Old Town
Historic San Diego
Quaint shops and Delicious Restaurants
The family loved their home. Sightings of Anna and Thomas Whaley, the primary spirits, have occurred in the study, parlor, upstairs, courtroom, and in the yard. In 1964, Regis Philbin, (TV entertainer/talk-show host) and a friend saw Anna as they sat on the Andrew Jackson sofa at 2:30am. The image floated from the study, through the music room and into the parlor at which moment, Philbin, in nervous excitement, dissolved the apparition with the beam of his flashlight. Since that time, night visits have not been permitted.

Yankee Jim Robinson, the "third" spirit, was hanged on the property BEFORE Whaley bought the land in 1855. Occasionally, Jim "walks" across the upstairs siting room to the top of the stairs. As the story goes, this alleged horse thief was captured and sentenced to hang for the intent to steal the schooner, Plutus, worth $6500. His two accomplices fared much better - a year in State Prison. The incident became an event as every law officer hunted the 6' 4", fair-haired man in the "red shirt". Jim made a dash for freedom, but too soon a Vaquero's old, rusty sword crashed into his head. Despite Robinson's pitiful condition, the trial continued that day in September 1852. The sad outcome was a crude cross-bar, erected by the Army during the Native American uprising in January 1852, and Jim at the end of a rope. Thomas Whaley was on onlooker as Jim mounted the wagon to keep his date with the Grim Reaper. He was hanged in the backyard.

The "fourth" spirit is of a girl named "Annabelle Washburn", a playmate of the Whaley Children. One day while running to join her friends in the back yard, she struck a low-hanging clothesline and died from her injuries as Mr. Whaley carried her into the kitchen of the house. She has been "seen" by other children.

Spirit activity occurred in the past much as it does today. Visiting parapsychologists, psychics, and their classes tell us they are "followed" throughout the house by spirits. The courtroom photo display, donated by visitors, can reveal to untrained eye, images from the past. Chains stretching across the legal area, strongly sway back and forth as though a child were swinging on them - draw near and they stop. Anna's heavy, sweet-scented perfume is noticed all over the house. Thomas' favorite Havana cigars are most often "smoked" in the main hall. Cooking odors "drift" from the kitchen, especially apples. In earlier days, the favorite family dog, Dolly Varden, "ran" down the hall and into the dining room.

There is the sound of "crowded" courtroom and "meeting" of men in the upstairs sitting room and in Thomas' study - the rooms are empty. Childrens' footsteps "run" up the stairs followed by the "rustle" of a woman's skirt. The music box "plays" as does the GONE WITH THE WIND piano and other instruments. Sometimes Anna "sings" in the dining room. Crystals on a lamp "swing and tinkle" and a door knob "rattles" to open as children "giggle" by the music room door and call "Mama, Mama."

The Whaley House, a completely furnished Victorian mansion is listed as one of 30 ghost houses by the United States Department of Commerce...one of two in California, and The Most Haunted House in America.
The Whaley House
Old Town Historical Walking Tour
The Junípero Serra Museum, in Presidio Park, is one of the most familiar landmarks in San Diego. As a major symbol of the city, it stands atop the hill recognized as the site where California began. It was here in 1769 that a Spanish Franciscan missionary, Father Junípero Serra, with a group of soldiers led by Gaspar de Portolá, established Alta California’s first mission and presidio (fort).

On July 16, 1769, near the site where the museum now stands, Fr. Serra founded the Mission San Diego de Alcalá. Often confused for the Mission, the Serra Museum was built between 1928-1929 for the purpose of housing and showcasing the collection of the San Diego Historical Society, which was founded in 1928. The structure was designed by architect, William Templeton Johnson, using Spanish Revival architecture, to resemble the early missions that once dominated the landscape of Southern California.
History of Old Town San Diego
supplementary information for the walking tour of Old Town

History of Old Town San Diego

The story of Old Town goes back to the 16th Century.

In 1542, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, sailing under the Spanish flag, became the first European explorer to visit San Diego. But his visit had no immediate effect on the area, for Spain was too busy with the riches of her Mexican colony to bother with upper California. Eventually, however, the situation changed. Russians and Englishmen began to explore the area, and it became apparent that if Spain did not take over the California coast, someone else would. So in 1769, 227 years after Cabrillo's visit, Spain decided to set up a string of colonies along the Pacific coast. Soldier Gaspar de Portola and Roman Catholic padre Junípero Serra came north from Mexico to establish Spanish colonies, forts, and missions. Mission San Diego de Alcalá, on Presidio Hill, became the first in a series of twenty-one missions stretching 600 miles from San Diego to Sonoma, just north of San Francisco.

