I know it’s still summer, but horror season is fast approaching. I just added 4 new events where you can find me either hawking my wares or talking about the paranormal. Check out the latest on the Signings & Appearances tab. And if you know of an event or location that you would like me to come to, let me know.
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!
It’s been a while since I posted an original story here on the old blog and chain. This one is for my sister and brother-in-law, right down to the Cowboys jersey. This is a little flash fiction piece I call “Dinner With Ghost Hunters”. Hope you enjoy it. Please comment away!
It had long been a rule of Tom’s not to go to dinner parties hosted by people he either didn’t know or didn’t like. He gripped the steering wheel a little too hard on the ride to the Gundersons, angry at Carolyn for ignoring one of his cardinal rules.
As they pulled into the driveway, he said, “Okay, call me when you’re done and I’ll pick you up.”
Carolyn playfully slapped his arm, ignoring his discomfort. “At least you’ll get a free meal out of it.”
“Yeah, at what cost?”
Tom was so busy fuming about the night ahead that he didn’t notice the parked van until he walked smack into the rear double doors.
Carolyn was already at the front door, pinwheeling one hand to urge him forward. He joined her side, a tad woozy and holding his nose. Carolyn paid him no mind.
Missy Gunderson answered the door wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey and denim shorts. Hank Gunderson came up behind her smiling in his blue Giants jersey.
“Hey guys, come on in!,” Missy said. “We were hoping you could stay after dinner and watch the game. Hank just got one of those huge plasma TVs and is dying to show it off to someone.”
Casual dress? Plasma TV? Football?
Maybe I’ve been wrong about all of this, Tom thought.
After a round of introductions, Hank led them to the dining room for cocktails. As they walked past the living room, Tom noticed three men and one woman sitting in front of a folding table loaded with small monitors and computers. The quartet never looked their way.
“Don’t mind them,” Hank said to Tom. “They’ve been here for a week and we barely even notice them anymore.”
“Who are they?” Tom asked. Carolyn shot him a cautionary look. Don’t pry her eyes pleaded.
Missy laughed and said, “You’re not gonna believe this, but they’re from that TV show, Ghost Trackers. Hank thinks this house is haunted, so one night after watching the show he sent them an email and, well, here they are. I was dead set against it but they paid us some money, so Tom gets his TV and I get my new laptop.”
“And most importantly, I get some answers,” Hank added.
“Sounds exciting,” Carolyn said.
Missy leaned towards Tom and Carolyn and said, “Trust me, it’s pretty boring stuff. They do a lot of walking around and looking at monitors. I don’t know how they stay awake.”
Hank walked in carrying a tray of margaritas and they settled into the dining room. And true to Hank’s word, they soon forgot about the Ghost Trackers team in the next room. Tom quietly admitted to himself that he actually liked the Gundersons.
Two pleasant hours and one delicious steak dinner later, Tom was startled by the sound of high pitched beeping coming from the living room. That was followed by the shuffling of feet and excited conversation.
“What’s going on?” Tom said.
Hank peered into the living room, his arm frozen in place, drink halfway to his lips. “I have no idea.”
One of the team members rushed into the dining room and turned off the lights. “Get a camera in here!” he shouted.
The rest of the team followed, one holding a little handheld device that whined nervously, another with something that looked like a radar gun and two with large cameras propped on their shoulders.
“It’s right over there,” the woman shouted, pointing towards the area behind Tom.
“Flash!” someone shouted and a camera flash went off, momentarily blinding everyone.
“What’s over here?” Tom asked. He was promptly shushed by the woman.
“Do you see that mist, just over his head?” one of the cameramen whispered.
Tom jerked his head around but only saw darkness.
“Temperature’s dropping. Down five degrees, seven, ten degrees.”
“EMF is spiking at five. It’s right here, I can feel it.”
“Whoa, did you see that blue light? It just went behind him!”
Tom grabbed Carolyn’s hand and knocked over his chair as he jumped to his feet.
“We’re outta here,” Tom shouted. Again, he was shushed.
“It’s following him. Quick, keep a camera on him.”
Tom and Carolyn made their way through the darkened house while the Gundresona sat in mute shock. He slammed the front door on the cameraman that was hot on his heels, leaving the madness behind them.
“And that’s why I have rules,” he said to Carolyn, and promptly smashed face-first, again, into the front of the Ghost Trackers van.