The Haunted Whaley House

2476 San Diego Avenue, San Diego 92110

America’s Most Haunted? Or just urban legends?

What was once thought to be an opportunistic investment for a developing family became a vacant monument to tragedy and death.

Many members of the Whaley family have met their demise inside those brick walls, and many more have been rumored to have died on the premises. Who for sure can say which ones are history and which are just ghost stories?

Did you know?

  • The Whaley family left the house in 1858. It would be ten years until they would live in it again.
  • The Whaley house was home to a theatre troupe, a courthouse, and a general store.
  • It is believed that boat thief Yankee Jim Robinson was hanged right on the grounds where the Whaley House now stands.

The Ghosts of the Whaley House

It is believed that the family members who have died in the Whaley House still roam its halls to this day.

There have also been stories of other spectral tenants that have moved in with the Whaley’s. But are these stories rooted in history or rooted in fiction?

The Ballad of Yankee Jim

”Yankee” Jim Robison had a reputation of being a troublemaker in San Diego. He was a drunk and a horse thief and was just about despised by everyone in town. Everyone was itching to get rid of him once and for all. And it seems their chance had finally arrived.

In 1852, Jim and two accomplices attempted to steal the Plutus, a schooner ship. Although, Jim stated later on that he merely wanted to borrow it. The three men were subsequently captured, and Jim suffered a head injury from a rusty sword.

The men awaited trial. Jim was given no representation and was suffering from a debilitating fever from his head injury. His two accomplices were each sentenced to one year in prison. Troublemaker, drunk, and thief Yankee Jim was sentenced to the gallows.

Cave Entrace

It is rumored that the tree where Jim was hanged was the same plot of land where the Whaley House would end up being built on. And it is rumored that Thomas Whaley witnessed the execution.

Nevertheless, reports have claimed a presence in the house where Jim was supposedly hanged. Even the Whaley family themselves have made similar claims.

Could it be that even in death, Yankee Jim still stirred up trouble? Could Jim have cursed the family for treading on the grounds where he died by unjust means?

The Legend of Anna Belle Wasburn

Another story comes from the mouth of a former Whaley House employee. People have reported seeing the apparition of a little girl in the dining room. The employee claims it is the spirit of Anna Belle Washburn, a playmate of the Whaley children.

The story goes that while she was outside playing, Anna ran into a low-hanging clothes line, breaking her neck. Thomas then found her and placed her in the dining room table where she died.

Yet, no record of the incident or the child is known to exist. So, if Anna Belle Wasburn never existed, who’s haunting the dining room?

The History of the Whaley Family

It’s difficult to discuss the various hauntings of the Whaley House without also discussing the family who lived there to begin with.

A New Yorker in California

Impassioned by the boom of the California Gold Rush, Thomas Whaley left his home in New York City in 1849 and set off for San Francisco. He promptly set up a store and returned to New York to marry Anna Eloise DeLaunay. In 1853, the couple relocated to San Diego.

Their son Francis was born in 1854, and in 1856, Thomas had a house built for his family as well as commissioning the construction of his general store.

Cave Entrace

By 1858, the store had been relocated closer to town and Anna Eloise had given birth to both Thomas, Jr. and Anna Ameila. However, tragedy struck when young Thomas died at 18 months and the store burned to the ground.

Stricken with grief, the family left for San Francisco. It would be ten years before the Whaleys would see their home again.

Tenants and Tragedy

While in San Francisco, the Whaleys had three more children: George, Violet, and Corinne. Thomas began setting up stores in Alaska, while the family stayed behind.

After a massive earthquake struck San Francisco, Thomas and the family returned to a disheveled and empty Whaley House in 1868.

He proceeded to set up another store on the first floor, while renting out rooms on the second floor to a theatre troupe and what would become the San Diego Courthouse.

The Whaley House hosted a double wedding for both Anna and Violet in 1882. However, Violet’s husband abandoned her two weeks later. Stricken with heartbreak and humiliation, Violet shot herself in the heart with Thomas’ pistol.

Thomas promptly moved the family to another house where he would die in 1890. The remaining family moved back to the Whaley House in 1912. Thomas’ wife Anna and their son Francis would die in the old family home in 1913 and 1914 respectively.

Corinne continued to live in the house until her death in 1953.

The Whaley House Today

Due to the efforts of the San Diego Historic Organization, the Whaley House was fully restored in 1960 and tours began taking place that same year.

Know Before You Go

The Whaley House is currently temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Visitors can still take in the sights of the house while driving around the San Diego area. When stopping by the Whaley House to take pictures, please be mindful and never trespass on private property.

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