For the last few posts, I’ve been writing about El Camino Real and the haunted missions along the way. Today, I’m going to discuss one area of Highway 101 that I bet just about everybody has seen on television commericals … the Gaviota Pass one and a half miles west of Gaviota, near Santa Barbara, California.
It’s a place where the road narrows to just a few feet. It’s where El Camino Real moves away from the coast and into the interior of California. The long climb up the grade takes travelers to Mission Santa Inez and La Purisima, which I’ve previously blogged on. The land mark is a haunted one, also.
This bronze plaque commemorates where on Christmas day 1846 an ambush set up by Mexican loyalists to stop Lt. Col. John Fremont’s U.S. troops from moving south forcing the Americans to take a more labored approach to capture Santa Barbara where it was captured without bloodshed.
The ghosts of Gaviota Pass date to an earlier time when a detachment of Spanish Lancers were set upon by the local inhabitants. The Spanish were forced to retreat down the road and through the pass toward to coast. For a while it looked like the Natives would win the day, but as the warriors prepared to mount a charge on the exhausted Spanish Troops a strong wind came up from the sea and inland. In desperation the Spanish set fire to the dry grass in the pass. The flames fueled by the ocean’s wind roared up the pass. The native warriors trapped in the conflagration were burned to death.
Defeated spirits haunt the pass today. Some have reported seeing a figure who wanders alone. Local legend is that this is the chief who led his people into the fiery defeat. There is no doubt this is a spooky place, especially for those who visit the place at night. When the wind blows one may still hear the horrible wails of those warriors succumbing to fire.
Now my truth. I’ve gone through this pass hundreds of times, during all times of the night and day, and my daughter who lives in Santa Barbara County travels to LA regularly and neither of us have seen or heard anything. I certainly want to make it clear that I’m not discounting any of this as fact, because I just know that sole legendary chief will make sure I believe in him the next time I’m around the pass.
Those of you who have traveled the 101 and gone through this pass, have you ever had any weird sensations.
Okay, as I promised this is the month, I’m telling you all about my grandson’s experience at the La Purisima Mission not far from his home. Last summer when I was out there for four months, he came out from college in Texas to one of his sister’s graduation. A friend from Texas had moved out to Santa Barbara with her family, so they went ghost busting at the mission. They climbed over the gate, as others did, and after not finding anything that interested them, they returned to his folks home. When his friend started to leave, she couldn’t find her keys. She was sure they were secured in her closed up shoulder bag. They looked everywhere and could find them, so as a last resort they went back to the La Purisima.
When they turned into the drive right outside the gate they saw a flash. Checking it out, they found not only her keys but a billfold, both which had been crushed. There was no way a car could have done it. They came home certain that this had to be an act of one of the Mission’s ghosts.
There wasn’t a driver’s license in the billfold, but a card for a doctor’s appointment and cash. They physician’s clerk called the gentleman and told him where his billfold was but never mentioned where it was found. I answered the door when he showed up. He was pleasantly surprised we had his billfold but perplexed because he was sure it had been secure in his back pocket which was zipped up. “Where was it found?,” he asked. When I told him, all he could say was “That dern ghost must have stolen it, crushed the dern thing to let us know not to go ghost busting out there again.”
Now you tell me whether you think it was just a coincidence or a reminder from our La Purisima ghosts not to bother them at night?
To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will give away an autographed copy of the award winning anthology A Texas Christmas by sister filly, Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace, and me.
A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.
Visit her at phylissmiranda.com