Daily Archives: March 3, 2020

the return of yankee jim

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Sometimes they either don’t know they are dead or wouldn’t accept it because of strong attachments to their once earthly abodes. You may think it’s a puerile imagining to believe in ghosts, but there are indeed more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy. As someone who is keen on supernatural phenomena happening in the background of our ordinary landscape of daily life, it gave me a fillip when I came upon an article from my subscribed history magazine the other day about the historical capital punishments going horribly awry as though to use the grisly scenes of capital punishment as a reminder of societal retribution for eye for eye. It also reminded me of a story of the condemned whose ordeal of execution was so unbearably painful that he is still roaming around at his execution site as though with eternal lingering attachment to his earthly life.

Here in Southern California, the story of James Robinson (aka Yankee Jim) who was executed for an attempted grand larceny in San Diego in 1852, is something of haunted folklore that attracts tourists and ghost hunters. He was hanged on a gallows off the back of a wagon, but being a tall man with long legs, he resisted being killed by keeping his feet in the wagon but was at last pulled off. His body then swung like a pendulum until he strangled to death. And it was this very site of hanging that one Thomas Whaley, who happened to witness the execution himself, built his dream house where he and his family soon began to hear the unexpected phantom footsteps as if being made by the boots of a large man, walking noise, and the windows mysteriously unlatched and opened up. Lilian Whaley, the Whaleys’ youngest daughter living in the house until 1953 was certain that it was the ghost of Yankee Jim haunting their house. Now the Whaley House is the Whaley Museum, a California Historical Landmark located in Old Town, San Diego, California.

However, ‘Yankee Jim’ still lives there because although unseen, his presence is felt and heard by visitors and staff at the museum. Never malicious or naughty, the ghost of the hanged man is said to rather shyly manifest himself by footsteps, markings on the wall, or opening and closing of windows. So much so that the Whaley Museum, along with the Winchester Mystery House, is certified by the US Department of Commerce that it is genuinely haunted. So if you live in Southern California, it’s worth visiting the Museum and Jim. I think I may pay a visit. The address is 2476 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110.