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Two Whaley House Ghosts


I'll add my experiences as well and let you all decide what to do with it. I've seen two apparitions at the Whaley House, and I've never been able to make heads or tails of what I saw. Although these stories happened some time ago, I've written them down before, so recall isn't an issue here.

The Whaley House, in Old Town San Diego, CA is considered one of the haunted houses in the United States. The Whaley House, a two-story Greek Revival, was built in 1857 on the site of a former gallows (probably because the land was cheap). When the house was built it was (I believe) the largest in the city, serving for a time as the San Diego court house as well as a community theater. Performances could reportedly hold 150 people, which, if you visit the house seems incredible since the theater isn't huge. The original inhabitants of the house (the Whaleys) - back in the 1850s/1860s reported hearing noises/odd things, which they wrote about in their journals. Note this was over 150 years ago. Today the house is said to be haunted by many ghosts, including Yankee Jim (hung on the site of the house in the early 1850s), and the Whaley family.

I've visited the Whaley House three times. My first time visiting the house was in 2005 over the 4th of July holiday with my sister and cousin. This was in the mid-afternoon. We were up in the 2nd-floor theater, while a group of maybe three people were recording the master bedroom hoping to catch something (they said that the master bedroom is supposed to be the most active room in the house). Note that the layout of the 2nd floor has the theater at the end of a hallway by a staircase, and the master bedroom is essentially right across from the theater immediately to the right of the same staircase. The people video recording were getting frustrated that they weren't catching anything and were getting ready to leave. I specifically remember the "ding" from the camera as they turned it off. Not a second later I heard a loud bang come from the master bedroom; the people originally recording immediately ran downstairs and out the house (screaming, of course). After catching up with them afterward I learned that a chair in the back right corner of the room had levitated, spun around (!), and hit the back wall. This was the bang that we heard.

Of course, we were curious what the bang was, so we walked from the theater to the master bedroom. The three of us were the only ones there since the people originally recording had all run downstairs. As soon as we got to the bedroom a full-bodied apparition in 19th-century attire appeared at the site of the chair. It looked just as real as any flesh-and-blood human being, except for the face. The face seemed devoid of features, so that it was more like a characterization of a face than a real face. The rest of the apparition looked completely real, including that it was totally opaque. I could tell it was a man dressed in mid-19th century attire.

This apparition then proceeded to run across the master bedroom, vanishing just before getting to the closet that connects the master bedroom to the theater. While the apparition ran across the room it affected the physical world as though it was a real person. The wind from the apparition running ruffled the window curtains, causing them to billow enough that they ended up in front of (covering) the window lamp. The window was closed. As well, the apparition ruffled the carpet. It was as though the apparition was running so fast away from the site of the chair that it slipped a little on the rug and kicked it slightly back. I saw the apparition affect the physical world in front of me... The ghost was never more than a few feet away. The apparition continued running until reaching the hallway closet that connects with the theater. Immediately before the apparition would have hit the curtain that marks the closet, the apparition completely vanished. When the apparition vanished it was maybe no more than 2 feet away from me. It never noticed the three people looking at it-- the apparition was making a b-line directly for the closet.

Just to make sure I wasn't going crazy, my sister and cousin, who were both there next to me, said that they saw the exact same thing.

Immediately afterward we went downstairs to find the docent. He told us that the person we described (including what they were wearing) matched Yankee Jim, who is known to play pranks and to be active in the master bedroom. The docent told us that the clothes that we described the person as wearing are the same clothes that Yankee Jim is said to have worn the day he was hung. He said that what we saw was one of the most active sightings ever reported in the house and let us all into the master bedroom through the theater.

Nothing in the bedroom was amiss, other than the ruffled window curtain and rug, and there was nothing there that would have been out of place in the 1860s. There were no cameras, light projectors, strings, trap doors- nothing. Just an old bedroom - I can't see any reasonable way for what I saw to be explained. I could say that my senses were lying to me, but I had two other people next to me that saw the exact same thing. Plus even if all our senses were being duped, how could I explain how the physical world (carpet ruffled and curtain moved) was affected?

This docent had us put our experience and names in a book which was kept on the 1st floor of the house, which recorded all paranormal activity.

I visited the house again a few years later and the docent remembered who I was, where I was from, and what I had seen (probably because of that book). I was talking with the docent at the end of the day, and along with the docent was the very last person out of the house as he locked it. I can attest that the house was completely empty. Immediately after leaving the house I was looking up at the 2nd-floor windows and saw somebody walk across. Their top half was well-defined but their bottom half was poorly defined and disappeared a little below the shoulders. Although I'm the only person to see this second ghost I know it wasn't a hallucination. I caught this on video (unfortunately the video is analog and I don't have any analog players at the moment). The house was empty, and as I noted for the master bedroom sighting, there are no projectors or strings or anything of the sort anywhere in the house. A projector system large enough to create what I've seen at the Whaley House (if that would even be possible to project with current technology) would be very prominent when visiting.

