The Whaley House: Government ‘authentication’ of ghosts?by Cherlyn Gardner Strong on Nov. 22, 2009, under General Paranormal, Ghosts and Hauntings, Life, Paranormal
One of my favorite “haunted” locations is The Whaley House Museum in Old Town San Diego, touted as The Most Haunted House in America. The Whaley House Museum generates a healthy amount of money from their entrance fees. The museum revenue is supplemented by donated monies dropped into the “Save Our Heritage Organization” (SOHO) box near the exit. The museum is a cash cow, whether it is haunted or not.
The Whaley house is said to be haunted by Thomas Whaley, an early San Diego settler, as well as by the ghostly members of his pioneering family. The house even has a spectral dog running around the property. According to historians, this San Diego homesite that was chosen by Whaley in the late 1800′s, was purchased despite his knowing that the location served as the local gallows for criminals.
I’ve visited the Whaley House in San Diego on numerous occasions. I was fortunate over the years to roam the house and property after hours. I was allowed to roam freely by a former Whaley House “ghost” docent. It is a different environment inside that house when it is experienced alone and unguided. The late Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone fame enjoyed a private visit to the home, based on his affinity of paranormal phenomena. Talk Show King, Regis Philbin, also visited the home when he was a San Diego television host in the 60′s. Philbin was even said to have fled the home, in the middle of the night, during the after hours visit. The King of Horror Movies, Vincent Price, also visited the home outside of the boundaries of a structured tour. I can truly attest to the fact that it is truly a “thriller” to be inside that structure late at night.
There is one widely circulated “fact” about the Whaley House, however, that makes me cringe. The Whaley House is said to be one of 30 locations nationwide, “authenticated” as haunted by the United States Department of Commerce.
Let’s back up and examine this for a bit. The U.S. Department of Commerce certification: “haunted house”. What does Government involvement in bestowing any sort of classification on a “haunted house” mean for you and me?
First, there’s a big misconception here. The U.S. Department of Commerce does NOT claim that the Whaley House or the said 29 other locations are actually haunted by ghosts. Some internet sources name the the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Chamber of Commerce, or even the California State Chamber of Commerce, as the government entities that have bestowed the “haunted” designation on The Whaley House. Depending on the source, the words “designated”, “verified”, “certified” or “authenticated” are often used along with the claim that the government recognizes the location as haunted. The one word that remains constant is the word “Commerce” associated with these claims.
Definition: Commerce, n. 1. the activity embracing all forms of the purchase and sale of goods and services. – Source: www.thefreedictionary.com
Throughout my years of research into this popular claim, I have yet to find said list of 30 “certified” haunted houses that any branch of any government has “authenticated” and published. If you have said list, forward it to me. In the meantime, I am going to apply some common sense to the scenario.
Our federal government does not certify locations as “haunted” places – at least in the sense of certifying that a location is legally haunted by ghosts. The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA is also believed to be authenticated by government as “haunted”.
There is to be considered, what exactly is the government involvement with the official classification of these and other properties?
The government certification as “haunted” is simply misunderstood. The designation of a haunted house given to the Whaley House by the U.S. Department of Commerce is only partially accurate. The designation as a “haunted house” to a business that collects entrance fees from the public, serves multiple fiduciary purposes. The designation of any business, for any purpose, mandates that any business complies with structural codes, public safety requirements, property value assessments, business classification, and tax classifications. So, the United States and local government commerce divisions DO oversee businesses that are legally designated, and that DO operate haunted houses for amusement purposes.
If you think about it, there are many reasons why a location that is designated as a “haunted house” would have to comply with specific government inflicted rules. If someone freaks out, for example, there must to be easy access for the person to exit the structure. As importantly, rules are in place to allow prompt access of emergency personnel into the place of business. All places of business, in order to operate, are forced to comply with federal, state and local code, in every aspect. The Whaley House Museum dually operates as a haunted house. The government rules for businesses operating under the designation of a haunted house ensure that the paid public enjoys a safe visit to the said haunted location. Any claim that a government entity certified the house as “haunted” is only partially accurate.
The Whaley House Museum’s website states: “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.”
This statement tells me that there is no government authentication or verification or certification of ghosts bestowed on the property. The Whaley House Museum has never referenced any government designation. Yet, this “fact” is all over the internet and has been relayed to me by various persons. Even a Travel Channel show that featured the home in a “most haunted” segment referenced the government designation.
While I do think The Whaley House Museum is haunted, the United States government did not authenticate my belief that the location is haunted. The government simply ensured that my visit to the structure complied with local, state and federal regulations – even if one visit was after hours, which is a grey area, to say the least.
I decided, on my own, based on my personal experiences at the location, that I personally believe that the Whaley House Museum is haunted. Additionally, it is up to science to prove that ghosts exist, not the U.S. Department of Commerce, nor is it up to any other state or local branches of commerce regulatory agencies.
(As a side note, the rogue ghost docent who allowed access to me no longer serves on staff at The Whaley House. After hours visits can be pre-arranged for additional fees for a limited number of hours aftter closing.)