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La Purisima Mission - History and Hauntings?

A couple of autumn days ago, we took a drive through the warm Lompoc Valley, admiring the black soil of the deeply furrowed fields. We lingered beside the road lined with fields of pink, cream, and lavendar flowers that grew abundantly at the base of the hills, even now, even in the midst of autumn.

Eventually, when we had almost reached the ocean, we came upon fields of artichokes that grew on sturdy, tall stems - hundreds and hundreds of acres of them.  A laquer-red tractor plowed the ebony black earth.  It wove a path in front of  a wide, white barn that stood, sharp and clean, in the background.  We drove on and passed under the shade of old eucalyptus trees,  and between rolling hills at the edge of town.

We followed the roads that looped around the valley decided to stop and walk the grounds at La Purisima Mission.

 La Purisima Mission has been so carefully restored and tended, it offers a view that has not changed much during the past 200 years.   Upon arriving, only the parking lot and visitor's center are visible.  Tall trees and hedges skirt the parking lot and little creek nearby. 

A little dirt trail leads to a short, narrow bridge.  When you cross the bridge and emerge from the little copse of woods, the world has been transformed.

La Purisima 4

Travelers who journeyed through Alta California along El Camino Real, looked upon the same view that you now see.  They would stop here for food and rest.  This was also the center of society for the local people who came here for religious ceremonies, for fiestas, for weddings and funerals and other community events.

Charles Francis Saunders and Joseph Smeaton Chase, tell more about La Purisima in their book entiled, The California Padres and Their Missions, written in 1915:

Purisima Concepci6n de la Santisima Virgen Maria, madre de Dios y Nuestra Senora (most pure conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Our Lady)

La Purisima  is a place of modest size,  and hid so snugly away in its secluded valley,  that I doubt if many readers of the present chronicle have even so much as heard of it....  

In the world of commerce,  however,  Lompoc is a place to be seriously reckoned with.   It lies in the heart of as fertile a little valley as the sun often shines upon and... it caters to man's aesthetic aspirations by raising sweet pea seeds,  and to his fleshly tastes by turning out onions and potatoes by the carload.   It is also strong on beans.   But the chief gem of Lompoc's agricultural crown is mustard seed.  Lompoquians will tell you they raise all the mustard seed for the whole United States,  and I believe statistics go a considerable way toward supporting the little town's claim to this hot preeminence.

More to our purpose is the fact that Lompoc is a Mission town.  

Though Purisima was rather a frosty,  grasshoppery place in its day,  and overrun unduly with ground squirrels,  rattlesnakes, and bears,  the records say it attained an enviable  measure of temporal prosperity,  particularly in the matter of cattle - the Purisima herds being widely famous.

La Purisima Cattle 2

Padre Mariano Payeras who served here from 1804 to 1823...has left, in one of his reports, an idyllic picture of life at La Purisima....It was the Padre's joy to watch the Indians at their work,  their songs, and their prayers....Yet it was these same Indians who, within a year after Padre Payeras death,  engineered the most serious revolt of Mission history against white domination. 

With the progress of Mexico's revolution against Spain there was a spread of lax notions respecting all authority,  both civil and ecclesiastic,  and the attitude of the white Californians toward the priests grew increasingly indifferent,  while the temporal wealth of the Missions became correspondingly the object of their covetousness.  

....the Indians were at last goaded into an active rebellion which broke out simultaneously at Santa Inez,  Purisima,  and Santa Barbara,  on February 21,  1824,  the immediate cause being the flogging of a Purisima neophyte by the corporal of the guard of Santa Ines.

The Chumash, our local indigenous people,  were forced into servitude and submission by the Catholic priests and the Spanish soldiers, and through the centuries took many terrible beatings.  First, through the brute force of the Europeans who claimed the land and its people for their own purposes, and soon, through diseases brought by the Spanish.  Then, as the story above tells us, the Chumash, in an attempt at revolt, were summarily crushed by the Spanish. 

The Chumash who survived the rebellion were then beaten and whipped,  and some were hanged or shot.  It is said that the grounds of La Purisim are haunted now, as a result of the bloodshed that took place.  The Travel Channel has even produced an episode about La Purisima, attributing evidence of haunting at the Mission to the Chumash revolt.

La Purisima Sign

But according to historians Saunders and Chase, above, there may be another piece to the puzzle.  It seems there are more stories that may have resulted in wandering spirits that will not rest......Their tale begins:

One hardly expects to meet ghosts in California.   We are too new,  and also,  I think,  there is too much sun.   But if ghosts there be in this hustling century,  and this most modern of States,  then certainly the Missions are the places where one might expect to see or to hear of them,  and of all the Missions, commend me to La Purisima for such a quest.

