The Haunted Whaley House
Bad omens had been following the Whaley family for years. Long before the tragic deaths of Thomas Jr. and young Violet, who took her own life in the parlor of the home. It seemed a curse had fallen on the Whaley House and even after moving 500 miles away, Thomas Whaley and his family could not escape its torment.
The Haunting of Whaley House
In 1857, Whaley began construction on a home in which he and his wife Anna would raise their children. Like many structures built in the 1800’s, the home became the site of several other businesses, including a granary, a courthouse, a school, a general store, as well as San Diego’s very first commercial theater. Five years before the home was built, Thomas Whaley witnessed a public execution; the hanging of a boat thief named James “Yankee Jim” Robinson. The gallows were constructed on a parcel of land that had at one time been a graveyard; the very same parcel of land that Thomas Whaley purchased and upon which he built his cursed family home.
Not long after the family moved into the home, Thomas Whaley began noticing that something was amiss. He complained of the sound of loud footsteps that couldn’t have been made by his dainty wife or young children. He concluded that the spirit of Yankee Jim was haunting the residence. While living in the home, Thomas and his wife Anna had 3 children; Francis, Thomas Jr., and Anna Amelia. Tragically, Thomas Jr. died of scarlet fever at only 18 months of age. That same year Thomas Sr.’s general store was destroyed by arson.
In 1859, in an attempt at starting over, the Whaleys moved to San Francisco where they added 3 more children to their family: George, Violet, and Corinne Lillian. Several years later, in 1868, the family moved back to San Diego and returned to settle back into the old homestead.
Til death do us part…
Years later, Violet Whaley was married to a man named George Bertolacci. However, two weeks into the marriage, her new husband left in the middle of the night never to be heard from again. She would later learn that Bertolacci had been a con artist who only married her in hopes of acquiring a dowry. So humiliated by the betrayal and the backlash it caused to her reputation, Violet sunk into a deep depression. In 1885, Thomas Whaley found his daughter Violet lying in a pool of blood. She had shot herself with his handgun.
22-year-old Violet died in the parlor of the home, leaving behind a sorrowful note:
“Mad from life’s history,
Swift to death’s mystery;
Glad to be hurled,
Anywhere, anywhere, out of this world.”
She borrowed the poem from Thomas Hood’s book of prose, Bridge of Sighs. Violet was the first of four family members who would die inside the Whaley House. Anna Whaley, as well as Francis and Corinne Lillian all died in the Whaley residence, though of natural causes.
The family that haunts together…
While Yankee Jim was the first spectral inhabitant to be reported at the Whaley House, there have been reports of hearing an infant wailing as well as witnesses who claim to have seen an apparition of a sad young woman sitting alone in the courtroom. An overwhelming feeling of melancholy, and a distinct feeling of being watched have passed over many visitors to the home, especially while in the parlor.
While on tours of the home, visitors have had their flashlights suddenly snuff out, and have reported hearing an empty chair begin to creak. Otherwise healthy visitors have reported a feeling of unease followed by dizzy spells that mysteriously disappeared once they left the residence.
A retired police officer reportedly approached a woman from behind who appeared to be crying. When he asked if she was okay, the woman turned around and smiled. When he shined his flashlight directly on her, she vanished in front of his eyes.
A tour guide vehemently believes Thomas and Anna still inhabit the home. On one occasion, the guide heard a woman’s voice ask: “Why are you here?”
In 1960, the Whaley House was repurposed into a historical museum. According to Wikipedia, the US Commerce Department deemed the residence an official “haunted house.”
Regis Philbin once visited the museum, and reported having a spooky interaction with Anna Whaley.
“There was something filmy white, it looked like an apparition of some kind, I got so excited I couldn’t restrain myself! I flipped on the [flash]light and nothing was there but a portrait of Anna Whaley, the long-dead mistress of the house.”
Travel Channel and LIFE magazine both assert that the Whaley House in San Diego, California, is “The most haunted house in America.”
We’ll take their word for it.
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