Halloween will soon be here and that’s when the ghosts of Southern California –- most especially those in San Diego –- are expected to make their frightening reappearances at notable local landmarks.
Such apparitions have been notorious in suddenly materializing at historic hotels, mansions, museums and tourist sites.
The Whaley House has been called “the most haunted house in America” by many ghost hunters. The spooky property, the oldest brick building in Southern California, sits adjacent to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. During its historic past, the site has served as a courthouse, theater, saloon, dairy and the city’s first Sunday school.
Its prime attraction, however, is its four ghosts. They include Anna and Thomas Whaley, the original owners, a neighbor girl and the infamous Jim Robinson, a thief who was hanged on the grounds. Thomas has been “seen” in the yard, his study and parlor. Visitors have heard Anna singing. It has been said that the Whaley couple loved their home so much they couldn’t bear to leave it — forever.
Self-guided and guided tours are available. Contacts: 619-297-7511 or www.whaleyhouse.org.
On the San Diego waterfront is a more diverse group of phantoms who have been known to appear aboard the Star of India — the world’s oldest active iron-hulled sailing vessel. Inside the first mate’s cabin, it is not uncommon for the cupboards to suddenly open on their own, for lights to suddenly flicker and for an unexplained cool breeze to blow through.
While once spending a night in that cabin, the vessel’s former education director awoke to see a stranger in the room. Terrified, she jumped out of bed. However, as she did so, the mysterious visitor vanished through a door that was locked. It later was thought that the uninvited male was a passenger who had died on an 1885 journey to New Zealand.
Just prior to this year’s Halloween, the Star of India will bring its past to life for participation by the general public. That will be done by rigging the historic vessel with tattered sails, playing scary sounds in stereo and conducting spooky tours in the dark with lanterns. Also docents dressed in period garb will tell tales of its resident ghosts.
Known to be haunted, too, is the ferryboat Berkeley which is tied-up adjacent to the Star of India. As part of a Maritime Ghost Conference, ghost investigations were held aboard the Berkeley on Sept. 14-15, 2012. Both vessels are part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Contacts: 619-234-9153 or www.sdmaritime.org.
Here’s another — the world-class Hotel del Coronado is a magnificent, turreted Victorian where guests have included a dozen U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries and countless movie stars. It’s the “home” to the ghost of Kate Morgan, 27, who died of mysterious circumstances in 1892 after staying in what is now room 3312. Her apparition reportedly roams the halls to rearrange objects, flicker lights and make odd noises.
Contacts: 619-435-6611 or www.hoteldel.com.
Two other sites said to be occupied by ghosts are located in the city’s prominent Gaslamp Quarter. They include a renovated hotel built more than 100 years ago and the William Heath Museum. Those properties – plus the previously mentioned locales — can be visited on either a guided daytime walk or after-dark bus adventure conducted by the “Haunted San Diego Ghost Tour.”
Contacts: 619-255-6170 or www.HauntedSanDiegoTours.com.
In the mountains east of San Diego lies the charming town of Julian and the home of the Julian Gold Rush Hotel. Erected on Main Street in 1897 by freed Georgia slaves Albert and Margaret Robinson, it is reputed to be Southern California’s oldest continuously operating hotel. Although he died in 1915, locals claim Albert Robinson still resides in the quaint, gold-rush era hotel — roaming the rooms to protect them from harm.
Contacts: 760-765-0201 or www.julianhotel.com.
Walter Roessing is a local travel writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.