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The Legends and Stories of the Whaley House

Travel Channel’s ‘Most Haunted’ named The Whaley House the #1 Most Haunted House in the United States.

My photo tour of the Whaley House (posted here) is one of my most popular posts to date. 
It’s prompted some interesting correspondence I’ve had with readers.
One comment I’ve received via email has really stuck with me:

“Weren’t you scared? The Whaley House is said to be extremely haunted, and you were completely alone!”

I was very honest in my reply: walking through the home felt as though I was walking through my grandparents’ house. The dining room was much darker than the rest of the house (a windowless, central room) which made me a little uneasy, but I was never scared.

I would later learn seances were once conducted in that very room.

Furthermore, I was curious to learn why the home had such a reputation, and who was responsible for it.

I began by re-examining the home’s timeline, which I had summarized in my initial post.

But this time, I dove between the lines.


Opening as a museum in 1960, the Whaley House was destined to be haunted before the home was even built. The land the house is on was once the site of a public gallows.

Yankee Jim Robinson was hanged there for grand larceny.

And Thomas Whaley couldn’t care less about this connection and he purchased the land in 1855 for his family home.

Thomas, his wife Anna, and their 3 children moved in in 1857.

Then, a fire raged from within and it destroyed the general store Whaley ran from inside the home. The family relocated to San Francisco for a period of time, returning to the home in 1868.

(The courthouse) 

 (The general store)

(The theater)

In addition to the general store, the home was also the site of the city courthouse, the city’s first theater troupe, and more.

In 1870, merchants moved out of Old Town and into New Town.

Armed men held Anna at gunpoint as courthouse records were seized in 1871.

  •       Not long after the family initially moved in, their youngest son Thomas, Jr., died of scarlet fever in the house at age 18 months.
  •       In 1885, daughter Violet shot herself in the chest following her failed marriage. She succumbed to her injuries and died.
  •       Many descendants lived and died in the house including Thomas, Anna and four of their 5 children.

It was during the home’s numerous periods of restoration that strange sights, sounds occurrences and aromas were documented.

Most notorious is the sighting of Yankee Jim. It’s said his ghost makes eerie noises, loud footsteps and leaves disembodied footprints. The family was continually fearful.

Baby Thomas is also said to have stayed behind. People can hear “tiny” footsteps, and the sounds of him crying or giggling.

(The second floor landing, where the family slept and many of the documented sightings occur.)

Violet’s presence is felt on the second floor, where she spent most of her time after her divorce but before her suicide. It’s said the feel quite cold in these areas.

Thomas Whaley, Anna and others are felt within the house, on the staircases and around the property. Thomas especially, is noted to be seen at the top of his stairs, dressed in his frock, coat and top hat.

Visitors can smell Anna’s perfume.

Mists are seen.

Lights turn on and off.

(The music room, and the lamp's crystals that allegedly swing on their own.)

Crystals in the music room’s lamp swing without prompt.

No one has lived in the house since 1953, but yet, it seems the house remained inhabited.


Whether you believe in ghosts and spirits or not, touring the Whaley House can pique the interest of anyone. The home is historic, and the beautiful restorations alone are worthy of a look. If you go, will you let me know if you experience anything?

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