Did you know there are houses that are listed as authentic haunted houses by the U.S. government? I didn’t either until we visited the Whaley House in San Diego. The United States Department of Commerce has named the Whaley House as one of the thirty homes across the country that they believe to be haunted. Another house certified as haunted is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose.
The Whaley House is located in a part of San Diego called “Old Town.” Thomas Whaley moved himself and his family into the house in 1857. In addition to housing the Whaley family, the house also served as the town theater, county courthouse and at one time, a general store. Descendants of Thomas Whaley lived in the house until 1956, when the city assumed ownership of the then rundown house. The house was turned into a museum in 1960. In 2000, the Save Our Heritage Organization took over stewardship and plans on restoring the house to its original appearance. Each year, over 100,000 people visit the Whaley House.
Okay, this is nice, but what about the hauntings? Well, there seem to be many ghosts at the Whaley House. One is the Whaley’s young toddler son who plays in the master bedroom. One young girl was killed when she ran into a clothesline and has been seen playing in the garden behind the house. But the most well known death to have occurred on the premise is that of Yankee Jim Robinson. He was hung somewhere on the land in 1853, before the house was built. And while hangings were common back then, this hanging was particularly brutal. Yankee Jim was found guilty of grand larceny for stealing a boat and sentenced to hang. However, the hanging was not well planned. He was tall and as he hung from the noose, his feet scraped the ground and according to reports, it took him nearly an hour to die. He was hung on a makeshift scaffold that some believe was where the house stands today and people say Yankee Jim’s spirit haunts the stairs from the first floor to the second floor. Visitors often feel a tightening in their throats as they walk up the steps. Thomas’ youngest daughter Corinne didn’t like to go upstairs because when ghostly footsteps were heard up there, her father told her it was Yankee Jim.
Visitors also report smelling Thomas Whaley’s cigar smoke and Anna Whaley’s perfume when touring the house. Volunteers who work the tours report feeling cold spots move past them and sometimes see objects move.
The Whaley House is open every day (except Wednesdays September 5 – May 27) and admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for children ages 3 – 12, and free for children 2 and under.