The Whaley House. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can say about this location that hasn’t been said before. (Don’t believe me? Click here, here, here, or here for a sample of these reviews). This destination is regularly listed as one of the Top Five “Must Visit” places in San Diego. If that wasn’t strange enough, the Whaley House has received international notoriety as one of the “most haunted” locations not just in California, not just in the United States and North America, but as one of the most haunted spots in the world. That’s right: in the world! (Don’t believe me? The website for the Whaley House discusses its “haunted nature”, and solicits ghost photos! But for more info, click here, here, or here). If all of that wasn’t enough, the Whaley House has its own B-Grade horror movie! (Don’t worry, for research purposes, I watched it, and…..it was truly bad).
Did I also mention that the Whaley House is also a California Historic Landmark, and is perhaps – if not the most historic structure in all of San Diego? I didn’t? All of these facts and more mean that this is probably one of the top five blogged about sites in San Diego. With all of this – dare I say it hype out there about the site, the question becomes is not what can I tell you about the site, but whether in my opinion the site lives up to the hype that is out there. In this respect, I am the ideal person to break this down for you: I grew up in San Diego, and I’ve spent a lot of time living here. If you had asked me, as a kid, is the Whaley House worth the hype, I would have said “no”. My recollections from those early visits was that the tours were crowded, short, and not that informative.
But – and this is a huge but, because I’m not a fan of overly touristy locations, I’m pleased to report that the Whaley House has changed. While I can’t pinpoint when or where, what I can say is that my recent visits have been pleasant and informative. In my opinion, the history of the “house” is what makes this a location you want to visit. First of all – it’s not really just a house. It was San Diego’s first courthouse; San Diego’s first theater; and one of San Diego’s first stores. Yes all of these things are present in the building. The presence of all of these things on the property means that this is a location with a sordid history.
For example; since the courthouse was present in the house, the infamous “Yankee Jim” was hung on the property next to the house. Or, since the Whaley’s were San Diego high society, their problems – deaths in the family, suicides and other things were big time news. But let’s get to those deaths. If you’ve read my blog, you know that I have an affinity for strange spots. And, this is supposedly the spot to come to in San Diego if you want to see a ghost – or something strange. According to my most recent tour guide, the Whaley House has a “portal” in the Courtroom to another dimension!
Well, I’ve been on the tour(s) of the house several times, and I’ve never experienced anything at all. I’m ok with that though – it adds to the air of mystery that’s present in the house. From what I’ve seen, the caretakers of the house have gone to a more “ghost-oriented” theme to their tours, and it does add a lot to the presentation. Lots of people have died at the property. It does have a violent and sad past. All of this serves to make people listen and learn about the past – which, whether ghosts are there or not, is a good thing. So if you’re in San Diego, and you want to visit one of the top tourist spots, the Whaley House does live up to the billing. Just don’t expect to be alone – because the ghosts know about it too.
Factoids that may only interest me: The theatre that is on the second floor used to hold over a hundred people for performances. I get that people were smaller in the 1800’s – but wow. That room is tiny! Also, as you walk to the Whaley House, look for bronze markers on the sidewalk and street. Those represent former buried bodies from the old cemetery!
Directions: The House is located at 2476 San Diego Avenue, right smack in the middle of Old Town. You can’t miss it. Tours are conducted year-round.