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Whaley House (photographed in 2010)

The Whaley House is a museum and historic landmark located in Old Town, San Diego. It is also believed by some to be a haunted house. A number of supernatural events have been reported by staff, guests and various others passing the house.


The family

The Haunted Whaley House was once a place where a family lived and called home. Thomas Whaley, Scots-Irish origin, was born on October 5, 1823 in New York City. Thomas Whaley was the youngest of his brothers John and Henry Whaley. He also had a sister named Harriet. After taking over his father’s successful business relations, Thomas Whaley left New York on January 1, 1849. During the Gold Rush, he arrived in San Francisco where he did more business then left and arrived in Old Town San Diego in September of 1851. After living in San Diego for two years, Thomas went back to New York to marry Anna Eloise Delaunay on August 14, 1853. Together they left New York and started a new life in California arriving in San Diego on December 7, 1853. On August 22, 1857 The Whaleys moved into their finely built home, known as The Whaley House.

Thomas and Anna Whaley had three children, Francis Hinton, Thomas, and Anna Amelia. Francis was the first, born on December 28, 1854 and was named after a business partner. Thomas Whaley Jr. was born on August 18, 1856. He suffered from Scarlet Fever at 18 months and died on January 29, 1858 in The Whaley House in Old Town. Anna gave birth to Anna Amelia Whaley on June 27, 1858. After the death of baby Thomas Jr., and the fire of their wooden store, Thomas and Anna decided to move to San Francisco, California.

In January 1859, Thomas Whaley turned his affairs in Old Town over to Frank Ames, the Wells Fargo agent. On November 5, 1860, George Hay Ringgold Whaley was the fourth born to Thomas and Anna. On October 14, 1862, Violet Eloise was the fifth baby born to Thomas and Anna. Corinne Lillian, youngest of six children, was born on September 4, 1864. In the summer of 1868, Thomas invested some of his new capitol of stock in merchandise and headed back to San Diego. It was not long after Thomas fixed up the old Whaley House that Anna and the rest of the family arrived back home to San Diego on December 12, 1868.

On January 5, 1882, Violet Whaley and Anna Amelia Whaley married in Old San Diego. Violet married George T. Bertolacci and Anna Amelia wed her first cousin John T. Whaley, son of Henry Hurst Whaley. After Violet and George divorced, Violet never recovered from the humiliation and suffered from depression. Violet committed suicide by shooting her self in the heart with Thomas’s 32-calibre on August 19, 1885. After this event, Thomas Whaley built a single-story frame home for his family at 933 State Street in downtown San Diego.

Francis Whaley married Susan E. Murray in Mendocino, California on December 31, 1888. On December 14, 1890, Thomas Whaley died due to ill health at the State Street address. Anna Amelia Whaley died at Modesto, California on December 12, 1905.

Meanwhile, The Old Whaley House remained vacant and fell into disrepair until late 1909, Francis Whaley undertook the restoration of the building, which greatly improved its appearance. Francis turned the home into a tourist attraction where he posted signs outside promoting its historicity and entertained visitors with his guitar. Anna Whaley, Thomas’s widow, Corinne Lillian, Francis and George all lived in the old Whaley House in 1912. On February 24, 1913 Anna died at eighty years of age. A year later, Francis Whaley died on November 19, 1914. George Whaley died on January 5, 1928 in San Diego and, Corinne Lillian Whaley continued residency in the house until her death in 1953. After all this family history of success and deaths the Whaley House remains as a well known haunted house in California. It is said that guest and the staff, from time to time, catch a glimpse of the ghost of a Whaley family who died inside the house such as: baby Thomas Jr., Violet, Anna, Francis, George and Corinne Lillian Whaley.

The house

The Whaley House is located in Old Town San Diego, California. The historic house opened as a museum on May 25th 1960. Now, the Whaley house is one of southern California’s most popular tourist attractions.