Five years after its founding, the mission was moved six miles east, but the remains of the original mission can still be seen on the hill. (The reason it was moved was to be near a better water supply, and also to keep the soldiers at the fort from pursuing the Indian women at the mission.) Although the mission was moved, the fort, or presidio, remained, and in the 1820's many retired soldiers and their families moved down from the fort on the hill to build what is now called Old Town.

In 1821 Mexico won independence from Spain, and San Diego, along with the rest of California, became a province of Mexico. Soon the Mexican government began to take over the mission lands -- a process hastened by the secularization of the missions in the 1830's. Mexican officials divided up former mission lands and cattle among their friends to create ranchos. The San Diego mission alone contained 3000 square miles of land, 8600 cattle and 19,000 sheep, enough to be turned into eighteen good-sized ranchos. Ships from Boston rounded Cape Horn, entered San Diego Bay, and traded goods from the East Coast for cattle hides and tallow. (The hides would eventually be converted into shoes, the tallow into candles.) Ranchos became the backbone of San Diego's economic and social life.

In 1846 the United States and Mexico went to war. After several months of back-and-forth fighting between the Americans and the "Californios," Commodore Stockton secured San Diego for the United States. Four years later, California joined the Union as the 31st state.

For a time thereafter, Old Town continued to grow and prosper. In 1867, however, financier Alonzo Horton arrived from San Francisco and decided that the town would be better located nearer the bay. He bought 960 acres of bayside land and began to promote his "New Town."

A few years later, in 1872, a disastrous fire wiped out the heart of commercial Old Town. It never recovered. Horton's New Town became, and remains, San Diego's "downtown."

Serra Museum
Junípero Serra Museum, in Presidio Park (Next to Old Town)
2727 Presidio Drive
San Diego, CA 92103
Click here for Google Map
Phone: (619) 232-6203

Open: Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm
$5 Adults
$4 Seniors, Students and Military (I.D. required)
$2 Children ages 6-17
Free Children under 6
San Diego Historical Society members receive unlimited free admission
(619) 297-3258
Old Town San Diego is an historic, fun and laid back part of San Diego. The old building are now shops that sell coffee, tea, candles, pottery, candy, spices, and food! There are a multitude of restaurants in Old Town and most cater to the Mexican traditional style of cooking. Wander the streets of the old San Diego, buy some fresh salt water taffy or visit a haunted house.
Heritage Park- Historic Sites
Heritage Park Victorian Village

County park adjacent to Old Town with several restored Victorian homes and San Diego's first synagogue, which now hosts weddings, receptions, bar mitzvahs. All were moved here from their original locations. Two of the houses currently serve as bed and breakfast inns.

Senlis Cottage ~ 1896 ~ 19th century vernacular ~ This modest cottage was built for Eugene Senlis, an employee of San Diego pioneer horticulturist Kate Sessions.

Sherman-Gilbert House ~ 1887 ~ Stick Eastlake ~ John Sherman, cousin of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, hired architects Nelson Comstock and Carl Trotsche to build this house. From 1892, sisters Bess and Gertrude Gilbert, patrons of art and music, brought internationally famous entertainers to receptions in their home. Anna Pavlova danced in the music room and Artur Rubinstein played piano here.
Bushyhead House ~ 1887 ~ Italianate ~ Edward Wilkerson Bushyhead, early San Diego sheriff, chief of police and San Diego Union newspaper owner, built this house as a rental. Rooms for rent by Heritage Park Inn (619) 299-6832.

Christian House ~ 1889 ~ Queen Anne ~ This graceful residence was constructed by Harfield Timberlake Christian, founder of an early San Diego abstract company. Rooms for rent by Heritage Park Inn (619) 299-6832.

McConaughy House ~ 1887 ~ Stick Eastlake ~ Original owner John McConaughy founded the first scheduled passenger and freight service in San Diego County.

Burton House ~ 1893 ~ Classic revival ~ Henry Guild Burton, retired Army physician, built this home during a trend that, by the turn of the century, began to eliminate decration.

Temple Beth Israel ~ Classic revival ~ Built by the Congregation Beth Israel, this building served as temporary quarters for many religious sects before they established churches of their own. First services were held here in 1889.