The current grounds of El Campo Santo (“Holy Field”) Cemetery in Old Town San Diego represent just a small chunk of the original. As the city boomed in the latter half of the 19th century, some of the graves were moved and others were simply paved over to create roads for streetcars, explaining the theory that the cemetery is now haunted by the trapped souls of El Campo Santo.
Aside from the numerous reports of paranormal activity on the grounds, the existing grave markers tell engaging human stories, leaving you to wonder about the unnamed who lie beneath San Diego Avenue. There are tales of American Indian uprisings and the brutal consequences, the life stories of some of San Diego’s earliest residents, and some tombstones as vague as “Little Girl RIP.”
The most notorious grave is that of Yankee Jim Robinson, a man who stole the sole boat in San Diego Bay in the mid-1800s and was sentenced to death by hanging. He didn’t take the sentence seriously and was still talking when the cart pulled away, leaving him dangling on the grounds of what is now the historic Whaley House.
Because of its age, there are several burial sites that are now located outside of the cemetery, dotted along San Diego Avenue and the sidewalk in front. Their locations are marked by circular brass medallions with the words “Grave Site.” It might be difficult to locate some of them, as cars are allowed to park along this stretch of road.
Know Before You Go
If you're planning to visit the Whaley House, check out El Campo Santo Cemetery first. It's just steps away, free, and provides a good set up with the history.