Horror House: The Whaley House

There are four things in the world that I love: dogs, iced coffee, scary stories, and haunted houses.


Since March is our haunted houses month, I thought it would be fun to highlight a real haunted house in my neck of the woods of Southern California.

Meet The Whaley House


The Whaley House was built in 1857 by a man named Thomas Whaley. It is located at 2476 San Diego Avenue, in old town San Diego. Its architecture is mid-nineteenth century Greek Revival and has been a museum since the 60’s.

This two-story house and store was the first two-story brick edifice in San Diego. The Whaley House has operated as a courthouse, general store, theater, morgue and more.

According to believers and first-hand accounts, it is haunted by the Whaley family and also by a man who was hanged on the property before the house was built. Life Magazine has called it “the most haunted house in America.”


A man known as Yankee Jim Robinson arrived in San Diego in 1852. As the website put it, he caused “quite a ruckus” as he had a tendency to claim things that did not belong to him. Eventually, the people of the pueblo had enough and he was captured, tied, and brought to a vacant lot in the plaza. There, a gallow was constructed, and poor Jim Robinson was baptized to save his mortal soul. After that, all 6’4” of him was hauled onto a wagon and a noose was placed around his neck. The wagon was pulled out from under his feet and Jim slowly strangled to death, the toes of his boots slowly scraping the dirt.


Sometime after that, James Whaley bought and built The Whaley House. It seems that soon rumors abounded that the Whaleys had an invisible squatter who’d moved into the house before the family did. Legend says, it was the angry ghost of Yankee Jim. Anna Whaley reported extremely heavy footsteps on the second floor when she was the only person on the premises. She also said there was a dark presence that followed her around the home.

Anna Whaley’s certainty of being haunted are rather ironic, as people today believe that she too, is one of the ghosts that haunt the hallways and corridors.

Visitors report chairs rocking on their own, the chandeliers swinging on their own accord, the sound of the old piano playing by itself in the home (when it’s no longer there), and doors opening and closing of their own volition. Witnesses also report the sounds of cutlery on fine china coming from the dining room and the aroma of fresh baked bread during the holidays.


Thomas and Anna experienced much tragedy on the premises. Their 18-month-old son Thomas Jr. died from scarlet fever in 1858. Their daughter Violet, prone to bouts of depression and self-isolation on the 2nd floor of the building, committed suicide in the house in 1885. Many report feeling unexplainable sorrow in the portion of the home that their deaths took place.

According to the website, the legend of the “ninth step” began when folks experienced an odd sort of pressure upon ascension of the narrow staircase, which for many years was presumed to be the revenant of Anna Whaley reliving a traumatic event, attempting to thwart visitors from gaining access to the second floor. More recently that sensation of pressure is attributed to the wraith of Yankee Jim who may have died in this particular spot, although Lillian Whaley reported that her father told her Yankee Jim was hanged over the location of the archway separating the parlor and study.


Photo by Angela Geis

Visitors also report seeing Thomas Whaley himself, standing at the top of the staircase in a frock coat and a top hat, surveying his castle. Anna is often spotted in the parlor, adorned in a green gingham gown.

Paranormal investigators and visitors alike all agree…Someone, something, or many things remain in the Whaley House and they show no signs of leaving. Visitors beware, you are in for a scare.

The Whaley website even has a spot where visitors can upload their ghostly pictures and I have to say, there are a lot of pictures with a mysterious presence or floating translucent spots.


Ghosts or mere coincidence?

Let me know in the comments below. You can read more about it here or just Google it. There’s so much to read!

You can book your own Whaley House tour here.

Jolene - Midnight Society Signatures

All photos taken from the Whaley House page, and belong to their respective photographers.

  • Faith McKay
    March 28, 2016

    Have you visited any of the famous haunted houses before?

    @metuiteme actually just posted about their visit to the Winchester Mystery Hotel (which I believe you’ve told me about before) for #SpookyAllYear http://www.metuiteme.com/blog/a-house-not-sane

  • Kathy Palm
    March 29, 2016


  • Angela
    April 30, 2019

    I took that picture of the anomaly of a baby on the pillow on the bed. It was taken when I was on the Halloween tour. I took several in a row. Each one showed the anomaly becoming more pronounced. I was a docent there at one time. I have MANY great, intriguing photos, EVP*s, and memories of the Whaley House. This was years ago, during the changing of hands, and furniture ect…I had submitted this photo you have posted, on GHOSTSTUDY.COM, years ago. since then, I believe they changed the name of the website. Long story short, since then, I have been trying to cope with the death of my best friend, my Husband. Nice seeing one of my pictures online.

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