By John R. Beyer

The Whaley House in Old Town San Diego, Calif.

The most haunted house in Southern California is supposed to be the Whaley House in San Diego, but is it really haunted? Thousands upon thousands of visitors each year declare something close to the following:

“I’ve never been so scared in my life!”

“Voices were speaking to me the moment I walked into the house.”

“A ghost was so real and fresh, it asked me out for a date.”

OK, I have no idea if any of the above was actually said — especially the last one —  but, and I want to phrase this very carefully, this house has spooky and paranormal written all over it. 

Throughout October, I focused my writing on supposedly haunted places. It’s been fun visiting and writing about them, but, again, I go back to the question from my first entry in this series: Do I (or you) believe in ghosts?


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I’m not a believer or disbeliever in spirits who allegedly walk between this place we call reality and some other realm, but a trip to the Whaley House had me really questioning all the hoopla over ghosts. I mean, really questioning it…

Built in 1857, this Greek revival home — no idea exactly what that means, but it is stylish — sits in what is known as Old Town in San Diego. It’s called Old Town because it was first built near San Diego Bay a long, long time ago.

“Papa, why do they call this Old Town?” a son asked his father (a long, long time ago in the old part of town).

“I don’t know,” the owner of the Greek revival house replied, “but please bring me some bread, olive oil and, umm, you know, something else to do with mythology. I understand future generations will study it and think we were really smart. I mean, we live in a Greek revival home after all. We have a responsibility to live up to, right?”

Turns out, the original owners of the house weren’t Greek at all, but of the Scot and Irish breed. They just liked the Greek style.

Thomas Whaley moved to this part of the Southern California coast with his spouse, Anna, in 1853. The couple built a house and, with their six children, moved into it on Aug. 22, 1857.

Thomas Whaley

Times, however, were not wonderful for the Whaley family. They lost their son, Thomas Whaley Jr., on Jan. 29, 1858, to scarlet fever. He was just 18 months old. Soon after that, a store they owned burned to the ground. The family packed up and moved to San Francisco. But in December 1868, they found themselves back in San Diego.

Everything was looking up for the Whaleys by then, but up never lasts forever.

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