Is this the most haunted house in America?

perhaps the most haunted house in america

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.

Old Town's historic Whaley House.
Old Town’s historic Whaley House.
Gazing toward Whaley House past gas lamp on San Diego Avenue.
Gazing toward Whaley House past gas lamp on San Diego Avenue.
The luxurious Whaley House served as granary, store, courthouse, school and theater.
The luxurious Whaley House served as granary, store, courthouse, school and theater.
Whaley House, built 1856-57, is the oldest brick structure in southern California.
Whaley House, built 1856-57, is the oldest brick structure in southern California.
Boy ventures into supposedly haunted Whaley House.
Boy ventures into supposedly haunted Whaley House.

Cannon in San Diego’s Old Town plaza.

cannon in san diego's old town plaza

One of my favorite areas in San Diego is Old Town. There’s so much to see and enjoy wherever you turn. For lovers of history, it’s a treasure trove of discoveries.

Here’s a photo taken inside the central Plaza de las Armas, the heart of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. This old Spanish cannon is called El Capitan. It was one of ten cannons that long ago protected Fort Guijarros near the entrance to San Diego Bay. The Spanish fort was built in 1797 on Ballast Point out of adobe.

El Capitan was likely fired during the Battle of San Diego in 1803, when the Spanish attacked the American brig Lelia Byrd which was smuggling otter skins. This cannon was likely fired again at the American smuggler ship Franklin in 1828, when the fort was under Mexican control. The only other surviving cannon from Fort Guijarros is called El Jupiter, and can be seen in the Serra Museum atop nearby Presidio Hill.

Old Town is all about history. The grassy plaza, containing the cannon, historical plaques, a high flagpole and picnic benches, is surrounded by old adobe buildings preserved and recreated from the early 1800’s. San Diego originated right here, at the base of a bluff where a Spanish military outpost stood. The outpost, called the Presidio, was built by Gaspar de Portola in 1769. That same year, Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded on Presidio Hill by the ambitious Spanish Franciscan friar, Father Junipero Serra. This made Old Town the site of the very first European settlement in California.

Around the Plaza de las Armas visitors can check out numerous interesting small museums, including the original one-room schoolhouse, an old blacksmith shop, San Diego’s very first newspaper office, an early courthouse, and a stable with a large collection of antique wagons and stagecoaches. Tourists can find gifts and souvenirs in a smattering of craft-filled shops. Families can dine at several colorful restaurants. Plus, there are many additional historical and commercial attractions along San Diego Avenue to the south of the plaza.

Can you guess another thing I like? Admission to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and all of its museums is free!

Girl walks past cannon in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Girl walks past a cannon named El Capitan in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

Man walks dog past Casa del Prado.

man walks dog by casa del prado

I took this photo while strolling down El Prado, Balboa Park’s breathtakingly beautiful central promenade. Lined with fountains, fine museums and Spanish Colonial Revival buildings designed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, it is one of the most scenic walks in San Diego.

I caught this man taking a stroll with his dog in front of Casa del Prado, one of the spectacular buildings along El Prado.

This closeup photo was taken on a different day:

Ornate plaster designs on Spanish Colonial Revival buildings.
Ornate plaster elements add elegance to the Spanish Colonial Revival building.

And here’s one more pic!

Casa del Prado facade photographed as evening approaches and lights turn on.
Casa del Prado facade photographed as evening approaches and lights turn on.

The beautiful California Building and Quadrangle.

Elaborate facade of the beautiful Museum of Man in Balboa Park.
Elaborate facade of the beautiful California Building in Balboa Park.

Here’s one iconic sight in Balboa Park I always lift my eyes to enjoy. The elaborate facade of the California Building, home of the San Diego Museum of Man, contains sculpted historical figures molded from clay and plaster. These figures include Junipero Serra, father of California’s Spanish missions, and Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who discovered San Diego Bay nearly five centuries ago in 1542.

This fantastic building, inspired by the church of San Diego in Guanajuato, Mexico, was erected for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, an event that celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and promoted San Diego as a destination. Like other similar buildings to the east along El Prado, it is in the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, which was largely developed by Bertram Goodhue.

The California Building and adjacent California Tower, and the more simple structure to the south across El Prado–housing Evernham Hall and the St. Francis Chapel–form the California Quadrangle. The courtyard-like area at the quadrangle’s center, where visitors can sit at tables and through which cars today travel, is called the Plaza de California.

Every few years I venture into The Museum of Man just to refresh my memory. There are a number of interesting anthropological exhibits, including a whole room full of spooky Egyptian mummies!

