Parks and Rec

Haunted Happenings at the Whaley House

Are you looking for something fun and spooky to do leading up to Halloween? Why not check out the Whaley House in Old Town, called “the number one most haunted house in America“ by the Travel Channel. During the month of October, there are several spine-tingling tours and special events offered to the public.

The Whaley House, owned by the County of San Diego, is located at 2476 San Diego Ave. in the heart of historic Old Town. First a gallows, then a granary, the building was converted to a home in 1857. It was designated as a historic house museum in 1960 and has been open to the public ever since. The popular museum attracts an estimated 100,000 visitors annually. 

The last Whaley family member lived in the home until 1953. Some say the family and other spirits live on in the historic home and make themselves known on a daily basis to staff and visitors.

San Diego Ghost Hunter Maritza Skandunas leads one of the more popular after-hours tours at the Whaley House.

“The later it is, the creepier it is in the Whaley House. It’s very active all the time, but at night it’s your own fear that makes it more interesting,” Skandunas said. “Every tour, something happens.”

Skandunas said people sometimes hear heavy footsteps, smell sweet tobacco smoke, see apparitions walk through walls, or even feel ghosts tugging on their clothes. Yet, she assures everyone that the Whaley House has a good energy, nothing sinister.

Victor Santana, director of Interpretive Services at the Whaley House, said besides the haunting, he finds the site’s and the house’s history very interesting. Yet, haunting has seemed to go hand in hand with the site since the home was built over the site where public hangings had once occurred. The Whaleys themselves experienced hauntings in their home, he said. Mr. Whaley would claim to hear heavy footsteps and Mrs. Whaley spoke of spirits in the house, Santana said.

Santana’s most disturbing personal experience at the home happened years ago while he was leading a tour upstairs in the nursery. Some period-era dolls, not original to the house, were on display and as he gave the tour, one of the dolls began opening and closing her eyes. Even creepier, he said, when he went back later to examine the doll, she had painted-on eyes.

Tours:

  • The more faint of heart might prefer the day self-guided tour of the house. The tours run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The home is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children 3-12 years old.
  • For someone who prefers a little more information, consider the after-hours tour from 5-9:30 p.m. Tour guides lead a group of 20-25 people through the home room by room. The tours usually last 30-40 minutes and are offered every half hour. Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children.
  • The Past & Presence walking tour takes people to the nearby Adobe Chapel and El Campo Santo Cemetery as well as the home. The remaining special tours will be held on Oct. 24-25. The tour is $25 per person for those ages 12 and up.
  • Want to conduct your own paranormal investigation? The Ghost Hunting Tour led by the San Diego Ghost Hunters will be of interest to you. The 90-minute tour, which begins at 10:30 p.m. and goes to midnight, includes information from real ghost hunters about their investigations at the home. Afterward, guests can even borrow some of the tools of the trade to try to document ghostly phenomenon on their own. The tour is limited to 20 people and costs $50 per person. Indeed this tour is so popular that October is sold out, but the tour is usually offered once a month, so reserve now for Nov. 11 and 18.
  • For some other-worldly wailing, try Scaryeoke at the Whaley House with entertainer Laura Jane Willcock. The free event is held from 6 to 10 p.m. in the Whaley House Gardens. Costumes are optional and if you sing a Halloween song, you have a chance to win a prize.

House tours are extended from 6 p.m. to midnight on Halloween weekend. For more information, visit http://whaleyhouse.org/ and click on “What’s New.”

 

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact