Haunted Tours

Haunted Tours: Mission Santa Barbra

The rumors have spread about the ghosts of the California Missions and I had the opportunity to go to the “Queen of the Missions” located at 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, CA. If you didn’t go to elementary school in California, you may not know what the California Missions are. Just as us New Yorkers will usually learn about The Oregon Trail, Californians will learn about the 21 Missions.

The 21 California Missions sparked around the turn of the 16th century when Europe was emerging into the Reinassaince and there was renewed energy and spirit to discovering what lay beyond the Ocean shore. Europe and Asia had started a trade route but it was gruelingcaliforniamissionsantabarbara02 travel, and Spain wanted to expand their country. With these facts, the King of Europe, realizing there was a large population in Europe decided to expand and colonize Spain while moving their citizens to other parts of the New World. A man named Juan Cabrillo was the one to explore what we know today as California and began to rename different harbors. Since then a few other explorers took after Cabrillo when he passed on from the grueling 6 months of travel and injuries he sustained along the way. Along with conquering a whole area, these colonizers wanted to make the indigenous people of the land into Spanish Citizens. Spain was a Catholic country and so the King decided to start what is known as the 21 Missions, each one marked by a church built by the indigenous people to protect from wild animals, provide warmth, and living and working courters. The missions ended in 1810 with the revolt of Spain in conquest to be their own independent people.

The Mission of Santa Barbra was founded December 4th, 1786 by Fray Fermin Lasuen as the californiamissionsantabarbara0310th mission in California. The magnificent building was built by the hands of the indigenous people. The peace which was originally establish was swept away by the bloody revolt that attacked this mission and two others. The remains of 4,000 indigenous people are buried underneath this church and the graveyard may show much more. Signs of hauntings are said to populate this area which is still used today as a modern Catholic church.

One can choose from three different tours of this building. I chose the self-guided tour which is open 7 days a week from 9:00 A.M. to 4:15 P.M. ($9.00 for adults, $7.00 for seniors and military personnel, $4.00 for youth, and free for children). Another option is to go with a guided group tour which is first come first serve ($13.00 for adults, $11.00 for seniors and military personnel, $8.00 for youth, and free for children). Last but not least there is the option of a private tour which has to be reserved 2 weeks in advance and has the same prices as the guided group tour.

There have been many ghostly experiences from workers and civilians which can all be read about in Richard Senate’s Ghosts of the California Missions and El Camino Real. As for myself I can guarantee, as beautiful as the grounds are there is a strong history and a sad feeling as you walk through the silent courtyard all the way to the graveyard. The missions are worth some exploring if you find yourself in California.

To read about our previous Haunted Tour, please check out The Winchester Mystery House.

Haunted Tours

Haunted Tours: The Winchester Mystery House

The legendary Winchester Mystery House, located at 525 South Winchester Ave. San Jose, CA, 95128-2547. I arrived on a sunny Californian day on March 12th to participate in the grand tour. I had been intrigued by the Winchester Mystery House for years and at last, I would be able to explore the place myself.

If you’re wondering what the Winchester Mystery House is all about, then it’s time for a brief history lesson. The mansion is famously known as a “house built by ghosts for winchestermysteryhouseghosts.” The mansion is like a fanatical twisting, turning, fun-house. With doors that open to brick walls and 30 feet drops, tiny and claustrophobic staircases that twist and turn to rooms lined with fire-places or to a ceiling that will bump you in the head, spider-web designs littered along beautiful stain-glassed windows, and cupboards that can open to walls or open to the rest of the house. Originally composing of 700 rooms but due to Californian earthquakes, the house now has 160 rooms. The house was built over a period of 39 years, costing about five million dollars. 1,000 doors, 52 skylights, 3 elevators, 30 staircases, 47 fireplaces, and 1,500 windows. Are you tired of numbers yet? Because that’s not all. The home is littered with the number 13. 13 bathrooms, 13 steps on the staircases, ceilings with 13 panels, chandeliers with 13 lights, and rooms with 13 windows. This iconic number 13 was believed to be a lucky number or to ward away evil spirits. But why would one need to do such a thing, or build a mansion in this incredible manner?

Sarah Winchester; widowed with the loss of her child and many other family members in sarahwinchesterthe year of 1883 at the age of forty-four. Inherited with twenty million dollars plus an income of $1,000 a day and a grief-stricken heart, Sarah was desperate to protect herself from a believed curse that was placed on her family. Legend has it that with these immediate and sudden long string of deaths in her family, Sarah went to see a medium to inquire about a supposed curse placed on her family. Sarah’s husband, William Winchester, was the owner of the famous reproduction of the Winchester Rifle which was responsible for participating in many years and killing many people in the throws of battle. The medium that advised Sarah in her grief suggested that the reason for the many deaths in her family was due to the revenge of the angered spirits who were killed by the Winchester rifle. The only way to escape this curse was to move West and build a house directed by the good spirits and to never stop building. And so, the Winchester Mystery House was created.

The house is said to still be haunted due to the supposed seances conducted by Sarah in order to get directions from the good spirits. However, most of this is a legend and cannot entirely be proved. Some other theories as to why Sarah would build a house such as this:

Theory 1: Sarah had arthritis when she aged. This could explain the hall of fires which a hallway lined with fireplaces that could aid Sarah’s arthritis. This also explains the tiny staircases because she was under 5 feet tall. This could also explain the unfinished staircase as she may not have had a reason to finish it, due to the fact she couldn’t walk very far. Some flaws with this theory are, it does not explain the door to the 30 feet drop, or the rest of the home being absolutely confusing.

Theory 2: Sarah needed a change of scenery to distract herself from her grief. Which does make some sense, but why the constant number 13 or the use of frequent web designs which were said to ward away evil spirits.

Theory 3 (Mary Jo Ignoffo): Sarah was interested in architecture and stated so in some of her letters which also revealed that construction would stop at months at a time, which debunks the legend that she built the home around the clock.

Now, as far as tours, I participated in the Mansion Tour which allows me to tour through 110 of the 160 rooms and look for the bizarre phenomena that gave the mansion its name; a window built into the floor, staircases leading to nowhere, a chimney that rises four floors, doors that open onto blank walls, and upside down posts. However, there are many other choices such as; The Grand Estate Tour which show you the mansion in its entirety and then the Flashlight Tour which takes place at night with all of the lights turned off and people say that is when it gets spooky!

The only spooky thing I came across on my tour was when I entered the lobby area waiting for my tour guide and the door to my right slightly creaked open as if someone was inviting me inside, and no breeze was present that day.

Check out the Winchester Mystery House website and visit it yourself to see what kind of spooks you can get!: http://winchestermysteryhouse.com/

Information was gathered from the fantastical book, Ghost Hunter’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area by Jeff Dwyer, and Buzzfeed’s Unsolved Mysteries: 3 Horrifying Cases of Ghosts and Demons.