Haunted Places in San Diego To Come Visit

Leah Ertel

More stories from Leah Ertel


San Diego is an old historical city that has a lot to offer from its beautiful sights, to its haunted buildings and structures. 5 places in San Diego are haunted and it’s time more people knew and learned about them.

Halloween is approaching with miniature ghosts and goblins in search of candy, as well as all the thrills and terrors that characterize this season. What many people don’t know is that there are haunted places with ghosts, haunting famous buildings and areas located all around North County, San Diego. Here, visitors can go get a first hand experience of ghostly encounters for some Halloween paranormal chills.

These five places are famous for multiple ghostly sightings, all just a short drive away.

San Luis Rey Pioneer Cemetery

The San Luis Rey Pioneer cemetery lies on a hill just above the valley where the famous Mission San Luis Rey is located. Here, early settlers and Oceanside founder Andrew Jackson Meyers remain.
(Photo Taken From findagrave.com)

The haunted place known for old pioneers that were “dying to get in” is The San Luis Rey Pioneer Cemetery located in Oceanside, just across from Mission San Luis Rey. This cemetery is home to 120 graves of early pioneers and settlers, including Andrew Jackson Meyers, the founder of Oceanside. The early pioneers were a close community and buried their dead in the valley, unaware of what might happen to the cemetery in the future. 

As the years have gone by, construction around the cemetery and increasing population in the valley caused the little burial ground on the hill to slowly start to erode and dissipate. This happened for many years until 1991, when the San Diego Historical Society ordered a clean up of the long forgotten cemetery. The graveyard had been on it’s way to being restored to its former beauty. Unfortunately, San Luis Rey Cemetery was vandalised.

With graffiti everywhere, trash littered all around, graves dug into, and even broken, cracked and stolen headstones, the cemetery was yet again ruined. The cemetery still sees vandals, but it seems that some have relented.

This Catholic cemetery, known for being a peaceful place, has workers and tourists who have claimed to see orbs of light hovering over the destroyed and vandalized graves. Guests have come to one of these two conclusions; it was either a simple trick of the light, or truely the ghosts of the old pioneers whose resting places have been disturbed. 

Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack

Horses race to the finish line on the famous Del Mar turf. Opening day is one of Del Mar’s biggest and most attended days.
(Photo Taken From horsenetwork.com)

The legendary Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack, is a place where people make  bets, watch horses race to the finish line and simply have a grand old time. However, this is another location rumored to host ghosts and paranormal activity. 

Built in 1936, founder Bing Crosby, famous for singing and acting in the ‘40s and ’50s, oversaw the building of the racetrack people still admire and see to this day. It was a popular hot spot for celebrities such as Lucielle Ball and Desi Arnaz, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Durante and many more who would go to take a break from their work schedules, kick back and watch horses run while sipping martinis. 

Even 85 years later, the racetrack is still in business providing pure entertainment for the public, whether it is the horses or the paranormal. 

The Del Mar grandstand on the fourth and fifth levels was the popular spot for celebrities and VIPs. 

The spooky part is that even today, guests claim to smell old cigar smoke, hear the clinking of glasses, see dark entities waltzing around, and even hear horse hooves galloping and stomping in deserted horse stalls and on the turf. Paranormal investigators started to investigate the racetrack in 2010 and left with promising results.

Along with all the stories from guests and workers experiencing the paranormal, the researchers found a tall dark figure moving across their camera, resembling the late Charlie Whittingham. 

Whittingham, a professional horse trainer who spent much of his time here was recognized as one of the best horse trainers in U.S history. He also has a sports bar and pub named after him in honor for all the work he’s done and his love for martinis. To top off the paranormal research at Del Mar, the shadowy figure is said to still like ordering martinis at the sports bar. 

Coincidence or not, Del Mar may still remain a nice hangout spot for the ghosts of old time celebrities and the famous Charlie Whittingham. 

San Pasqual Battlefield Historic Park

Here lies a sign explaining the history and purpose behind The Battle of San Pasqual which involved Mexicans and Americans. This battle lasted four days with many deaths causing the ghosts and spirits of the dead to still haunt the battlegrounds.
(Photo Taken From tripadvisor.com)

Located in Escondido, just off the 15 near the Via Rancho exit, lies the battlegrounds of one of the most notable wars in U.S. history. The San Pasqual Battlefield Historic Park remembers the soldiers who fought in the Mexican/American war on December 6, 1846. A four day battle where 19 soldiers died and 31 were badly wounded, has become a place where visitors can hike and read all about the history of this historic site. 

This place has been proven to be haunted as well by the restless spirits still amped up from the battle. Park rangers and hikers have claimed to see ghostly soldiers on horseback riding through the battlefield.

