Do you believe in coincidences? Or do you think that sometimes things are put in action by powers beyond our control?
Last year, Linda De Foe, a friend of mine, sent me a note about The Whaley House in San Diego. She asked me if I’d ever heard of it or visited it. I admitted that I’d never heard of it and she told me that it was one of her favorite places in San Diego. Her recent description of the house gave me goosebumps, “The history of the house is fascinating, but to walk through it is chilling.”
Yesterday, I received a book from Linda – The Haunted Whaley House by Robert and Anne Wlodarski. What an amazing gift! And, as I flipped through the pages, I saw another coincidence. One of the visitors to the house was the famous singer, Jenny Lind. The same Jenny Lind who I’d just seen portrayed on the screen in The Greatest Showman. It really piqued my curiosity. I found an excerpt that I want to share with you – it sent chills down my spine. I hope it does the same to you.
The following story was provided to the authors of The Haunted Whaley House by psychic Michael J. Kouri, from his book, Haunted Houses of Los Angeles.
“…After entering the front hallway and speaking to the docents on duty, the three of us stopped in the parlor areas and peered into the room over the wrought-iron enclosure. One of the docents came over and asked if any of us played the piano – after a nudge from my friend, the docent ushered me into the room.
Seated in front of the marvelous, old piano, the docent informed me that it belonged originally to the famous singer, Jenny Lind. As I tried to decide what I should play, I began to feel a very cold chill come out of nowhere and envelope me – even though the front door was closed. Still uncertain as to what I should play, a tiny voice seemed to whisper in my ear to play “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.” I looked quickly over my shoulder to see who made the request, but to my surprise no one was next to me.
…As I played, I began to feel a presence standing directly behind me, and, to add to the eeriness, I could also feel a pair of hands resting on my shoulders – yet, I knew that no one else was in the room with me, at least no humans. I wasn’t really frightened, just a little confused because I wasn’t really picking up vibrations in the room.
…As I was leaving the parlor room, the docent asked me why I had chosen “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” and went on to explain that it had been one of Anna Whaley’s favorite pieces of music.”
The Whaley House Museum website adds more information to bolster the house’s paranormal reputation.
“Old Town folklore handed down over one hundred fifty years reveal rumors of ghostly residents in the Whaley House began at the time the structure was built. Stories from family, friends, boarders, and neighbors have filtered through the decades until no one is quite sure where some of the tales began. The folklore itself has become cemented in the history of the Whaley House.
Thomas Whaley is reputed to be the first family member to remark upon the heavy disembodied footfalls up on the second floor when no one else was in the house. According to Anna Whaley, there was a presence in the house that surrounded her that she could not shake off. Eventually Anna regarded the property to be doomed, the cause of all the tragedy in her life. Son Francis Hinton Whaley spent several years restoring the home at the turn of the 20th century and had his own otherworldly experiences there. Spending hours alone in the home, he’d close all the shutters and curtains and attempt to communicate with the spirits he believed to be present. Lillian Whaley shared the home with boarders in her later years, many of whom remarked upon odd occurrences in the structure. She felt the widespread rumors of the hauntings to be both a blessing and a curse. The stories circulating kept vandals away from the property, at the same time discouraged renters when she needed the extra income.
Anna Whaley’s words about those ghosts with big eyes were ironic in that now it would appear she too is among the spirits that roam the halls of the Whaley House, and is likely responsible for some of the bumps taking place in the night in the old brick building. Chairs rock, chandeliers swing, doors open and close of their own volition. Invisible fingers strike the keys of a piano no longer present in the house. The sounds of cutlery against fine bone china, a wordless phantom meal emanates from the dining room often accompanied by the aroma of fresh baked bread and pies during the holidays. The scent of fine Cuban tobacco and French perfume waft through the halls. The activity isn’t limited to the human variety; the Whaleys had a menagerie of four-legged family members with fanciful names, “Dolly” the dog and “Winks” the cat among their favorites. Many individuals have witnessed a small dog chasing a cat through the house and out into the garden.
Over the years, scores of individuals have heard the disembodied pounding of a gavel dispensing frontier justice emanate from the courtroom. The raucous laughter and music of vaudeville seep from the walls of the upper rooms rented to the Tanner Troupe Theater. The strains of violin, guitar, and piano float past from long forgotten musical soirees, parties and balls. The pitter-patter of tiny feet scampering down the hallway, the clicking of dainty high heeled slippers and the rustling of silk skirts; a child’s laughter, a child’s cries, a mother’s sweet French lullabies.
Thomas and Anna Whaley’s 18-month-old son Thomas Jr. contracted scarlet fever and died in the house in 1858. The sounds of a baby or young child are often presumed to be little Tommy. Another child, a young girl, has been witnessed playing in the dining room. The legend of the “ninth step” began when folks experienced an odd sort of pressure upon ascension of the narrow staircase, which for many years was presumed to be the revenant of Anna Whaley reliving a traumatic event, attempting to thwart visitors from gaining access to the second floor. More recently that sensation of pressure is attributed to the wraith of Yankee Jim who may have died in this particular spot, although Lillian Whaley reported that her father told her Yankee Jim was hanged over the location of the archway separating the parlor and study.
A young woman is often sensed lingering upon the second floor of the house, and many perceive a feeling of profound sorrow in that portion of the home. She is thought to be the Whaleys’ daughter Violet, who committed suicide and died in the house in 1885. Likely suffering from a clinical depression compounded by life events, Violet had a tendency to remain in solitude on the second floor of the home during the last year of her life.
Thomas Whaley himself, sporting pantaloons, a frock coat and top hat has been witnessed standing at the top of the stairs surveying his castle. His wife Anna, attired in a cheery green gingham gown has been momentarily spotted upon the settee in the parlor.”
The museum website description concludes with these cheery words, “According to scores of paranormal investigators and visitors, the spirits of Thomas and Anna Whaley continue to dwell here watching over their brood. This is their home, and they show no signs of leaving.”