The Whaley House Haunt | Kate Morgan Haunted Hotel Del Coronado


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San Diego Haunted Whaley House :
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 – sandiegohaunted –
Few houses in San Diego are as historically important as the Whaley House. In addition to being the Whaley Family home, it housed a granary, the County Court House, San Diego’s first commercial theater, various businesses including Thomas Whaley’s own general store, a ballroom, a billiard hall, school, and polling place. Significant events, such as the siezure of the court documents and records in 1871, and the suicide of Violet Whaley in 1885 profoundly affected Thomas and Anna Whaley. These events, as well as the hangings which occurred on the property before the house was constructed, have suffused the Whaley House with an air of mystery and added to its reputation as something more than just California State Historic Landmark #65. – sandiegohaunted –
According to the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted, the house is the number one most haunted house in the United States. The alleged hauntings of the Whaley House have been reported on numerous other television programs and been written up in countless publications and books since the house first opened as a museum in 1960. Although we cannot state positively that the Whaley House is really haunted, the voluminous documentation of paranormal occurances at the site makes a compelling case. But, if there are ghosts at the Whaley House, who are they and why are they here? – san diegohaunted –
The earliest documented ghost at the Whaley House is “Yankee Jim.” James (aka Santiago) Robinson was convicted of attempted grand larceny in San Diego in 1852, and hanged on a gallows off the back of a wagon on the site where the house now stands. The local newspaper reported that he “kept his feet in the wagon as long as possible, but was finally pulled off. He swung back and forth like a pendulum until he strangled to death.” Although Thomas Whaley had been a spectator at the execution, he did not let it disuade him from buying the property a few years later and building a home for his family there. According to the San Diego Union, “soon after the couple and their children moved in, heavy footsteps were heard moving about the house. Whaley described them as sounding as though they were made by the boots of a large man. Finally he came to the conclusion that these unexplained footfalls were made by Yankee Jim Robinson.” Another source states that Lillian Whaley, the Whaleys’ youngest daughter who lived in the house until 1953, “had been convinced the ghost of “Yankee Jim” haunted the Old House.” A visitor to the museum in 1962 mentioned that “the ghost had driven her family from their visit there more than 60 years [earlier], her mother was unnerved by the phantom walking noise and the strange way the windows unlatched and flew up.” – san diegohaunted
Many visitors to the house have reported encountering Thomas Whaley himself. The late June Reading, former curator of the museum, said, “We had a little girl perhaps 5 or 6 years old who waved to a man she said was standing in the parlor. We couldn’t see him. But often children’s sensitivity is greater than an adult’s.” However, many adults have reported seeing the apparition of Mr. Whaley, usually on the upper landing. One said he was “clad in frock coat and pantaloons, the face turned away from her, so she could not make it out. Suddenly it faded away.”
The specter of Anna Whaley has also been reported, usually in the downstairs rooms or in the garden. In 1964, Mrs. Whaley’s floating, drifting spirit appeared to [television personality Regis] Philbin. “All of a sudden I noticed something on the wall,” Philbin reported. “There was something filmy white, it looked like an apparition of some kind, I got so excited I couldn’t restrain myself! I flipped on the [flash]light and nothing was there but a portrait of Anna Whaley, the long-dead mistress of the house.” – sandiego haunted –
Other visitors have described seeing or sensing the presence of a woman in the courtroom. “I see a small figure of a woman,” one visitor said, “who has a swarthy complexion. She is wearing a long full skirt, reaching to the floor. The skirt appears to be a calico or gingham, small print. She has a kind of cap on her head, dark hair and eyes and she is wearing gold hoops in her pierced ears. She seems to stay in this room, lives here, I gather.” None of the Whaleys fit this description, but the house was rented out to numerous tenants over the years. Perhaps the mysterious woman in the courtroom was one of these.
Another presence reported by visitors and docents is that of a young girl, who is usually found in the dining room. Psychic Sybil Leek encountered this spirit during a visit in the 1960s. “It was a long-haired girl,” Sybil said. “She was very quick, you know, in a longish dress. She went to the table in this room and I went to the chair.” Urban legend has it that this is the ghost of a playmate of the Whaley children who accidentally broke her neck on a low-hanging clothesline in the backyard, and whose name was either Annabel or Carrie Washburn. There are no historic records of any child dying this way at the Whaley House; nor is there record of any family named Washburn residing in San Diego at the time. It is believed that the legend was started by a one-time employee of the Whaley House, in an effort to add to the house’s mystique.
