Whaley House has been long known to be haunted. In fact, it is commonly referred to as the most haunted house in California, and is only one of two properties recognised by the United States government as being officially haunted.
The haunting and strange happenings have been observed by many visitors, volunteers and guests. Very few of these can be easily discounted often witnessed by more than one visitor.
In the early 19th century the booming city of San Diego had started to encroach on the nearby Native American settlement. Due to disease and conflict, the Kumeyaay Indian population dropped quickly, of 16,000 Kumeyaay baptised in a ten-year period, 9,000 died. The cemetery from the nearby Catholic Church expanded. Whaley House would later be built on this Indian burial ground.
In 1853 Yankee Jim Robinson a colourful figure attempted to steal a boat, The Plutus, it was rumoured to be his first step in becoming a pirate. During the attempt, Yankee Jim was clubbed over the head with the butt of a sword and badly injured. Rumour has it that Yankee Jim was tried straight away even though he was probably still suffering from concussion. The judge was drunk during the trial and the court that was set up to convict him found his delirium convenient, and the semi-conscious Jim Robinson was hung on a makeshift scaffold on the spot where the future Whaley House was built. Because of Jim's height his feet could just touch the floor resulting in slow suffocation; it took him nearly an hour to die.
Whaley House is located at the intersection of San Diego Avenue and Harney Street, at the heart of historic "Old Town" San Diego. Whaley house was at the centre of early San Diego, it is now preserved as a museum. The visiting hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A small fee is required for entrance to the house.
Whaley House was built between 1856 and 1856 by San Diego Pioneer Thomas Whaley. Thomas Whaley was a prominent man, and a great deal of old San Diego's high tone socializing took place here. Mr. Whaley rented the first floor living room as a court room for San Diego County Court House. Part of property was later used as a theatre by "The Tanner Troupe".
The last Whaley to live in the house was Corinne Lillian Whaley, youngest of Whaley's six children. She died at the age of 89 in 1953. Whaley himself died in December 14, 1890, at the age of 67. His wife Anna lived on until February 24, 1913. They are both buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego.
Whaley House fell into disrepair over the years. Its demolition was prevented, in 1956, by the formation of the Historical Shrine Foundation of San Diego County, which bought the land and the building. Eventually San Diego County was convinced to preserve the house as a historical museum. Over time, Whaley House was restored to its original splendour, as it remains to this day.
Thomas Whaley's ghost is one of the most active spirits in the house, some visitors and volunteers have encountered the sweet aroma of Cuban cigar smoke (a favourite of Thomas Whaley), at other times it can be so overpowering that they have had to leave the room. Thomas Whaley's ghost is usually seen wearing a long coat and top hat. Thomas's Spirit has been seen through out the house. Most often he is encountered at the top of the stairs or in the master bedroom. The most common manifestation is Thomas Whaley's booming laughter which is regularly heard through out the house.
Anna Whaley, Thomas's wife has not left her husbands side even in death. When Ann was alive she was a keen pianist and very good singer. In life she was described as a petite and beautiful lady. Some of Anna handmade dresses have been preserved in the house and they can be seen displayed in her room.
The ghost of Anna has been sighted throughout the house; the majority of the sightings have been in the downstairs rooms and in the garden. A distinct smell of perfume is often reported, sometimes accompanied by sightings of orbs. One visitor whilst in the garden noticed a lady picking flowers, the visitor was concerned that this woman was picking flowers without permission decided to approach the woman. The witness described the woman as wearing a long cream dress and her hair done in an old fashion style. The witness got to about ten feet and the woman just vanished in front of her.
The Whaley's red-haired daughter died under mysterious circumstances at age eleven. For an unknown reason, she ate a quantity of poisonous powder. She is one of the most playful ghosts in the house. She prefers to appear to other children, in such a clear form that they usually don't realize she is anything but just another kid. Pulling hair and tickling other children are her specialty, especially little girls of about her age. Her ghost is also believed to be behind the swinging meat clever in the kitchen which hundred's of visitors have witnessed.
One morning Mrs Reading, the curator, arrived at the Whaley House early, getting ready to open it up for another day of visitors, and as was standard, she began to walk the house for a quick morning inspection. When she rounded the corner into the dining room, she was greeted by the image of a Native American Indian, who looked to be real as anything else in the room except that he had no feet. He hovered in view for a few moments before fading from view.
Yankee Jim is said to haunt the stairs from the first floor to the second, specifically the ninth step, which is believed to be where he dangled during his drawn-out death. Some visitors have experienced the feeling of a noose tightening around their necks as they tour the house. Yankee Jim has also been observed standing behind tour guides during their presentations.
In 1964, Regis Philbin, a then local television celebrity and a companion decided to spend the night in the house. About 2:30 a.m., they saw someone or something walk from the study into the music room. Regis told reporters "There was something filmy white, it looked like an apparition of some kind, and I got so excited I couldn't restrain myself! I switched on the flashlight and nothing was there but a portrait of Anna Whaley."
Several years ago a tour group were being shown the rooms upstairs, the whole group heard the piano being played downstairs. The piano continued to be played until the tour group got to the stairs. By the time they had got to the bottom the music had stopped and there was no one in the room where the music had come from. As well as been heard playing the piano, Anna also seems to enjoy a good tune on the music box. The sound of music and singing has been heard long after the building has been shut up for the night. Lights have also been seen in the windows, and the shutters being opened and closed.
In any room in the house at any time during the day, a guest to the Whaley House may find themselves witnessing Orbs, brilliant balls of light and unexplained mist's floating from room to room. These appear randomly, move around between rooms, and it is even said that ghostly shapes can be seen in the patterns.
In Thomas Whaley's time as the nearby cemetery reveals, children were at a greater risk for early death in those days. The Whaley's lost one son as a toddler, and a young boy has been seen playing in the master bedroom. The sounds of children laughing and crying have been heard in the house.