Whaley House

Whaley House

Whaley House, a historically significant building in San Diego, is believed to be one of the most haunted houses in the US.


The house was built in the 1850s by Thomas Whaley. As well as serving as the Whaley family home, it also grew to contain the County Courthouse, a granary, general store, a school, a ballroom, and the first commercial theatre in San Diego.

Sadly a series of terrible tragedies took place over the years. First, the Whaleys’ youngest son died of scarlet fever. Shortly after this, the general store was burned in a fire. These traumatic events prompted Thomas to move himself and his family to San Francisco, where they stayed until their return to the house in 1868.

Around this time, the house became the location of the courthouse, the theatre was set up, and the general store was re-established. Unfortunately for the family finances, the merchants abandoned the Old Town, where the house was, in favor of the New Town, and the Whaleys’ business struggled.

When Thomas was away on business, armed men held his wife, Anna, at gunpoint and made off with the court records.

Two of the Whaleys’ daughters were married at the house, but Violet, the younger of the two, did not have a happy marriage. Violet was distraught after her marriage ended, so full of despair and pain that she eventually resorted to shooting herself in the chest.

This, combined with the hangings executed on the land before the house was built, meant the building began to develop a somewhat sinister reputation.

Lillian, the Whaleys’ youngest daughter, was the last family member to inhabit the house. She lived there until 1953, and by 1960 Whaley House had been turned into a museum. In all, six members of the Whaley family died in the house.


Yankee Jim

A few years before he bought the land, Whaley had witnessed on the site the death of a convicted criminal called James Robinson (also known as “Yankee Jim”) .

Yankee Jim had been sentenced to death for grand larceny and hanged from the back of a gallows attached to a wagon.

The grisly event did not deter Whaley from building his house on the very same spot. However, soon after the Whaley family moved in, they began to hear footsteps and other eerie noises in different parts of the house. Thomas Whaley believed these mysterious noises were made by Yankee Jim, and random footprints were also attributed to the deceased criminal.

Lillian Whaley believed that Yankee Jim’s spirit was still there many decades later.

Sightings of Long-dead Occupants

Some members of the Whaley family do not seem to want to leave the house… When the museum opened, visitors began to report seeing Thomas and Anna Whaley. One visitor, a little girl, was found waving to someone in the parlor. When asked, she said she was waving to a man. The adults in the room could not see the man she described…

Anna is often to be seen downstairs or in the garden. In the 1960s, Regis Philbin, a TV personality, stated that he saw Anna as an apparition.

The Whaleys had a terrier, and some people have said they have seen a small terrier-like dog running through the hall and into the dining room. The dog, known as Dolly during its life, has brushed up against some visitors and has even been known to lick bare legs. Though mercifully, it appears to be house-trained!

Visitors who have sworn they were alone have repeatedly reported the sound of a baby giggling or crying. People have also said they can smell Anna’s signature French perfume and Thomas’s cigar smoke. Folks have seen lights going on and off all by themselves. The crystals in the music room’s lamp have been seen to move of their own accord.

Workers have spotted shadows appearing and disappearing that they can’t explain. Others have seen figures at the upstairs windows when the house has been closed up at the end of the day and have attested to seeing curtains moving in rooms even though the doors have been sealed shut.

Have you visited Whaley House? Did you experience any paranormal activity? Have we missed something important? Let us know in the comments.

Got something to say about this case? Leave a comment or get in touch if you have new information or media you think we should add.



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Other Name/s Whaley House Museum
Address 2476 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110, USA
Location ,
Activity reported

Where to find


In the media

Ghost Adventures Season 8, Episode 11 on Travel Channel.


The Whaley House Museum 


whaleyhouse.org, “Haunted Folklore,” accessed July 27, 2017,
ghostsandgravestones.com, “The Whaley House,” accessed July 27, 2017,

Top Image Pic credit: @KPBS Public Media/YouTube

Entry Details


Last modified on May 10th, 2023 at 4:20 pm


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