When the bright sunshine of day creeps into night, darkness suddenly takes over San Diego. Some parts of the city settle into the quiet of night, and others rev up for the parties, but there is another side of San Diego that is rarely seen. It’s a side of the paranormal. Get ready for bone chilling stories of the haunted history of San Diego from Old Town to the Gaslamp Quarter. Look and listen closely, you might even witness a spirit saying hello. Grab your cameras, and make sure to use your flash as we tour the haunted places in San Diego together. You won’t want to miss ghost stories, silhouettes or any signs of paranormal activity.
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Underneath the footsteps of friendly neighbors and children playing in the Mission Hills’ Pioneer Park, lie thousands of bodies that were originally buried in the Calvary Cemetery. The Cemetery was one of the oldest cemeteries in San Diego with many of the gravesites dating back to the 19th century. In the 1960s, this city cemetery had become run down to a point of disrepair. The city started “The Improvement of Mission Hills Park,” redeveloping the land into the neighborhood park it is today. Many of the original gravestones were recycled or moved, but a few loom in the back as a reminder of what the land used to be. Since 1970, residents have stomped on this grave site of early San Diegans. Many say they feel a cold chill at the park, and get a creepy sense that someone is watching. Others have experienced sightings of apparitions at night, or heard faint voices at the park. It is quite the spooky place to visit.
El Campo Santo
Just down the hill from the Calvary Cemetery is another historic cemetery called El Campo Santo in Old Town. Don’t let the small size of this cemetery fool you. There are over 400 bodies buried in the lot, as well as along the haunted San Diego Avenue! Many reports have been made of cars not starting, car alarms going off, and the street lamp flickering just outside of the cemetery. Yankee Jim, of the most famous ghosts of Old Town, is buried here. Yankee Jim was a very tall man who had been hung for stealing a boat. The urban legend of Yankee Jim is that when he was hung, the gallows were built for a man of average height, and when the wagon was pulled from beneath him, his feet touched the ground, forcing him to strangle to death. His soul lingers in the cemetery as well as where the gallows once stood.
The Whaley House in Old Town is also known to be one of the most haunted houses in America. Many ghosts sightings are reported on a daily basis. One of the theories behind the hauntings is that the house was built on the site where the original gallows once stood. Thomas Whaley built the house after he got a really good price on the lot. He was aware of the site, and had even witnessed the hanging of famous ghost, Yankee Jim. Since the house was built, the Whaley family noticed the presence of the unrest spirits, and several people also died in and around the house. Since its opening to the public in 1960, many guests, including professional ghost hunters, have experienced cold spots, moving furniture, strange smells, flickering lights, unexplained opening and closing of doors, and mysterious sounds within the house.
Now an upbeat, iconic emblem of Downtown San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter was historically known as New Town, and was originally built when the first port of San Diego was opened. As a new port in the southwestern-most part of the United States, sailors from the East Coast were eager to visit the first American and English-speaking port they’d seen in a long time. As San Diego gained popularity, the demand to entertain the sailors grew, and with that, the Stingaree was developed. The Stingaree District was a lawless area specifically catering to the rugged sailors. Many murders, kidnappings, rapes, prostitution, and other unspeakable acts were a part of the daily life in the Stingaree. Even more haunting, many of the buildings from this era are still a part of the current Gaslamp Quarter. Our office was in 525 5th Ave, and it was normal for us to hear footsteps and voices throughout the historic building that we can only describe as paranormal activity.
The Davis-Horton House
The Davis-Horton House is the oldest standing structure in the Gaslamp Quarter. It’s also home to the Historic Gaslamp Society. The house was brought to San Diego in 1850 by William Heath Davis as one of the first attempted land developments in the city of San Diego. The house has served many purposes, such as the county’s first hospital, and inhabited a diversity of people including the Army, San Diego’s founding father, Alonzo Horton, and even, a German spy. Several people were reported to have died in the home, which likely contributed to its haunting. Many visitors have claimed to have seen a Victorian woman summoning guests up the stairs. Others have told stories of moving furniture, and unexplained flashes of light. Visit the house, and see if you encounter the women in the Victorian dress or experience anything strange. The last time I stepped foot in there, I got a cold chill, and the rocking chair directly in front of me started rocking vigorously.
One of my favorite historic buildings in San Diego is the Villa Montezuma. This Victorian/Queen Anne-style masterpiece was specifically built for the musical genius: Jesse Shepard in 1887. Jesse was a world-renowned spiritualist, pianist and author, and was asked to move to San Diego to aid in the uprising of the arts and culture of the city. The pianist was known for his musical séances, as he channeled spirits with his music, and was known specifically to channel spiritual entities, such as Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven and Bach during his improvisational concerts. He would use his voice to simulate an entire orchestra! The city shunned this spiritual behavior, and after a couple years, Jesse moved back to Europe. The house represents his perfect home since he helped design it, and is said to still house his unrest spirit. The Villa is closed to the public, but can be admired from the street in the Sherman Heights neighborhood.
With Halloween right around the corner, we invite you to take a tour with So Diego Tours to learn more on the general history and scary places in San Diego. More of a beer person? Check out San Diego’s unique beer flavors or book our Hipster Hops Brewery Tour!