This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.
We’d like to thank Historic Tours of America for free tickets to our recent visit to Ghosts and Gravestones Ghost Tour in San Diego. As usual, all opinions are honest and my own.
If you’ve followed my family’s adventures for a while, you’d know that we love to take a ghost tour when we travel. It’s a great way to learn some history of the area with a spooky twist. And if you travel in the summertime, it’s a great way to get some touring in when the temperatures are cooler. When we began planning a trip to San Diego, I knew I wanted to see the Whaley House, known for its paranormal activity. What better way to see it than at night as part of the Ghosts and Gravestones tour?
Before Your Ghosts and Gravestones Tour in San Diego
We arrived early in the day, and after a morning at La Jolla Beach, we were ready to explore Old Town in San Diego and get our bearings before our tour that night. We found a free parking lot which happened to be near the Old Town Trolley Tours and Ghosts and Gravestones. Both tours are part of the same company and utilize trolleys, which is something I really like when my feet are tired!
The booth is at the front of the Old Town walking area where you can see historic buildings and shop. The Old Town Market is next to the Old Town Tours and Ghosts and Gravestones booth, and the street leading to the walking section of Old Town is filled with shops and restaurants. We had a fun afternoon shopping here, and before our tour, we had dinner at the Old Town Mexican Cafe. Yum!
You can also walk up to the Whaley House Museum during the day, and if you don’t want your tour to have the ghostly spin, you can tour it during the day.
Our tour was for 9:30 p.m., and you can choose a tour that includes the Whaley House or one that doesn’t. The Whaley House was a priority for us, so we chose that one. When it was 9:00, we went to the booth where we signed in and received our stickers for the tour. We sat on the bench next to the booth, and it wasn’t long before our tour guide, Wyatt Earp, introduced himself to us. Wyatt Earp was our guide, but other guides are possible.
The Tour Begins
The tour begins on foot on the steps of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Wyatt Earp, holding a lantern, explained how he and his wife lived in San Diego for a time. According to Mr. Earp, his wife said their years in San Diego were their happiest. After some additional background on San Diego and the Earps, the tour group continued on towards the Whaley House.
The Whaley House
The house is a state-registered landmark with an interesting history and a reputation for ghostly happenings.
Once inside the Whaley House, a guide from that museum takes over that part of the tour. You are encouraged to take a lot of pictures with the flash to see if you can catch some paranormal activity.
It starts in the courtroom part of the house. This was the first part of the house that was built. Thomas Whaley would add on to the house over the years. The added parts included a store!
After you visit the courtroom, the tour continues through other parts of the Whaley House. You get to see the kitchen and the dining area.
Upstairs in the Whaley House
You even get to go upstairs! This is something you don’t always get to do when you tour historic homes.
We saw three bedrooms upstairs.
They also had a little theatre upstairs. Not only did the Whaley House contain a store and a county courthouse, but the home also hosted San Diego’s first commercial theater.
You may be wondering, did we encounter anything in the home? My family experienced two odd moments, and one was in the house. When we were downstairs in the courtroom, we heard what I would describe as someone moving furniture across the floor. The guide didn’t stop his presentation at the time, but Jeff and I looked at each other when it happened. There was another employee upstairs, but the guide later said he asked the other guy about the noise. The upstairs guy said he didn’t move anything. Our guide laughed it off and continued the tour.
Could it have been an actual person moving some furniture? Of course. But it is interesting to think that maybe no one did make that noise. No one living, anyway.
After we spent some time upstairs, we left the Whaley House through the family’s parlor areas.
El Campo Santo Cemetery
After we toured the Whaley House, we walked farther down the street to El Campo Santo Cemetery.
We explored this cemetery for a few minutes. Our guide also told us that the cemetery used to extend beyond the current walls, and that there are markers around town, including in the street, to mark the graves. Descendants still maintain the graves inside the walls.
The Trolley of the Doomed
After we’d explored the cemetery, it was finally time to board the trolley! Wyatt Earp continued the storytelling, and then he took the driver’s seat. The storytelling continues during the drive.
The tour stops at Pioneer Park, which is near an elementary school and hosts concerts and other family events. Wyatt Earp explained that the area was a cemetery. Residents had lobbied for a neighborhood park in the 1970s, and they won! The bodies weren’t moved, however. The headstones were moved, many of them tossed into a ravine. Only a few of the more prominent people’s headstones were saved, and they currently are placed at the edge of the park near the school.
This is where my family had another unusual experience. We were listening to Wyatt Earp tell his stories when I suddenly smelled pipe tobacco. I turned to Jeff and asked if he smelled it. He did, so I asked a few other people near us if they smelled it, and those people said they did. Not everyone seemed to notice, though. As we walked back to the trolley, I asked the guide if he smelled tobacco down by the headstones. He didn’t seem to indicate that he’d smelled it, and he pointed out that just beyond the wall, there may be some homeless people smoking. I suppose so, but I didn’t know homeless people smoked pipe tobacco very often. It was not cigarettes. It was the sweet smell of tobacco that reminds you of an old general store. Who knows?
Back to Old Town
On our way back to Old Town, we heard a few more stories. Soon, we were back to the booth and near the parking lot. We were pretty sleepy since we were used to Central Time, so we went straight back to our hotel near Old Town.
I loved this tour! I love the history and the stories, and Jeff and Kristin enjoyed it, too. A ghost tour may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you love history with an edge of mystery, give it a shot. This was our fourth ghost tour, and we plan to do more in the future. We really love Ghosts and Gravestones and their trolleys!
Click here to read about our Ghosts and Gravestones tour in Savannah, Georgia.
Click here to read about our ghost tour in Gettysburg.