For the lover of Spanish Missions in California, or for the devoutly religious – or for those who are both – it doesn’t get much better than Ventura, California’s Mission San Buenaventura.
Built in the late eighteenth century, this mission has withstood the test of time, as well as many other tests throughout its long life.
Updated 2/10/2020 – Earthquakes, fire, and even an instance of piracy have not been enough to keep this church from continuing on in the prescribed manner, and to this day thousands of supplicants enter its doors on a regular basis, seeking the comfort of their faith, the worship that is their duty, and the sacred mystery of communion with God.
Despite all of the consternation which has gone on around it throughout the centuries, Mission San Buenaventura has been and remains a place of peace.
With one exception.
Haunted California Mission
Eleven years after it was first built, the mission’s first church was destroyed by fire.
During the following sixteen years in which it took the parish to rebuild it, strange things apparently began happening at this California mission.
Hard evidence is hard to come by (we’re talking about the end of the 1700s, after all,) but the stories which have come down to us tell of a person who had been caught amid and died in the fire.
According to the legend, after fourteen days he was seen to be walking around the mission.
When he would walk by the sacred relics and icons, many of them would exhibit strange behaviors.
Statues were seen to distort their facial expressions, wooden crosses fell off of walls…sometimes the ground itself would tremble.
Sometimes even those unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity would exhibit similar behavior, such as nuns crying tears of blood.
Evil Made Real
“The man’s corpse was badly burned,” says one monk I speak to from a different mission in the region – but who, I have been told, is the closest thing that exists to an expert on this subject.
“Burned beyond the point of living.
If he truly was up and walking around, he was either a ghost or a zombie.”
I start to laugh, but then notice that the monk is crossing himself.
I ask if he’s joking with me, at least about the zombie part.
“No, Señor,” he says.
“It isn’t that uncommon to get tales of the dead being raised back to some kind of half-life.
You see it down in nominally Catholic places like Haiti, where voodoo has been practiced for centuries, but you get it in this part of the world, as well.
That’s a large part of the reason I believe it.”
Because lots of cultures have similar stories about that? He nods.
“The ghost – or zombie, or whatever it is – of San Buenaventura leaves its remnants even today,” he says.
“There are parishioners…only a few perhaps, but they’re there…who would swear to you that on a dark night, if you go near the church, you can see a dark man walking about, and that his face is misshapen by fire.
They also say that if you look closely at the holy objects he passes, you will notice them doing strange things.”
Whatever the case, the idea alone makes the Mission of San Buenaventura one of the more interesting places you can go in California.