I really do believe I've seen one full-bodied and one partial apparition on the 2nd floor of this house. I don't see any other explanation... I think what I saw in the master bedroom is impossible to explain without ghosts. It makes more sense to say that these ghosts operate under the rules of reality and that we just don't know all of the rules, rather than to say these apparitions don't make sense with current scientific knowledge, therefore must not exist. Given that ghosts give off characteristics that can be picked up by electronic equipment (EVPs, thermal phenomena, full-spectrum phenomena, etc) and that various hauntings repeat themselves, I think the phenomena of ghosts is scientifically testable. You just need a good grasp of the scientific method and experimental design. But I digress.

Both sightings were complete accidents... I never intended to see anything nor sought to see anything. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Given that Yankee Jim only showed himself when he thought that nobody was looking, I take it that he goes out of his way to stay hidden. It's remarkable to remember though that the Whaleys themselves reported hauntings when they lived there. If Yankee Jim was the ghost the Whaleys were referring to, he's been haunting that house for over 160 years.

I visited the house most recently in 2013 on a guided tour. This was my first time taking a tour- the other times I was allowed to freely explore the house. However, this time I didn't see anything unusual. If the house was installing advanced technology, you would think they would have it do something during their tours when the most people were in the house. But no, nothing. I've only ever seen things when alone or in a small group.

On this latest visit I asked for the book recording paranormal activity in the house but was told no such book existed. I imagine management of the house changed and the book was removed since such a book did exist 10 years ago or so. Do I think the Whaley House is haunted? Yes... The second floor especially.

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Comments about this paranormal experience

The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, treehouse15, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments but I won't participate in the discussion.

DirtCreature (guest)
7 years ago (2017-02-19)
According to your description of your experiences, I believe you saw actual apparitions. I believe many of those old houses and plantations are haunted. The reason I feel shy about going to them is that I don't want the person directing the tour to be purposely pulling my leg and adding in details. That's what bothers me. I am sure these haunted places sometimes have tour guides do things like that, maybe some tour guides don't believe in the paranormal and I find that mocking to try and play around with the visitors:/

But yeah that's insane that happened to you. Whenever I've seen an apparition in the past, it's like your heart drops 10, 000 feet and your mind tries to immediately rationalize it. At the same time it is a very exhilarating experience to have, since most people don't have them.
treehouse15 (1 stories) (3 posts)
7 years ago (2017-02-19)
There are a couple of comments here about possible pantomime. I know the Whaley House is a popular tourist attraction (which is why I went there in the first place), but as with other explanations I've thrown at this, pantomime doesn't stick.

Along with my last comment, the apparition I saw in the master bedroom appeared when it thought there would be nobody watching. The people who were filming the room had run downstairs, and it took myself, my sister, and cousin a couple seconds to walk over there. If we were a couple seconds later the whole thing would have happened to an empty room. Similarly, I was the only person that saw the partial apparition in the 2nd-floor bedroom.

From my perspective, if the Whaley House was going through the expense of hiring actors, they would want those actors to do something in front of people. Further, if the Whaley House was installing super advanced projector systems or something like that, I'd imagine they would have them do something during tours when the house was full of people. On the contrary, big paranormal events at the house seem to occur when few to no people are watching. The house can ago weeks without any paranormal phenomena.

There are stories of people seeing Mr. Whaley while on a tour of the house. That could be explained easily by a pantomime actor. What I saw wasn't pantomime... I saw something appear and disappear in front of me, and then I saw something else that was only partially visible.
treehouse15 (1 stories) (3 posts)
7 years ago (2017-02-19)
Hi [at] rookdygin-- I've heard the same thing too about pantomime actors working at the Whaley House. I don't think this is the case, at least in the situation with what I saw in the Master Bedroom.

Whether or not it was Yankee Jim who I saw, I did see something materialize and dematerialize while I was watching it. When I walked to the master bedroom the room was completely empty, and then I saw an apparition materialize in the back right corner of the room. I vivdly remember the process of the apparition (or whatever it was) appearing and disappearing. This was no human.

The appearing/vanishing was not instantaneous but it was very quick, probably around 1 second each time. The apparition I saw ultimately vanished no more than 2-3 feet away from me while running and immediately before reaching the closet. This alone would rule out a human actor. Myself, my sister, and my cousin, who all saw the same thing, didn't believe it could have been a human actor. Further, when we were allowed into the master bedroom by the docent immediately after this event we didn't find any projectors or strings or trap doors or anything in the room where an actor could have hidden.

