Haunted San DiegoEntertainment Feature, Section 4A Thursday, October 29th, 2015
San Diego has two of the most haunted destinations in all of America. The Kate Morgan room at the Hotel Del Coronado and the Whaley House in Old Town.
Before you read on, I want all of my readers to know that everything in the following story is true. It is based on historical documents, personal accounts and my own experiences of paranormal activity at both locations.
I had heard about the ghost that haunts the Hotel Del Coronado, but I always thought it was a myth. Calling the Del’s publicity department, I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about. They graciously arranged for a night’s stay in the so-called haunted room.
First, a bit of background. Kate Morgan was 24 years old when she stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado. This was in 1897, around Thanksgiving time. A quiet, reserved woman, she rarely mingled with the guests and made very few friends during her week long stay at the Del.
Kate was an invalid. One rainy and windy night, she left her room and ended her suffering. She shot herself in the head with a revolver on the rear steps of the hotel. Her suicide generated major publicity. Little was known about her real identity as Mrs. Anderson Bernard, why she killed herself, where she was from or why she was staying at the resort. So, the press referred to her as “the beautiful stranger.”
The day I checked in, the desk clerk was expecting me. “Oh you’re staying in the ghost room,” she told me. It was room number 3327, but at the time of her death, it was numbered room 302. “Would you prefer to switch to another room?” she asked. I thought about it for a second, nearly chickening out. “No, I want Kate Morgan’s room. Maybe, she will make an appearance”.
The bellhop told me a few ghost stories about her appearing in the room, yanking the covers off guests in their sleep, turning on and off the television sets and other paranormal activities. He assured me that I would be OK. The room was quite beautiful, tranquil and inviting. While watching television, I noticed that the pull string on the lighted ceiling fan was swaying back and forth as if someone had brushed up against it. This was very odd considering that the windows were shut and locked. Plus the heat and air conditioning were turned off. I then started to have a lot of anxiety and fear.
I phoned a friend, to try and calm me down, so I could sleep. After we talked for nearly an hour, I was finally in bed. In total darkness, I remembered his advice. He told me I was being a “drama queen” and that the ghost stories were just a made-up story to draw guests into the hotel. If I was so afraid, I should just say out loud, “I’m not afraid of ghosts; Kate Morgan go away.”
Lying in bed in the dark, I repeated his words loudly. Right there and then, my phone fell onto the floor with a loud crash as if someone picked it up and threw it down. I screamed so loud, it could have woke the dead!
Turning on the lights, I picked up the phone from the floor. I couldn’t get a dial tone and the phone cord was still plugged into the wall. The line was dead!
Isn’t that what happens in every horror movie. I wanted to change rooms. I ran to the lobby barefoot, with just shorts and a T-shirt on like a frightened crazed maniac.
The desk clerk gave me a key to a new room for the night. I had the best sleep ever. I think Kate did too. She wore me out!
I never expected to personally experience a visit from Miss Morgan. All I know is after Kate’s ghost made her presence known to me, I know one thing for sure – I will never stay in her room again!
One of the best ways to see San Diego’s haunts is to board the Ghost and Gravestone Trolley. We began our tour starting with San Diego’s oldest and creepiest cemeteries. By the way, the El Campo Santo is the city’s second oldest and most bewitching cemetery.
Located in Old Town on San Diego Avenue, it opened in the mid-1800s. When I say “on” San Diego Avenue, what I really meant was “under” the street. Only a very small section of El Campo remains today. In 1942 the city was growing and they built San Diego Avenue on the site of the dearly departed. Instead of exhuming the bodies from their graves they simply paved over them. To this day when you drive over the street, there are quite a few bumps in the road.
But drivers beware … those bumps are not potholes; they are actually sunken in graves.
After we visited the old graveyard we were finally ready for the doors to creek open for us at the Whaley House. As we entered, we were guided into a lower section of the house that had been remodeled into a small courthouse. It was used for only a few years from 1869 to 1872.
A female ghost has made several appearances sitting in the jury box. However, she has never been identified, but legend has it, that she may have occupied one of the several rented rooms and could have been a tenant long ago. She is known to brush up against tourists or plays with their hair. I am usually very skeptical about seeing or feeling spirits from the other side. However, I was sitting on a bench in the courtroom and I felt someone brush against my right arm. I turned to apologize, but when I turned around, there was no one there! It totally spooked me out!
In 1852, “Yankee” Jim Robinson was found guilty of attempted grand larceny. He stole a rowboat and paddled it out to a schooner that he intended to steal. Too bad he got caught in the act. He was sentenced to death by a public hanging. The gallows just happened to be located on the footprint where the house would be built a few years later.
The Whaley House guests and staff have reportedly felt a strong choking sensation when going up the stairs. Curiously the gallows were located on the property where the staircase stands today.
When Thomas and Anna Whaley built their house on the gallows site, a few years later their family soon experienced heartbreak and tragedy with the sudden loss of two of their six children. The couple’s second child, Thomas Jr. was only seventeen months old when he died of scarlet fever. The baby can be heard crying in the nursery on rare occasions.
Once a little four year old began to talk to Thomas Jr. When her parents asked who she was talking to, she said, to the little baby in the crib. The parents did not see or hear anything but their daughter sure did.
Later, their youngest child Lillian accidentally died by eating ant poison. She haunts the dining room area by running around the table in a dress and sometimes appears in a dress as a blurry apparition.
Mrs. Whaley’s ghost can sometimes be seen walking in the outdoor gardens or in the parlor.
One staff member has even seen the misty apparition of Mr. Thomas Whaley himself. He appeared on the landing of the second floor hallway wearing a dark suit and a wide brimmed hat, staring with totally white eyes that pierced through the darkness.
Take the Ghost and Gravestone Tour and experience the Whaley House … You can also check into Kate Morgan’s room at the Hotel Del Coronado, but be warned – you may never check out. Happy Halloween!
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=65356