Whaley House, a historically important house in San Diego, is believed to be the most haunted house in America.
History of Whaley House
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, a number of businesses including Whaley’s general store, a school, a ballroom, and the first commercial theatre in San Diego.
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 events prompted Thomas to move himself and his family to San Francisco, where they stayed until their return to the house in 1868.
It was around this time that the house became the location of the courthouse, the theatre was set up, and the general store was re-established. Unfortunately, the merchants abandoned the Old Town, where the house was, in favour of the New Town, and the Whaleys’ business struggled.
When Thomas was away on business, a group of 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.
Combined with the hangings which were executed on the land before the house was built, the house developed an air of otherworldliness.
The last family member to live in the house was Lillian, the Whaleys’ youngest daughter. Lillian lived there until 1953, and the house was turned into a museum in 1960.
A few years before he bought the land, Whaley had witnessed the death of a convicted criminal called James Robinson (also known as “Yankee Jim”) on the site.
Yankee Jim had been sentenced to death for the crime of grand larceny, and had been hanged from the back of a gallows that was attached to a wagon.
The grisly event did not deter Whaley from building his house on the same spot. However, soon after the Whaley family moved in, they began to hear footsteps and 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 executed criminal.
Lillian Whaley believed that Yankee Jim’s spirit was still there many decades later.
Sightings of Long-dead Occupants
It appears that some members of the Whaley family do not want to leave the house… When the museum opened, visitors began to report seeing Thomas and/or 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, the TV personality, states that he saw Anna in the form of 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 sound of a baby giggling or crying has been repeatedly reported by visitors who have sworn they were alone. People have also said they can smell Anna’s signature French perfume in the air, and 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 appearing and disappearing shadows which they can’t explain, 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 rooms have been sealed closed.
In the media
Ghost Adventures Season 8, Episode 11 on Travel Channel.
whaleyhouse.org, “Haunted Folklore
”, accessed July 27 2017,
ghostsandgravestones.com, “The Whaley House
”, accessed July 27 2017.
Julian Cheatle updated Whaley House on 06 Sep , 2017.