News: Ghosts, history mingle at Whaley House
Story by Lance Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Visitors have reported the aroma of cigars wafting in and out of rooms, lights flickering, babies crying and shadowy figures looming in mirrors and windows.
Upon investigation, visitors and staff at The Whaley House Museum in San Diego have found no source for these ghostly sounds and apparitions.
History buffs and ghost hunters alike can appreciate the mysteries of The Whaley House Museum.
The house was the site of a gallows before Thomas Whaley bought the property, and then it served as a county courthouse, school, theater, general store and granary while the Whaley family occupied the property throughout the mid-19th century.
The Board of Supervisors for San Diego County bought and restored the home in 1956. It is historically accurate to the 1868-1871 time period - when the most activity occurred on the property. The house is filled with antiques and artifacts found in the area which date back to the 1860’s, as well as Whaley family antiques.
The house itself is a glimpse into life in 1860’s California.
The U.S. Department of Commerce declared the home officially haunted - one of only two in the United States. The other house is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Calif.
The plethora of eyewitness accounts of paranormal activity may have influenced the decision to affirm the home’s hauntings.
“I’ve seen sheet music fly off the organ. Twice in one day!” said George Plum, a docent with the museum. “I’ve heard a baby crying upstairs, I’ve seen chandeliers swinging.”
Every employee at the museum has at least one tale of paranormal activity in the house.
“One time I was standing on the porch talking to a group,” said Steve Wilson, a docent with the museum. “I kept feeling a tug on my shoulder. I ignored it because I was talking, but when I finally turned around no one was in sight.”
The long history of violence and death on the property may have something to do with the persistent eerie reports by employees and visitors alike.
The property is rumored to be the burial site for Native Americans who died while serving the nearby Spanish missions, and was the county gallows before Thomas Whaley bought the land.
A series of untimely deaths by the Whaley children, including a suicide that some believe was a murder, and a violent struggle between Thomas Whaley and the county for control of the courthouse furthered sealed the home’s fate.
Violet Whaley was found dead in the outdoor restroom, shot through the heart shortly after her husband divorced her. The investigation, along with testimony from Thomas Whaley and Corrine Whaley, Violet’s sister, concluded the death was a suicide. The gun, however, was not recovered until 1950.
The gun was buried under cement, nowhere near the former site of the restroom. The mysterious circumstances of Violet’s death have led some to believe that someone murdered her and she still haunts the property.
The museum offers daily tours with a military discount, Sunday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.
Serious ghost hunters can reserve private night tours after 10 p.m.
The house is located in Old Town on the corner of San Diego Ave. and Harney St.