Jim and I just returned on Thursday from a quick trip to San Diego, Long Beach, and Laguna Beach. With my friend Nicole Strickland's passion for haunted San Diego and the Queen Mary (she's written multiple books about HMS Queen Mary and recently released a book about haunted San Diego), naturally we visited a few haunted locations. Below a bit of history of each, as well as my impressions.
Whaley House, Old Town, San Diego
Thomas Whaley arrived in San Francisco in 1849 chasing gold in the California gold rush. Instead of panning for gold himself, however, Whaley made his fortune selling supplies to miners. His home in San Francisco burned, however, and in 1851 he moved to San Diego. He briefly returned to his family home in New York to get married and returned with his new wife, Anna.
Whaley purchased the property for his home in 1855 and erected a brick house on it, completing construction in 1857. Along with creating a luxuriously-appointed home the San Diego Herald called "the finest new brick block in Southern California," Whaley also operated a general store from the property, although he soon relocated the store to a busier location.
After the birth of their three children and the death of Whaley's business partner, along with the destruction of his store from a fire, Whaley moved his family to San Francisco (where they had two more children), but they returned to San Diego after a few years and re-took up residence in the brick house, where he once again operated a general store.
Violet Whaley, one of the Whaley daughters, committed suicide in the home (she shot herself) after a divorce, and both Anna and Francis Whaley died in the home. Additionally, before Whaley purchased the property, the grounds were used for public hangings, including the most famous, that of Yankee Jim Robinson, a drifter convicted of grand larceny.
Many report the Whaley House as one of America's most haunted houses, and the Whaley House itself embraces the building and grounds' haunted reputation.
I really liked the energy of the Whaley House, and I didn't have any significant impressions or experiences. Jim, on the other hand, who describes himself as a psychic "lead-lined bank vault," had what he felt was a very powerful experience as we peered into Violet's room. At the time, unaware of the history, he said he felt as if he was trying to slash his own wrists in despair. Now Violet committed suicide by gun, but it's interesting Jim's impression was of a suicide attempt in a room where a woman eventually committed suicide.
The price to visit the Whaley House Museum is reasonable: $16 for an adult, and the tour is self guided. It's an interesting piece of San Diego history, and I especially loved the energy of the theater, which felt warm, inviting, and even a bit joyful. Parking on the street may be a challenge, but there are lots and garages with reasonable fees nearby. Be sure to enjoy some Mexican food at one of many restaurants in Old Town, and while you're in Old Town visit Gum Saan Land of the Golden Mountain, a lovely shop filled with treasures from Tibet and Nepal including authentic and antique singing bowls, South American Imports (it's tucked behind the Coyote Cafe), which is a nice crystal shop with tons of specimens and a knowledgeable, friendly owner, and MIner's Gems and Minerals (across from Gum Saan), which has some great mineral and fossil specimens.
Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Island, San Diego
The Del has a storied history. It's appeared in films, been the preferred lodging of presidents and Hollywood giants, and it is even the setting for the mystery of Kate Morgan, a young woman who checked into the Del under an assumed name in November of 1982 who was later found dead at the base of the stairs to the beach with a gun shot wound to the head. The coroner ruled the wound self-inflicted, but that ruling is still met with skepticism. Kate is said to be seen all around the Del.
I've been fascinated with the Del for years and always wanted to stay there, so when we were considering vacations this year, Jim immediately suggested a stop there. We stayed three nights at the beginning of our trip.
I love the energy and architecture at the Del. We stayed in the old Victorian part of the building in a room on the fifth floor overlooking the courtyard. One night, Nicole and I were walking towards a breezeway on the 5th floor when Nicole spotted an apparition of a woman. As we approached the spot, I felt a gentle energy there that traveled with us through the breezeway. I didn't see her. Other than that, not a lot of experiences there except a great love of the place and its history.
Price-wise, the Del is expensive, but you get what you pay for. The service is excellent, the food is divine, the rooms are comfortable, and there's a lot to do there including gorgeous outdoor dining and bars, a world-class spa, a lovely beach, and many other amenities. Visitors can frequent the restaurants, shops, and bars at the Del. Unless you can find street parking, expect to pay for parking. Restaurants and bars are reasonably expensive. While you're there, visit the ice cream shop and enjoy the beautiful Coronado Beach.
Star of India, Maritime Museum of San Diego, Embacadero, San Diego
During her history, the Star of India collided with a Spanish brig, endured hostile seas, experienced a crew mutiny, and saw captains and crew members killed aboard and buried at sea.
I felt her energy before I even boarded the Star of India. Just walking past her bow on the dock, I noticed an aggressive and unsettled energy. Boarding, I moved to the stern first, where I felt a gentle and settled energy present. As I approached the bow on all levels, especially on the port side, however, I started to notice disorientation and what felt like heavy aggression. Nicole tells me this is consistent with reports aboard the Star of India. Apparently in this area is something called the chain locker, where an accident occurred when a crewman was crushed as another crew member raised the anchor, unaware of his presence in the chain locker at the time.