Here are some more pics…

Gazing up at the colorful dome and the California Tower.
Gazing up at the colorful dome of the California Building, and the California Tower.
People on the street in front of the Museum of Man.
People on the street in front of the Museum of Man. El Prado runs through the Plaza de California.
Plaster figures from local history adorn the ornate facade.
Plaster figures from local history adorn the ornate facade.
Three exhibits running at the Museum of Art.
Banners near the entrance show current exhibits at the Museum of Man.
Plaque by Museum of Man commemorates Cabrillo's discovery of California.
Plaque a bit west of the Museum of Man, beside the archway into Balboa Park’s California Quadrangle, commemorates Cabrillo’s discovery of California.
Sitting at table under an umbrella near Museum of Man.
Sitting at a table under an umbrella near the beautiful Museum of Man.

Here are even more photos from a later date…

Sign in the California Quadrangle. Built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, the Plaza de California and surrounding buildings served as the grand west entrance for the exposition.
Sign in the California Quadrangle. Built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, the Plaza de California and surrounding buildings served as the grand west entrance for the exposition.
Photo toward the southeast corner of the California Quadrangle shows Mission Revival style arches.
Photo toward the southeast corner of the California Quadrangle shows Mission Revival style arches.
Photo of the iconic California Tower from a point east on El Prado.
Photo of the iconic California Tower from a point east on El Prado.
The ornate upper levels of the California Bell Tower.
The ornate upper levels of the California Bell Tower. Tours up the tower’s stairs provide amazing views of Balboa Park and San Diego.
Photo of the beautiful California Building from the east, near the Old Globe Theatre.
Photo of the beautiful California Building from the east, near the Old Globe Theatre.
Elaborate ornamentation around the archway outside the east side of the California Quadrangle.
Elaborate ornamentation around the archway outside the east side of the California Quadrangle.
Colorful dome tiles, part of the Spanish Colonial Revival masterpiece of exposition architect Bertram Goodhue.
Colorful dome tiles, part of the Spanish Colonial Revival masterpiece of exposition architect Bertram Goodhue.

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Taming a wild horse: Sculpture in Balboa Park.

taming a wild horse sculpture in balboa park

I love this small bronze sculpture just in front of the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Because it stands inconspicuously in the seldom-visited northwest corner of the Plaza de Panama, few people ever wander over to look at it. Which is a shame.

This piece of art is titled Youth Taming the Wild (Horse Trainer) and was created by Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1927. She is also responsible for the huge, iconic El Cid statue near the center of the plaza, between the fountain and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

I love the expressed energy in this work of art and the careful natural detail. One can see why this fine artist is considered one of the top equestrian sculptors.

Horse sculpture in northwest corner of Balboa Park central plaza.
Horse sculpture in northwest corner of Balboa Park central plaza.

Classic figurehead of historic ship Star of India.

Female figure at the bow of San Diego's historic Star of India.
The Greek muse Euterpe graces the bow of San Diego’s historic Star of India.

Here’s the oft-photographed figurehead of San Diego’s famous tall ship Star of India. I learned from a Maritime Museum of San Diego docent that the figurehead represents Euterpe, one of the Muses from Greek mythology. Euterpe was the muse of music. Euterpe was also the original name of the Star of India, when it was built at Ramsey in the Isle of Man in 1863. Her name was changed from Euterpe to Star of India in 1906 by the Alaska Packers’ Association, which had purchased the ship in 1901.

Closer look at Star of India’s classic figurehead.
Closer look at Star of India’s classic figurehead.

Here’s a cool pic with high contrast applied…

Figurehead of tall ship Star of India.
Figurehead of tall ship Star of India.

San Diego loves the beautiful Star of India.

star of india 01

During today’s morning walk I took a couple other photographs which I will share. Here’s a pic of San Diego’s beloved tall ship Star of India! Many visitors don’t realize that this iron-hulled three-masted bark is the oldest active sailing ship in the entire world! If you ever swing by America’s Finest City, you can go onboard and enjoy a memorable glimpse of maritime history.

With clouds of white sails fluttering in the breeze, she remains the queen of The Big Bay! She’s 150 years old and still appears to be in great condition!

Star of India’s California Historical Landmark plaque.
Star of India’s California Historical Landmark plaque.

Bonus pics taken at various later times:

A familiar sight along Harbor Drive on San Diego's Embarcadero.
A familiar sight along Harbor Drive on San Diego’s Embarcadero.
Bow of Star of India includes the classic female figurehead.
Bow of Star of India includes a classic female figurehead representing Euterpe. That was this ship’s original name.
Early morning photo of San Diego's Star of India.
Early morning photo of San Diego’s Star of India.
Star of India captain's wheel and tangled Maritime Museum rigging.
Star of India steering wheel.
Beautiful sails and clouds.
Beautiful sails and clouds.
Ticket booth and entrance ramp next to the Star of India.
Maritime Museum of San Diego ticket booth next to the Star of India.
American flag flutters in the breeze at stern of the historic old ship.
American flag flutters in the breeze at stern of the historic old ship.
People out for a stroll by the Star of India.
People out for a stroll on San Diego’s Embarcadero by the Star of India.