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The Spirits Of The Whaley House

Research notes for Supernatural Season 2 Episode 2

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**Research compiled for Ryan & Shane on December 12, 2016 by Kari Koeppel.

Whaley House
2476 San Diego Avenue
San Diego, CA 92110

New house that Thomas built after Violet's suicide
933 State Street
San Diego, CA 92101


The Whaley House

  • The Whaley House started out as a granary, and later became a courtroom.
  • In 1857, Thomas Whaley designed and built a 2-story house and store on the property.
  • It was the first 2-story brick building in all of San Diego.
  • The bricks used in the house were taken from Thomas Whaley’s personal brickyard.
  • While it was under construction, Whaley said, "My new house, when completed, will be the handsomest, most comfortable and convenient place in town or within 150 miles of here."
  • Whaley moved his family to a new home in San Diego in 1885.


The Whaley Family

  • Thomas Whaley’s family had immigrated to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1722.
  • His great-grandfather, Alexander Whaley, had taken part in the Boston Tea Party, and acted as gunsmith during the Revolutionary War.
  • He also lent his home on Long Island to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
  • Thomas Whaley’s father, also named Thomas Whaley, was also a gunsmith, and was in the War of 1812 as part of the New York Militia.
  • He married Rachel Pye, the daughter of a Brooklyn lock-manufacturer.


Thomas Whaley

  • Thomas Whaley was born in New York City on October 5, 1823.
  • His father passed away in 1832, and he requested in his will that Thomas have a liberal education.
  • Thomas Whaley went to school at the Washington Institute.
  • After graduation, Thomas traveled Europe to study and learn French.
  • He moved to California, leaving New York on January 1, 1849 and arriving in San Francisco on July 23, 1849. He sailed around Cape Horn.
  • He established a store on Montgomery Street in San Francisco, selling hardware and woodwork with his partner George Wardle.
  • Whaley’s family in New York had a business called Whaley & Pye.
  • Thomas Whaley sold goods in his store from his family’s company.
  • He also sold utensils and mining equipment on consignment.
  • An arsonist set fire to the store in May 1851.
  • After that, Thomas Whaley got advice from a merchant who owned stores in both San Francisco and San Diego, Lewis Franklin, to move to Old Town San Diego.
  • In San Diego, Thomas established several businesses, with Lewis Franklin, Francis Hinton, Ephraim Morse, and his brother Henry.
  • In January 1852, Thomas was on the firing squad that killed Antonio Garra, who had led an uprising at nearby Warner’s Ranch.
  • On May 14, 1853, Thomas Whaley went back to New York and married Anna Eloise DeLaunay, his longtime sweetheart and the daughter of French immigrants.
  • Thomas brought Anna back to San Diego.
  • Thomas entered several business partnerships which all, for the most part, lasted for less than a year. Most of the businesses were centered around general stores.
  • In September 1855, Thomas bought the property that would become the Whaley house.
  • In August 1852, the Yankee Jim Robinson had been hung on this site.


Whaley built a one-story granary on the site in May 1856, making 300,000-400,00 pounds of grain. He used bricks from his brickyard on Conde Street to build it. He built a 2-story home next door.

  • It cost $10,000 and was built in the Greek Revival style.
  • Thomas designed the home himself.
  • He also used bricks from his brickyard to build his residence.
  • He began construction in September 1856 and finished a year later.
  • The home contained rosewood and mahogany furniture, Brussels carpets, and damask drapes.
  • Once finished, the San Diego Herald called the home “the finest new brick block in Southern California.”
  • In August 1857, soon after finishing construction, Thomas set up a general store in the home, hoping to get customers using cash. However, San Diego was too small at the time and Thomas was not receiving enough customers. He moved the store to a building on the Plaza.
  • Thomas and Anna Whaley had three children. Francis Hinton, named for Thomas’s business partner, was the oldest. Middle child Thomas died at age 18 months. They also had one daughter, Anna Amelia.
  • The same year of his son Thomas’s death, the general store on the Plaza burned down because of arson. The family was devastated, and they moved back to San Francisco.
  • Once Thomas was back in San Francisco, he took a job as a US Army Commissary Storekeeper.
  • While Thomas and Anna were in San Francisco, they had 3 more kids - George Hays Ringgold (also named after a business partner), Violet Eloise, and Corinne Lillian.
  • Thomas took part in the American settling of Alaska in 1867. He helped establish an American base, opened stores in the town of Sitka, and was a councilman. During this time, the rest of his family had stayed in San Francisco.
  • There was a large earthquake in San Francisco in May 1868, so the Whaley family decided to move back to San Diego.
  • They moved back to the brick home that Thomas had designed (the Whaley house).
  • Thomas ran a store with a business partner, Crosthwaite, out of the home.
  • For a few months after moving back, beginning in October 1868 and lasting until January 1969, the family rented out the front upstairs bedroom to the Tanner Troupe Theatre.
  • This was the first commercial theater in San Diego.
  • In August 1869, the San Diego County Courthouse rented out what used to be the granary to store their records.
  • New Town San Diego was built in 1868, which shifted the center of town away from where the Whaley house was located. (New Town San Diego is where today’s downtown San Diego is located.)
  • In March 1871, the courthouse moved their documents to Horton’s Hall in San Diego.
  • Once the granary was freed, Thomas connected that building to the house itself. He also changed how the front portico looked, as well as the doors and windows to the building.


