Hauntings at San Diego’s Whaley House

A building steeped in history and the paranormal, San Diego’s Whaley House has garnered an infamous reputation as one of America’s most haunted house.

Its walls, having witnessed a series of tragedies including a hanging, a suicide, and a fire, seem to echo with the spirits of the past. This article delves into the origins of the Whaley House and uncovers a terrifying story that has cemented this landmark as a pivotal chapter in San Diego’s haunted history.

History of Whaley House

Built in 1857, this Greek Revival style residence was the brainchild of Thomas Whaley, a businessman who gained substantial wealth during the California Gold Rush.

After marrying Anna Eloise Delaunay in New York city, the Whaley couple returned to San Diego and established their home, which was completed in 1857.

Whaley House facade in the day
Facade of Whaley House | Photo credits: Sande Lollis

However, tragedy struck not long after the Whaley family had moved in. In 1858, Thomas and Anna’s young son, Thomas Jr., passed away due to scarlet fever. This tragedy was soon followed by a devastating fire that destroyed the house. The family moved out briefly to San Francisco to relieve their sorrows and had returned to the newly restored Whaley House in 1868.

In the same year, the bedroom was briefly used as a theater when it was rented out to Tanner Troupe. A year later in 1869, several of the bedroom was used as offices for the county of San Diego.

Another part of the Whaley House served as the Whaley & Crosthwaite General Store.

Violet Eloise Whaley
Portrait of Violet Eloise Whaley | Source: Save Our Heritage Organization

However tragedy struck once again. Violet Eloise Whaley, daughter of Thomas and Anna Whaley, committed suicide in 1885 at the young age of 22 years old after failing to recover from a failed marriage with George Bertolacci; she shot herself with Thomas’s revolver.

Reported Hauntings

The Whaley House has earned a notorious reputation as “the most haunted house in America” for the numerous suicides, and deaths that have occurred in the property.

These include the death of Anna Whaley, and three of their six children, namely Francis Whaley, George Whaley, Corinne Lillian Whaley, and Violet Eloise Whaley. While Thomas Whaley did not die in the Whaley House, visitors have reported seeing apparitions of him in the property.

Anna Annie Frank and Thomas Whaley portrait
Photo of Anna, Annie, Frank, and Thomas Whaley | Source: Save Our Heritage Organisation

Its location as a former hanging spot during the 1840s and 1850s make the place all the more convincing as the most haunted house in America. Before the house was built, the ground was used as a gallows to execute criminals.

In 1852, James “Yankee Jim” Robinson was convicted of grand larceny for stealing a rowboat and hanged at the spot where the house stands. According to historical records, Yankee Jim swung back and forth like a pendulum until he strangled to death.

It was said that Thomas Whaley had witnessed the entire execution. Unfazed by the gruesome past, Thomas bought the land some years later and built his dream home, Whaley House. Since then, loud footsteps can be heard moving around the rooms of Whaley House. Such claims were also made by the Whaley family themselves. Staffs of the museum say that these footfalls can still be heard.

To top off the haunting activities, the spirits of Whaley family are said to reside in the house till this day. The spirit of Thomas Whaley was often seen appearing as a greyish, distinct figure while his wife Anna Eloise Whaley manifests in the form of her strong French perfume.

In fact, the Whaley House was so haunted it was featured in LIFE Magazine October 2005 issue as “The Most Haunted House in America: The Whaley House is haunted top to bottom, dawn to dusk, not just on Halloween but 365 days a year.”

Ghost Adventures at the Whaley House

The historic Whaley House Museum was featured on season 9, episode 11 of the popular paranormal television series Ghost Adventures. The episode, which aired on June 7, 2014, featured co-hosts Zak Bagans, Aaron Goodwin, and Nick Groff. The team believed that Whaley House is haunted by the ghost of James “Yankee Jim” Robinson, a thief who was hanged on a gallows on the land where Whaley House stands today.

ghost adventures whaley house investigations
Ghost Adventures team outside Whaley House | Source: Travel Channel

During the episode, the team explored the grounds of the landmark and collected pieces of paranormal evidences including disembodied voices and unexplainable noises.

In the amidst of the investigation, Zak reported the sensation of nails going down his back, as if something was scratching him. At the very moment, the full spectrum camera captured the manifestation of a translucent hand with abnormally long fingers.

The episode, titled “Whaley House”, was generally well received by viewers of the show, achieving a IMDb rating of 6.8/10. View snippets of the Ghost Adventures’ investigation here. Alternatively, you may view the full episode with Discovery +.

Other paranormal activities visitors have reported include swinging chandelier, footsteps, taps on the shoulder and sounds of a baby crying, purportedly to be Thomas Whaley Jr who died at 18 months from Scarlet Fever.

Haunting of Whaley House Movie

We all know that when a place is haunted enough, it will probably be adapted into a movie. In 2012, the 1 hour and 39 minutes long “Haunting of Whaley House” was released in the theatres. It tells the story of a tour guide who broke into the Whaley House with her friends for a little ghost hunt.

However, the group got a little more than they had bargained for when their adventure turned into a fight for survival as the spirits manifests themselves. While the filming was taken at the historic Bembridge House in Long Beach, California, the movie was largely based on the history of Whaley House and the haunting stories that have been told over the years.

The haunting of whale house poster
The Haunting of Whaley House | Image credits: IMDb

Apart from a movie, the Whaley House was the subject of numerous documentaries and paranormal shows such as Syfy Channel’s Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files,Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted, BuzzFeed Unsolved: Supernatural, and Discovery+ Ghost Adventures.

Where Is the Whaley House Located?

The exact address of Whaley House is 2476 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110, United States. The historic Whaley House is located in the neighbourhood of Old Town and is a mere 10 minutes drive away from San Diego International Airport.

To reach the landmark from the airport, exit from W Laurel St and drive northbound along India Street for approximately one mile. At the intersection where the road diverges, take the left and drive along San Diego Avenue for 1.1 mile. Whaley House Museum can be on the right hand corner of Harney Street and San Diego Avenue.

Whaley House is conveniently located to several other local attractions including Presidio Park (0.6 mile), Waterfront Park(2.7 miles), SeaWorld San Diego (3.1 miles), and Belmont Park (4.6 miles)

The Whaley House presently operates as a museum that offers insights into the property’s past as well as Old Town. Day and night tours are conducted for visitors who want to learn more about the property’s history as well as its ghostly legends. For those who are looking to take it up a ‘haunted’ notch, additional tours are also offered during the last weekend of every month as well as Halloween period.

Share the Post: