The restored Mission La Purisima de Conception near Lompoc, California, looks much like it did when it was inhabited by Spanish priests and a working population of “neophytes”—the Chumash natives of the central coast. The low, neat buildings include chapels, living quarters for the padres and soldiers, kitchens, a springhouse, and weaving, and other workrooms are spread out, surrounded by gentle hills dotted with oak trees. A central pasture is home to goats, donkeys, chickens, and other farm animals. Nearby, vast herb and vegetable gardens exist much as they did when the 960-acre compound (built in 1787 and rebuilt after an earthquake in 1812) was young. There is a lavenderia—a laundry pool where the natives washed the Spaniards’ clothes and they themselves bathed. (A sign points out that the Chumash, unlike the Spaniards, enjoyed bathing themselves.) Nearby, beautiful fountains splash and bubble.
Despite the idyllic beauty, you may sense a darkness, a heaviness, as well. And if you do, you may also encounter one of the many hauntings. History books tend to gloss over the fact that the 21 California missions (La Purisima was the 11th) were founded by the Catholic Church and Spanish king to increase the strength of their empire, and the indigenous population was treated essentially as slaves, working long hours, not allowed to leave the compound, and forced to give up their beliefs for new ones. This is something it’s Photo by Tamara Thorne West Coast 197 difficult to ignore when you ghost hunt at the mission. It’s in the air. You feel it.
The hauntings are everywhere. Cold spots are common. Sounds are, too. You may hear phantom singing and guitars and flutes inside the chapels. Male voices are overheard in the weaving room. Native chanting rises in many areas, and, after dark, hoofbeats sometimes break the silence.
Park rangers have admitted to seeing apparitions. Chief among them is that of Frey Payeras, who was in charge of the mission for many years and comparatively well-liked among the Chumash. His grave in the main chapel was uncovered in the 1930s during a restoration. Only the top half of his skeleton was found. The lower half was buried at the Mission Santa Barbara, a hundred miles south. (There is no mystery here, despite attempts to create one. Payeras rose high in the church and his body became a holy relic, to be shared. This was common at the time.) Payeras appears as an old padre in white robes near his grave and in his former quarters, where the bedding is frequently mussed by unseen hands.
Another monk walks the gardens in the morning and evening, and a soldier appears near the barracks. Even the ghosts of the padres’ pampered greyhounds occasionally wander through the buildings, especially in the long hall that leads to the wine storage area. Another active haunt is in the padre’s kitchen. He is Don Vicente, murdered there in the 1820s.
Written by — Tamara Thorne Author, Independent Paranormal Investigator
MISSION LA PURISIMA STATE
2295 PURISIMA ROAD
LOMPOC, CALIFORNIA 93436