SCORE: ☆☆☆ (3.25)
It was September 15th of 2012 and my husband and I were based outside Santa Barbara for several days to investigate a few different locations in the area. I had read about the Old Mission and remember in the past we had visited San Juan Capistrano Mission, and it was a lovely place! I thought perhaps this would be a similar place and wanted to investigate it for myself.
Some of the "ghost stories" I had Google'd were not very pleasant and I couldn't imagine them to be true. I thought perhaps folks had gone there with a preexisting agenda and 'read into' what they experienced.
Well, I hadn't stepped onto the Mission grounds for longer then five minutes to know I was the one that was wrong!
We entered through the back gate and I was immediately greeted by two crows sitting in a dead tree just on the inside of the courtyard fence. Don't get me wrong, Crows, Ravens, and all the such get along just fine with me, but these two seemed...shocked to see me...they were chattering together until I walked under the gateway, then stopped and simply stared at me as if thinking, "what are you doing here?".
Yes, yes, talk about "reading into things", I quickly dismissed it and said it's merely a coincidence, it was a busy afternoon and there was lots to distract them. So I continued onto the Mission grounds looking for the entrance for the self guided tours.
Ron was back at the car prepping his camera, and mentioned he'd catch up. When we explore a potential location, we generally both have a camera or at least a camera phone. Many times we'll take photos to see what can be captured via the lens, other times we simply are taking momentous shots for future album filling back home. Sometimes, if I can hone in or tune in well enough, I'll stay connected and simply point to him the areas or items I need captured. I will eventually integrate voice notes or some sort of recording into this process to see if any additional evidence can be caught. I personally do not need proof of an experience as I CAN ALREADY feel, see, or hear things for myself. But others, like my husband and many of our friends, they cannot - yet they want to know and share in this so called adventure as well. So I have made it a type of new life mission to start gathering as much evidence and proof as possible, so others can better see for themselves as well - WITHOUT the Hollywood drama and tricks!
Anyway, we made our way to the Gift Shop and promptly paid our $5 (or was it $10?) and hurried along inside. Apparently we had arrived late in the afternoon and they were to close within the hour. The Old Mission is still an active, working church and on this particular day, it was Confessional time. Parishioners were lined up outside on the sidewalk patiently waiting their turn, quietly sitting or talking with one another as it if was any other Saturday afternoon. We waded through the compact gift shop and religious consumers through a heavy wooden door into the first section of the tour. And then it began...
I no sooner had heard the door close behind me did notice the rooms light dropped quite a bit and I suddenly felt as if I was trying to breath through a heavy fog. There was no fog, smog, or smoke and one or two other tourists in the room didn't seem affected. Ron noticed rather quickly so I simply started pointing in directions to where I felt the "weight" of the heavy breath was coming from. I only stayed in this section for about 3 minutes, it was distracting and physically complicated to walk through. We moved on, many historical relics were encased around us, but as I looked at them...they seemed frail and almost translucent...as if I was catching the flaw in some reflective facade. Words flew through my mind like, "aren't I beautiful" and "don't touch what's mine" - these robes and relics were oozing vanity at me in quite a haunting, sinful tone. Again, I couldn't stand there long, I felt 'unwanted' and almost 'ushered' along my way.
At this point I think we found ourselves outside in the inner courtyard and garden. This area now was reduced to but a fraction of its size when it was in full operation, well kept, and groomed with lush hedges and flowers. It felt good to be in the sun after walking through what felt like the "valley of death" behind me and I started be able to breath again. There was a lone fountain in the center that I went to as Ron went around to the small cemetery near the East Wing. I said I'd join him shortly, but something had caught my eye that I was going to look at first. It was one of the Crows. I was now on the inside of the fence of the courtyard by the entrance they had been sitting near, only now it was not in the tree but sitting on a smaller wooden fence near the walkway. He sat there until I almost walked up next to him, but then silently flew back up to his perch in the tree next to his kin and sat quietly. The fence was guarding a small area about 3 foot by 4 foot if memory serves me, that looked like a grave had been dug. As I read the place and observed the wooden planks about 2 feet down into the ground, it explained this was what was left of the original flooring of the first school that was built there. Looking down into the hole at the exposed flooring, I suddenly felt as if I had tunnel vision and everything else around me and it had been blacked out. It was an odd, dizzying effect that one might associate with vertigo, I had the sensation of being pulled forward and downward until I realized I was leaning quite heavily on the wooden guard rail. I think I stopped breathing all together for a minute as I half expected the wood to part down the middle and such me into some sort of black hole! Suddenly this nice, bright, sunny courtyard seemed to be terribly dark and cold. A quick intake of breath and broke away - walked away so quickly I totally forgot to take any kind of pictures. After taking another second or two to gather my wits, ground my own energies, I decided to waltz over to the tree my fine feathered friends had been gawking from and give them a piece of my mind. Yes, this is probably where I sound quite crazy, but I literally went over and told them I didn't think it was very funny.