Even animals aren’t left out of the singular occurances. A parapsychologist reported he saw a spotted dog, like a fox terrier, that ran down the hall with his ears flapping and into the dining room. The dog, he said, was an apparition. When they lived in the house, the Whaley’s owned a terrier named Dolly Varden. – sandiego haunted –
The Whaley House stands silently watching over San Diego Avenue as it has done for a century and a half. Every day visitors come from around the world to tour the historic museum. It contains so much history within its walls, that even the non-believer will enjoy the tour. For believers and sceptics alike, the house draws them back time and again, in search of those elusive ghosts. As Regis Philbin once said, “You know a lot of people pooh-pooh it because they can’t see it. But there was something going on in that house.” – sandiego haunted –
The Story of Kate Morgan
The elegant Hotel Del Coronado was opened in 1888 and soon became a favored destination for people from all over the world. It is not long after the Hotel’s opening that our ghost story starts. – san diego haunted –
Tom and Kate Morgan were a married couple who rode the trains in the late 1800s. Their occupation: con artists. Kate was apparently very attractive, and would lure men into a game of cards with her “brother” (Tom), so that they could prove their worth. Tom would swindle them out of whatever money they were willing to part with, and this is how the Morgans made their living. – san diego haunted –
In November of 1892, however, Kate discovered she was pregnant and wanted to stop the train racket and settle down. While the two were riding towards San Diego, they had an argument because Tom did not want to change his lifestyle. Tom disembarked at either Los Angeles or Orange County. He was supposed to meet Kate in San Diego for Thanksgiving. – san diego haunted –
Kate continued on to San Diego and checked into the Hotel Del Coronado under the name “Lottie Anderson Bernard”. There she waited for Tom, but Thanksgiving came and went with no sign of him. She checked other hotels in the area but could not find him anywhere. During this time, Kate complained to various staff members of feeling ill and reports of the time indicate that she was looking pale. It is suspected that she performed an abortion on herself.
It is known that while Kate was waiting for her missing husband, she ventured into San Diego and bought a gun. It was shortly after this that Kate was found shot in the head on some steps leading down to the beach, an apparent suicide.
For years everyone accepted that the death was a suicide, until 1990, when Alan May (a lawyer who specializes in murder cases) published the book The Legend of Kate Morgan: The Search for the Ghost of the Hotel del Coronado. (BTW, this book is available in the Signature Shop at the hotel.) May pored through old records from the time of Kate’s death. He came to the eventual conclusion that Kate did not kill herself, but was murdered by her husband. There are several pieces of evidence supporting this theory, the most compelling of which is the fact that the bullet in Kate’s head was of a different caliber than the ones in the gun she bought. Also, the position her body was found in was not consistent with a suicide. – sandiego haunted –
The Ghost
The room Kate checked into was 302, which is now room 3312. But that is not the only haunted room. Room 3502, which was once a maid’s room, is also considered haunted. Both rooms have experienced oddly functioning electrical equipment (lights turning on and off, etc) and cold breezes. Maids report that objects are moved around by unseen hands. Guests in the rooms (those who were brave enough to stay the night!) have exper- ienced oppressive feelings and curtains that move even though the windows are closed. Other people swear they have heard murmurings coming from somewhere in the room. Kate’s ghost has been seen walking down hallways of the hotel and standing at windows. According to Alan May, an electrician told him that the light over the steps where Kate died will not stay lit. The bulb is replaced constantly, but the light always winks out. May also claims that while he was staying in one of the haunted rooms [the sources I have do not make it clear which one], he saw a face on the television (which was, of course, turned off at the time). This sighting was supposedly verified by one or two hotel employees. – sandiego haunted –
Room 3502 has a history of its own. Apparently, the maid who was living there during Kate’s stay may have become friends with Kate. What is known is that the day after Kate’s funeral, the maid disappeared. There is some speculation that Tom Morgan may have killed the maid as well as his wife. One story even theorizes that when hotel staff found the maid’s body, they surreptitiously removed it so as not to further upset the guests! – sandiegohaunted –
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