The Ghosts at the Whaley House
get all the Publicity
By Dean Glass
October is always a busy month at the Whaley House, the 1856-57 historic house museum in Old Town operated for the County of San Diego by SOHO. As Halloween approaches, thousands of tourists and ghost-hunters head for what famed paranormal investigator Hans Holzer has described as "one of the most actively haunted mansions in the world today." While the Whaley House probably does not need any more publicity than it has received in its first 45 years as a house museum, it seems that this year everybody was talking about the Whaley House.
In September we were visited by Kevin Cooley, a photographer for Life Magazine. Three of his stunning photographs were published in Life's October 21 issue, accompanied by a story by Johnny Dwyer entitled "The Most Haunted House in America: The Whaley House is haunted top to bottom, dawn to dusk, not just on Halloween but 365 days a year." The article detailed reports of "shadowy figures, the sounds of an organ, unexplained chilly air, cigar smoke..." which have kept the museum's haunted reputation going strong since it first opened to the public in 1960.
On the October 20 edition of "Live with Regis and Kelly," Regis Philbin and Kelly Rippa discussed the night in 1964 when Philbin stayed after hours at the Whaley House and witnessed the apparition of Anna Whaley's ghost. Philbin is known for not wanting to talk about the episode, but evidently it was the article in Life Magazine, a copy of which Philbin displayed on air, that brought the subject up. Rippa expressed her desire to spend the night in the house, and Regis replied that if they were ever in the San Diego area, he'd consider it. We promptly sent a formal invitation; no word yet.
Rod "The Scout" Deutschmann, who writes a column for the Camp Pendleton Marine Base website recommending activities for Marines in San Diego, reprinted our "Ghostly Legends of the Whaley House" information sheet for the Halloween season.
On KOGO radio's "Rockin' with Roger" music contest, host and former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock awarded eleven winners each a pair of passes to the Whaley House and dinner for two at the New Orleans Creole Café. Winners were required to identify by title and artist a snippet of a song from the 1960s, 70s, or 80s. Over on the FM dial, Star 94.1 radio personalities Laura Cain and Randy Hoag of the "Jeff and Jer Showgram," spent the night of October 26 in the Whaley House, after dining at the New Orleans Creole Café. The event was highly publicized, including two on-air interviews with SOHO staff on October 25 and 26.
The following evening, October 27, Dan Sachoff and Christine Blackburn hosted the "Ready for the Weekend Movie" on the USA Network, appearing in nine segments videotaped inside and outside of the Whaley House in August.
Finally, on Sunday, October 30, the San Diego Union printed an article by Peter Rowe, Old Town's less familiar haunt: Is he jealous of Whaley's ghost, or just trying to scare up business?, in which staff at Old Town's Plaza del Pasado and frustrated part-time ghost hunter Michael Brown lamented that the spirits who haunt the State Park's many historic buildings are virtually unknown compared to those at the Whaley House. "The ghosts at the Whaley House get all the publicity," said Jonathan Heller of Southwest Strategies, a San Diego public relations firm. Pointing out that both Life Magazine and the USA Network were featuring the Whaley House this year, Rowe states that the Whaley House getting extra publicity "is the equivalent of Richie Rich winning the Lotto."
The extra publicity seems to have paid off. During the four-day "Halloween Weekend," October 28-31, in which the museum's doors remained open until midnight, the museum had a total of 2618 paid visitors (not counting eight trolley-loads of visitors each night on the Old Town Trolley's now-defunct Ghost & Gravestones Tour), bringing in $19,076.00 which will be added to the $35,000.00 grant received from County Supervisor Ron Roberts for the restoration of the Whaley House kitchen in 2006.
We would like to thank the following SOHO staff members and volunteers who pulled together to make the Halloween Weekend tours of the Whaley House a pleasant experience for over three thousand visitors: James Anderson, Evan Bonavita, DeDe Casillas, Ron Casillas, Alana Coons, William Doyle, Deirdre Gilmartin, Dean Glass, Morgana Gordon, Vykki Mende Gray, Alan Hazard, Jeff Hughes, Mary Jones, Stuart Kalbrofsky, Pat Moore, Janet O'Dea, Casey O'Hanlon-Howie, Linda Petersen, Pat Petersen, Marie Pleasant, George Plum, Chris Pro, Victor Santana, Sean Shiraishi, Cassi Spindler, Deborah Spindler, Scott Spindler, David Swarens, Hillary Sweeney, Jokie Tolentino and her husband James, Justin West; Maritza Skandunas and Karen Ridens of the San Diego Ghost Hunters; and Jeff and Chris of Black Hawk Security. We would also like to remind you that as a SOHO member, your admission to the Whaley House is always free, and we hope you will consider volunteering to help out next Halloween.
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