Thursday, February 14, 2013

Haunted Mission La Purisima

New Spain

Franciscan Padre Fermin Lasuen founded Mission La Purisima on December 8, 1787. 

La Purisima was the eleventh mission of twenty-one Spanish Missions in New Spain established by the Spanish Empire in what later became the state of California. 

When the Spanish established this mission located in central California— its furthest outpost at that time, it was their goal to baptize the native Indians in the area, the Chumash, into the Catholic Church. 

Once baptized, they then would teach them Spanish ways so that they could later become productive citizens of the Spanish Empire. 

But the reality is harsher then the history books for these Chumash Indians were basically forced to give up their beliefs and way of life, and then they were enslaved--they were forced to work at the mission and not allowed to leave. 

La Purisima thrived with the use of this Indian labor. 

Over a thousand Chumash Indians were baptized over one hundred large and small adobe structures were built, a water system was developed, and crops and livestock were raised. 

But in 1812, several earthquakes hit the area. This and drenching rains destroyed several of the mission’s structures.

Original Mission
Father Mariano Payeras, now in charge of the mission got permission to move La Purisima four miles northwest of the original site. 

This area, “canyon of the watercress” proved to be more advantageous for it had a better water supply, climate, and was closer to the El Camino Real—the main travel route at the time. 

In just a few years this new location again became a thriving community with the help of its 1,000 Chumash Indian Neophytes (converted Indians). 

The mission became known for its hides and blankets and at its peak the Spanish Mestizo and Indian Vaqueros tended 24,000 cattle and sheep.

La Purisima also was known for its training school. But in the 1800s, Father Horra, who was formally at the Mission in San Miguel, accused the fathers at La Purisima of mistreating the Chumash Indians in their charge. 

The Spanish Viceroyalty found them not guilty—but because of any Chumash Indian who tried to leave the mission was punished severely makes one believe Father Horra’s account. 

Regardless, these Indians suffered greatly at the hands of the Spanish.

In 1804 and 1807, smallpox and measles killed 500 Chumash Indians. By 1811, Mexico’s war for Independence from the Spanish cut off the supplies and money to La Purisima. 

Tensions multiplied among the Spanish soldiers, and they took their displeasure out on the Chumash Indian Neophytes. 

By 1824, the neophytes rebelled and took control of La Purisima’s grounds. But within a month, a hundred and seven Spanish soldiers descended on the mission and gained back control. 

Sixteen Chumash Indians were killed during this struggle, another seventeen where executed for their involvement, yet another twelve were given hard labor for their involvement.

In 1834, Mexican officials enforced an order to secularize all of California’s missions. After this, La Purisima fell into ruins-- after one hundred years of neglect and vandalism. 

In the 1930s, Union Oil bought the property and through the combined efforts of the city of Santa Barbara, the State of California, the National Park Service, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) the buildings and grounds were reconstructed and restored to the mission’s original 1820 appearance. 

Today, La Purisima is the most extensively restored mission in California. It is a Historical Landmark, California State Park, and museum, which hosts over 20,000 visitors each year.

The gentle hills and peaceful surroundings of the mission with its chapels, gardens, and fountains, however, do not relay what some have felt in the area. 

Many visitors feel a sense of great sadness and heaviness in the air as they walk around the mission’s grounds and buildings. 

These witnesses, which include Park Rangers, tour guides, and tourists have seen and heard things that can not be easily explained, for La Purisima is haunted by many ghosts.

Cold spots are felt in several locations around the mission. Witnesses have heard music throughout the grounds. Male voices have been heard in the weaving room, and hoof beats are listened to after dark. Many witnesses, including Park Rangers, have seen apparitions.

One apparition that is seen is believed to be that of Frey Payeras. He was in charge of the mission for many years. His grave, which was discovered during the restoration in the 1930s, is located in the main chapel. 

Witnesses describe him as an old padre in white robes. He is seen near his grave and in his bedroom in his former quarters. It is in this room where the sheets on the bed are often found mussed. He is also seen in the hallways in this building.

Other apparitions that are seen include another monk who is spotted wandering one of the gardens in the early morning and at dusk. A ghost of a Spanish soldier is seen near the jail, chapel, and living quarters (barracks). 

A more unusual sight is the padre’s pampered greyhounds who are seen near the buildings and walking down the hall that leads to the mission’s wine storage area. 

Another spirit is seen in the padre’s kitchen. This ghost is said to be, Don Vincente, who was murdered in the area in the 1820s.

Many witnesses have seen and felt the presence of the Chumash Indians that lived and worked in the area. The music of a flute is heard throughout the complex. The Chumash people consider the flute a sacred instrument. Native chanting has also been heard in various areas around the park. This spirit activity is accredited to the many Chumash who perished at La Purisima.

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