? Check out Evil Eternal and Forest of Shadows and get your goosebumps on.

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About Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter Shea is the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. His novels, Forest of Shadows, Evil Eternal , Swamp Monster Massacre , Sinister Entity, Hell Hole, The Waiting and Island of the Forbidden are published through Samhain Publishing’s horror line. Hell Hole was named Horror Novel Reviews #1 horror novel of 2014. His first thriller novel, The Montauk Monster, was released June, 2014 as a Pinnacle paperback, and was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the best reads of the summer. His follow up Pinnacle novel, Tortures of the Damned, a post apocalyptic thriller, will be out July, 2015. That will be followed up by his latest cryptid tale, The Dover Demon, in the fall through Samhain. His horror short story collection, Asylum Scrawls, is available as an e-book, straightjacket not included. Hunter is an amateur cryptozoologist, having written wild, fictional tales about Bigfoot, The Montauk Monster, The Dover Demon and many new creatures to come. A copy of his book, The Montauk Monster, is currently on display in the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME. He wrote his first novel with the express desire to work only with editor Don D’Auria at Dorchester (Leisure Horror). He submitted his novel to Don and only Don, unagented, placed on the slush pile. He is proof that dedicated writers can be rescued from no man’s land. He now works with Don, along with several other agents and publishers, having published over ten books in just four years. Hunter is proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. It is one of the most watched horror video podcasts in the world. Monster Men is a light hearted approach to dark subjects. Hunter and Jack explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun. They often interview authors, cryptid and ghost hunters, directors and anyone else living in the horror lane. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to get Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits. His daughters have also gotten the horror bug, assisting him with research, story ideas and illustrations that can be seen in magazines such as Dark Dossier.

7 responses to “The Whaley House – The Most Haunted House in America”

  1. the happy horror writer says :

    “Notice the little dolls. For some reason, old toys give me the willies.” Oh, gosh, I always thought it was just me. I’m actually relieved now! :)

    I LOVE haunted houses. I go in for the ghost tour almost no matter where I am, even if they are always a little more cheese than ectoplasm. I have had many, many direct supernatural experiences, and there’s something about the otherworldly that’s addictive.

    Glad you stumbled upon the Whaley House & thanks for sharing your visit there with all of us!

    • Hunter Shea says :

      Normally, dolls and toys have no effect on me, but when they’re very old and in an old house, well, that’s a different story. I’m just like you with haunted houses. Even the cheesy, quasi-fake ones are fun!

  2. Angel says :

    I was there the end of Feb….beginning of March…the hair at the nape of my neck was..not pulled..or tugged..it just felt as if someone gently ran their thumb and for finger down a couple stands of hair…my hair was down so needless to say for this to happen by a ‘live human’ they would have to go thru the rest of my hair and I would have felt it…I wouldn’t have thought much about it…but it happened not just once..but twice…And it was at the end of the tour by the parlor…mind u only one person was begins me..he had his hands in his pockets the whole time….it was an awesome experience..even if I did get mad at him and tell him to quit messing with my hair…it was a little bit later that I realized it couldn’t have been him… :-)

    • Hunter Shea says :

      Now that’s creepy. When it comes to ghosts, I have a ‘you can look but don’t touch’ policy. :) Kinda cool to have a literal brush with the paranormal.

      • reivtrv says :

        When I got it “touched” the second time and thought it was the person I was with..I was literally getting mad..I was trying to listen to what was being said…Then once we left and I got to thinking about it and he “SWORE” he didn’t do it..there was no WAY he could have touched my hair where it was touched without going THROUGH my hair..I would have felt that..lol..It was actually really cool and still kinda gives me the chills…!!! ;)

  3. Joseph Pinto says :

    Freaking awesome Hunter! I gotta get out there sometime myself

  4. Connie Westbroot says :

    We went on the 4th of July weekend and I was so excited to see the house. When we were in the Store area, I began to sweet terribly and felt really nauseous. The funny thing is so did the young lady that I went with, but when we left the room it all went away. Crazy I know but it is true. I also took a picture of Mr. Whaley’s desk and there is a foggy figure next to it, I did take it twice like the lady said and in the second one it was gone. What a wonderful experience.

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