During a team Whaley House investigation, sdGH was audience to two original songs performed by museum manager, Victor Santana, played on the Whaley family’s original pump organ. Such a performance is nonexistent for the general public but is available exclusively to sdGH web guests. To listen, use the player above.
Victor has worked for the Whaley House Museum since sixteen years of age when joining the museum’s junior docent program. As head docent and museum manager, he is responsible for the hiring and training of all museum employees along with coordinating special events and tours. With a knowledge of Whaley history and lively tour presentations that are second to none, he is a popular figure for all who arrive to explore the home’s mysteries.
On a recent visit to the Whaley House Museum,sdGH spent a few moments with Victor Santana, probably the most recognizable ‘living’ individual to Whaley House visitors due to his continuous presence at the museum and many television appearances featuring the house. Victor gives us a glimpse of his Whaley beginnings, musical musings, his first Whaley paranormal experience, and what it’s like to be manager of America’s Most Haunted.
sdGH: What is your current position with the Museum and Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), and what does it entail?
Victor Santana: I’m the SOHO Museum Staff Coordinator, in charge of staffing the museums which includes volunteers and paid employees. I also coordinate special group tours, private tours, night tours and our monthly ghost investigation tours with The San Diego Ghost Hunters.
When did you start working for SOHO and how did it come about?
I have been working for SOHO for over eight years. I started at sixteen years old when I gained a volunteer position in their junior docent program. The mother of a good friend was on the board of directors. Luckily, they liked me and I have been here ever since.
The organ you played for us is a unique instrument. Tell us a little of its history and how you came about learning to play it.
It’s called a “pump organ” and it’s one of the few pieces we have in the house that is original to the family. It’s very delicate. You have to play it in a special position and make sure you don’t damage it.
I used to study music at the Conservatory of Music in Mexico. I was there for a couple years before coming to Whaley. SOHO had a couple pianos and a pump organ. Despite it not working well, I started practicing on the organ, using the pedals and playing the keyboard with my hands at the same time. I got the hang of it pretty quickly.
Are you involved in any other musical endeavors?
While at the conservatory, I studied piano, guitar, percussion and vocal training. I currently have my own band called ‘Radios Silent’. We play a rootsy, grundgy style of rock, like back in the early 90s. We just got signed in Mexico and will begin touring during this summer.
Okay, here is the question you knew was eventually coming: You and the staff have experienced unexplained happenings here. What is your most impressive paranormal experience?
It happened my first day here, back in 2000 on a Sunday morning. I was on the second floor where we have a nursery with a display of children’s dolls. As I was taking my family on a tour, telling everything I could about the house, one of the doll’s eyes started to open and close. But here’s the deal: the eyes are not the style that mechanically open and close — they are painted on. My mom saw it and my cousins said they saw it, too, but I’m not sure if they really did. It’s interesting that other people have reported seeing their eyes open and close, too. Look for the rocking chair doll.
Did you believe in the paranormal or have any unusual experiences prior to joining the museum?
I have always believed in ghosts but never experienced anything personally. You grow up hearing of legends, especially in Mexico. There is the famous story of what is called ‘The Wailer’ my grandmother told me. The tale tells of a woman crying late at night at your window. When you would peek out and take a look at her, you would go into shock for it is such a frightful sight.
The back story: A woman married a Spaniard in the 1400s and was promised a great life by him as they had three children. He ends up leaving her and moves back to Spain without her. She then becomes very depressed and drowns the kids. So, now she comes to your window as a ghost, wailing, “All my children, all my children”.
During one our first public Paranormal Investigation Tours together, you and around twelve people experienced a disembodied girl vocalization. Tell us what happened.
Yeah, that was a trip. There was a group of about ten people in the dining room with Maritza. Both dining room doors were closed and I was sitting just outside the hallway dining room door, on the base of the stairway so I could monitor both stories. I heard Maritza ask a few questions and then heard the voice of a little girl. I didn’t think much of it until I noted the reaction coming from the dining room. They had heard it, too.
Not only do you hear the voice of the girl, but it appeared to be close to the microphone which confirms it had to come from within the house. It was too late at night for children to be walking outside the house and we have no kids on the tour. My girlfriend who was present that night and a non-believer in ghosts heard it and needless to say, was quite impressed.
Yes, it can be life changing. It’s interesting — you heard it coming from the dining room and everyone in the dining room heard it originating from the stairway.
I definitely heard it come from the dining room. If I had heard it originate from upstairs, I would have attributed it to the group up there attending the tech equipment demonstration.
Thanks, Victor, for your insights today.
My pleasure. I encourage everyone to visit the Whaley House Museum for a taste of early San Diego history and join us on a Paranormal Investigation Tour to explore its ghostly side.