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The Story of Yankee Jim and the Haunted Whaley House

Located in San Diego, California, the Whaley House is one of the most haunted locations in the entire United States. The building began as a granary that was eventually turned into a courtroom. In 1857, Thomas Whaley added the two-story house with a store which was the first two-story brick building in all of San Diego. It also housed a theater at one point. The home has been operating as a museum since 1960 where many people over the years have claimed to have encountered frightening paranormal activity.

Prior to the house being built, the property was the site where several hangings took place, including Yankee Jim Robinson who was convicted of attempted grand larceny and hung in 1852. Interestingly enough, Thomas Whaley was one of the spectators at the hanging before purchasing the property a few years later.

He probably shouldn’t have bought the property because after he built his house, he and his family heard unexplained footsteps walking throughout the home. Mr. Whaley described the footsteps as coming from the boots of a large man and since Yankee Jim was 6’4”, it made sense that he was the one who was haunting the property.

Whaley House Museum Shop

According to the late June Reading, who was the curator of the museum, “We had a little girl perhaps 5 or 6 years old who waved to a man she said was standing in the parlor. We couldn’t see him. But often children’s sensitivity is greater than an adult’s.” It’s not just children, however, who have witnessed the ghostly man, as several visitors to the location have reported seeing the ghost of Mr. Whaley standing at the top of the stairs wearing a frock, coat, and top hat.

The spirit of Thomas’ wife Anna Whaley has also been seen at the location, specifically in the downstairs rooms or in the garden outside. Even television personality Regis Philbin claimed to have seen Mrs. Whaley’s ghost. “All of a sudden I noticed something on the wall,” he said, adding, “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.”

Another female apparition has been seen wandering around the courtroom. She has been described as having dark hair and eyes, wearing a type of cap on the head, gold hoop earrings in her ears, and a long skirt.

The ghost of a little girl with long hair and wearing a long dress has been seen in the dining room. According to the legend, she was a friend of the Whaley children who tragically died when she broke her neck on a clothesline. It is believed that her name was either Annabel or Carrie Washburn, although no proof of her existence has ever been found. Even the Whaley children – specifically Violet and baby Thomas – have been seen in the home.

Whaley House

And it’s not just apparitions of people who have been witnessed at the house, as the ghost of a dog (similar to a fox terrier) has been seen running down the hall into the dining room. The Whaley family did own a terrier named Dolly Varden so perhaps she’s haunting the location as well.

Other paranormal activity includes seeing strange mists and shadows, feeling sudden cold spots, lights turning on and off on their own, curtains moving when the windows are shut, hearing children running up and down the stairs when no kids are around, other unexplained footsteps, and swinging chandeliers. Some people have even reported seeing an apparition looking out the upstairs window when nobody was in the house. I suppose it’s not surprising that a house built on top of a former execution site would contain a lot of paranormal activity.

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Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.