Casa de Estudillo

More From San Diego More From California

Is home to a boatload of spirits;

While most are friendly to a point,
there is one intolerant grumpus with strong dislikes!



La Casa De Estudillo is a U shaped, thirteen room mansion, with three to five ft. thick, whitewashed adobe brick walls, built on a large river cobble foundation. The present, reconstructed roof is made from rough-cut log rafters (heavy wood beams), which are covered by cane mats (thatched roofing) and fired tiles. There is a charming courtyard garden and fountain in the middle of the building.

Stepping inside La Casa De Estudillo is like traveling back in time, as the visitor sees how the people lived in this era.

Living Room (Sala) – A large room used for social functions, parties, gatherings, formal dinners, dances, etc. The floor is wooden, not tile, making it more suitable for dancing. There is a Steinway piano which was shipped around Cape Horn and arrived for the De Estudillo family in 1853. A painted picture of the good Captain Estudillo Senior hangs on the wall facing the doorway, welcoming visitors.

The Master Bedroom – Located right next to the Sala. It has tile floor covered with area rugs. It has a canopy bed, a standard in all the bedrooms, a rocking chair, a night stand, and a sofa.

Spanish-style hallways/corridors deliver visitors to the various bedrooms.

The Chapel – There is a windowless room which was converted into a chapel for family devotions and for visiting priests. (One sees what an authentic home chapel looked like).

The Workroom – A place where the servants did their work for the family.

The Dining Room – Has many items that would have been obtained from California’s “thriving hide and tallow trade of the 1830s,” via the San Diego harbor, allowing the people to acquire things of civilized society. (One sees high quality glass and china, carpets, furniture, etc.)




La Casa De Estudillo started off as a grand adobe mansion.

Captain Jose Maria de Estudillo, commander of the San Diego presidio, began building this fine adobe mansion for his wife and children, near the end of his life in 1927. Though he completed the mansion he had envisioned in 1929, after his death in 1930, his son, Jose Antonio Estudillo, continued to build onto the original structure, to accommodate his growing family, and to be sure they had room for extended family and visitors.

haunted adobe buildingJose Antonio Estudillo accomplished much in his life, serving the community as a revenue collector, treasurer, alcalde, and judge of San Diego under the Mexican flag. Under the American Flag, he also served as treasurer and assessor of San Diego County. He was also blessed with a lovely wife, Maria Victoria Dominguez, and their seven sons and five daughters!!!

By the time Estudillo had finished his additions to the original mansion, its shape went from being an L to a U, with the lovely garden courtyard in the middle of it all. Its thirteen rooms became a comfortable place to live for Estudillo’s large family, extended family, and a lovely spot for visitors.

Estudillo and his wife, Maria Victoria Dominguez, fostered and cultivated “an atmosphere of social, political, and community involvement in what was considered at the time to be one of the finest houses in “Mexican California.” Their house became the social center of life in San Diego. From the early 1830s to 1856, their home’s large hall was both a town chapel and was used as a school.

In 1850, several members in their extended family died, leaving nine children without parents. So, Jose and Maria took them into their home and became their guardians. Even after Jose died in 1852, Maria continued to be their mother and raised them to adulthood.

La Casa De Estudillo was the family home for three generations of the De Estudillo clan until 1887, when they pulled up roots and moved to Los Angeles, to live on their large ranch there, leaving this lovely adobe mansion with a trusted caretaker, who did everything but take care of the place. Instead, he sold its tiles, locks, door and windows, and let the mansion slip into disrepair.

By 1908, it was nearly in ruins. Then Nat R. Titus and John D. Spreckles owner of the San Diego Electric Company, came to the rescue, just in the nick of time! Spreckles in turn hired architect Hazel W. Waterman to restore the original adobe La Casa De Estudillo.

formal dining table with candelabras

La Casa De Estudillo began a new existence as “Ramona’s Marriage Place”, a commercial venture inspired by Helen Hunt’s romantic 1884 novel, RAMONA. Many of the existing palm trees, flowering succulents, citrus trees and other “desert-friendly plants” one finds today in the garden were planted during this part of La Casa De Estudillo’s history to provide a romantic setting for many a wedding!

