Why the Whaley House is San Diego’s most haunted site

Come for history, leave with ghost stories.

Whaley House

We just hope the inhabitants are friendly.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

If you’re in the Halloween spirit, a trip to the Whaley House in Old Town may be in order. This museum is home to San Diego history, and as the story goes, a few ghosts.

Not a believer? LIFE Magazine named it “America’s Most Haunted House” in 2005, but not everyone adheres to the warning. If you don’t have a ghost story of your own, many people have shared their frightening tales.

Most Haunted House in America

It’s not just haunted. It’s the most haunted.

The spooky story

While the legend of the Whaley House can be found in the history books, it’s more of a horror story. If you’re local, you’ve probably taken the tour — but here’s a quick rundown, in case you’ve forgotten.

On May 6, 1856, Thomas Whaley began construction on this two-story Greek Revival home. Allegedly it was built where infamous thief Yankee Jim was hanged, and word on the street is, his spirit never left. The Whaley family moved into the home in 1857 and it became central to the community, serving as a theater, court house + general store.

Beyond Yankee Jim, multiple tragedies took place on the property with lingering effects.

  • Thomas + his wife Anna died there, and sightings of their ghosts have been reported — some people even claim they smelled Anna’s French perfume.
  • The couple’s baby son, Thomas Jr., died of Scarlet Fever in 1858 at just 18 months old.
  • Violet, another Whaley child, took her own life after a divorce in 1885.

Thomas died in 1890, and Anna in 1905. Their other daughter, Lillian, lived there until she died in 1953. The Board of Supervisors of the County of San Diego purchased the home in 1956 and restored it to its original condition.


Who — or what — lives in this room?

Photo via @s2artphoto

Seeing is believing

If you’re brave enough, the museum offers haunted evening tours + paranormal investigations. In fact, the house has such a scary reputation that famous visitors have left with their own haunted tales.

Celebrity medium Bonnie Vent visited, and she immediately felt a presence and a dizzying experience in the general store.

More from SDtoday