The Whaley House: America’s Most Haunted Residence

Decorative detail of "The Whaley House" in San Diego, California.
Decorative detail of "The Whaley House" in San Diego, California.
Decorative detail of “The Whaley House” in San Diego, California.

The mysterious silhouette of a young woman is lingering on the second floor of the house. The curtains are moving even though all the windows are sealed shut. You can hear plenty of eerie noises like the heavy footsteps of a man and a baby crying or giggling when no one is in sight. Lights are turning on and off by themselves, the whole house can become quite cold, and weird shadows can be spotted throughout.

Built on top of former gallows in historic Old Town, San Diego, California, “The Whaley House,” is the 1857 Greek Revival style residence of Thomas Whaley and his family. Here are some of the tragic incidents that can well explain why the “Whaley House” has earned the title of “The most haunted house in the U.S.”

Thomas Whaley, born in 1823 in New York City, arrived in San Diego in 1853. Two years later, he bought the land where a graveyard once was and where James “Yankee Jim” Robinson had been hanged for stealing a boat and began constructing his family home and what would be the first brick building in California. “My new house, when completed, will be the most handsome, comfortable and convenient place in town or within 150 miles of here,” Thomas Whaley once shared with his contemporaries. The ambitious man, his wife Anna Eloise Delaunay and their children moved into their new home, the finest residential building in Southern California, now known as the “Whaley House,” in 1857. After a few months, the family opened a general store inside the mansion.

Photo of Thomas and Anna Whaley with two of their children.
Photo of Thomas and Anna Whaley with two of their children.

Their son Thomas Whaley, Jr. who was only 18 months old, suffered from scarlet fever and died on January 29, 1858, inside the house. After a few months, a fire suddenly broke out within the home and destroyed the family’s general store. In their effort to avoid another misfortune, Thomas Whalley, his wife, and their five children decided to move to San Francisco. They finally headed back to their residence in San Diego ten years later. During their stay, “The Whaley House” served as the city’s first commercial theater as well as the county courthouse. In 1871, armed men, threatening the life of Anna Whaley, seized the courthouse records from the home while Thomas Whaley was on a business trip.

Old photo of "The Whaley House" in San Diego, California.
Old photo of “The Whaley House” in San Diego, California.

Several years later, Violet Eloise, the younger of the family’s two daughters who married inside the home, suffered a shameful divorce from George Bertolacci because the man was actually a con artist that ran off during their honeymoon with a sizeable fortune. Violet, being depressed entirely, committed suicide by shooting herself in the chest in 1885.

The residence’s past along with a plethora of reports of paranormal activity became public when “The Whaley House” became a museum in the 1960s. Since then, nighttime ghost-hunting tours of the house are offered on a regular basis.

Whaley House Museum
Address: 2476 San Diego Avenue, San Diego, CA 92110, USA
Phone: (619) 297 7511