Throughout the years the mansion was used as a fort, government office, orphanage, hotel, church, a private residence, and finally as a museum, when it was donated by its private owner, Mr. Legler Benbough, in 1968, to the State of California, at which time it once again became the Casa de Estudillo adobe mansion of the 1800s. It became a home museum; the La Casa De Estudillo. As such it serves to show the public what it may have been like in the 1830-1887 era, though no one truly knows for sure how the De Estudillo family furnished the place.

The National Society of Colonial Dames of America helped to provide authentic period furnishings, both from the Spanish and the Victorian era: the 16th-20th centuries.



People who loved their homes or being at social functions that produced wonderful memories, sometimes like to visit or stay as spirits. They sometimes like to try and help the living as well.

The museum staff have witnessed a variety of manifestations by the entities who let the living know that they are there, while doing things they liked to do while alive, living in their beloved adobe mansion.

Besides having enjoyed their home while alive, people who have experienced tragedy in their lives, such as losing loved ones, sometimes like to stay in places of comfort after they pass, especially if their loved ones want to stay as well. They spend time with each other that life in this world denied them due to early death.

Two spirits are here that could be attached to each other: a sad woman and a child. They are both dressed in Victorian clothes.

Here are two possible explanations for the presence of a grouchy, easily angered, territorial spirit presiding here, especially at night.

1) Sometimes spirits claim a structure, and are very protective of it for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they do not trust the living to take proper care of it, since it was the living who allowed to fall into disrepair if not ruin. Sometimes they interact in unpleasant or surprising ways with the living while trying to correct their misbehavior. Sometimes they freely tell the living what they do not like, and ask them to do something to stop it.

2) People who neglect their duties, or see themselves as doing so, and/or wind up doing the opposite of what they now see as their purpose, are so plagued with guilt or remorse or just frustration that they stick around after passing. They try to make amends in this world to either relieve their guilt or be able to forgive themselves enough to go to the light. Perhaps if they are very helpful in this world, they will lose their frustration. Perhaps they continue their good works because they like to be helpful.



Some of the paranormal activity experienced is just residual, but there are also some intelligent spirits staying or visiting here.

Doors and windows open and close like someone unseen was purposely doing so.

One of the Male Entities…

One of the male entities who is attached to this place has a crabby, angry attitude toward religion, children, and paranormal investigators who invade at night.

One investigation group lost a camera after it was thrown by this grouchy spirit. Another group caught the EVP, “Get out!”

Staff and investigators have experienced red flashes of light in the master bedroom.

While sitting in the courtyard, a medium got a message from this grouchy one, who wanted her to hurt some children and a nun, probably because children are noisy and break things, and he didn’t like nuns.

The Entity of a Female Spirit, who calls herself Rose

A medium, Valerie, who works with Neighborhood PIM, on her October 10th, 2015 visit as a tourist, along with another member, experienced a cold spot in the chapel.

While in the chapel, they both caught a whiff of rose perfume.

Female Entity – dressed in Victorian attire

This female is described as being sad, as she is seen by the people who work here.

Male Entity #1

This gentleman is dressed in a vaquero outfit and has been seen by staff and investigators.

Male Entity #2

Another male apparition was spotted against the back wall of the home, wearing a period style white shirt.

Male Entity #3 (tall)

Has been seen by an investigator, Chad, in 1999, and by a psychic medium, Psychic Virginia Marco, in 2003.

The entities have shown themselves to the living through mirrors.

Staff have seen human faces in mirrors hanging on the walls, when they were the only living souls in the room.

The Entity of a Monk

An apparition wearing a brown monk’s robe has been seen in the long Spanish-style hallways, especially near the room which was used as a chapel.

