This tale starts in 1852 when a tall lanky man rides in to San Diego. Yankee Jim was a shady character to say the least; it wasn’t long before he’d stirred up enough shit that everyone in town knew who he was. Even though old Jim was a nasty character, it’s not his character flaws that has brought him to infamy. Well, the town folk decided they’d had about enough of Jim, he found himself captured and in jail, facing death by hanging. Even though the town folk had decided to kill the man, at least they had the decency to call in a priest and have Jim baptized while the makeshift gallows were being put up.
There was a vacant lot conveniently located just steps away from the local cemetery. It had been the scene of many such lynchings before and after old Jim. Well, the gallows were finished and the time had arrived, Jim was led to the back of a buckboard wagon and a noose was fitted around his neck. He fought to keep his feet on the platform for as long as possible but of course his struggle was in vain. The wagon was pulled from beneath him and he was now hanging by his neck. There was a problem though, no one had taken into consideration how tall Jim was, the tips of his toes were touching the ground. As human nature would have it, Jim fought for his life making the hanging take even longer as he danced about on his tip toes while slowly strangling to death.
In the crowd watching on is a handsome young entrepreneur named Thomas Whaley, he’s wearing a sly smile on his face. His grin had nothing to do with Jim’s dilemma, it had everything to do with the vacant lot. Two years later the handsome investor has made one hell of a deal in purchasing this lot, and now he begins planning to build the grandest estate in the area, even amidst all of the warnings from the locals. That lot was surely cursed, the souls of so many wicked men had been loosed on the very spot. The handsome man just shook his head and carried on with his plans.
By 1856 a grand Greek Revival estate sat smack dab in the middle of where the gallows had once stood. But the trouble had already begun, even before the Whaley family officially moved into the home. IT seemed there was a invisible squatter occupying the house, Thomas himself had heard the sound of heavy footsteps echoing through the hallways, yet no one was ever there. Immediately, because of Yankee Jim’s unusual stature, he knew the identity of the ghost. In fact, he had designed the home to where the archway that separated the den from the dining room was the exact spot where Jim, and many others, had been hanged from the gallows.
Thomas’ wife Anna was quite aware of Jim’s presence too, every moment of every day she felt as if she were surrounded while inside the home. There had been occasions where Anna actually saw Yankee Jim. She described him as a terrifying giant of a man with huge evil eyes. Anna, blamed Jim for all of the torments that she would experience in this home, beginning in 1858 when her 18 month old son died from Scarlett Fever. After the sting of his death wore off a bit, it seemed as though her daughter Violet would bring some joy into the household, there was going to be a wedding. Well, come to find out the new husband was a con artist, he ditches Violet on the honeymoon and disappears. Violet comes home, maddened by depression. She turns into a recluse and hardly ever leaves the second floor of the home again, not much later Violet shoots herself in the chest with her father’s gun.
Not much longer after Violet’s suicide came another tragedy. The younger Whaley children were outside in the back yard playing with another young girl, a friend of theirs from the neighborhood. In running around, the little girl accidentally runs into a clothesline and breaks her neck, she dies in the backyard. But she’s not alone, only a few years later one of Thomas and Anna’s young grand daughter dies in the house from ingesting poison.
Besides the mounting death toll that’s went down on this property, the house was actually used for other things while is existed as the family residence. At one time it was the Thomas Whaley general store, it was also used as a courthouse, so you know there’s some emotional trauma there too. And lastly a tinge on drama, the upper level had been rented out to the Tanner Troupe Theater, so there was always something going on at this joint, I’m surprised any of them saw ghosts at all with all this bullshit going on! Regardless, they did. After the passing of Anna and Thomas, the house went on to other relatives, and for 150 + years the legends of all of these ghosts, including Yankee Jim, have persisted to this day.
Chairs rock, chandeliers swing, doors open and close on their own. Invisible fingers play haunting melodies on a piano that’s no longer present. There are the sounds of cutlery against fine china, often accompanied by the aroma of fresh baked bread and pies. The scent of Cuban tobacco and French perfume are ever present in the halls. The activity isn’t limited to the human variety; the Whaleys had a fondness for their four-legged family members “Dolly” the dog and “Winks” the cat have been witnessed by a number of guests. They claim to see a small dog chasing a cat through the house and out into the garden.
Folks have heard the disembodied pounding of a gavel echo through the courtroom as an invisible judge hands down his sentence. There’s laughter and music of vaudeville days that seeps from the walls of the upper level rooms. The sounds of violins, guitars, and a piano are recurring reminders of long passed 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.
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. Perhaps this is where she stood when she heard the gunshot that ended Violet’s miserable life.
Thomas shows up sporting pantaloons with a frock coat and top hat. He’s been seen standing at the top of the stairs surveying his castle. Anna, appears in a cheery green gingham gown has been momentarily spotted upon the settee in the parlor, or sometimes outside walking around in the garden. According to scores of paranormal investigators and visitors, the spirits of Thomas and Anna, along with a score of others, continue to dwell here. After all, this is their home, and they show no signs of leaving.
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