With all my interest in and sympathy for these relics of the glory that was Spain's,  I must allow that the sensation in my mind when I recall my visit to this particular Mission is not a pleasant one.   There seemed something sinister in the phenomenal weediness,  a slimy dankness about the debris of broken adobe,  a gloom about the whole place that the glare of sun,  somehow accentuated,  as if it were the gleam of a detective's lantern turned on some ominous secret spot.

For convenience sake I write the account in the first person, but without unnecessary complication in the matter of inverted commas.   This is his story. You remember that three years ago this summer,  I was making a sight-seeing trip through southern California.   I stayed for a few hours at the little town of Lompoc,  where lives your friend Senor Andres Leyva....

I called on him in the afternoon, and spent a very pleasant and profitable hour.   I meant to camp that night at the ruins....So as I was leaving,  I mentioned my plan of camping to Senor Leyva.

"You had better change your mind," he said, shaking his head,  "it is not a good place at night."  

"Why not?'  I asked.  "I suppose you mean that it is unhealthful over there - damp perhaps?"

"No, it is not that," he replied,  "but you will not sleep....It is a story that happened in my own family, and I shall tell it just as my father told it to me.   That was many years ago,  but I heard it from him more than once, and I remember it very well.   Many years ago, my mother's uncle, Don Felipe, used to have the San Tomas Ranch not very far from the Mission....

La Purisima Afternoon Door

When my father and mother came to California from Mexico,  about 1830 or 1831,  they lived with Don Felipe while their own house was being built.   It was a large hacienda.... Don Felipe liked to have much company so there were always many guests with meriendas in the daytime and dancing almost every night.  

Don Felipe had one son whose name was Jorge.   He was only about twenty years old,  but he was not like a young man  - but like a monk.  He did not care to be with the other people,  and often when there was a merienda he would go away and ride all day over the ranch.  So it was not strange that no one liked him.  

But just the opposite of Jorge was my mother's young brother,  Vicente.   He had come from Mexico when my father and mother came,  and was a handsome galanteador who could dance finely and play the guitar and make himself agreeable to the ladies.           

Gypsy Dancers

One day, after a mass on a feast day, local people gathered for a fiesta of food, dancing, music and games.  

One of the games was juego de gallo.  Don Vicente did not want to participate.  Don Jorge goaded Don Vicente.   Their argument went on all day.

As I said,  the people who came from the ranches far away stayed at the Mission the two nights. The priest,  his name was Fray Antonio Rodriguez,  I remember,  had long tables set in the corridor for meals,  and there were plenty of room for sleeping.  There was much fun and joking at supper.  After supper,  they all sat in the dusk and talked and smoked cigarritos.  Someone had a California guitar,  so there was music, and after a while they called for Don Vicente to sing.

He had been there at first - laughing and joking - but now he was missing.   It was dark by that time....my father felt uneasy about Vicente,  so before going to bed,  he went to see if he was in his room but he was not there.   Then he went to Don Jorge's room and saw that he seemed to be asleep.   So he thought it must be all right,  and that Vicente had only gone for a ride as he did sometimes at night.

The first thing in the morning,  he went to Don Vicente's room again,  but he was not there and the bed had not been touched.   Then he was sure something was wrong.   He told Don Felipe and the priest,  and they went and searched.

They went to the place where the horses were kept, and Vicente's horse was there.  Many of the people were leaving early in the morning,  but Don Felipe,  and my father and mother would not go without knowing about Don Vicente.   They knew he had not gone home because of his horse.

My mother was almost wild,  for Don Vicente was her favorite brother,  and to think he might be dead, and not to know anything was terrible grief.   Just before the time for service in the evening...they had found Don Vicente....

La Purisima 14

You will see,  if you go to the Mission,  that there is one little room by itself like a separate house.   The walls are very thick.   I have been told that it was a jail in the early days.  That is where, in one corner,there was a heap of the bricks that had fallen down.   The priest went closer.  He sent for a lantern and some Indians to move the bricks away, and then he saw that Don Vicente was there and that he was dead.

There was no blood,  and the Padre knew that some one had killed him.   Everybody must have known in his mind that Don Jorge had done it,  but because Don Felipe was his father,  no one said what he thought - it was bad enough to have Vicente dead without making more trouble.

They thought it would be best to have the funeral quickly so they took the body into the church and put it in front of the altar,  and some of them stayed with it all that night.   The next morning they had the burial.   The next day Don Felipe went home to his ranch.

La Purisima Olive Trees

Then,  in the evening there came bad news from the priest at San Buenaventura.  Some Indians from there were coming from San Fernando with olives. While they were crossing over the Santa Clara River at the fording place,  they saw the hoof of a horse sticking up out of the wet sand,  a little way off .  Do you know the Santa Clara River,  senor?   It is a bad river,  there is not much water,  but it has much quicksand and it is dangerous to cross it unless you know the safe places.

