The Whaley House: The Chilling History behind America’s Most Haunted House

With a long history of tragedy and misfortune, it's hardly surprising the Whaley House has earned the title of "the most haunted house in the U.S."

Is The Whaley House The Most Haunted Home in America?
(Image credit - Alik Griffin)

Located in Sunny San Diego, California, the Whaley House has a dark cloud surrounding it. It has twice been dubbed “the most haunted house in America” by Time Magazine and the TV show America’s Most Haunted, and many firsthand accounts seem to reiterate these claims. Built by Thomas Whaley in 1857, the house is one of the most historic landmarks in the area. It was reportedly built from bricks from Thomas’ own brickyard, but the history of paranormal activity on the land itself can be traced back long before the now infamous house was even built.

The History

Is The Whaley House The Most Haunted Home in America?
(Image source –

In 1852, five years before Thomas Whaley laid the first brick; the first occupant of the house laid his claim. The man was a thief by the name of James “Yankee Jim” Robinson. Convicted of attempted larceny, he was sentenced to death by hanging. His execution took place on the land which would soon become the Whaley House. Eyewitness accounts of the hanging stated that Robinson kept his feet on the wagon until they could no longer stay planted. When he let go, “He swung back and forth like a pendulum until he strangled to death.” This was the first death on the land, but it would not be the last.

Even though Thomas Whaley witnessed the execution firsthand, he was determined to build his house on this property. Once it was complete and his family moved in, the residents started hearing heavy footsteps in their new home. After a prolonged period of this, Thomas concluded that the only explanation was that Yankee Jim’s ghost never left the property, and was now sharing the house with the Whaley family.

In the years that would follow, tragedy would become of the Whaley house history. As subsequent deaths of the Whaley family followed, it’s said their spirits were collected and stored in the confines of the Whaley House. Thomas Jr., the Whaley’s infant son, was he first to die of Scarlet Fever when he was only 18 months old. In 1885, Violet Whaley, Thomas’ daughter fatally shot herself in the chest after her marriage proved to be a sham. The man she married was a con artist, and ran off during their honeymoon with a sizeable fortune.

The Haunting

Is The Whaley House The Most Haunted Home in America?
(Image credit – Miss Shari)

The ghost stories that followed became public when the Whaley House became a museum in the 1960s. Many visitors have claimed to see the original owners, Thomas and Anna Whaley, roaming the halls and sometimes appearing before guests. Celebrities such as Tom Green and Regis Philbin have both encountered ghosts during their visits, with Regis Philbin adamantly claim that Anna Whaley appeared before him in the dark. Tom Green claimed that he called to a spirit in the house, and was answered by the eerie sound of a child’s voice. One parapsychologist even claimed to have seen the Whaley’s family dog, Dolly, roaming the halls of the estate.

Apart from its appearances in the media, there are nighttime ghost-hunting tours of the house on a regular basis. Believers and skeptics from all walks of life come to see if they can leave with a ghost story of their own. Regis Philbin said of the house, “You know a lot of people pooh-pooh it because they can’t see it. But there was something going on in that house.”

Although it may never be proved definitively that this house contains the spirits of its former inhabitants, at some point a nonbeliever has to at least consider this possibility. With so much paranormal activity and trapped spirits in one house, it’s no wonder the property has been named the most haunted house in America.

You may also enjoy these paranormal stories:

[easy-social-share buttons=”facebook,twitter,google,pinterest,print,mail” counters=0 style=”icon” message=”yes”]