The Haunted Whaley House
(Old Town, San Diego)

The haunted Whaley House in Old Town, San Diego, is probably the most famous of San Diego's haunts. Visitors to this old house have seen so many paranormal activities that it earns the title of "Most Haunted House in America".

The History

Whaley House
The Whaley House has a rich history: in 1856, a successful businessman named Thomas Whaley decided to buy a plot of land in what is now called Old Town. He built an elaborate house suitable for a man of his stature: carpets from Europe, rosewood and mahogany furniture, and the finest the world had to offer. The Whaley House was the first brick building in California; it had its own brick kiln, a general store, and there were so many rooms that some of them were rented out. The Whaley family enjoyed the good life: business was good and they shared their success by hosting elegant parties. Unfortunately this was not to last.

A fire destroyed the general store of the Whaley House. Still later, their young son Thomas Whaley Jr. died when he was only 17 months old. The Whaley family decided to leave San Diego and set out for San Francisco. Years later, in 1868, Thomas Whaley and his family returned to San Diego. By this time, he had five children and he enlarged his house to accommodate his growing family. Soon the Whaley House was bustling with activity again.

Whaley House
When the Whaley House was first built, it was considered one of the finest houses of its time. Today, the House has been renovated and remains an imposing and impressive sight.
By 1870, the tides of change were having their effect. Merchants and businesses started to move from Old Town to "New Town"
(currently the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego). Old Town was slowly being abandoned and the glory days are all but gone. Thomas Whaley stood firm and continued to live in the Whaley House. Once, when he was on a business trip, his wife Anna was held at gunpoint by intruders. Upon return, Thomas Whaley was outraged but there was nothing he could do. In time, he too abandoned the Whaley House and moved to New Town.

Descendants of Thomas Whaley lived in the Whaley House until 1953 but by then, it was beginning to show its age. In 1956, the Historical Shrine Foundation bought and renovated the house filling it with original furniture and period pieces. It is now a museum.

The Hauntings

Thomas Whaley died in 1890 and it is not clear what (if anything) happened in the Whaley House after his death. There has been at least 4 deaths in the Whaley house. Did the Whaley descendants feel their presence? Did they hear Whaley's footsteps in the upstairs rooms? No one knows, but when the Whaley House was being renovated, strange things had been happening. Here are a few:

Workers renovating the house heard baby cries from the room where little Thomas Whaley Jr. died. Of course, there has been many instances where footsteps were heard after hours when there was no one else in the House. Visitors sometimes smell the aroma of freshly baked bread or apple pie drifting through the house. Similarly some smell tobacco smoke which may be from the spirit of the late Thomas Whaley. Some people can feel a distinct chill when they ascend the wooden stairs especially on the 9th step where Anna was supposedly held at gunpoint.

A tour guide decided to play the piano only to find a woman in period-clothing standing behind her - could it be the spirit of Anna Whaley who loved music? A member of the Parapsychology Foundation encountered a large man in dusty boot - a description not unlike that of Thomas Whaley himself.

Interest grew and the Haunted status of the Whaley House was solidified when well-known psychics were invited to conduct research and/or seances in the Whaley House. Each and every visitor confirmed the presence of many spirits within the house. None of the specters were particularly menacing, but they all had their own stories of a life gone by.

It should be noted that even before Thomas Whaley built his house, the land was the site of grisly deaths: it was the location of the public gallows. One particularly awful hanging occurred in 1852 (four years before Whaley came to SD). Yankee Jim Robinson was sentenced to death for stealing a small boat. Yankee Jim was already well known for his lawlessness but some feel that his hanging was an unfair punishment: it was a show of power by the local authorities of the time. To this day, some hear the sound of a horse and carriage slowly moving away as on the day Yankkee Jim was hung. Some believe that Yankee Jim's restless spirit still roam the premises seeking revenge.

To list the unexplained occurrences within the Whaley House would take pages and pages to describe. Indeed, some critics complain that the haunted Whaley House is more like Hollywood than a real haunt. Check it out and decide for yourself.


The Whaley House
2476 San Diego Ave, Old Town
San Diego, CA 92110-2730
(619) 297-7511
Daytime Admission: $6
Evening Admission: $10
Private viewing: $75 per person per
      hour (minimun 2 people)

Hours of Operation
Sun to Tues: 10am to 5 pm
Wednesday: Closed
Thurs to Sat: 10am to 10pm
Summer Hours
Open Daily 10am to 10pm
Special hours during holidays, details here.