Guide to Whaley House Museum

Looking for something paranormal to do on your next San Diego trip? Why not visit the Whaley House Museum? The museum is dedicated to the history of San Diego and the Whaley family, who were one of the city’s earliest settlers.

In this guide, we provide all the information you need to know about Whaley House Museum, including its history, how to get there, what to expect, and the best time to visit.

About the Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House was built in 1856 by Thomas Whaley. Thomas Whaley was a New York native who moved to San Diego in 1849. He was a successful businessman and was one of the first settlers in San Diego.

The house is notable for being San Diego’s first commercial theater, the second county courthouse, and a bilingual general store. It is now a museum that is open to the public.

The Whaley House Museum is located in Old Town San Diego Historic District. You can find it at 2476 San Diego Avenue, San Diego, CA 92110. It is easily accessible by taking the Old Town Trolley or riding the San Diego Coaster train to the Old Town station, which is a 3-minute walk away from the Whaley Museum.

The Haunted Side of the Whaley House Museum

Not only was the Whaley house one of the finest homes in Southern California, but it also served as a communal building to foster camaraderie and peace. It is said to have “witnessed more history than any other building in the city.” 

However, it was beset by tragedy after tragedy. It is speculated that the Whaley family’s misfortunes at the mansion were because the land on which it was built formerly served as an old cemetery and execution site.

The family had even complained about hearing loud footsteps in the house shortly after they moved in, which they believed to be the ghost of town’s notorious crook James “Yankee” Jim Robinson, who had been executed on the property for stealing a boat.

The Whaley family’s good fortune turned to tragedy soon after the birth of their son, Thomas Junior, who contracted scarlet fever and died 18 months after his birth. The part of the house which Thomas Whaley converted into a general store also burned to the ground, and the family had to leave for San Francisco only to return after ten years had passed. 

Three years after they had returned to the Whaley mansion, one of their five children, 22-year-old Violet, shot herself with her father’s 32-caliber pistol because she couldn’t bear the heartbreak and shame of her husband leaving her two weeks after marriage. And their third and last daughter, Corinne, had her engagement broken off due to the scandal caused by Violet’s suicide. 

Thomas, devastated by the tragic events, decided to relocate his family not too far from the Whaley mansion to a newly built house, where he succumbed to health issues and passed away in 1888.

Nearly two decades after the pioneer family vacated the Whaley house, Thomas Whaley’s son, Francis, returned to the mansion to restore and turn it into a tourist attraction. He strummed his guitar and sang about the house’s history to anyone who cared to listen. The Whaley House was where he and the surviving members of the family lived and eventually died. 

The Whaley House Museum is now said to be haunted by the ghosts of Yankee Jim and the Whaley family. People have reported feeling an eerie presence; hearing strange noises, such as the thudding footsteps of Yankee Jim, the wailing or giggling of baby Thomas, or the patter of tiny feet; and smelling the French perfume worn by Anna Whaley. Some even claimed to have seen a young woman believed to be young Violet lingering on the second floor.

What to Expect When You Visit the Whaley House Museum

There are so many things to do in the Whaley House Museum. Whether you choose to tour the property during the day (self-paced) or evening (guided), you can:

  • Check out the lovely flower garden area and look inside the rooms to see some of the original furniture and belongings used by the Whaley family. 
  • Travel back to the 1800s as you walk around San Diego’s first theater and second county courthouse.
  • Go shopping at the historic Verna house, which houses the Whaley House Museum shop.
  • Learn more about the Whaley family and see for yourself what made the property a historic landmark.
  • See some ghosts and experience the paranormal (if you are lucky!).

When is the Best Time to Visit?

The best time to visit the Whaley House Museum is during the day. The museum is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. However, if you’re interested in experiencing some paranormal activities, people have reported hearing and seeing ghosts or manipulated objects at night. So, you may want to book an evening tour, which starts from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

If you’re visiting San Diego on vacation during Halloween, it may be more crowded than usual at the Whaley House Museum because of the holiday.

The Whaley House Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in the Greek revival architecture style or history of San Diego and the Whaley family. It is also said to be one of the most haunted places in America. So if you are a paranormal enthusiast, the Whaley House Museum is the place for you!

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