The Indians thought a man had sunk in the sand because they could see part of a sombrero in the sand close to the horse.   When they got back to the Mission they told the Father and he thought it must be Don Jorge because the horse was black like the one Don Jorge had been riding.  

Don Jorge had gone home early in the morning after he had killed Vicente,  and taken a new horse and some money and had started to go somewhere and get away - I suppose he was going to Mexico -  but no one ever knew.  

They say that God will not owe a debt to any one very long.   Truly, it was not long before Don Jorge was paid.   So, that is why La Purisima is a bad place to stop, senor.   I would not go there if I were you,  not at night,  anyhow.

"Well",  I said, " it is certainly a terrible story,  and I am sorry it should have happened in your family.   But it was long ago,  and I did not kill poor Don Vicente, so why should I not sleep there if I wish to?"  I promised to let him know how I fared.

La Purisima 7

 It was late afternoon when I arrived at the remains of the Mission.   After eating supper I spread my blankets on a level spot at the west end,  and just at the rear of the building.   Then, I used up the remaining daylight in exploring the ruins.

You have not been there at night time,  I believe.  Well, I can assure you that it is the owliest and battiest,  froggiest and rattiest of ruins....By the time the light was gone,  a cold wind had begun to blow,  so instead of picketing my horse in the open,  I took him to a little adobe hut-sort-of-place that might have been an outhouse.   It was roofless, and the greater part of the walls had fallen but there was a corner that if it were a little higher would give a good shelter from the wind.   I gathered some of the best of the adobe bricks that lay about and put them carefully in place,  so as to raise the height and found the place then made a pretty snug makeshift stable. 

So I brought the horse in and tied him to a heavy timber and left him happy with his grain while I myself turned in at my camp some twenty paces or so away.   I slept well,  only that twice I was awakened by the horse plunging and snorting.   The second time I got up and went over to quiet him.   He was trembling and wet with sweat,  and I had some trouble to calm him.

To avoid a third disturbance,  I took him outside and blanketed him as best I could and left him tied to a bush,  after which I slept undisturbed until daylight.

La Purisima 1

When I went to give the horse his morning grain,  I noticed on glancing into the house that the adobes I had placed in position on the wall were thrown down - not merely one or two that might have slipped and fallen- but every single brick, many of which could by no possibility have fallen by chance for they were heavy and had been squarely placed.   The horse could not have pulled them down,  even by kicking;  he could not have reached the wall,  and had he done so,  the wall itself must have fallen before the bricks - each weighing several pounds - would have been dislodged.   I studied the problem while I ate my breakfast but could arrive at no possible solution.

I left the puzzle unsolved.   At Santa Maria,  a few days later,  I thought of my promise to let our friend know how I had fared at La Purisima.   In writing,  I said that I had seen and heard nothing of any spirits,  but I mentioned,  as a matter not of any particular significance,  the riddle about the bricks.   At San Luis,  I received his reply,  of which the part that concerns this matter runs as follows:  

"I think it is fortunate,  amigo mio,  that your horse and not yourself was in the old adobe.   If the place you speak of is the little building near the west end of the Mission,  that is the house in which they found the body of Don Vicente.   I do not think I said when I was telling you the story that my father used to say that many times the Padre had had the wall put up after Don Vicente was found there,  but always it was pulled down the next night.  

La Purisima Fountain in the Afternoon

"He had it properly built,  and the bricks laid in mortar,  but they were pulled down every time,  and at last the Indians said they would not put them up again.   They said it was Don Vicente's spirit that pulled them down because they had fallen on him and killed him.

"I think it was Don Vicente's spirit that broke down the wall and frightened the horse,  and when you come again to Lompoc,  I recommend you to choose a bed in the house of a good Catholic,  who is also - Your friend and faithful servant, ANDRES MUNOZ LEYVA"

La Purisima Mission

Despite it being Halloween weekend, we did not see any ghosts during our visit;  in fact, we saw few people that day at the Mission.  The grounds were almost completely deserted.  We wandered at will.

 La Purisima 9

The Mission grounds are quiet, and to me, quite beautiful.   They are still "overrun unduly with ground squirrels," playing, running, leaping into and out of holes in the gardens.  There are dozens of quail that move so fast they seem to shimmer into your field of sight - and out again, just as quickly.   There are flocks of blackbirds, constant companions to the donkeys and horses in the pasture, gathering the bits of grain left by the animals.  There are doves and blue jays, pileated woodpeckers, and crows who call La Purisima home.   Glassy green dragonflies graze the water of a shaded fountain.

