Monday, October 31, 2022

The Most Haunted House in America

Author: Caitlyn Kennedy

In the mid-1800s, thousands of people travelled west for the California Gold Rush ( . In 1852, at the heart of downtown San Diego, was a public execution site. Many people were hung for petty crimes including Jim Robinson (Yankee Jim). Despite the hangings, 4 years later, Thomas Whaley bought the property, designed, and built this two-story brick house. He moved in with his wife, Anna, and their three children. 

They soon opened a general store and commercial theater. Their youngest child, Thomas Jr. was just 18 months, contracted scarlet fever and passed away. This sad news followed by a fire in the general store area of their home, the family decided to move to San Francisco. They had 3 more children and Thomas invested in a stock, became financially stable, and moved back into their home to repair the damages. 

Violet Whaley, daughter of Thomas and Anna, got married in 1882. Her honeymoon was the worst time of her life when her husband abandoned her. “Reports say George was a con-artist and only married Violet for her money” (Terrell). Being severely depressed, Violet ended her own life in the home with her father’s gun. She left behind a very somber farewell letter and her grieving family moved out of the house. “People claim they have seen her crying in the outhouse, recreating the moment up until her death. Others have stated they have seen her on the second floor of the house where Violet would spend most of her time in solitude.” (Terrell)

The family moved out as Thomas’ health started to decline. They moved a couple blocks down the street. The house was empty for almost 2 decades. “It wasn't until 1909 that Thomas Whaley's son Francis took on the massive undertaking of restoring the Whaley homestead” (Bregara). The mother and her surviving children move back into the house, once more, to live out their lives. 

The house is now a museum operated by San Diego Save Our Heritage organization (SOHO). They offer day tours which are open to anyone. You can also reserve tickets for a Haunted Evening Tour and Whaley’s After-Hours Paranormal investigation. The tours consist of 40 minutes of walking through the house and possibly experience paranormal things. 

Image of People on Whaley House Tour grouped around a table
People on the evening  tour in the Whaley House

Many people who have gone on these tours have stories to tell about the haunted home. “Some visitors can hear the sound of a baby crying, little footfalls, and his innocent giggle” This is thought to be Thomas Jr. the baby that passed away. Reports also say that the mother’s lavender perfume can be smelt, and she has been seen in the parlor. A worker has said he smelt tobacco, as Thomas Sr. used to smoke. “We were looking over the bedrooms and trying to guess which family member slept there without looking at the pamphlet. Suddenly, I got hit with a massive wave of sadness and I just wanted to cry. It followed me around the second floor but stop once we went back downstairs. It was the strangest thing.” (Metreyeon) This is believed to be Violet Whaley. Many other accounts include seeing Thomas Sr. in a top hat at the head of the stairs, lights flickering and just feeling weird in general. A worker in the museum had a scary experience where he heard a woman whisper Why are you here? He was terrified so he ran out the house without setting the alarm. Even the family’s dog has been felt licking and brushing up on people’s legs. Some guest didn’t feel anything in the house but have checked the pictures that were taken and saw figures appear. 

It is no doubt that this house is terrifying with all the details of people experience. The Whaley house Museum is now a famous tourist attraction with history from almost 200 years ago. 

Works Cited

“Group of People at the Whaley House.” Photograph. “Whaley House Tour.”  Whaley House Museum, November 2021,

Katytayani, Josi “The Shocking Whaley House Mystery and Hauntings, Icy Tales, Updated 3 December 2020

Lollis, Sandra. “Whaley House Museum” . 2012

Metreyeon, Hedge. “The Whaley House Story – San Diego’s Scariest and Most Haunted Place”, 26 August 2022.

Terrell, Kelly. “A Brief History of The Whaley House”, When You're Here ( , 8 Nov. 2020.

US Ghost Adventures Contributor. “Haunted Whaley House” US Ghost Adventures. Accessed 17 October 2022.

Links for further research: 

“Whaley House: This San Diego Haunted House Museum Has a Dark Past” Velvet Tropes
This website has information of the history and the tour dates and prices, in case you’re interested to see the famous Whaley House. 

“The Whaley House in Old Town San Diego” Whaley House San Diego
This is a direct link to the Whaley House Museum where you can find the phone number, updated tour events and everything to know about the Whaley House. 

“The Whaley House” San Diego History Center 
This is a link to the San Diego History website that can tell you information about the history of San Diego and Thomas Whaley during this time. 

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