The Whaley House – America’s Most Haunted Home? By Amy Van De Casteele

There will be few paranormal enthusiasts who have not heard of San Diego’s Whaley House. A historic 19th century property which served many purposes over the years besides being the Whaley family’s home – it once housed the County Court House, a number of businesses, a school and billiard hall (not all at the same time, supposedly) – it is now a popular museum, visited by over 100 000 people each year, and boasts its own museum shop, a gazebo and two other salvaged houses in its complex. But perhaps its most fascinating legacy is not its ‘mortal’ history, but the spirits which still seem to linger inside the walls of the imposing old property.
Designed and built by head of the family, Thomas Whaley, in 1857, the House is rumoured to be haunted by Thomas himself, his wife Anna, and a number of other ghosts. One of the most notorious is the spirit of hanged criminal Yankee Jim Robinson, who met his fate on the gallows in the very spot where the house was later constructed. Thomas Whaley himself was present at the execution, but oddly enough it didn’t dissuade him from building his family home there. However, soon after the family moved in, they were disturbed by the sound of heavy footsteps tramping around the property, as if a man with booted feet were roaming their house, though of course no one was there. Visitors to the Whaley House in more recent years have also encountered what they believe to be Yankee Jim’s ghost, and have felt a strange sensation as they climbed the stairs of the house – as if a noose were tightening around their necks.
Other ghosts in the property include the tragic spirit of Thomas Whaley’s son – also named Thomas – who died in his bedroom at 17 months of age. People have often heard the cries of a young child coming from that room, and have seen the apparition of a dog padding in and out – the baby’s eternal guardian? Meanwhile, Thomas Whaley senior has also been glimpsed on numerous occasions by both adults and children, as has his wife Anna, who claims the parlour as her haunt (excuse the pun). The spirit of Violet Whaley is one of the most dominant presences however – she tragically committed suicide at a young age, shooting herself through the heart after a bitter divorce left her unable to cope, and ever since then her ghost has been both sensed and seen by many visitors to the property.
However the Whaleys and Yankee Jim are not the only spirits to roam the house. Ghosts of Native Americans – most likely from the Kumayaay tribe, which had a settlement on land near the house – and Confederate soldiers have also been encountered in the building’s old courthouse, as has the mysterious figure of a woman, garbed in white. Apparitions of dogs and cats have been spotted, and all manner of supernatural goings-on seem to occur in the house, including windows opening and furniture moving, burglar alarms being triggered for no reason, and the scents of cigar smoke and perfume lingering in certain areas. Photographs taken in the house have also revealed ghostly figures and unexplainable anomalies.
With all of these spooky happenings taking place inside the property it is no surprise that it has garnered a terrifying reputation, and is a favourite location for paranormal addicts to come and explore. So if you happen to visit San Diego one day, make sure not to leave without paying a visit to the Whaley House. Even if you don’t witness a ghostly apparition or feel a chill or smell unexplained cigar smoke wafting around you, the House and museum is still worth a visit for its fascinating history and old-world glamour alone.  

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