La Purisima Mission Fountain

 If man's inhumanity to man is the only requisite for haunting - then here, like every other place on earth, it must surely be so.  But it is a place of many dimensions - tragedies, yes, and beautiful gifts, too. 

Today - La Purisima is an educational site.  It is a place to learn about and celebrate the Chumash people who have resided in Santa Barbara County for the past 13,000 years.  It is a place for us to study the effects of manifest destiny, and the cultures who have, in succession, claimed this land for their own.  Just as every life tells a story, the life of my beloved California is a complicated tale - savory, sad, sweet, elegant, tragic, triumphant, humorous, precious...hopeful.

La Purisima Chapel 3

 La Purisima is a place to contemplate the story of "Early California", as well as the ensuing years.  

La Purisima Una Carreta

 And it's a place to come just to observe - observe the relics of the past;  observe the mocking bird that sings from the top of a wooden cross;  observe the autumn sun on red Catalina Brush Cherries;

Catalina Brush Cherry

to walk in the sweet grass smell of a Chumash-style home;

La Purisima Chumash Home 2

to admire this enormous beast that clearly loved having his picture taken (is he smiling?)

La Purisima Bull Pen
It's a place to be with your own thoughts, where the white, thick adobe is magnificent in its timeless simplicity,  in its lights and shadows and its contrast against a porcelain blue sky.

La Purisima 12


It's a place to walk among oak and olive trees that are hundreds of years old, down a dusty path, to a quiet bench.  To sit.  To think.  To renew among the quiet clamor of life and history.

La Purisima Pepper Tree

It's a place to stop at the edge of a fountain and listen, now, as they did then, to water that trills in tiny trickles, neon cool, on a late afternoon.

La Purisima Garden

La Purisima is a road you can follow any time - and for the $6 entrance fee, find the gift of the place for yourself.

La Purisima 4

Is it possible you will see ghosts here?  Many people say yes.  Maybe out in the cemetery, or by the weaving room, or up in the choir loft....

La Purisima Chapel

But be sure you look for a little something of yourself, too, as you walk the quiet corridors and dusty paths of California history....

The link below will take you to a You Tube clip of the Travel Channel's  Ghost Adventures investigation of La Purisima Mission and the spirits who are said to reside here.

Travel Channel - Ghost  Adventures Visits La Purisima Mission


A Haunting At Castle Rock - Santa Barbara's Ghostly Beauty, Inocencia, Wanders Still

Castle Rock Beach Lantern Slide

Ledbetter Beach, a lovely crescent of sand, sits to the west of the Santa Barbara Harbor.  Here, the sand and sea form the base of the Santa Barbara Mesa.  On almost any day of the year,  people are swimming,  or sunning on the beach.   Surfers perch on their boards in the turquoise water just off the point, waiting for the next wave.   

The grassy park that edges the beach is always busy with families and friends who have gathered to barbeque or picnic.   

From the beach, you can watch sailboats glide past,  shimmering as they skim toward open water.  Fishing boats gather loads of frutta del mare, fresh, cold, beautiful - from the depths of the Santa Barbara Channel, and deliver it to the dock in the Harbor. 

In the golden mornings, or in the evenings where a sea breeze has been warmed all day by the gentle sun, it is hard to imagine this area is a haunted place, a place where legend tells the story of Doña Inocencia, whose broken heart has caused her spectral form to wander at the water's edge, without rest, seeking her beloved....

This ghost story took place in Santa Barbara, at the terminus of Castillo (Castle) Street, where it meets Cabrillo Boulevard.  This is where the Santa Barbara Harbor is located today.   But more than 100 years ago, the landscape looked much different.....Santa Barbara Returning to Harbor

The story is told in great detail in an 1873 issue of The Overland Monthly magazine, in an article entitled The Haunted Rock at Santa Barbara, by V Forward Russell.  He writes,

 During one of my rambles many years ago, I was surprised at the appearance here of a very old man.   He stood,  silent and motionless,  and his gaze was fixed on what I now,  for the first time , observed to be a circular rise of land - evidently the remains of a former wall or tower.

 He was dressed in the Spanish garb:  tight breeches,  fastened with buttons of silver from the ankle to the loins,  a scarf crossed over the bosom,  and a black silk kerchief bound about the forehead.   His hair fell in long,  white locks upon his shoulders,  his form was tall but bent,  and except that his eye was bright,  I knew him to be very old.   I advanced toward,  him but he did not move.

.....he was silent and I saw that his face wore an expression of deep despair and grief.

"Sir," said I,  addressing him in the Spanish language,  "you are troubled - or are you ill?  Can a stranger do anything to relieve you?"

He raised his head,  his lips moved,  but before he had spoken,  the words seemed to have passed from his consciousness and he was oblivious of my presence. Once more,  I ventured to interrupt his reverie,  and laying my hand on his arm,  I repeated my questions.

