Well, I’m not quite done extolling Texas, but I’m taking a break today and taking y’all back to Old California. To the Olivas Adobe, a terrific site left from Southern California’s Rancho Period. The home, or hacienda, is a prime example of adobe (dried clay brick) architecture, made even mores unique with its two-story structure. Don Raymundo Olivas added an unusual second floor during the rancho’s hey-day in the late 1840’s, and the house has been restored to its original stature. It’s something to see.
Making things even more fun, the adobe is said to be haunted! Although of course many locals dispute the idea, stories persist of folks seeing a ghostly “dark lady” standing near the kitchen, of present-day tour guides hearing piano music in the empty living room, and of visitors encountering odd smells and strange footfalls on the balcony. She is referred to as “the Lady in Black.” But “the Lady in White” has also been seen…with no eyes but bloody sockets. A hundred witnesses saw a little girl, believed to be Maria Olivas, in the children’s room on a recent Halloween night
Let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start. Don Raymundo was born poor in 1809 in the tiny pueblo that grew into today’s Los Angeles, and he joined the Mexican Army in California at 16. As a Lancer (cavalryman), he was assigned to the Presidio (fort) at Santa Barbara, about two hours north of L.A.
It was here in Santa Barbara that Raymundo met Teodora Lopez and married her in November 1832. In gratitude for his loyalty and service, Mexican Governor Juan B. Alvarado granted Raymundo and a friend 4,670 acres of land in today’s Ventura County. Raymundo began ranching this land while Teodora began bearing children. 21 total, eight girls and 13 boys.
When gold was discovered along the American River about four hundred miles north, Raymundo found his own “gold mine” and made a fortune supplying those Forty-Niner miners with beef as well as hides.
These were the golden years for the adobe, with its remodeling and additions and glorious parties that lasted for days. Raymundo’s family prospered until drought in the 1860’s destroyed the cattle empires. He survived by raising sheep. However, drought may be just one reason for the decline in fortune. In 1855, legend claims the hacienda was robbed by a gang of outlaws with a take of more than $75,000 in gold.
Another tale claims that Don Raimundo saw the outlaws approach and gave his strongbox to a trusted servant to bury. Enraged upon finding nothing of value to steal, the bandits supposedly ripped Dona Teodora’s gold earrings from her lobes! Some say she is “the Lady in Black.” Departing in anger, the outlaws caught site of the loyal Indian servant with a shovel in his hands. Thinking he was about to use it as a weapon, the leader shot him dead. This servant was the only person who knew where the fortune was –and is–buried. The treasure trove has never been found.
Indeed, Don Raymundo’s death in 1879 was the beginning of the end for the Olivas’ fortune, and the adobe house was sold in 1899. Some of the ranchland has become a municipal golf course, some strawberry fields, some subdivisions. After passing through many owners, the adobe itself was purchased by Max Fleischmann, of the yeast empire, who restored the building in 1927. Upon his death, the adobe was given to the City of Ventura, and it opened as a museum in July, 1972. Docent-led tours are frequent, and many fourth-grade schoolchildren take field trips to the adobe for a hands-on two-hour program that brings to life the Rancho Period of California History.
And at Christmas, locals enjoy a holiday candlelight tour that showcases the tradition of Las Posada where Mary and Joseph seek room at the inn.
Historian and professional ghost hunter Richard Senate believes the Adobe is one of the West Coast’s most haunted places. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxaRs0S-Wp4 or his marvelous book, Ghosts of the Haunted Coast from Pathfinder Publishing. I bought his book last weekend at a book festival and enjoy it immensely.
How about you? Any haunted places near your homestead?