During my recent visit to Old Town San Diego, I ventured into the unknown. I took my very first look inside the Whaley House, widely considered to be the most haunted house in America. I also took lots of photographs, which you are about to see!
The Whaley House has been the subject of many serious paranormal investigations, and has appeared on many television programs. It was featured on Syfy Channel’s Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, the Travel Channel’s episode America’s Most Haunted on Ghost Adventures, and the Biography Channel’s show The Haunting of Regis Philbin. The house’s reputation for supernatural activity has been discussed widely in the media and adopted by the popular culture.
LIFE magazine, a serious publication, has stated that the Whaley House is “the most haunted house in America.” The Travel Channel has agreed with that conclusion.
So, did I see any ghosts, spirits or apparitions–any spooky or weird stuff?
As I took the self-guided tour and peered into the various rooms, my eyes were primarily searching for ideal shots for my camera. But in the back of my mind, I also anticipated perhaps glimpsing something unusual.
Perhaps I’d see the ghost of Yankee Jim, who was hanged in a particularly gruesome way in 1852, on the same plot of land where the Whaley House was built in 1857. The Whaley’s youngest daughter Lillian was absolutely convinced that he haunted their home.
Or I might see the ghosts of Thomas or Anna Whaley who built the house when they came to San Diego from San Francisco. Thomas is said to appear in the parlor or on the upper landing; Anna in the downstairs rooms or outside garden.
Or perhaps I might get a ghostly glimpse of someone or something else…
Three of the docents I spoke to during my recent visit related their own bizarre experiences. Two docents once saw a gilded cup in a display case begin to vibrate for no apparent reason. Nothing had shaken the house or case. No other artifacts near the cup moved. The cup’s peculiar motion continued for 30 to 45 seconds, they attested. Another docent told me that she twice smelled lavender perfume inexplicably while sitting near a window in the upstairs theater. Nobody was nearby.
Several years ago, when I passed the Whaley House and spoke to a docent standing outside the front door, they told me they’d heard inexplicable footsteps in the theater and had seen a strange shadow moving on an upstairs wall. The cashier in the gift shop next door had seen the same weird shadow. I blogged about that here.
Okay. So what exactly did I see? Look at the photographs! And read the captions for more history concerning this fascinating and historically important house.
If I experienced anything unusual inside the Whaley House, it was that I felt a bit like a time traveler. A tour through this historic house is like stepping back into another time, when day-to-day life was both simpler and in many ways more dangerous, unpredictable and difficult. In my mind’s eye I could almost see the people of that era moving about the house–performing ordinary tasks–people who really weren’t that different than you or me. I could almost put myself in their shoes. In my imagination.
Take a look at these photographs and what do you see? If a few images seem to contain glare or strange effects of light, it was probably caused by my camera’s flash and the necessity of taking some photos through glass. The photo of the children’s bedroom, for example, was taken through a glass pane.
The only adjustments I made to these photos were cropping, brightness, contrast and the GIMP filter for sharpness. And the photos I altered were changed just slightly to make them appear a little bit nicer on your screen!
Leave a comment if you see something ghostly!
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Here is a cool sight that I walked past yesterday! Check out the absolutely fantastic Villa Montezuma mansion! You can find it nestled in Sherman Heights, an old, semi-decayed neighborhood just east of downtown San Diego.
Also called the Jesse Shepard house, this architectural marvel was built in 1887. It’s considered by some to be the finest example of Queen Anne architecture on the West Coast, plus it’s rumored to be haunted by two ghosts! In the more recent past it was a museum, but eventually fell into disrepair. It’s currently being renovated. Hopefully it should reopen next year!
Jesse Shepard, born in London in 1848, was a famous, flamboyant European musician. While performing for Alexander II of Russia, Jesse was introduced to the Czar’s medium who taught him how to conduct seances. Shepard became obsessed with spiritualism, and after moving to San Diego at the suggestion of a local spiritualist society, built the Villa Montezuma to his own exact specifications.
Included in the amazing house are highly ornate towers and stained glass windows. It’s interior is just as imaginative, and is said to contain secret passages. Several gargoyles can be spotted should you walk down the sidewalk. Just the sort of place to hold seances! And Shepard held many! He claimed to have spoken with the spirits of Mozart, Beethoven and Shakespeare, just to name a few.
Today it’s rumored that the Villa Montezuma is haunted by a man who hung himself in the observatory tower. And by Jesse Shepard himself! Unexplained piano music is said to be heard coming from the historical mansion late at night!
Here are two sunnier photos I took on a later date…
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I was going through some of the photos I took while walking along the boat channel at Liberty Station. This elegant clock donated by the Rotary Club has always struck me as odd–it stands for no reason on what is essentially a nature path among palm trees.
But something else seemed a bit weird in this pic. There seemed to be a small dot directly above the clock. I magnified the image and discovered a UFO! Looks to me like a distant flying saucer!
I thought the strange dot might be an aircraft taking off from nearby Lindbergh Field, but it’s way too small and doesn’t look like any airplane. What is it???
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.