"My friend," said he,  "my troubles are beyond the power of this world to relieve....I can not deny it to you, and when you meet those who fret under the weight of life's lesser cares,  I ask only in return that you repeat to them the sorrows of Rodrigo de la Guerra.

"These ruins," continued the old man,  "were the foundation of a round tower which formed the extreme northern end of a large castle.   Another similar tower connected with this by a long,  low building, bordered upon each side with pillared corridors that stood out toward the sea,  on land that was long ago thrown down together with the group of great rocks that you now see beneath the cliff .  The castle was originally built for defense,  but after peace with the natives was assured,  it became the residence of an old Spanish gentleman and his daughter.   The name of the old gentleman was Luis Gonzales.   His daughter was Doña Inocencia."

Mr. Russell, the author, learned that Doña Inocencia was a beautiful Spanish girl whose  included a sweetness,  kindness, and spiritual grace charmed everyone in the small pueblo of  Santa Barbara.  Doña Inocencia lived with her father in the Castle, the regal Don Luis Gonzales.  Don Luis was a wealthy man, and he had incorporated every possible comfort  in the home he shared with his daughter. 

They had many servants to attend to the needs of  the Don and the young Doña Inocencia.  The walls were padded with thick, colorful tapestries and beautiful  paintings.  The furniture was heavily carved and ornate.  Deep, soft rugs lay underfoot.

Yet,  Doña Inocencia was a lonely girl.  Her mother had passed away when she was very young.   She had no siblings, and though her father loved her very much, Don Luis was a strict and stern man.  According  to the story told by Mr. Russell,   the Spanish girl's life in  Santa Barbara was uneventful and quiet,  until the day Inocencia met Rodrigo de la|Guerra.   Rodrigo arrived in Santa Barbara  as a young boy with his father, a merchant sailor , who had developed a trade route between Valparaiso and Lisbon.  Rodrigo's father  took his ships around the Cape, and up along the the Mexican Coast and Alta California, trading European merchandise for the tallow and hides that were available from California's ranchos.

Often, Rodrigo's father would leave his son in Santa Barbara with Don Luis and Inocencia while he continued on his trade route.  Also at the castle was an elderly man named Cervantes, who had once been a merchant sailor with the De la Guerras.  Now that he was old, he worked for Don Luis,  and was  a favored servant at the castle. Spanish Galleon

As the years passed and the children grew, their fondness for each other deepened.    Cervantes witnessed the love that blossomed between Rodrigo and Inocencia, and he was delighted.

Eventually, Rodrigo joined his father in a life on the high seas.  The work was arduous, and harsh, and extremely dangerous.  The ocean and weather were unpredictable,  and at times - deadly.  Pirates roamed and fought and plundered at will.  Injury and illness were frequent companions on board the merchant ships.  But it was an exciting life. 

John Reginald Southworth tells of the excitement when the merchant ships arrived in Santa Barbara:

How the senoritas did chatter as they looked over the treasures,  always under the watchful gaze of an elderly dueña to keep them out of mischief,  and the men at a distance,  but all precautions were vain at times,  since love laughs at dueñas and other impediments.

Senoritas - Confidences

There were many a love match and subsequent marriage resulting from visits to the ships...The cargoes usually consisted of clothing,  hardware,  boots and shoes,  jewelry,  clocks,  shawls,  combs,  furniture,  and liquors and groceries of all kinds.

The import of assorted cargoes and the export of hides and tallow became a great trade on the coast,  and constituted the chief commerce of the country,  down to 1849 when the gold rush started.

~ John Reginald Southworth, Santa Barbara and  Montecito, 1920

Despite the lovely senoritas he met in every port, Rodrigo remained true to Inocencia.  His love for her grew, as did his resolve to win her hand in marriage. 

But despite his best efforts, Rodrigo was not the rich man he had hoped to become.   Don Luis Gonzales, despite caring for Rodrigo, made it clear that there could be no future between the beautiful Inocencia and a poor man such as Rodrigo.

Once again, Rodrigo had to board his ship and sail away.   Rodrigo asked Cervantes to take a special letter to Doña Inocencia as he departed  for Lisbon.   He asked her to wait for him, and promised that he would return a rich man, and win her hand in marriage.  She treasured her letter, carrying it with her throughout her days.

Rodrigo arrived in Spain, and while conducting his business, he stayed  with his uncle and a cousin (by adoption), Annette.  Annette had grown into a beautiful young woman since last she saw her cousin, Rodrigo. And he, too, had grown - strong and handsome and sophisticated.

Annette was duly impressed with the man that stood before her, and decided that it was she who should have Rodrigo for her own.  She began a devious campaign to dissuade Rodrigo from his love of Inocencia,  far away in Alta California.  

