Prologue: I wrote this post in March of this year upon reading an article about historic haunted places in the UK from a subscribed issue of ‘BBC History Revealed’. I wanted to contribute my knowledge about the Whaley Museum in Southern California in a letter to the editor. The new July issue arrived on my Kindle Fire this morning, and I saw my letter featuring therein. It was edited in the context, but only for the perfect perspicacity. The letter is, in fact, one of the fifth letters that have been so far published in the magazine.
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 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 an eye-for- an 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 attempted grand larceny in San Diego in 1852, is something of haunted folklore that attracts tourists and ghost hunters alike. 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.