However, in 1874 until 1879, Thomas and his family hit a rough patch.

  • Although his father had died in 1832, now was the time that Thomas went back to New York to settle the estate.
  • Afterward, he went back to San Francisco to look for work. However, he was not successful, and his brother Francis supported the family in San Diego during this time.
  • Thomas’s daughters Violet and Anna Amelia had a double wedding at the home in San Diego on January 5, 1882.
  • Anna Amelia was married to John T. Whaley, her first cousin.
  • Violet was married to George T. Bertolacci.
  • Unfortunately, their marriage was an unhappy one, and they divorced in 1884.
  • Violet was extremely depressed afterward and was had to be monitored by a doctor. Tragically, she killed herself in the family home on August 18, 1885, by shooting herself through the heart.
  • Violet shot herself in the backyard outhouse, Thomas found her and brought her inside to the parlor. She passed away about 15 minutes later.
  • After his daughter’s tragic death, Thomas built a new home for his family in San Diego, located in downtown at 933 State Street.
  • The new home was only one story tall.


Later Years

  • Thomas opened up a real estate office in the First National Bank Building at the intersection of 5th and G.
  • Thomas retired in 1888 because he was ill, and 2 years later, on December 14, 1890, Thomas Whaley passed away in the new home he had built for his family at 933 State Street.
  • The original Whaley House fell into disrepair for several years after Thomas’s death.
  • Towards the end of 1909, Thomas’s brother Francis restored the building and employed the house as a tourist attraction in addition to returning to it as the family home.
  • Francis, Anna (Thomas’s widow), and Thomas and Anna’s children Corinne Lillian and George had all moved back into the Whaley house by 1912.
  • Anna died in the Whaley House on February 24, 1913.
  • Francis died in the Whaley House on November 19, 1914.
  • Lillian lived in the Whaley House until 1953, when she passed away.
  • She had worked as an assistant at the Public Library.
  • At the time of her death, the house was again in bad shape, as she had been unable to take care of it alone in her old age.


The Haunting of the House

  • The Whaley House was ranked by the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted as the number one most haunted house in the US.
  • Hangings occurred at the site of the house before it was built.


The Ghost of Yankee Jim

  • Yankee Jim” was the first ghost to be documented at the Whaley House.
  • James Robinson was convicted of attempted grand larceny in 1852.
  • Yankee Jim was 6’4 and had only moved to San Diego that year.
  • He immediately started causing trouble, and after several months of stealing, he was convicted.
  • Before he was hung, he was given a last-minute Catholic baptism, and was renamed Santiago.
  • He was hung where the house was later built, on a gallows that was off the back of a wagon.
  • Yankee Jim was reported so tall that while he was being hung, the toes of his boots were grazing the ground.
  • Thomas Whaley was reportedly in attendance for the hanging, and yet he still purchased the property a few years later.
  • After Thomas and his family moved into their newly built home, they reportedly heard heavy footsteps around the house. Thomas himself apparently concluded that they must’ve belonged to Yankee Jim Robinson.
  • Thomas’s youngest daughter Lillian also reportedly believed that Yankee Jim haunted the Whaley house.
  • In 1962, a visitor to the Whaley house reportedly said that many years earlier, her family had been visiting the Whaleys and her mother was so upset by signs of Yankee Jim’s ghost that they had left.
  • While Anna Whaley was still living in the Whaley House, legend of the ghost of Yankee Jim had already spread throughout San Diego. Kids would peek through the Whaleys’ windows, hoping for a glimpse. Anna would sometimes whisper to them or try to scare them. But she herself believed in the ghost of Yankee Jim and the haunting of the Whaley House.
  • She reportedly believed the cursed property was the reason for all the misfortune in her life.