Rodrigo became ill while in Spain, and took to his bed to convalesce.  He was delayed in his return to Inocencia, but wrote her constantly, with reassurances and promises of a bright future together.  Annette promised to mail the letters from Rodrigo to Inocencia - but she burned them instead.  She continued to whisper doubts into Rodrigo's ear, and plant the seeds of discontent.  She attempted to raise the very devil.  

However, no matter what Annette tried in her efforts to woo Rodrigo, he never abandoned his love for Inocencia.   Her love was his beacon.  Rodrigo convalesced and regained his health.  Soon - he would be ready to travel back to the New World.  As he prepared for his voyage, he asked Annette to mail one last letter to Inocencia, notifying her of his return. 

Rodrigo had written for many months of his constancy, his love and commitment to Inocencia.  This time, he wrote with the joyous news that Rodrigo's  uncle, moved by his love for his nephew and Rodrigo's desire to wed his beloved Inocencia, had given Rodrigo a large inheritance along with the family's blessing,  so that Rodrigo and Inocencia could begin their new life together - as husband and wife.  Rodrigo would leave on his trade route, and soon - be in her arms again.

Annette pretended she would post the letter -but she broke the seal, and read the news herself.  She was infuriated.  She burned this letter, too, and wrote another - a wicked forgery, cruelly denouncing Inocencia.  She wrote, as Rodrigo, that he had found the love of his life in Spain, that he was passionately enamored of his new paramour,  and that there would never be a future between Rodrigo and Inocencia.   She signed it as Rodrigo, and prepared  it with a red wax seal.  Annette posted the letter, sending deceit and heartbreak in its wake.

We pick up the story again, as told by Mr.  Russell:

The voyage from Lisbon was favorable,  and Rodrigo,  under the influence of the invigorating atmosphere of the ocean and the healthful feelings of hope,  recruited rapidly in strength and spirits.   As the vessel drew within a few days'  sail of the port of Santa Barbara,  his heart bounded with expectant joy.

Every hour left behind was counted as something gained.   When,  but a short time must elapse before the shore would be in sight,  he drew to the side of the ship, watching eagerly until the first line of land should appear.   At last it came:   a view of mountains faintly outlined against the sky.   Slowly the gray mists of the distance dissipated and faded.   On the undulating foot hills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the white towers of the mission church shone in the crimson hues of the early morning.    The humbler outlines of tile-covered houses,  and the wavy pencilings of umbrageous trees rose slowly to sight.  

But Rodrigo saw only vacancy.   His eye was searching for something and it was not there!  The castle!  It was gone!   On,  still,  came the vessel.   The sails were furled.   The anchor was cast.   Then a pause.  A small boat came from the shore,  but Rodrigo heeded nothing - his eye was bent in vacancy on this group of strange rocks,  and above,  at these silent ruins.

A hand was laid upon his shoulder - some one called him by name.   He looked up;  Cervantes stood beside him.   Rodrigo,  grasping the old man's hand,  quickly said, 'What has happened?   Tell me of Inocencia!'   And,  pointing to the castle ruins, 'What does that mean?'  

Cervantes bade him be calm,  and begged him to come ashore where he would tell him all.   Rodrigo,  perceiving in Cervantes' action that there was nothing for which to hope,  silently accompanied him to the shore,  and almost unconsciously directed his steps to the spot whereon had stood the castle.

Together they sat down on the ruins,  and Cervantes,  hastened by the anxious impatience of Rodrigo, and often overcome by his own emotion,  gave an account of those misfortunes which broke Rodrigo's heart.

Rodrigo learned that Inocencia had not received his early letters.  She had become frantic with worry.  And finally, when she received Annette's forgery that told her Rodrigo had found another and had rescinded his love for Inocencia -  she became distraught and hysterical.   She became ill and increasingly despondent, and when Cervantes had left her alone, only briefly, she threw herself from the castle tower down to her death on the rocky shore below.  

Don Luis and all who knew Inocencia were devastated by the loss of the beautiful, loving young woman.

Rest in Peace

 

 They washed and dressed her with care, and laid her body in the castle, where three priests  were to pray over her during the coming days.  Mr. Russell continues his story:

There would be a lull,  and nothing would be heard but the patter of the rain and the sullen moan of the sea.   The servants of the castle had built a fire in the dining hall,  and with friends from the village had gathered,  nervous and trembling,  in a group around the flickering flames.   Now and then a gust of wind would come through the crevices left uncovered by the worn and ill-fastened shutters,  extinguish the lights and leave the frightened inmates half dumb with terror in almost total darkness.

