The Whaley House was built in 1857 on land that formerly held gallows. It is not only the most haunted house in America, it was even haunted before it was built. The first ghost to roam the area where the rooms would be built was that of James “Yankee Jim” Robinson. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Thomas Whaley moved to California during the gold rush, and moved to San Diego in 1851. He lived there until 1853, when he moved back to New York to marry his sweetheart, Anna. They moved back to San Diego right away, and Thomas started building their dream home with bricks from his own brickyard. They moved into the house in 1857 with their children Francis and Thomas. Immediately, although the house was beautiful and unlike any other in San Diego, they began to hear strange noises in the night.
The land where Thomas built the Whaley house had once been home to gallows where one James “Yankee Jim” Robinson had been hanged for trying to steal a boat. Upon his arrest he had been hit upon the head and he suffered some wounds. During his time in jail, his medical care was seriously neglected, and he suffered infection and delirium. He was hanged, and it took him forty five minutes to strangle to death. The Whaleys were quite sure that it was Yankee Jim who haunted their house.
The Whaleys suffered personal tragedies (Thomas Jr. died one year after they moved into their new house – taken down by Scarlett Fever and their wooden store burned down), and personal joys (Anna Amelia was born six months after Thomas Jr. died) and moved back to San Francisco for almost a decade. During that time, Anna gave birth to George in 1860, Violet Eloise in 1862, and Corinne Lillian in 1864. Thomas Sr. returned to San Diego in 1868, fixed up the house, and the family joined him in 1868.
The house was not only the residence of the Whaley family, but also the location of the town theater. The theater was set up in a rented second-floor bedroom and could seat 150 people. In 1869 Whaley rented the courtroom (good thing he had the foresight to build one of those!) and three upstairs bedrooms.
Both Violet and Anna wed their suitors in 1882. Violet and her husband divorced, and distraught about the situation, Violet shot herself through the heart with her father’s gun in 1885. The elder Whaleys and the kids who still lived at home moved to a smaller home in San Diego. That would be the place that Thomas Whaley would die, in 1890, and in 1905 Anna passed away in Modesto, California.
I909, Francis, eldest son, decided to restore the old family homestead. He advertised the home as an attraction, and would play his guitar for visitors. Anna (the mother), Francis, Corrine, and George all lived in the house until their deaths. Anna in 1913, Francis in 1914, George in 1928, and Corinne in 1953. They all died in the house that they loved so well.
In the 1960s, the United States Commerce Department would designate the Whaley House as an official haunted house. Yankee Jim’s footsteps can still be heard, and he is the most consistent haunt of any of the paranormal sightings and experiences that have been recorded. Though he did not die there, people have claimed to see the ghost of Thomas Whaley in the house, and others have seen Anna in the garden and in the downstairs rooms.
Other ghosts have been seen in the upstairs rooms, and a descendant of Thomas Whaley’s who ate ant poison and died is said to grab people’s arms as they walk by. Even the Whaley’s dog, Dolly Varden, is known to lick women’s legs, and children have tried to pet her.