Believe me-- the three of us went into the room with the docent skeptical of what we saw since it was so incredible. However, even having the run of the room we weren't able to find any natural explanation.

The second apparition I saw in a 2nd-floor bedroom was a partial apparition... The figure had a defined head and shoulders, but the apparition vanished a little below that. Again, it is not possible for a human actor to play the partial apparition that I saw. The only thing that could possibly explain what I've seen at the Whaley House is a very advanced hologram/projection system. However, like I said, I was allowed in the room where I think I saw Jim yet didn't see anything out of the ordinary that could have produced what I saw.

I'd like for there to be a real, natural explanation such as pantomime actors. People like answers... And for this, I have none. No matter from which angle I've considered this, I haven't been able to come up with any natural explanation.
Jenysue (7 posts)
7 years ago (2017-02-18)
I grew up in San Diego and have visited The Whaley House many times. I've had a few experiences there as a kid with some paranormal sightings. However, nothing compared to yours. That house definitely has a dark history and is REALLY haunted by many lingering souls.
Curly_1Lack (2 stories) (21 posts)
7 years ago (2017-02-17)
Loved the story and thanks a bunch for sharing.It's funny how your mind tries to instantly rationalize when you see something paranormal as if by instinct. I had an experience and later laughed at myself because for several minutes afterwards I was like "Wow that's unbelievable!",and my mind is saying "It's not possible.".
Enlightened1959 (8 stories) (118 posts)
7 years ago (2017-02-17)

This was a very interesting experience! (or experiences) At first, I thought you were talking about the Whaley house in Savannah, Georgia. I had gone there with my hubby one year and was very creeped out by the feeling that someone or something very threatening was watching me walk by the house one evening BEFORE I found out it was supposedly haunted. I just wonder if there is any relation between the Whaley House in San Diego and the one in Savannah, Georgia.

Anyway, I have made this one of my favorite stories.

Thank you for sharing.
DirtCreature (guest)
7 years ago (2017-02-13)
Out of all the haunted houses, the Whaley House is the most popular one in California. It's so popular that I only ended up going there because of a school field trip on history when I was about 8 years old. So I would not be surprised if they purposely had pantomimed acts as Tweed stated. It is possible the place is actually haunted (I have speculated the possibility because of Yankee Jim and how Mr. Whaley's daughter committed suicide, rest her soul) but that the staff adds elements to bring in tourists. San Diego is definitely a tourist attraction. It's the reason I would personally avoid going to so-called haunted museums because people see the paranormal as a joke. It's not as established as religion. People would maul you if you had a fake Jesus apparition at a museum but ghosts seem to be a big joke to people. And I find that very sad. I personally believe some of these places that are museums like old home and plantations do have some paranormal guests but business is business:/

Thanks for sharing your experiences though, brings back childhood memories:)
Tweed (35 stories) (2501 posts)
7 years ago (2017-02-13)
Hi there Treehouse,

Thanks for sharing your experiences at Whaley House. I sort of don't want to say this, but I feel it's best in the interest of honesty. A few members here have reported the haunting activity of Whaley House to be largely pantomime acts and such, like a carnival ghost house thrill. Every time a few people chip in about the fraud element of these hauntings.

My advice to you is to reassess what you experienced. You may have had a paranormal experience there which was drowned out by all the panto dealings of Whaley House.
I hope the curators of Whaley House read this and similar discussions online, because it really slows paranormal research down.
rookdygin (24 stories) (4458 posts)
7 years ago (2017-02-12)

Enjoyed this very much. Thanks for sharing.



Now pardon the interuption...


Would you PLEASE STOP referring EVERYTHING as how it 'relates to you' or 'I had a similar experience'

I'm glad you enjoyed reading Treehouse's, experience (I hope they are as well) but enough about you and yours... Unless you submit them and after publishing they are being discussed.

Puff Bayram
KikiGirl (8 stories) (207 posts)
7 years ago (2017-02-12)
Treehouse15! What an absolutely intriguing article, your story really blew me away! It is not because I have never seen a partial element or whole human being, just that your description was so well brought to mind! As a Reader, I find your recalling detailed, thorough and to-the-point which illustrates your conclusion/s one by one as they arose.

In my article, "The Haunted House - The Undertaker (and Family Stories) " I recollected seeing an apparition which was sitting at the table with the chair pulled away from the table, while writing. Upon further inspection after the vanishing of the apparition, the chair was still in the same position as it was when the man/apparition had been sitting and writing. Our family home was always kept as clean and pristine as possible, if we were not using our dining room table, the chairs would have been pushed in. So, it definitely seemed to me that he was able to move or moved the chair. However, I never found the writing utensils or pad that he was writing with.

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