Ghosts of Thomas and Anna Whaley

  • Many visitors to the home have reported seeing the ghost of Thomas Whaley.
  • A young girl reported seeing a man in the parlor.
  • Many of the sightings occur on the upper landing.
  • One person reportedly saw him wearing a frock coat and pantaloons, before the figure faded away.
  • The ghost of Thomas’s wife Anna has also reportedly been spotted. These sightings typically take place in either the garden or in one of the rooms downstairs.
  • Anna has been also spotted wearing a green gingham dress, sipping tea in the parlor.


Regis Philbin, the former television host, was one of the people who reported seeing Anna’s ghost. The sighting apparently took place in 1964. He said of the sighting:

“All of a sudden I noticed something on the wall. 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."

Regis also said:

"You know a lot of people pooh-pooh it because they can't see it. But there was something going on in that house."

  • At one point, a 911 call was placed in regards to a woman crying outside the Whaley House. The police officer who arrived interacted with the ghost. He wrote a confidential letter to the museum after his retirement that said that the ghost was in period clothing. He asked the ghost if she was all right, and she turned around and smiled. He shined his flashlight on her, and she disappeared.
  • One former docent heard a woman ask, “Why are you here?” when he tried to set the alarm one night.


Unidentified Ghosts

  • There have reportedly been sightings of a small woman in the courtroom. The woman is described as having a “swarthy complexion” and wearing a full, floor-length skirt with a small print. She wears gold hoop earrings and has a cap on her head.
  • This description reportedly does not match anyone from the Whaley family, but it’s believed that the spirit could belong to someone who had been a tenant in the Whaley house at some point.
  • There is also reportedly the spirit of a young girl located in the dining room. She has long hair, wears a long dress, and moved quickly.
  • The legend about this ghost is that she was a playmate of one of the Whaley children who had accidentally broken her neck on a low-hanging clothesline in the backyard of the house. Her name may be either Annabel or Carrie Washburn. However, there is no record of this death occurring or even of this family living in San Diego at that time. The Whaley House reports that this rumor was most likely started by a former employee of the house.
  • There are also reports of spirits of animals. The ghost of a spotted dog, possibly a fox terrier, has reportedly been spotted. The Whaley’s owned a terrier named Dolly Varden.
  • They also reportedly had a pet cat, and visitors have reportedly seen a dog chasing a cat around the house and gardens.
  • Many have reported hearing a gavel inside the old courtroom.
  • There have also been reports of sounds in the room where the Tanner Troupe Theater was once located, including sounds of vaudeville music and laughter.
  • The cries of an infant are often heard. Thomas and Anna’s son Thomas Jr. died at 18 months old of scarlet fever inside the house.
  • Sometimes the spirit of a young woman is seen on the second floor of the house. People have reported feeling a “profound sorrow” in this area. This spirit is believed to belong to Thomas and Anna’s daughter Violet, who killed herself in the house. This is the area where she reportedly spent the most time in the house before her untimely death.


The Whaleys and the Spirits

  • After Thomas and his family moved into their newly built home, they reportedly heard heavy footsteps around the house. Thomas himself apparently concluded that they must’ve belonged to Yankee Jim Robinson.
  • Thomas’s youngest daughter Lillian also reportedly believed that Yankee Jim haunted the Whaley house.
  • Anna, Thomas’s wife, reportedly believed the cursed property was the reason for all the misfortune in her life.
  • Thomas and Anna’s son Francis Hinton restored the house in the 1900s. He reportedly would close all the curtains and try to communicate with the spirits in the house.
  • Lillian later lived alone in the house with renters. These renters also reported strange happenings in the house.
  • Lillian liked that the ghost stories kept vandals away from the property, but disliked that it sometimes kept renters away from the house.


The House Today

  • The Whaley House was dedicated as a historic house on May 25, 1960. It has been open for visitors since then.
  • The house receives over 100,000 visitors each year.
  • The Save Our Heritage Organization took control of the Whaley House in 2000. The house was in bad shape, filled with mildew, moisture, and dirt. There were leaks in the ceiling, and the layout of the house had been altered. The Organisation has been in the process of restoring the house for the last 13 years.
  • It is a California State Historic Landmark.

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