The Elfin Forest

The Elfin Forest provides many opportunities to go relax and hike around in the shade of the tall Oak Trees. Unlike many forests, this one is known to be haunted by a mysterious witch and many other spirits who have claimed the Elfin forest as their home long ago.
(Photo Taken From californiawanderland.com)

A forest that seems to be pulled straight out of a story book grows in Southwest Escondido near the junction of 15 and 78, and draws awestruck hikers and paranormal researchers to come and wander the shade of the tall Oak trees. This is the Elfin Forest, home to the Northern Diegueno Indians 9,000 years ago. The forest also was a mobile home park in the late 50s called the Elfin Forest Vacation Ranch.

It is said to be home to the forest’s “white witch.” These woods draw hikers and paranormal enthusiasts to come investigate the woods for the ghostly woman whose son and husband have been murdered. With the tall Oaks, and a possible ghost, the Elfin Forest has been a go to spot for the curious to get exercise and learn the secrets of the old forest.

Whaley House

The Whaley house is known as “America’s most haunted house” and is located in Old Town, San Diego. Here, a family of five all died in the house and still haunt the grounds providing a real paranormal experience for guests who visit the museum to this day.
(Photo Taken From sandiegomagazine.com)

The last but certainly not least, is considered the “most haunted house in America,” located in Old Town, San Diego. The Whaley house was built by longtime resident, Thomas Whaley, in 1855 and remained the family house until their deaths. 

Little did Thomas Whaley know when the construction of his house started, that the exact place the house was built on was an old executioning site where thief, Yankee Jim Robinson, was hung. The house finished construction in 1860, and there Thomas made a home for his wife and three kids. 

The house was one of a kind and the first brick building in California. Thomas and his wife, Anna, opened a general store inside their house. All was well until the death of their 18 month old son, Thomas, who died from scarlet fever. Another tragedy struck the house, a fire, which raged through destroying the house and the store. 

The house remained abandoned until 1868. Thomas and his family were determined to get their beloved home up and running again and not soon after, it was full of activity. It became headquarters for the city courthouse, a theater, and a new and improved general store. 

In 1871, Thomas was on a business trip leaving Anna at home, only to have the courthouse records stolen by a band of gunmen. This was the turning point for the Whaley’s, and unknowingly to them, there would be many more terrible events that  disturb the peaceful home.

Two of the Whaley’s daughters got married in the house. While one marriage was successful, the other marriage for Violet, the younger of the two was not so successful. She gave it her best shot but was depressed and full of despair that she ended up in a divorce. 

Violet Whaley was so filled with shame that she decided to end things and wrote a suicide note.

“Mad from life’s history, Swift to death’s mystery; Glad to be hurled, Anywhere, anywhere, out of this world.”

She shot herself in her chest on August 18, 1885 adding another to the list of Whaley deaths in the family house.

Over the years, Thomas and Anna passed including all three of their children in the one house. Their spirits seem to still haunt the house as modern paranormal investigators have proven. Thomas, the first to die in the family, always remained close by and is heard throughout the house from his tiny footsteps to his laughs and giggles.

Others have reported seeing a distraught woman lingering on the stairs, many have believed it to be Violet, wallowing in her misery. Thomas’s ghosts have been seen in his frocks and top hats at the top of the stairs and Anna’s signature scent of French perfume is still smelt throughout the home.

Other unexplainable things have been seen like misters turning on by themselves, curtains moving when the windows were shut, cold spots, and much more. The house, even though it hasn’t been lived in since 1953 and has been turned into a museum, still seems to have the Whaleys claiming it as their family home even in the afterlife.

Paranormal Research

Paranormal researcher and founder of the San Diego Paranormal Research Society, Nicole Strickland, dedicates much of her time researching and making discoveries about ghosts and spirits. She researches hauntings and things that have no real explanation to educate the general public and to overall learn about them and why ghosts do what they do. She has written many books about haunted places such as The Queen Mary, San Diego’s Most Haunted, Spirits of Rancho Buena Vista Adobe, and many more.

The job of a paranormal researcher is to research ghosts and spirits to learn about them. Researchers often get confused with “ghost hunters” when they are not at all alike.

“We’re not thrill seekers, we’re not out trying to kind of emulate what you see in Hollywood and all that, we really take our work serious[ly],” Strickland said.  

“That’s why I don’t call myself a ghost hunter,  I prefer the term paranormal researcher just because it’s more of an honest, more professional way to approach investigating the paranormal.”

Strickland and her team don’t even necessarily know why ghosts and spirits like to roam around on earth haunting and trying to communicate with humans.

“I’m not so sure that we really know 100% exactly why the spirit realm does reach out to the living and vice versa,” Nicole stated. 

“You can have 10 different entities and they may all have different reasons for wanting to communicate.”

Upon Strickland’s research of many various places around San Diego, the Rancho Buena Vista Adobe is where guests can go and learn for two hours about the history and ghosts that roam around there. The research society gives presentations, investigation techniques and even gives personalized tours which they have been doing so for about 10 years.

These five haunted places in San Diego remain open and haunted all year round. They provide ghostly experiences if guests are lucky, and hint that life doesn’t necessarily end after death.