Don Luis Gonzales had sought the seclusion of his room which was next to what had been Dona Inocencia's,  in the tower overlooking the sea.   He knew nothing of the letter which had caused the illness,  and indirectly the death of Dona Inocencia.   He reproached himself as having been the cause of her death,  and seemingly unable to bear the burden of his remorse and the terrible fears that had taken possession of him under the influence of the storm,  had benumbed his consciousness with draughts of wine and was lying oblivious to everything around him,  babbling with thick tongue some broken syllables of prayer and clasping in his fingers a silver crucifix with the beseeching pressure of despair.

The countenances even of the friars on this night were remarkable for their exceeding pallor.   Great drops of perspiration stood on their foreheads and they moved anxiously at every sound,  their eyes peering excitedly from their sockets into every corner whence it seemed to proceed.  

Suddenly - the great doors of the hall where they were praying with the dead,  were violently thrown open - a gale of wind swept wildly through the room,  flung the light drapery from the canopy above the corpse, into the flickering tapers and set it ablaze!

Bonfire

The drapery,  the muslin flowers,  the ribbons,  and the white satin pall,  burned on - but the tapers went out in the wind.   It is whispered by some that the friars were spell bound with terror,  for the servants were not called by them to assist in extinguishing the flames until after the fire had made considerable progress.

Heads are shaken wisely,  and it is even hinted that they must have seen something - that the doors could not have been opened by the wind.   Vague intimations are thrown out about a hand seen waving in the darkness through the open door,  while others speak of a white figure with floating hair,  and uplifted hands,  standing off in the black distance - but nothing is known,  save that the servants,  when brought by the alarm of the friars,  found the entire tapestry of the room in flames. 

Suddenly,  some one remembered that a large quantity of gunpowder had been stored in the adjoining room and also beneath the floor.   This powder had been placed there but a short time before,  under fear of an attack being made by a large band of Indians from the plains who were lurking in that neighborhood with seeming warlike intentions,  but who finally departed in peace.  

Through all the screaming and noise occasioned by the fire,  Don Luis Gonzales heard nothing,  and now,  when the friars were about hastening from his abode,  though no one dare venture so far as his room,  they called loudly up the stair way to alarm him - but to rescue him was impossible.   It was their last chance to escape - not a moment more remained. 

Suddenly,  there was a rumbling sound - the earth seemed to tremble under foot - then such a crash! Men stood appalled.

Ghostly Girl

  In spite of the storm,  many of the village people came out of their houses,  each one fearing that the place would be overwhelmed in some terrible calamity.   Attracted by gleams of lurid light,  they moved on in the direction of the castle.   They reached where it had once stood,  and found,  lighted with burning beams and smoldering embers,  the present ruins.   All else had gone.

The great rock that supported the tower that stood over the sea,  and on which rested the foundation of the long building connecting it with the more inland tower,  was rent asunder,  torn from its place and hurled,  as it is now seen,  in huge masses on the beach and in the ocean.

It had been noticed for a long time that the sea was wearing away the stratum of sandstone underlying the rocks that supported the castle's foundation,  and it is probable this storm,  unparalleled in its severity on this part of the Pacific Coast,  had made heavy inroads,  and so destroyed the foundation of the rocks that they were not able to hold their position under the terrible shock to which they were on that night subjected.

The burning buildings and earth that fell were washed away by the waves,  and save this basework of the inland tower,  all remains of everything in or about the castle were gathered into the bosom of the ocean.   The place is regarded with superstition by some, and old sailors and fishermen say that on stormy nights they have seen a figure standing on the topmost peak of the rocks with one hand held up shading her eyes,  as if looking for a vessel coming from the sea.

Rodrigo became a wanderer.   Every part of the globe laid before him its peculiar blessings,  but he could not remain.   He knew that the spot which,  for so many years was the place of his affections and desires,  had become a desolate grave,  but whether it was the habit of his youth and early manhood,  continued of looking constantly to the castle as the eventual goal of his travel,  or whether it was because of the sailors' superstition,  or perhaps his own fancy that pictured a form watchfully expecting his coming,  I know not,  but ever he returned,  and though he could not tell why was ever disappointed as though he had still expected something he could not find.

View From Castle Rock Toward Santa Barbara 1890"It is she,  it is she!" he hurried from beside me,  and taking the path leading from the mesa to the beach, he clambered eagerly to the summit of the rocks.  

~ Overland Monthly, Vol 11, 1873

The remainder of Castle Rock was removed to build the Santa Barbara Harbor which was completed in 1930.  And although there are no physical remnants of the castle and all that occured there,  throughout the past 150 years, witnesses claim to have seen spectral images that move along the sand on dark nights, and hellish flames that seem appear when there is no moon in the sky.

If you find yourself near the Harbor on a dark night - proceed with caution.   Keep an eye out for the ghost of Inocencia who is said to roam the waterfront, even now....


