Most Haunted Places in America: La Purisima Mission
December 8, 1787, Father Presidente Fermin de Lasuen, a Spanish priest, founded La Purisima Mission in California. The La Purisima Mission was the 11th out of 21 Franciscan Missions in California. Through the early years of Catholicism of these missions there were several thousand Chumash Indians baptized, over 100 adobe buildings were built as well as a water system being developed to help the crops and livestock to flourish. The colonization of these missions nearly destroyed the tribe of Chumash Indians.
Along with the new religious ideas and technology that were brought to California, there were also numerous diseases that the Spanish brought with them that the Chumash Indians were just not immune to. Over 120 Chumash Indians died from afflictions brought by the Spaniards such as measles and chicken pox. There were also several lives lost when there was a failed uprising against the Spanish occupation. Due to the vast change in conditions, the Chumash was forced to decide between converting to Catholicism and hence joining the mission, or to leave the region and find a new life.
A large earthquake uprooted La Purisima in 1812 causing devastation and putting the mission is complete disrepair. Therefore, the Mission’s leader, Father Mariano Payeras, decided that it is best to rebuild the mission in a different location. The location of the new mission was only four miles to the northwest in the Canyon of the Watercress. This new location was the home to at least 1000 Chumash converts as well as Spanish. Things started to change for the mission; a rebellion in Mexico was causing a strain on Spain’s control over the California regions. Supply ships were unable to come in and reach the missions and so people started to go to the black market for supplies and foodstuffs.
The Chumash was forced to perform hard work for little or no pay. In 1822, the mission system started to crumble with Mexico’s independence from Spain. In 1823 Father Payeras, an important liaison with Chumash, died. As the first year of Father Payeras death progressed, the Chumash went against Spain and for a month had control of the mission. When 109 Spanish soldiers marched on the Chumash killing and injuring many, the Chumash knew their freedom was over. They knew that they had to decide between fleeing for freedom or be treated unfairly. Some Chumash stayed and survived the harsh conditions at La Purisima. La Purisima disbanded completely and fell into ruin in the 1840’s. The site became a project for the California Division of Beaches and Parks in 1934 when it was reborn into a 507-acre living museum.
Tales and ghostly legends were born not very long after the reconstruction of La Purisima Mission. Park Rangers, tour guides, locals and the tourists all have accounts of having been a witness to paranormal happenings. Some of those accounts are described as an eerie whisper, some indistinct shape or a cold draft. Due to the Chumash people who died at that location from the horrible treatment, some believe that the Chumash spirits are restless and cannot move on. There are even accounts that flutes are heard playing, and as everyone knows, the flute was the sacred instrument of the Chumash people.
Today there is a reenactment of the life and times of the 18th century in a costumed revival during a tour of the grounds. There is the self guided tours or guided tours available seven days a week. Go on down and check it out, maybe you will have a paranormal experience to share with us next time.