Ghost stories in Gaslamp’s Nightlife

Macabre history mixes with modernity

Jeffrey Davis, Photographer

The narrow streets of San Diego’s Old Town bustled with weekenders eating and drinking on Jan. 30. I ran to the Café Coyote to meet the group for San Diego’s acclaimed “Ghostly Tours in History,” but no one was in sight.

Across my way stood a gentleman in Victorian attire, complete with a long coat and top hat. My tour guide, Magnus Pike, walked me to the famous Whaley House.

As my group and I walked through the house, the floorboards groaned. We consistently saw daunting things, such as Mrs. Whaley’s necklace laying on a shelf, holding a picture of her young child who died unexpectedly. We also saw a family wreath made of members’ hair hung on a brick wall.

A different guide told tales of Thomas Tanner haunting the upstairs theater, targeting female tourists, grabbing a wisp of their hair or whispering into their ears.

After touring the Whaley House, the limo took us to the Grand Horton Hotel. The tour guide talked about Roger Whitaker, Ida Bailey and tales of gambling and bordellos’ that led to the haunting of certain hotel rooms.

Unfortunately, didn’t get to see the insides of the rooms, but the late nineteenth century wooden burgundy interior of the lobby looked gorgeous. This trip felt more like a fascinating history lesson and not frightening at all.

Across the street sat the William Heath Davis House, host of many investigations, sectioned off behind cast iron fences.

We headed back to Hotel Del Coronado, known as the home of the lurking Kate Morgan. There, we took the Historic Birdcage Elevator to room 3327, but again, we were unable to go inside. The “ghostly atmosphere” was nonexistent due to the distractions from wedding banquets to wealthy tourists on vacation.

Between destinations Magnus told eerie facts of what lies just beneath popular public areas, all highlighted by a marvelous view of downtown San Diego from the Coronado Bridge.

Our last destination led us back to Old Town with the Oldest Catholic Cemetery in San Diego, El Campo Santo. We heard stories and paid tribute to many graves, among them Antonio Gara and Juan Mendoza, for past injustices.

Los Angeles resident Scott Peterson said, “It was very interesting. We got to see a lot of places where people died, where ghosts may have been.”

Cindy Valenzuela said, “We didn’t experience any ghosts … [but] I liked [the guide]. He had good stories.”

Though theatrical, I too couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed.

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