Walter Mencken 9:29 a.m., Dec. 26
With Halloween less than two weeks away, San Diegans have plenty of options for fright--The Haunted Hotel and The Haunted Trail at Balboa for instance. But The Whaley House is historically haunted and doesn't employ any actors. I got some details from Dean Glass, the administrative manager of The Whaley House Museum.
Robin Tung: What is The Whaley House like for the Halloween season?
Dean Glass: Currently, the Whaley House Museum is dressed for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos in traditional Victorian mourning, a historic interpretation of a child's funeral (17-month old Thomas Whaley Jr. died in the house in 1858), complete with a child's coffin laid out in the parlor and covered mirrors and clocks . . . we strive to make our guests feel as if they’ve actually experienced a visit to the 1860s (stepped back in time, if you will)—complete with the spirits of their hosts, the Whaley Family, who might just make an appearance!
RT: Can you tell us a little about the history of the house?
DG: Not only was it the home of a prominent pioneer family and a hub social activity for nineteenth century San Diegans, it has also served as the San Diego County Courthouse, San Diego’s first commercial theater, a ball room, billiard hall, kindergarten and Sunday school, polling place . . . Several untimely deaths and other unhappy events that occurred in the house are believed to be the reason so many ghosts are here.
RT: Have any of the staff ever experienced anything spooky?
DG: One of our docents heard somebody whispering in her ear when nobody was there. I heard a man clear his throat and walk across the upper floor while I was alone in the house downstairs. A guest reported seeing two “shadow people” walk through a wall.
RT: What about you personally?
DG: In 2004, shortly after I began working at the museum, I saw an apparition on the upstairs landing of a man in old-fashioned clothing and a wide-brimmed hat with piercing eyes looking straight at me—the distinctive eyes of Thomas Whaley evident in photographs and his portrait in the Parlor. He had no color to him, just shades of gray, and was only there a few seconds . . . Regis Philbin was here with a psychic last month to revisit for television his 1964 encounter with a female spirit in the house.
RT: Any tips for visitors coming to The Whaley House?
DG: With increased visitation during the October season, be aware that some tours may sell out. Purchase your tickets in our museum shop before dining at one of Old Town's many great restaurants. Video and audio recording are not allowed, but flash photography is.
The Whaley House is open from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Admission is $4-6.