There are some human beings who are dimly aware of their own deaths, yet have chosen to stay on in what used to be their homes, to be close to surroundings they once held dear. – Hans Holzer
No matter your theological, scientific, or pop culture beliefs regarding ghosts, apparitions, phantoms, or specters – I think we can all agree on one thing: They are spook-a-roo!
It’s the very witching time of October, and with the rest of the country, my thoughts have turned to all things chilling and foreboding. And if you feel there should be more daunting things demanding my attention, then, yes, Mr. Scrooge of Halloween, I guess there should be. But tales of strange sights, haunted spots and twilight superstitions are indeed remarkable around this most peculiar of seasons.
I was 12 years old the first time I saw a ghost.
Or whatever it was.
My brother, Justin, and I had taken a book out from the Thousand Oaks Library that listed “actual” haunted houses throughout the country. Merely seeing that there was a list (an extensive list, I might add) of these locations immediately gave us what scientists have classified as “ an acute case of the willies.” When our reading of this book happened to coincide with a family trip to San Diego, Justin and I straight away looked up which haunted houses were located in San Diego.
The Whaley House.
If you are not familiar with the Whaley House, it is a substantial, well-constructed edifice, built in the 1800s. Since its completion it has served not only as the Whaley Family home, but a granary, the County Court House, San Diego’s first commercial theater, a general store, a billiard hall, a school, a polling place, and a Starbucks. (No, not really a Starbucks.)
There were a number of hangings which occurred on the property before the house was ever constructed, and Violet Whaley killed herself in the home in 1885. According to the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted, the house is the number one most haunted house in the United States.
I don’t think I need to tell you that my brother and I begged my dad to take us to the Whaley House. Pleaded with the man. He finally agreed, but had no intention to pay for the entire family to go. He just sent Justin and I on the tour.
The house was dusty, and despite being with a tour group, it was eerily quiet. Nobody was cracking wise about seeing anything, and nobody openly made fun. Nobody levitated either, but there was an ominous feeling to the place. For the most part, it was a short tour and that was it. We followed the tour path easy enough, as it was blatantly marked, and all the rooms were protected behind glass, so you couldn’t get close and touch anything. Each room contained original furniture from the late 1800s as well as some replicas. Very museum like. So we snapped as many photos as we could, so we had proof we had been there and could check it off on our new List of American Haunted Houses We Want to Visit.
We got our pictures developed about a week later and were thumbing through them together as we discussed how brave and awesome we were going on that tour by ourselves. When unexpectedly, we both went silent. We were both fixated.
There…in a photo of one of the bedrooms…was something that hadn’t been there on the tour. It was a phantasm. It was the almost see-through figure of a woman, dressed elegantly from that time period when the house was a bustling, central part of San Diego. She wore a black dress and a black dress-hat with a wide brim. And she was staring right at us. Her expression was one as if we had caught her off guard.
My acute case of the willies had now become… a chronic case of the heebie jeebies. We threw out the photo, and the next time we went to the library, I checked out Superfudge, Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. And life was less spooky once again.