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Inside the Icon: Whaley House

Happy Halloween from San Diego’s most haunted house


Photography by Paul Body

Do you believe in ghosts?

Evening tours start at $10. Private tours and ghost hunts are also available.  
2476 San Diego Avenue, Old Town

Brick by Brick

Built in 1857, the historic Whaley House in Old Town was the first two-story brick building in San Diego, built with bricks from owner and businessman Thomas Whaley’s own brickyard.

R.I.P. Whaleys

Whaley’s son Thomas Jr. died of scarlet fever in the home at just 18 months old in 1858, and daughter Violet committed suicide in the home in 1885.

Admit One

The Whaley House became a museum in 1960. Now, more than 120,000 visitors cross the threshold each year.

Part of the Park

Owned by the County of San Diego as a part of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, it has been managed by the nonprofit Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) since 2000.

Hang your Hat Here

Thomas Whaley purchased the property in 1855 on the site where Yankee Jim Robinson, a local thief, was hanged in 1852. Whaley himself witnessed the execution.

The Golden Years

Today, the Whaley House Museum focuses on the years 1868 to 1871, when the property served as the Whaley family residence, San Diego’s first commercial theater, the county courthouse, and the Whaley and Crosthwaite General Store.

Haunted Even Then

As the home is built atop a gallows site, the Whaleys believed the home was haunted even when they lived there, reporting footsteps upstairs that are said to continue today.

Did You Hear That?

Workers and visitors have reported hearing footsteps, pounding gavels, and vaudeville music; seeing swinging chandeliers; and smelling holiday meals or French perfume.

Family Finds

This year, a surviving great-grandson of Thomas Whaley and his wife, Anna, donated original family furnishings to the museum, including a baby crib and a journal of daughter Lillian’s, dated 1925. In it, she wrote, “Here I am, 60 years of age, living in a haunted house.”

(A)live! with Regis

Regis Philbin filmed a local show at the Whaley House in 1964. Allowed to stay the night, he left before morning after reportedly seeing a spirit. He returned with a medium to film the show The Haunting of Regis Philbin in 2012.

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