The Inspector

By NPI, Inc.

NPI Marketing Team
NPI Marketing Team


Haunted Places: The Whaley House

Location: Old Town, San Diego, California
Architectural Style: Greek Revival
Built: 1857

Sure, we’ll never be able to prove the existence of ghosts, but who doesn’t love a good spooky story? To celebrate Halloween, we’re spotlighting some of North America’s most famous allegedly haunted houses every day this week till Halloween. For Day 2, we present the Whaley House in Old Town, San Diego, California. From the outside, this Greek Revival (the first brick building in California, in fact), is plain and unassuming. You would never know by its appearance that it holds a rich and sinister history.

The Whaley House was built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley, a successful businessman from New York City. The fact that he was knowingly building his home on the former site of the town’s gallows didn’t deter Whaley, who settled his wife, Anna, and their six children in the home and opened a general store on-site.

Not long after the family had settled into the home, their 18-month-old son, Thomas, passed away of a bout of scarlet fever. A few months later, a fire broke out in the home, destroying the general store. The Whaleys moved to San Francisco for a time to escape their bad luck, but decided to return to Old Town, San Diego in 1868. The family breathed new life into the Whaley House, and it came to serve as a beacon of the community for a time. The home served as headquarters for the city courthouse, a showcase for San Diego’s first theatre troupe and another general store. In a few short years, however, tragedy struck again.

In 1871, Anna Whaley was robbed at gunpoint while Thomas was away on a business trip. The men stole important courthouse records, and this violation of trust and privacy was said to have soured the family’s feelings toward their living space and even each other. Years later, their daughter, Violet, took her own life in the home after divorcing her husband and growing unbearably depressed. Several more members of the family would go on to live and die in the house, until it was left in disrepair. In 1909, the Whaley House was restored and turned into a tourist attraction. It has since been named one of the most haunted houses in America.

Ghostly Encounters
Even dating back to when the Whaleys were residents of the home, there were rumors of hauntings. One famous criminal, Yankee Jim, who was hanged on the property before the house stood there, was said to torment the Whaleys with heavy footsteps. Windows would unlatch on their own and fly open. Similar happenings are reported today.

The Whaleys themselves are also said to haunt their former home, manifesting as disembodied sounds and full-bodied apparitions. Guests report the sound of baby Thomas giggling or crying, accompanied by tiny footsteps. They also report seeing the apparition of Violet on the second floor and Thomas and Anna in the sitting room.

Today, the Whaley House is home to a popular café and museum. It’s also open for haunted folklore tours, as well as not-so-spooky daytime history tours. To book your visit, go to

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