SAN DIEGO — Do you dare step inside the Whaley House? You don’t have any more excuses, as the historic San Diego property is back open for tours after “an 18-month slumber” due to the coronavirus pandemic and a change in management.
Known as “the most haunted house in America,” the Whaley House has stood on San Diego Avenue at the heart of Old Town since 1857. It’s served as a family home as well as a general store, courthouse, theater and — eventually — museum.
The home has a “mysterious and chilling past,” from a series of tragic events that took place on its grounds to the town gallows that once stood in its backyard, where criminals including the infamous thief James “Yankee Jim” Robinson were hung. Visitors claim to hear or see spirits on tours of the home, and it’s been featured on all manner of “ghost hunter” shows, including appearances on the SYFY and Discovery channel.
If you’re brave, you can now visit the site under new management: Old Town Trolley Tours, which will be offering self-guided tours during the daytime hours and guided evening tours from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. — when things get really creepy.
You can visit with or without a reservation for daytime tours and pay $14 for adults, $10 for kids. Reservations are required for the evening tours, which are “rated PG-13,” and cost $18 for both adults and kids (those under 12 need someone to accompany them, and it’s not recommended).
“The house has been closed since March of 2020, which afforded Old Town Trolley Tours time to bring in a team of designers and artists to give the home a much needed touch up while keeping the style and feel of an 1850’s landmark home,” the company said in a news release. “We want to share with guests the whole story about the Whaley House…the good, bad and haunted.”
The tales behind the “haunting” at the house stem in large part from the series of misfortunes that befell the home’s namesake: Thomas Waley, a San Diego pioneer.
“Over the years many descendants of the Whaley family lived and died in the house, including Thomas, Anna and their children Lillian, Thomas, Violet and Francis,” museum staff explained. “Baby Thomas, who’d been the first in the family to pass away, had always stayed close by, as reported by many who have visited the home. They could hear tiny footsteps, the sounds of him crying, even giggling when no one was in sight.
“Others report seeing a young woman lingering on the second floor of the house, believed to be poor Violet, still consumed with sorrow. She seems to stay close to the second floor where she spent much of her time after her divorce before she committed suicide. It is said that areas within the home become quite cold and her presence is felt throughout.”
You can learn more and buy tickets on the Historic Tours website.