Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, the world famous Whaley House is undeniably an interesting place!
This rather plain-looking house, located near the center of Old Town at 2476 San Diego Avenue, fairly oozes with history. And it is said by some to be the most haunted house in America!
Now a museum, the Whaley House was built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley, a New York businessman who originally came to California for the gold rush of 1849. It was the very first two-story brick building in San Diego, built in the Greek Revival architectural style. In addition to being the Whaley family residence, at different times it served as the location of a general store, a county courthouse, a commercial theater, a ballroom, a school and polling place.
Various murders, hangings, suicides and untimely deaths have occurred in and around the Whaley residence. Up to half a dozen different dead Whaleys are said to linger as ghosts. The place has developed such a reputation as a haunted house that the museum offers late night ghost hunting tours. Over 100,000 people visit the museum annually.
Several months ago I happened to find myself near the Whaley House with a little free time. Seeing a docent dressed in a period costume standing on the front porch, I made my way over to speak with her.
She was very friendly. She seemed sincere when she claimed to have had several ghostly experiences in the Whaley House. She claimed that she’s heard footsteps pacing in the upstairs theater when nobody was present. She’s also seen a strange shadow moving back and forth on an upstairs wall, with no perceptible source.
The cashier at the gift shop next door claimed to have seen the mysterious shadow, as well. I asked her if she believed in ghosts, and she carefully remained neutral. I was interested to see that almost every book and souvenir in the gift shop exploited the museums’s spooky reputation, including shirts that read “Got Ghosts?”
Life Magazine and Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted have both called the Whaley House the most haunted house in America. The Whaley House has appeared on numerous popular television shows and firmly established itself in the popular culture.