Old Town San Diego, a delightful destination for History, Entertainment & Waking Terror

By Ann Wilson

“Whatever I was feeling rushed past me, and it felt like I was petting fur.” This is Jaya Subramanian’s confession in regards to her interaction with the resident ghost cat of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town, San Diego.

Old Town, San Diego is a delightful destination for history, entertainment, and waking terror. Home to The Whaley Museum and several spiritually-active hotels, San Diego is rumored to be one of the most haunted hotspots in the United States.

One of the town’s seasoned ghost hunters believes the Cosmopolitan Hotel to be the most active supernatural site in both Arizona and California. Advanced reservations are typically encouraged due to the hotel’s popularity. The beautiful courtyard, friendly staff sporting Old Town attire, and charming rooms drenched in heritage bring guests from all over the world seeking historic adventure. Each room offers intriguing guest journal entries to ignite the imagination and Room 7 boasts a brilliant copper tub to soak one’s scares away after a heart-wrenching sleep.

The bar downstairs offers quirky characters, delightful conversations, tall drinks, and esquites, a tasty Mexican street-corn dish. The short stroll around Old Town is flooded with gift shops, museums, historical sites, and Mexican restaurants. Among many mysterious spots, are San Diego’s first courthouse, complete with a noose and swirling suspicion. When the businesses of Old Town close down at 9:00 pm, all that’s left is the ghostly nightlife to stimulate the senses.

Freaky faces in marble, a ghost dog (adopt a pet) under the family table, and floating orbs (adopt an orb) in the darkened dining room of this disturbed dwelling provoke even the boldest skeptic’s wildest fears. Old rooms preserved and imprisoned behind plexiglass, children screaming of ghost babies under the bed, and a chilling tale of a volunteer experiencing mild symptoms of tuberculosis, an illness that tragically ended one of the inhabitant’s lives will rattle guests’ understanding of the undead.

Old Town’s Most Haunted tours are another option for a sadistically scary outlet. This nightly tour led by Michael, a guide with great respect and curiosity for the celestial world, escorts guests around Old Town revealing twisted history, haunted sites, street-covered graves and a ghostly vortex. The tour ends in the desolate downstairs of the Cosmopolitan Hotel where the guide illustrates techniques for connecting with the spirit world. Tingling fingers, thickness of air, and temperature fluctuations are all symptoms of a celestial presence.

Once returning to the room, it’s off to the races for one’s heart and mind. Hurried footsteps outside, arguing from nonexistent upstairs neighbors, a ghost cat nuzzling one’s neck in the wee hours of the morning, and creaking floors in Morse code are all very real possibilities for the once enthusiastic and now sleep-deprived hotel guest. Just when the visitor is certain that too much tequila or sheer insanity is the root cause, the individual cracks open the bedside guest journal to see the same echoing encounters written deep within the well-worn pages.

Real or not, the overall experience leaves one with a residual sense of wonder, warmth, and a fervent desire to return. Some lucky guests experience the supernatural, some remain skeptics, while others straddle the fence of believer and non-believer. One thing is for sure, the Cosmopolitan Hotel will raise hairs as well as unanswered questions.