San Diego, CA

The Whaley House is one of America's most haunted houses.

Sara B
Photo bySave Our Heritage Organization

The Whaley House is located in Old Town San Diego and is said to be the most haunted house in America. The house was the first brick building built in California and represented Greek Revival architecture, and was built by Thomas Whaley. Thomas purchased the land for the house in 1855, he thought it was a perfect place to create a new home and start a family, and that is precisely what he did.

Thomas Whaley was born in New York City in 1823 and left for California during the Gold Rush. He started a hardware store with George Wardle in San Fransisco, selling hardware, woodwork from his family's NY business, Pye & Whaley, and mining equipment for the gold rush. Unfortunately, a fire took his store in 1851, and was advised to try San Diego.

In 1852 Yankee Jim was caught trying to steal a boat; he was beaten and brought to jail, and when he had a trial, he was sentenced to hang for his crime. September 18, 1852, Yankee Jim was on the gallows, barely conscious from being beaten.

As Jim stood on the gallows, the executioners did not consider his height, and when he hung, his feet scraped the ground, taking him 45 minutes to die. Many believe this is why Yankee Jim has never left the land with the slow, painful death he experienced.

Reports of him have been heard inside the house, stomping around with heavy boots, and visitors have reported they feel like they are being watched when they are inside the home, especially in the archway between the music room and parlor, as it was the exact site of the old gallows where he slowly died.

Whaley saw it as an opportunity to buy the land and construct a home on a budget. It is even said that Whaley was at Jim's hanging, knowing no one else would want to buy the land. Thomas Whaley must not be a man who believed in the paranormal, ghosts or goblins, bought cheap land, and built his future home; unfortunately, whether you believe it or not, sometimes bad things happen, possibly a coincidence; we will never know.

Whaley married Anna Elooise DeLaunay in 1853 and, in 1857, moved his family into The Whaley House. The trouble began shortly after the Whaleys moved into their new home, with a general store attached. Unfortunately, their 18-month-old son died of scarlet fever, and shortly after a fire destroyed the general store.
Photo bySave Our Heritage Organization / Getty Images

At this point, Whaley moved his family back to San Fransisco, where they probably should have stayed, but they did not. So instead, in 1868, the family moved back into the Whaley House with their five children.

Whaley got busy, making the Whaley House the headquarters for the city courthouse, San Diego's first theatre, and a new general store. August 1869, the County of San Diego signed a two-year lease to lease the first floor as the County Courthouse and rent three rooms upstairs to store court records for $65 a month.

Then in 1870, the people of San Diego voted to move the courthouse to Horton Hall in the new area of San Diego, now the Gaslamp Quarter. The county did not want to honor their lease, which would expire in 1871.

Instead, the Sheriff and Supervisor French and some townspeople created a mob, waited for Thomas to be out of town, and attacked when Ana was home alone with her children, and Anna was held up by gunpoint on the 9th step of the house.

They illegally imposed upon the house removed the furniture and court papers, and stated they did not owe him any money since they had no belongings left. Whaley was never compensated for the lost rent or destruction of his house.

By 1882 both daughters, Anna and Violet, were married; unfortunately, only one had a happy marriage. Violet suffered during her marriage, as well as her emotional issues, she married George T. Bertolacii, and after only two weeks, he abandoned her.

She was humiliated and suffered a broken heart, and became severely depressed. Violet shot herself on August 18, 1885, in the house; she died in the parlor in Thomas's arms. The family moved out of the house into the new town of San Diego, and Tomas died in 1890.

The Whaley house remained vacant but still in the family, owned by son Francis Whaley, but the house sat empty. Finally, however, in 1909, he restored the home and moved his family into the house, including his mother, Anna, who died in 1909, and Francis in 1914.

His brother George also died in the home in 1928, and the last sibling left was Lillian, who had to be placed in a home, and the Whaley house was sold and liquidated to pay for her care. The house was back on the market, but the preservation activists of San Diego decided to save the Whaley home and turn it into a historic site and opened for tours in 1960.

Several visitors and paranormal investigators have reported supernatural occurrences such as:

  • Rocking chairs moving on their own, chandeliers swinging with no explanation.
  • Music sounds are being played and heard by those working in the house.
  • Doors and windows were opening and closing on their own.
  • Voices being heard.
  • Spirits are seen eating at the dining room table, and the sounds of silverware scraping plates smell of food, especially around the holidays.
  • Many have reported seeing Thomas Whaley in the master bedroom, smoking and laughing, walking around the house as if he is still in charge.
  • Watching visitors, along with Anna. Before her death, Lillian stated she saw her parents' spirits in the house.

Yankee Jim is also reported to be around also still; even Thomas Whaley eventually believed that he still was there, stating:

¨According to the youngest daughter, Lillian Whaley, when heavy boot footsteps were heard, running across the second floor, Mr. Whaley would say. "Don't worry, that's just Yankee Jim."
  • Even those who work in law had reported feeling as if they were choking when they entered the house and sometimes getting rope burns.
  • 18-month-old Thomas is also heard crying, laughing, and running around, and sometimes seen playing with the toys in the playroom.

Many other sightings have also been seen, and if you dare, visit The Whaley House in Old Town, San Diego.

Comments / 0

Published by

I share legends, myths, and bizarre history, sometimes news.

Pasadena, CA

More from Sara B

Comments / 0