I definitely feel like there's some activity aboard the Star of India, and it's well worth a visit. You can visit her by paying the price of admission at the San Diego Maritime Museum, which is $18 for an adult. This includes entry to other ships and boats in the exhibit, as well. I recommend parking in the USS Midway museum parking lot (we visited the Midway, as well), which is about $10 for the day. While you're there, take a tour of the San Diego harbor aboard one of the many tour boats or do like we did and go for a thrill ride on the Patriot jet boat. If you do that, plan to get wet and bring a change of clothes.
Steam Ferry Berkeley, Maritime Museum of San Diego, Embarcadero, San Diego
Commissioned in 1898, the Steam Ferry Berkeley operated on the San Francisco bay for six decades. In 1906, she ferried victims of the San Francisco earthquake and fire, operating night and day to ferry them to safety. She arrived in San Diego in 1973 and is a popular venue for parties and weddings now.
I was unaware of her history when I boarded the ship, but I was immediately drawn to the upstairs gallery, where all I wanted to do was sit and take in her beauty. The energy aboard is calm, peaceful, and beautiful. She felt like home to me, something that took me by surprise.
As Nicole and I sat up in the passenger gallery upstairs, I kept spotting someone peeking at me from behind a graceful archway across the ferry. Nicole saw a woman standing there. Video showed a playful light dancing in my camera.
What was most interesting to me, however, was the sensation of home - feeling like I belonged on the ferry. The only other place I've ever noticed this is at Wellington, which was the subject of my first two books. Without getting too much into the history, with Wellington I felt deeply connected to a woman who died there named Nellie Sharp, and I've come to believe I was her in a past life. What's interesting is Nellie was present in San Francisco in 1906 for the earthquake and fire, leading me to wonder whether she was one of the many who rode the steam ferry Berkeley to safety. I have no way of knowing or proving it, but the connection is an interesting one to say the least.
The Berkeley is part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego's permanent exhibit. She is undergoing some restoration work right now, but remains accessible. Cost is $18 for all of the boats and ships at the museum, and it's well worth a visit for the Berkeley alone. Don't forget to check out the Russian submarine and the Surprise, which was the ship in Master and Commander. They're all included in museum costs. Wear good shoes - you'll be going up and down ladders and stairs a lot.
RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach
She is a beautiful ship with many interesting areas. I had numerous impressions and experiences aboard the ship. The ship houses many museum exhibits near the engine room, and as we approached this area I felt deep sadness and actually started crying. In the engine room, a forward watertight door I am assured is never open stood open, and we entered a small area in the deepest recesses of the ship. There, we encountered something that I felt physically push me backwards. It turns out this is the area behind watertight door 13 where a crew member was found crushed to death.
In one of the engine rooms (pictured), I actually saw a man's head pop out from behind the piece of equipment pictured in the foreground of the image to the left. Of course, nobody was there. In the third class lounge (now equipped as an event space), I felt deeply disoriented. And all over the ship, I felt waves of varying emotions that were difficult to explain. I'd say she definitely has a ton of energy.
The ship is reasonably priced for a stay; we stayed in the Queen Mary Suite, which was huge and comfortable. You can go up to the Promenade deck to dine at one of the ship's restaurants or bars, and cost to enter exhibits is reasonable, as well. It's worth a visit if you're in Long Beach, if for nothing else than the history and beauty of the ship. There's a reasonable fee for parking.
Battleship USS Iowa, Los Angeles
The battleship was involved in WWII, the Korean War, and it continued operation as a naval vessel in the Cold War and beyond. FDR famously traveled on the battleship to cross the Atlantic in 1943.
In 1989, the Number Two 16 inch gun turret exploded, killing 47. There remains controversy over the findings of the Navy's investigation into the incident.
Like many decommissioned ships, the USS Iowa has reports of hauntings, particularly associated with that explosion. Many report seeing sailors in dress blues aboard the ship.
Jim was really curious about what I'd experience aboard the Iowa, particularly given the mystery surrounding the Number Two 16-inch turret. Honestly, I didn't feel much there, but when we entered the ship's museum at the end of the tour, it had a room with artifacts from the explosion. It was there I felt a surge of energy, as well as deep sadness and the urge to cry. Jim felt it as well. I stood in the room for a few minutes before I exited to another part of the museum. However, as I stood in another part of the museum, I felt the pull back to that room and heard someone say in my ear, "Come back. I need you to hear my story."
I went back into the room with the artifacts from the explosion again, and after a wave of sadness, a man's voice told me this. "My name is John. I was here, and then I was gone. I don't understand what happened to me. One minute I was here. Then, I wasn't." There were three men named John listed as fatalities in that incident. I tried to get more information, but that was all I kept hearing; "I was here and then I was gone."
As a piece of naval history, the battleship USS Iowa is fascinating. The tour is self-guided, although there are a ton of docents and veterans aboard to answer any and all questions. There are many areas of the ship you cannot access, but in the museum are multiple photos of those areas you can look at. Ticket prices are about $20. One nice touch is that they announce veterans who come aboard over the loudspeakers, a nice bit of respect paid to those who serve.
We didn't set out to take a haunted Southern California tour, but in our travels we came across many locations with haunted history. I'd heard of many before our trip and enjoyed exploring their history and feeling their energy. I'd recommend visiting each if you happen to be in the area. They are all well worth the cost of admission. Parking is reasonably priced.