The two-story Greek Revival house was designed by Thomas Whaley himself and built in 1857. The cost of the house was $10,000. It was made from bricks from Whaley’s own brickyard on Conde Street. The house was the first of its kind in San Diego. Whaley boasted, "My new house, when completed, will be the handsomest, most comfortable and convenient place in town or within 150 miles of here." Thomas Whaley's new house was known as the finest in Southern California. The house was furnished with mahogany and rosewood furniture, Brussels carpets, damask drapes and was contemplated as a mansion for its time and place. The residence became the gathering place for San Diego. Besides being the Whaley family home, it was also San Diego’s first commercial theater, the county courthouse, and a general store. In 1868, the theater was located in a bedroom up stairs. It had a small stage and small benches allowing the capacity of the room to be 150. The operator of the theatre, Tanner Troupe, died within 17 days of the opening of the theatre. The Whaley house also served as the county courthouse in 1869. For 65 dollars a month, the county of San Diego leased the courtroom and three of the upstairs bed rooms. Another part of the Whaley house history was the Whaley & Crosthwaite General Store which was a wholesale and retail store.

Ghostly legends

According to the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted, out of all the haunted houses in the United States, the Whaley House is the number one most haunted. The Whaley house was haunted even before the house was built and the family moved in. The first ghost to be reported was the ghost of James “Yankee Jim” Robinson who was hanged in 1852. He was hanged on the property that was used as a gallows before Thomas Whaley purchased the property and built the house. According to the San Diego Union, after the Whaley family moved in, they heard the sound of heavy footsteps moving around the house and concluded that these footsteps were made by “Yankee Jim”. Years later, many visitors to the house said that they saw the ghost of Thomas Whaley. A former keeper of the house mentioned that a little girl waved to a man who was standing in the parlor, but others did not see the man; he added “But often children’s sensitivity is greater than an adult’s.” Moreover, four family members of the Whaleys died in the house including Anna Whaley. The ghost of Anna Whaley has been seen by visitors in the garden or in the rooms located downstairs. Furthermore, some visitors claimed that they have seen an apparition of a woman in the courtroom, but the description of her did not fit any of the Whaleys. In the 1960s, psychic, Sybil Leek, felt a presence of a girl. She was described as the great grand-daughter of Thomas Whaley, Marion Reynolds, who ingested ant poison. She is known to grab people’s arms. Not only is Whaley House a home for the family even after they had died, it is also a home for their dog. A spirit of a dog was captured; it is said that the dog was a spotted fox terrier; the apparition of the dog was caught running into the dining room in the house. The Whaley family used to own a terrier named Dolly Varden when they were still alive. The dog died of natural causes and is said to lick the bare legs of women and is mostly seen by children.

Ghost hunting

Every last Friday or Saturday of the month, The Whaley House Museum holds a late night paranormal investigation tour late co-hosted by The San Diego Ghost Hunters (sdGH)[1], San Diego's premier paranormal investigation team specializing in assisting historical landmark owners in discovering or confirming paranormal activity at their locations. The tour is limited to a small number of guests who are allowed to bring cameras (still and video) and audio recorders. During the tour, guest investigators are educated on the history behind the legendary spirits that haunt the house and instructed on how to operate and utilize basic paranormal investigation tools for searching out the house's mysterious residents. The tools used by most paranormal investigators consist of camcorders and still cameras, audio recorders, Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Detectors/Meters, Thermometers (Digital or Infrared), a thermal imaging camera, and other various odds and ends that assist the investigators in their search. Most tools like these can be seen used by The Atlantic Paranormal Society, or T.A.P.S., on the popular SyFy TV series Ghost Hunters. The tools help investigators find hard proof evidence of spirit hauntings. The camcorders and still cameras are most common; they are used to record any visual activity that might occur. Audio recorders are used to capture E.V.P. or Electronic Voice Phenomenon which are disembodied voices that appear on the devices, but can not be heard by the naked ear during the time of the recording. EMF detectors are used to record electromagnetic energy. It is said that a spirit might create or manipulate this energy when it is active. Thermometers have the more obvious use. The theory is that when a spirit is active, it can leave a cold or warm spot; these can be random points in a room where the temperature changes at an alarming rate. The thermal imaging camera is used to see imagery based on infrared radiation -- or temperature; the theory is that a spirit may create temperature anomalies within an environment which might be detectable to the imager. Some paranormal investigation teams include psychics. Psychics are used for the more obvious reason; they communicate with a spirit or sense a spirits presence. Among their available tools, some psychics use a device called "divining rods", which are ‘L” shaped brass rods, held in their hands, that react to possible energy of a spirit by moving them. The user can then set-up a communication system with the spirit presence utilizing simple "yes and no"-type questions.

In movies

The Whaley House is mentioned in the animated movie, Hellboy: Blood and Iron.

See also

List of reportedly haunted locations




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