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The Whaley House | Real Haunted Places

By Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Back Story:

In the 1960s, the U.S. Commerce Department classified the Whaley House as haunted.  In 2005, LIFE magazine called Whaley House "the most haunted house in America.  The Whaley House is located in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego, California.  It is a two-story Greek revival house designed by Thomas Whaley.  It was completed in 1857.  In addition to being the former home of the Whaley Family, The home has served as Whaley's general store, a granary, the County Court House, a commercial theater, various businesses, a ballroom, a billiard hall, a school, and a polling place.  The ground on which it is built served as the location of several hanging and a small graveyard.

Paranormal Occurrences:

The Ghost of Yankee Jim

The earliest documented ghost is "Yankee Jim." James (aka Santiago) Robinson.  He was convicted of attempted grand larceny in San Diego in 1852, and hanged on a gallows off the back of a wagon on the site where the house now stands. Thomas Whaley had been a spectator at the execution, he did not let it dissuade him from buying the property a few years later and building a home for his family there.

The San Diego Union a local newspaper reported that soon after the couple and their children moved in heavy footsteps were heard moving about the house. The Whaley’s described them as sounding as though they were made by the boots of a large man.  He came to the conclusion that these unexplained footfalls were made by Yankee Jim Robinson. Another source states that Lillian Whaley, the Whaley’s' youngest daughter who lived in the house until 1953, "had been convinced the ghost of "Yankee Jim" haunted the Old House.

 A visitor to the museum in 1962 mentioned that the ghost had driven her family from their visit there in 1912.  Her mother was unnerved by the phantom’s walking noise and the strange way the windows unlatched and flew up.

Whaley Family Member Ghosts
Many visitors to the house have reported encountering Thomas Whaley himself.  The late June Reading, former curator of the museum, said, "We had a little girl perhaps 5 or 6 years old who waved to a man she said was standing in the parlor. We couldn't see him. Many adults have reported seeing the apparition of Mr. Whaley, usually on the upper landing.  One woman said he was clad in a frock coat and pantaloons, his face was turned away from her, and so she could not make it out. Suddenly, he faded away.

The specter of Anna Whaley has also been reported, usually in the downstairs rooms or in the garden. In 1964, Mrs. Whaley's spirit appeared to Regis Philbin.  He noticed something filmy white on the wall.  It looked like an apparition of some kind.  He turned on his flashlight to see what it was and nothing was there but a portrait of Anna Whaley.

The Best Time to Vist:

The night tour is the prime time to encounter ghosts.  However, day or night something paranormal events occur.