One of my biggest rules is I'll help anyone and anything as long as they respect certain boundaries and do NOT use any form of 'scare tactic'. As soon as they want to get all Linda Blair on me, I'm out of there and they can just spend eternity stuck with their baggage. Well, while in the process of reminding Heckle and Jeckle of my mission statement, the very air and light around me changed again - as if someone had walked past me - and I stopped in mid sentence to see who it was. I thought Ron had come to my corner of the courtyard to tell me to be quiet and stop making a scene, but no one was there...no one for 20 yards. Words that went through my head dripped with contention, and basically said "what makes you think I care about you or your rules". I stilled myself and tried to take better notice of where I was standing. There was a grown over, poorly kept statue of a Saint near by - though I don't remember who - I just remember he was depicted reaching down to pet a wolf. I thought this was odd, as everything else was manicured so nicely, yet this was left virtually unattended for sometime based on the dirt and overgrowth near it. Then the shadow seemed to be on the walkway about 30 feet down from me, moving ever slowly, as if taunting me to follow it. I started to hear buzzing and thought just a fly or two had blew over from the nearby alley on the other side of the courtyard wall. Fearful of taking my eyes off the walkway that went out in front of me, the buzzing got louder and turned to look back at the Saint's statue and noticed half a dozen wasps were gathering quickly, more joining them by the second. I glanced back up at the two crows and they still sat there, watching me as if to affirm, "see, told you don't belong here".
My dear reader, at this point I can attest to all that's Holy, I have not had this much body hair stand up all at once in a VERY long time. Again clearing and subconsciously stepping into the sunlight (as if the was really going to do any good), I re-set my boundaries (or bubble I call it) and promptly removed myself in the opposite direction of both the shadow and the wasps. I needed to find Ron, I needed his camera, his input, his soothing energy, something - because I was feeling rather uneasy. I did my best to snap a shot off with my cell phone in the direction I last felt the shadow go, but frankly I could have cared less at that point. I had seen, heard and felt enough for me, my skin was crawling, my stomach acids were seething, and I felt dirty...like I had just witnessed some x-rated snuff film. We were in a MISSION for God sakes, how could this be POSSIBLE. I begged Ron to leave, leave that instant but he calmed me down and said we had only seen half, we hadn't even really gone in the chapel. I was disgusted and totally disillusioned - this was NOTHING like the San Juan Mission. But I knew Ron was right and I'd be angry with myself if we didn't see the rest.
We quietly went into the chapel, remembering the custodian's warnings of confessionals in progress as I watched the patrons come in quietly and go. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, this place reminded me of that movie "The Devil's Advocate" with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. On the surface this appeared to the layman as a holy place of worship, but it was all a cover up. Underneath the surface there was so much tortured anguish, hurt, hatred, fear, and pain that even the statues of angels we passed indoors seemed to be begging for removal. Pleading for me to take them with them...as if they had been abandoned in this place and misused to represent good. I felt officially sickened at this point and couldn't do it anymore, I had to leave the building. Ron was noticeably more melancholy as well and I knew we were in trouble. My husband is a scientific, factual man, and so I can easily use him as a type of Geiger Counter to judge and balance my own intuitions off of. Sometimes, like the poor little gilded canary they used to send down into mining tunnels to test the air, I use him to get a feel for just how serious a situation may be. It was grim and these emotions radiated from the very earth we walked upon as we widened our perimeter of the grounds. The emotions of greed, lust, control, power, it was EVERYTHING a holy place should NOT be. I think I got teary eyed first as I was literally being choked up by the trauma that once had been, was surrounding us as we walked through there that day. Soon we were both in tears and left there as if we were leaving a funeral.
I am not a big fan of the absolute "Heaven & Hell" or "God and Devil" theories, but I would swear on my soul that I believe the atrocities that occurred there were always part of a much darker design then the world ever knew about. And still - to this day - as I look back on those poor, unsuspecting parishioners, I fear they are unwittingly still apart of that very same unearthly agenda.