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.
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.
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.
- Television shows like “Ghost Adventures,” “Most Haunted” + “Buzzfeed Unsolved” have dared to document their experiences visiting the Whaley House.
- Late legendary host Regis Philbin got so spooked he left early during a visit.
- Comedian Tom Green wasn’t joking when he said his trip was cursed.
Celebrity medium Bonnie Vent visited, and she immediately felt a presence and a dizzying experience in the general store.