Col WW Hollister Speaks Through Spiritualist Mediums to Audience At Lobero Theater, 1893

 

Summerland-by-the-Sea is located about six miles east of Santa Barbara on the Southern Pacific Railway.   It now contains 89 dwellings,  one fine hotel,  two restaurants,  two groceries,  a drug store,  and a candy store.   It has also a post office, transfer,  and livery,  an express office,  a barber shop,  a blacksmith shop,  and a paint shop.   It is a community of spiritualists,  and here the peculiar tenets of this religious body are given free scope,  as it is the religion of the major portion of the inhabitants....

~ George Wharton James, BR Baumgardt & Co's Guide to South California, 1895

If the reader will examine the map of California he will find the trend of the Coast at this point almost due west,  for a distance of about fifty miles to Point Conception.   The cold,  northern trade winds that sweep the Coast during the summer months are broken at this point, and by the time they reach Santa Barbara,  are softened into gentle breezes with just enough of the fresh breath of the sea to make the air a delightful solace to all weak lungs.

The town is located upon an undulating plateau at the base of the Santa Inez Mountains,  embracing the horseshoe shaped Bay of Santa Barbara,  and in natural advantages,  is really one of the most picturesque and beautiful cities in the world.

Its present population is about 6000,  to be doubled,  doubtless,  within the next five years.   From its then lack of railroad communication with the outer world,  it had hitherto been heavily handicapped in its race for fame - but that objection has now been removed,  and we may reasonably expect to see Santa Barbara speedily rise to the importance which her beauty of location and salubrity of climate justly entitle her.

 We see here everywhere the footprints of that grand soul and brave Spiritualist,  Colonel Hollister,  who lately passed on to the other life.   The Arlington Hotel,  one of the best caravansaries in the State,  was the creation of his brain - together with many other public and private buildings.

 After the reporter's seance on Sunday evening,  which was held at an early hour,  the writer addressed an intelligent audience at Lobero's Theatre,  on the Claims and Mission of Spiritualism,  and at the same place,  on Tuesday evening,  Mr Evans gave a public seance which was an unusually fine success.   (There was none of the hoodlum element present which we encountered in San Diego and Los Angeles.)

The  spirit guides are the sole masters of the situation,  and they give us what they will.   Spirit John Gray gave the test of writing upon a slate upon which a cross had previously been made  in plain sight of the audience and committee,  the slate  being placed under the foot of one of the committee. The writing appeared in twelve different colors or shades.  

Spirit Risin

Of the numerous messages received, the following from Colonel Hollister was so characteristic of the writer thereof,  as to be readily recognized by the audience present,  ere the reading was one half finished:

Dear Friends,

 I am glad that this opportunity has been given me to write a few lines to my many friends here. I know there are many things left undone that I might have straightened out.   But you know none of us are perfect.   But I am glad to say that I am happy here in the spirit world,  and though I left things a little mixed upon earth,  I found everything as straight as a string in the spirit world.

I am glad to predict to my many old friends that the good time that they have long looked for will soon come to pass,  and dear old Santa Barbara will take the lead of California.   This is what I have long looked forward to,  and I will rejoice with you in the spirit world,  as though I were in Santa Barbara.   But,  before this comes to pass,  you will have a little trouble with your railroad, which will soon be overcome - then prosperity to Santa Barbara!  

Give my love to my dear wife,  sons,  and my daughter.   Tell them there are many things I regret,  but let the past be buried.   My old friends Barker,  Barber,  Winchester,  Morris,  Benn,  Maxwell,  Owen,  and many others  - you all have the best wishes of WW Hollister.

Good night.

    ~ James J Owens, Psychography: Marvelous Manifestations of Psychic Power, 1893

 

Glen Annie Col WW Hollister and Family

 Colonel WW Hollister was one of Santa Barbara County's most successful citizens.  He arrived in the 1850s, when he and Mr Thomas Dibblee collected 12,000 sheep in Illinois and Missori, and drove the herds across the continent, arriving, eventually, at Rancho San Julian, located in Lompoc, in northern Santa Barbara County. 

Col Hollister was one of the most well-respected ranchers in the United States, and he owned several magnificent ranchos,  much of the land located along the Santa Barbara County coastline.  

He planted tens of thousands of acres of oranges, dates, and English walnuts in  groves throughout Santa Barbara county.  He planted acres and acres of date palms and  eucalyptus trees,  forever changing the landscape not only of Santa Barbara County, but the entire state of California.  

Eventually, he owned the magnificent Arlington Hotel, and much of the city.  He owned a bank.  An entire city in central California was named for him.   He was an elder statesman.  He was a man of creative imagining and  innovation,  and he had  great influence in Santa Barbara County.  We still feel his presence, even today.

With or without the help of spirit guides.