Every city has it’s ghost stories, and San Diego is no different. However, this city boasts several of the nation’s most famously eerie locations. Here are three haunted spots in San Diego to investigate with your kids, and we’ve visited them all and lived to share our spooky tales.
Three Haunted Spots in San Diego to Investigate with your Kids
Our daughters Ava and Sophia have always been fascinated by ghost stories and the supernatural. Maybe it’s because their elementary school was built almost on top of one of the most haunted places in San Diego, and they grew up literally playing over the no-longer-marked graves of some of our city’s first settlers.
Pioneer Park in Mission Hills
Pioneer Park in Mission Hills started out as Calvary Cemetery, one of the city’s earliest Catholic burial grounds. About 4,000 dead San Diegans were laid to rest there from about 1876 to 1960. You wouldn’t know it seeing its big green lawn, tall trees, and playground where students from the nearby school and neighborhood play. But glance over at the southeast corner of the park and you’ll see a row of about 150 gravestones—all that’s left of the crowded cemetery. Where did all the bodies go?
A new Catholic cemetery opened in 1919, so burials at Calvary dropped off. When the city turned it into Pioneer Park in the 1970s, they moved most of the headstones to another cemetery – but most of the bodies were left behind!This monument sits in Pioneer Park, originally home to one of San Diego’s first cemetaries. There are two more brass plaques with names in addition to these – that’s a lot of bodies. (Photo courtesy of Jon Bailey, 2DadsWithBaggage.com)
If we’ve learned one thing from horror movies like Poltergeist, it’s that dead folks don’t take kindly to their eternal resting places being messed with. No wonder when the sun goes down and kids go home, locals have reported feeling like they’re being watched, or seeing a ghostly woman rise up and walk around the cemetery. (We’ve decided not to stick around late enough at night to find out.)
The Whaley House
Just down the hill in Old Town is a site the Travel Channel named “the most haunted house in America.” Many books and TV specials have featured the historic Whaley House, a favorite with ghost chasers and tourists looking for a spooky time.
Among the characters rumored to haunt the place are “Yankee Jim” Robinson, a convicted thief hanged on the site in 1852, before Thomas Whaley bought the property and built the house. Visitors have reported encountering Thomas Whaley himself, usually on the upper landing, or his wife Anna Whaley, downstairs or in the garden. When we finally took Ava and Sophia there for a visit, no “haints” made an appearance, but we did enjoy learning about the history of the house and life in the old days.
Hotel Del Coronado
San Diego has a reputation as the most haunted city in the West but the most glamorous haunted site in the county is across the bridge. The famed Hotel del Coronado is known for its perfect beach, amazing holiday decor, and as the site of the Marilyn Monroe film “Some Like It Hot.”
Ghost-chasers, however, find its major attraction to be Kate Morgan, a young woman who checked in on Thanksgiving Day 1892—and never checked out. She’s now known as the resort’s resident ghost.
On a recent visit to the Hotel Del Coronado, Sophia, Ava and their friends wanted to hear Kate’s tragic tale. The story goes that the 24-year-old arrived alone, waiting for a “gentleman friend” to join her. When he didn’t show up after five days, she shot herself with a pistol she’d bought in town. The details of her story—a beautiful, sad young woman estranged from her husband, stood up by her lover, suicidal with despair—could be pulled from any modern soap opera. The girls and their friends eagerly leafed through Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado, a book produced by the hotel.
Ever since her death, guests and hotel employees alike visiting Kate’s original third-floor guest room claim to experience flickering lights, a television turning itself on and off, breezes coming from nowhere, inexplicable scents and sounds, items moving by themselves, doors randomly opening and closing, abrupt changes in room temperature, and hearing unexplained footsteps and voices. Some have said they’ve seen Kate’s ghost in hotel hallways and along the beach.
Far from scaring people off, this makes her room the most requested one at the hotel! The girls even asked if we could stay there, but it was already booked. We’ll take our suite without any extra guests, thank you.
If your family is up for a spooky adventure, check out these three haunted spots in San Diego to investigate with your kids and report back. We can’t wait to hear your own scary stories!