The Whaley House Museum offers tours dedicated to either explaining the history of the house and the Whaley family, or uncovering some of its mysterious folklore. When you’re planning your visit to the Whaley House Museum, don’t forget to make time for these exciting attractions!
As a building that has withstood the test of time, the Whaley House has a lot of history to it. The Daytime tours go into detail about the house’s history, its previous uses, and the restoration and community outreach efforts that are still going on today to preserve one of San Diego’s oldest buildings.
Tours are self-guided, but docents are available to answer any questions you may have and expand upon the information available in the museum. As you walk through the house, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for what it was like to live in San Diego in the 19th century, all by exploring a genuine part of that history.
The rooms of the Whaley House Museum are themed to represent the different uses of the house. Since it has been in use for over a century, the house’s history is as full of variety as it is engaging.
Many of the displays in the museum cover the house’s original use as a newly-constructed home for the Whaley family. These exhibits focus on what life was like in New Town right after its founding and the unique lives of Thomas Whaley, his wife Anna, and their children Violet and Little Tommy Whaley.
In 1868, a major earthquake sent the Whaley family out of the house for their safety. When they returned, Thomas Whaley and his business partner Crosthwaite established a general store, where they offered easily accessible goods to the rest of the town. This helped them financially recover from the hardship of the earthquake and the damage it did to the house.
Another interesting use of the Whaley house throughout the years was as a theater. The building actually served as San Diego’s first ever commercial theater, where residents of the town could come and watch performances as early as 1868, soon after the establishment of the general store. The theater space was rented from Thomas Whaley by Thomas Tanner, who was the founding member of The Tanner Troupe that performed in the house.
The museum also includes information from when the building was a courthouse, from 1869 to 1871. During this time, it had the distinction of being San Diego’s second county courthouse. The Whaley House still contains some of the court documents from cases that were prosecuted at the building.
During haunting hours, the Whaley House Museum offers tours that focus on the scarier, more supernatural elements of the house. These nighttime tours combine history and horror for an entertaining and sometimes startling look at the house’s resident spirits, helping the building earn its reputation as one of the most haunted houses in America.
Evening and nighttime ghost tours at the Whaley House Museum bring visitors on a guided tour through the different rooms of the museum. Your guide will explain the legends and superstitions that surround the house and its previous descendants, as well as the folklore about previous ghost sightings in the house. On your tour, you’ll learn about the different ghosts known to haunt the Whaley House walls and what keeps them around.
After-dark tours begin with an overview of the house, its previous uses, and its connection to history. From there, your tour guide will introduce you to the Whaley family and the legends surrounding them. As you take the tour, keep an eye out for strange sights, and listen for the sound of distant heavy footsteps.
First, you’ll hear about the founder of the house, Thomas Whaley, and his wife Anna Whaley. These two continue to watch over the house long after their death, often being spotted roaming the halls and out on the grounds. You’ll also learn about Violet Whaley, whose sad death keeps her tethered to the house, and Tommie Whaley, whose cries can supposedly still be heard at night, over 150 years later.
You’ll also learn about the outlaw ‘Yankee’ Jim Robinson, who was hanged for his notorious deeds on the land the Whaley House stands on. Rumors suggest that he is still unable to find rest and continues to haunt the house to this day.
Each of the shocking and fantastical stories of ghost encounters provided by your tour guide will immerse you in the Whaley House folklore. Who knows? You may even spot a ghost yourself!
Annual Halloween Events
While after-dark ghost tours are available year-round, the museum shows off its haunted heritage in full swing during the month of October. These ghost-centric Halloween events at the Whaley House Museum are sure to delight anyone interested in the supernatural.
During October, the museum holds special extended hours and offers additional ghost tours. These tours go into detail about the ghosts spotted in the house and their reasons for remaining in the realm of the living. Other Halloween-themed events are run each year, so check the official website to see what the Whaley House has in store to make the holiday extra spooky.