San Diego's Whaley House

Whaley House, San Diego
Alik Griffin/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

The Whaley House is a handsome, Greek Revival home, built in 1856 as the first two-story brick building in Southern California. It now stands as the oldest two-story brick building on the West Coast, but all those sturdy bricks aren't enough to keep the spirits out (or in). 

In addition to being the Whaley family home, it had many different faces. Including a general store, and even was used by the San Diego County courthouse at one point. The house was also home to San Diego's first commercial theater group.

From the outside, Whaley House looks pleasant, even cheerful, as it stands along a busy street in Old Town. But inside, it has a past that reaches back into San Diego's more tainted historical roots. The trouble may have started when the house was built over an old cemetery and near the gallows site, but it's not over yet. It was just the beginning of what will now become known as Old Town Haunted Folklore

Haunted History of the Whaley House

Spirits and ghosts haunt the Whaley House, or so they say. Some say they can be found levitating furniture, playing the organ and wailing in sorrow. Among the sightings are:

  • Yankee Jim Robinson, who reportedly stole a boat and is believed to have hanged himself in or near the house. Ghostly sightings of Yankee Jim rowing a skiff have been reported.
  • A girl by the last name of Washburn is said to have died in an accident at the house, perhaps while playing with the Whaley kids. Guests report seeing her playing throughout the house.
  • An unnamed, dark-complexioned woman in a print dress, wearing a cap over her dark hair and gold hoop earrings stays in the upstairs bedroom.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Whaley and their baby are also said to haunt the Whaley House. Guests have reported smelling Mrs. Whaley's elegant, lavender-scented perfume or Mr. Whaley's cigar smoke. Others see her rocking in her chair and hear the piano playing.
  • A young woman is often sensed lingering upon the second floor of the house, and many perceive a feeling of profound sorrow in that portion of the home. She is thought to be the Whaleys' daughter Violet, who committed suicide in the house in 1885.
  • Besides the spirits, objects (including a kitchen cleaver) move inexplicably around the house.

Hunting the Whaley House Ghosts

The ghosts aren't malevolent, or so most people say. You can see what happened when the Travel Channel visited Whaley House. If you want to check out the spirits yourself, the house offers ghost-hunting tours, using paranormal tools and techniques to uncover the legendary spirits.

More Haunted Things in San Diego

What You Need to Know About the Whaley House

Check their schedule on the website. No reservations are required. There is an admission fee. Allow about an hour for a simple tour, longer for special tours.

Getting to the Whaley House

The Whaley House
2476 San Diego Avenue
San Diego CA
Whaley House Website

If you're going to Old Town, the Whaley House is a short walk away. From I-5 in either direction, take Exit 19 toward Old Town Avenue, turn right on Hortensia Street and left on San Diego Ave.

You'll find a few two-hour un-metered parking spaces on the nearby streets, or park free all day in the large public parking lots on Harney and Twiggs Streets.

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