Archive for October 20th, 2011

October 20, 2011


So, let’s move on to something lighter, shall we?

We’re does everyone stand on hauntings? There was a conversation on Twitter a few days ago, but there was no real consensus.

As for me … I’m a big chicken. I HATE “haunted houses” with a passion. Just ask my friends Joel and Jamie … both have (multiple times) had the unfortunate pleasure of accompanying me through haunted houses. Both have (multiple times) emerged with little rivers of blood running down their arms, from my nails digging in. Really, it serves them right … they’re the ones that make me go.

Now, “ghost hunting” I get a kick out of. Make of that what you will. Skye and I have been known to dig around anywhere we can get to, with our cameras a-flashing.


She’s in San Diego, and luckily for us, Old Town San Diego has their very own haunting.

The Whaley House is first and foremost a historical museum. During business hours they do tours where the share the house’s history, and then let you free to roam about. It’s a modest (for its time) manor house … with 2 stories. It also includes courtroom, and public meeting space – complete with stage and podium.


But, every October, they change-up the tour. Instead of the innocuous historical facts, they start telling  you the tales of the reported hauntings. Of the little dog kids tend to see running around, the small child in a pinafore, the woman’s face that appears on a wall and of Yankee Jim … a man executed on the property who was just flat-out too tall for the gallows and slowly strangled, instead of breaking his neck.

Lovely bedtime stories, right?


Well, several years back, it just so happened that I was dating the docent. And with that came some perks … including being allowed in the house after business hours (while they were closing up). And over the course of many visits, we had some fun.

Now, I will be the first to admit that most reports of hauntings are people’s imaginations running away with them. In this house, in particular, each room is sealed off with plexiglass. 99% of the time people claiming to have a photo with a figure in the room actually have a photo of their reflection in the plexiglass.

That being said … let’s share some stories:

** It should be known, most experiences we’ve had in the house are common ones. Having never seen the Halloween tour, neither of us were aware of anything specific having been reported previously. Imagine our surprise when the response to our report was “Oh yah, that happens all the time.” **


1. Let’s start vaguely creepy, but not all out. The stairs are apparently built on the spot where Yankee Jim was hanged (before the house was built). One night, after I’d been standing on the stairs taking photos,  I had someone ask me what I’d done to my neck. I looked in a mirror, and had a thin red welt going all the way around … as if there’d been a cord around my neck. It didn’t hurt at all, I hadn’t felt it happen, and it lasted for about 2 hours.


Apparently, this is something that happens to several tourists each day. The workers look for it, but don’t mention it often, as it generally freaks people out. But they do keep a tally. ::winks::


2. Same night, while outside, waiting for the boy to grab his jacket from the office, I was wandering around, shooting the outside of the house (the creepy misty shot of the back was from that night … the mist was a low hanging cloud … being not far from the ocean, it’s ALWAYS foggy.) The house was locked, and all the lights were out. In one of the upper windows, I noticed movement … like something moving back and forth across the bottom of the window repeatedly. The longer I watched, I realized it looked like a rocking chair. So I quickly shot 3 photos.

In one photo, the window is dark … as it should be. In one photo, the window is very bright, as if a light is on just inside. And one picture looked like this:


I have to tell you … we blew that picture up as big as it would go. (I was using a film camera, so that’s pretty damn big.) Behind all the color, you can vaguely see the outline of the building … and the window, faintly lit. And we checked to see if it was just something with the film … nowhere else on that roll were there even similar anomalies. Or that bright of colors, for that matter.

As for what I’d seen … the boy later told me that a rocking chair had been next to the window for many years … but had recently been relocated to the other side of the room. There was only a table there, now.


3. This one wasn’t my experience, but I witnessed it. During normal tours, they take everyone into the meeting room and tell you about things (historical events) that happened during the time it was in use. One afternoon, the guy (a stranger) sitting next to me was taking pictures of the tour guide, up on stage. At one point he started to review them, and yelped. Most of his photos were of the tour guide, podium, and 3 chairs. But one photo (in the middle of others) was of four chairs, a different podium (in a different place on stage) and no tour guide. The poor tourist was shaking. I was super intrigued.


4. This one was creepy. You’re forwarned.

The night the photo of Skye (all the way up top) was taken we’d been out at dinner in Old Town. Knowing they’d be closing up as we were finishing, we went in to say hi and see if we could poke around. That day they’d unveiled the restoration of the kitchen … back to the original from the time the house was built. Previously it had been preserved as it was left, still old, but not original. As we were about to leave, we decided to take one last swing through the kitchen (the lights were now off). As Skye stepped inside after me, she started hyperventilating and just generally freaking out. So we left, and went to the courtroom (still lit) to sit down and make sure she was ok. She said she had been hit with a wave of severe anxiety and confusion. (Not typical for her.) But, being Skye, she wanted to go back. So we did. She barely got in the door before collapsing to the floor sobbing. (ALSO not typical.) I dragged her out into the hallway and then ran back to snap a couple of photos … to see if I could catch anything.


So, some things to be noted about this photo. It was one of 5 or 6 I shot … the 3rd or 4th in, I believe. The only source of light in that area of the house was my flash. There was no light behind me. NOTHING that could cast a shadow. And again, it only showed up in one of the photos (notice a trend?) … the rest were completely normal.

The thing that creeps me out the most about this photo are the little things. Like the fact that in the middle of the darkness you see my flash reflecting off the stovepipe, and the wall paper. And that while there is a sharp edge on the left side of the shadow, the right side curves around a bit.

We’ve tried over and over again to try to recreate this photo, with no luck. The only thing that comes even close was by having me crouch down, and have a piece of cardboard blocking the entrance … the shadow was about right, then, but you also couldn’t see the whole room, as I was too low to shoot over the cardboard. That night there had been nothing between me and the room … at least nothing that could be seen. Someone mentioned (about a year later) that it looked like a door was being shut in my face. Any other opinions?

Skye later said that when she started crying she’d been flooded with overwhelming sorrow and a sense of “Why did you do this?” She speculates this all had to do with the renovation of the kitchen … but who knows.


5. So now that everyone’s thoroughly creeped out, I’ll end with a less-intense story. One afternoon, about a month after the night in number 4, I stopped by to take the boy to lunch. He was in the middle of a tour, so I wandered around waiting. Upstairs was a mother with several small children who were running around. I stopped to talk to her, and felt one of the kids tug on my long skirt. Looking down, I saw that one of the little girls was smiling at me. She took my hand, and started to swing it back and forth … as small children tend to do. I went back to talking to the mother, and the little one kept swinging my hand.

After about a minute of this I looked down to smile at her … and there was no little girl. But I could still feel the little hand, and my arm was still swinging back and forth. I looked at the woman I was talking to in shock, and felt the little hand give mine a squeeze and slip away. Sounds terrifying, but really, all I felt was fascination.

A couple of days later, the boy showed me a picture the workers had taken at closing, the same day I’d been there. (Before cleaning any of the plexiglassed rooms they take pictures, to make sure everything is put back in the same spots.) In the nursery there is a cradle holding a baby doll. In the photo, there was a little girl peeking over the edge of the cradle, smiling at doll.

It was the little girl I’d seen, and played with.

Of course, I told the boy what’d happened to me (for some reason I hadn’t when it happened … go figure). He told me that visitors wearing long skirts regularly report having them tugged on … like a small child would. But to his knowledge, no one else had ever reported having the child actually touch them.

And all I could think was COOL.


So … those are my stories. Anyone else have any?