Whaley House, San Diego, California

Whaley House

Description: The house was built by Thomas Whaley in 1856-1857 and is the oldest brick structure in Southern California. At the time it was built the Greek-Revival-style house was the most magnificent example of architecture in the area. It cost $10,000.

– American parapsychologist Hans Holzer and others have said that the Whaley House is possibly the most haunted house in America, some have said possibly the world.

– The house is certainly one of the best known haunted houses in America and in the early ’60’s designated an ‘Official Haunted Site’ by the American Commerce Department and is only one of 29 in the country (one of 2 in California) and is a State Historical Landmark. – As well as a family home the house has served as a Protestant Church, City Hall, Theatre, Public school and Courtroom. It has been a museum since 1960.

– The land the house was built on was adjacent to a Native American settlement where the Kumeyaay Tribe would spend their winters. The Whaley’s bought goods from the Kumeyaay and employed some of them, though it was often more like slavery (Thomas Whaley once wrote of how he had bought a young girl to work for him and when she ran away was irritated that he had to pay again to get her back).

– It’s thought Kumeyaay Graves may have lain on what became the Whaley property.

– Thomas Whaley was born on October 5th 1823, was educated at the Washington Institute and became a successful Pioneer and a prominent man in the community. He came from a wealthy New York Merchant family who owned the land that is now Central Park.

– He sailed to San Fransisco in 1849 and set up a hardware and woodwork store. After a fire destroyed the store in 1851 he moved to San Diego. After setting up a series of businesses he made enough money to return to New York to marry his sweetheart Anna Eloise DeLauney.

– By 1858 they had three children – Francis Hilton (named after one of Thomas’ business associates), Thomas (Who died at 17mths – see below) and Anna Amelia. They had also moved their business into town. However, fire destroyed this business. After this and little Thomas’s death the family relocated to San Fransisco.

– June 1860 Augustus S. Ensworth, a lawyer and justice of the peace moved in and managed the Whaley’s business interests.

– From October 1868 to January 1869 the Tanner Troupe Theatre operated out of an upstairs bedroom (see related incidents). It had a small stage and benches for 150 people. Mr Tanner died within 17 days of opening.

– From August 1869 the San Diego County Courthouse rented the former Granary as a courtroom (Whaley only connected it to the house after the court had left) and also had three upstairs rooms for records storage.

– Between 1874-1879 Thomas Whaley returned to New York leaving the family in San Diego in dire straits and relying on the oldest child, Francis, to support them.

– On January 5th 1882 both Violet and Anna Whaley married in the house. Anna married her first cousin, John T. Whaley and Violet married George T. Bertolacci. Violet and George divorced two years later (after their marriage only lasted 2 weeks before he deserted her) leading to her depression and suicide on August 18th 1885 (see below, Related Incidents).

– Distraught by this Thomas built a new house for the family in downtown San Diego where he also owned up a Real Estate business. After retirement due to ill health Thomas Whaley died in 1890.

– In 1889 Mr W.M. Barnes a mine owner from El Paso, Texas lived in the house with his family.

– In 1912 Anna Whaley (Thomas’s widow), Corinne Lillian, Francis and George (now a musician) all lived in the house.

– On February 24th 1913 Anna died at the house.

– Francis died at the home on November 19th 1914.

– The last Whaley relative, Corinne Lillian, still lived at the house right up until her death in 1953 aged 89.

– In 1956 the County of San Diego purchased the house.

Ghost ratings:
– It’s thought that the ghosts in the house include: an executed man, ‘Yankee Jim’, Mr. Whaley, Mrs Whaley, several unknown apparitions, a little girl and one of the Whaley children who died from Scarlet Fever.

– A lady in gingham has been seen, as has a little girl and a man in frock coat. – In the Kitchen, children’s cries have been heard here and a meat cleaver hanging on display in here often swings ominously.

– In the bedroom, a young boy is sometimes seen playing there.

– In the Garden a ghostly cat and dog are chased through the walls from the garden.
Spooky experiences:
— Ghostly lights are seen all over the house.

– Burglar Alarms go off by themselves.

– Windows get opened long after the house has been locked up.

– People regularly report an icy feeling as if someone has just walked straight through them.

– Cuban cigars are smelt (Thomas Whaley is known to have smoked these)

– Furniture lifts up of its own accord.

– Windows open of their own accord.

– People feel that someone is standing behind them or pushing them.

– A spotted dog has been seen.

– On the ground floor, footsteps are heard on the floor above.

– In he Archway between Music Room and Parlour, people feel a choking sensation when they walk past here, the spot where ‘Yankee Jim’ was hung.

– In the Courtroom (a room that was also used as a morgue) faint cigar smoke has been detected – although nobody is smoking.

– On the second floor, heavy footsteps are heard running across the floor from below, Corrine Lillian Whaley never felt comfortable in the upstairs rooms of the house when she lived there alone and perfume is often smelled.


First Broadcast: 12th July 2005

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