The Entity of a Young Girl

A child dressed in the Victorian style is happily playing in the little rocking chair.

Music Lovers

The entities in this Adobe mansion enjoy music!

Staff have heard music that didn’t have any physical source in this world.

There was a report that the lid on a music box on display in one of the rooms lifted up all by itself and its music began to play.

Apparitions have been seen dancing across the floor, perhaps revisiting good times.

Both see-through apparitions as well as dark forms have been seen floating about their business from room to room.

A male torso was seen relaxing, floating above the sofa in the living room.

altar with scriptures and candles


In 1988, a research team was gathered together by Riverside Press, to investigate the presence of ghosts in Casa De Estudillo during the evening hours. Usually, the living are only in Casa De Estudillo during the daylight hours, when the museum is open.

This research team, while in the process of their investigation, came up against an angry, indignant presence, not at all happy with either their research work, or their intrusion into the entities’ time to have the adobe home to themselves. Members of the research team were surprised when brilliant red flashes of light came upon them. The photographer was physically attacked by an angry unseen presence, who broke the camera lens.

CSGR Chad Patterson on 2/15/2003 conducted an investigation, along with a group of about 4 other investigators, a Psychic, Virginia Marco, and two guests, during the time frame of 12:00 noon to 1:30 P.M.

Psychic Virginia Marco saw a handful of entities throughout the adobe as she walked around. In the doorway area, leading from the master bedroom to the chapel, paranormal readings were picked up and Virginia confirmed the presence of a tall man, which supported Chad’s investigation in 1999, when he felt this same presence standing behind him, and saw a shadow out of the corner of his eye.

On October 2015, Steven and some of his organization Neighbors PIM arrived for an informal walk around. Steve walked into Casa De Estudillo to pay his admission. He saw a woman sitting at the docent table and she looked so life-like, that he got out his money to pay. Imagine his surprise when the real docent came in, and the other lady disappeared. Apparently, this female spirit was holding the fort until the living docent had returned.

The angry presence’s existence was recently verified when Neighbors PIM psychic medium Valerie came in contact with him in an October 2015 visit outside in the courtyard. He was angry and told her how much he disliked children and nuns. He tried to make Valerie hurt them. However, the other intelligent spirits who stay or visit here don’t mind sharing their mansion with the living during the daylight hours, but they don’t appreciate intrusions from the living, especially researchers, after dark! One of them has a temper and will show it.

living room haunted san diego


Yes indeed!

The museum staff and the public have witnessed a variety of manifestations by the entities who let the living know they are there, while doing things they liked while alive, living in their beloved adobe mansion. Perhaps, some of what is seen is residual energy, though some is definitely not.

Not sure who is haunting La Casa — Probably members of the De Estudillo family are among the entities; perhaps a priest, a cowboy , a child, a woman; Rose, another sad woman and several men – plus whoever else became attached throughout the years, enjoying and protecting La Casa. The angry presence could be from any of the eras of this house’s history. Perhaps he is the caretaker, stuck in this structure, making amends by protecting it like he should have while alive.

The older section of the adobe, mainly the master bedroom, the doorway to the chapel and the chapel itself, have been the most active, though apparently others enjoy the living room, a child spirit may still be in her room, and a crabby, angry male spirit tries to protect what he sees as his territory from those he doesn’t like or appreciate.

adobe home porch



Old Town, San Diego Historic Park
San Diego, California 92110

One can visit the La Casa De Estudillo Museum at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.



  • Haunted Places: The National Directory
    by Dennis William Hauck
    Penguin Books – 2002
  • The Estudillo Family at
  • The Estudillo House at
  • Old Town San Diego State Historic Park at
  • Ghost hunter Cruise — San Diego, CA — Casa de Estudillo
  • National Park Service — Estudillo House
  • YouTube Video page: Paranormal Investigations with the Neighbors P.I.N.

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr

Haunts in San Diego Haunts in California