By Cheryl Knight
Paranormal Underground Editor-in-Chief
California State Historic Landmark #65 . . . The Whaley House — a historic location that takes visitors back to a time when California was first being established after the start of the Gold Rush in 1849.
As one of San Diego, California’s, oldest structures (it was built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley), the two-story building sits among several other historical sites in Old Town San Diego, including La Casa de Estudillo and El Campo Santo Cemetery. The Whaley House was quite a unique ‘home’ as it housed the County Court House, a general store, a granary, San Diego’s first commercial theater, a ballroom, a billiard hall, a school, and a family residence.
But with so much activity during the many years the house flourished, there was also death within its walls, including the tragic suicide of Thomas Whaley’s daughter, Violet. And before Whaley built his house, many hangings occurred on the property, as well. Through the years, claims of paranormal activity at the Whaley House have abounded, including reported activity caused by the ghost of “Yankee Jim,” who was convicted of attempted grand larceny in San Diego in 1852 and hanged where the house now stands.
Other ghostly visitors are said to be Thomas Whaley; his wife Anna Whaley; a young girl, who is usually found in the dining room; and even the ghost of a spotted dog. According to the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted, the house is the number one most haunted house in the United States.
And according to TV personality Regis Philbin, who once visited the Whaley House in 1964, and had his own personal experience there, “You know a lot of people pooh-pooh it because they can’t see it. But there was something going on in that house.”
After hearing so much hype for so many years about the Whaley House, my boyfriend Chad, my 14-year-old son, and I decided to set off on Memorial Day Weekend to check out the house, and the other historical sites in Old Town San Diego.
I had spoken to several friends that had their own paranormal experiences inside the Whaley House, including seeing full-bodied apparitions and feeling a sense of being watched and even pushed by a presence that they couldn’t see. Would we encounter any spirits at the Whaley House? We couldn’t wait to find out.
Chad took his ghost-hunting gear (he’s a paranormal investigator), but as it turned out, during the evening ghost tour that we took, we were not allowed to take video or audio. Only those that paid extra for a late-night tour were allowed to use any equipment beyond a camera. We were very disappointed, of course, but were happy to at least be able to take some pictures with our cameras.
There were about 20 of us taking the hour-long tour, and we began in the court room. We all took our seats on the courtroom observer benches in front of the judges’ bench, and the docent began to tell us about the tour we were about to take.
A few moments after she began to speak, I looked at my son, who was sitting at my left side, and he began to hunch over, his hands and arms started shaking, and he became pale. After a moment, I took his right hand in mine and leaned over and asked if he was feeling alright. He nodded, but continued to look shaken while the docent spoke.
After that portion of the tour was completed, I stayed behind for a minute to talk to my son to make sure he felt OK to continue. I asked him, “What happened?”
He told me that he had become dizzy, nauseous, and couldn’t seem to control his arms . . . until I held his hand and began speaking to him. He said he was fine and definitely wanted to continue the tour. So onto the rest of the tour we went, snapping photos, listening to the docent, and soaking in the awesome history that was the Whaley House.
Did Chad or I we encounter anything paranormal? No. We examined our photos afterward and found nothing unusual. We had no personal experiences. The only strange thing that happened that night involved my son.
I asked my son later if that episode had ever happened to him before. He said, no. It was so concerning to me that I decided I would take him to the doctor to make sure all was well with him physically. We did go to the doctor, and all is well. Sure there are many explanations other than a paranormal one as to what happened to my son.
But I still sometimes wonder, did he encounter a spirit at the Whaley House?
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