Mission San Antonio de Padua

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Mission San Antonio De Padua, done in the Spanish/Mediterranean style, is an active Catholic parish church that is one of the lesser visited missions because it is located in a remote area, surrounded by land owned by the United States Army; Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. Since 1952, it has been reconstructed and restored to its historic glory, and is home to a Catholic Parish church, museum and retreat center.

“A beautiful museum is located in the front section of the quadrangle of the main building. A tour through the museum is self exploratory, with a donation of $5.00 per adult and $3.00 for child requested. Non-flash photography and video recording are welcome. The grounds outside offer a realistic example of life in the mission days, with signs to read at places of interest. There are picnic grounds with tables under the shade trees to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of our secluded area.”




The original Mission San Antonio De Padua was first founded in 1771 by Friar Junipero Serra when they entered the Valley of the Oaks, in the secluded Sierra District. Friars Junipero Serra, Miguel Pieras and Buenaventura Sitjar hung bells on an oak tree and named the new church, Mission San Antonio De Padua. After Friar Junipero Serra left, the other two padres built small dwellings and planted the first crops.

Mission San Antonio De Padua in this location started out very well, until it was discovered that the water supply was irregular, and the area was sometimes subject to flooding. So, Mission San Antonio De Padua was moved further north to find a lovely spot in the Los Robles Valley, in a very remote spot. In time, they built their own water system, that still works today.

The first of three churches built here by the end of 1773. A small church made of adobe, and some houses made of tulles and wood for the soldiers and 163 converts began this Mission San Antonio De Padua. The first marriage in this mission was between Juan Ruiz and Margaretta de Cortona. In 1779, a second church structure and a small sacristy were built. In 1781, three more small rooms and roof tiles were added to all buildings.

From 1810-1813, the final and greatest church structure was built; 200 feet long, 40 feet wide, with walls that were 6 ft thick. The large timbers in the ceiling were floated down the San Antonio river.

In 1815, the main mission structures were complete. “A large building 224 ft long was built, with thick walls and 20 ft wide inside. This was partitioned with adobe to provide shops for the weaving room, a room for carding and spinning, a workshop, storage for iron implements and tools, leather a carpenter shop and a stable. A corridor was attached to two sides of the patio formed by the four wings, with pillars partly of adobe and partly of brick and mortar.”

The architectural cherry on top was the addition in 1821 of the brick archway and brick facade. There are three archways. On each side of the facade are the square towers, topped with cupolas and bell towers.

In 1834, Mexico became independent from Spain, and Mission San Antonio De Padua became property of the Mexican government, who sent all the Spanish Friars away. They planned to sell all the California missions to private citizens. By 1843, Mission San Antonio De Padua was in ruins. There was no resident priest between 1844 and 1852.

In 1845, there were no bids on the Mission San Antonio De Padua or its properties when put up for auction, not surprisingly. Its remote location with no possibility for commercial use in sight, and the fact that it was in terrible condition were two factors that made it an undesirable property.

By 1848, it was American property, but still no takers interested in developing something new here. However, folks connected to the Christian faith were still interested in serving the people there.

In 1851, Fr. Doroteo Ambris came from Monterey and began to live at the mission, with the few remaining native American families. He began his thirty year service for the 35 families still living at the Mission, hoping to grow this church and bring it back from its sorry state. Just twelve years later, in 1863, Mission San Antonio De Padua and thirty-three acres was given back to the Monterey Catholic Diocese in Monterey, by order of Abraham Lincoln.

Despite all of his efforts, Father Ambris couldn’t bring it back from ruin. Fr. Doroteo Ambris died in 1883, as well as his dream of having a prospering mission church here. After he was buried in the church sanctuary, the Mission San Antonio De Padua was abandoned, leaving it unprotected from salvage pickers. When these people stole the tiles from the roofs of the buildings, all of the structures were exposed to the weather. The walls crumbled. Some of the walls of the church, and a little of the brick facade and row of brick arches were what was left.

The future was looking very bleak for Mission San Antonio De Padua’s future existence, until interested parties took notice of its plight and started the very long, hard process of restoration, that took forty-four years to complete. First on the scene was The California Landmark League. Secondly the Franciscans (who were invited to take back the ministry in 1928), and Randolph Hearst. These three sources of renewal for this once woe-be-gone Mission San Antonio De Padua are the ones that saved Mission San Antonio De Padua for future generations.

Despite a flood and an earthquake, the main church building was rebuilt and restored by 1908, thanks to the persistence and determination of The California Landmark League, who had taken an interest in preserving the old California mission buildings that were major fixer-upper opportunities by the turn of the century.

Randolph Hearst, who owned the Mission San Antonio De Padua’s former lands, and had used them as a hunting game preserve, had always protected the rebuilt 1908 Mission Church. In 1948, Hearst funded the second round of reconstruction, with the goal of “building the Mission as close to its 1813 design as possible.”

To supervise this monumental effort, Hearst hired Harry Downie; known for his wonderful restoration work on other California missions, such as Carmel Mission. Needless to say, the Franciscans and the Monterey Catholic Diocese were overjoyed to get this huge funding source to restore Mission San Antonio De Padua.

All buildings except the Mission San Antonio De Padua Church building were taken to the ground and rebuilt with old materials and methods, adding modern strengthening inside the walls. On June of 1950, a rededication ceremony was held; made complete with a ringing bell, recast from two American-made bells from San Gabriel Mission. These two bells were made by Paul Revere in Boston.

During the 1950s, the Franciscans continued on the restoration work, with the goal of having a facility for a training school for brothers of their order at Mission San Antonio De Padua.

During some point, Hearst sold his land surrounding the Mission San Antonio De Padua to the U.S. Army, who built Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. The U.S. government provided archeologists to help with the restoration projects throughout the years.

Today, there are four annual fundraisers each year to raise money necessary to keep Mission San Antonio De Padua, its buildings and its grounds looking pristine; to insure that this priceless historical structure will never disintegrate again.

In 2005, the Franciscan Friars turned over “the caretaking” to the Monterey Catholic Diocese, who have been the owners of the Mission San Antonio De Padua since 1863. The Monterey Catholic Diocese, had invited the Franciscans to “take back the ministry here in 1928. A robust Catholic church is now at home in Mission San Antonio De Padua. It seems that the living have the love and concern of resident and visiting spirits, along with a spirit still looking for her head and having fun at the same time.



People who die in a violent way, losing their head in the process, can be restless in spirit form, especially if the head wasn’t buried along with the body. They sometimes want justice and appear headless to bring home the point of the injustice done to them.

A native American woman was caught by her prospector husband sleeping with another man. Enraged, the prospector killed her, her lover, and her favorite horse. Believing that Indians can’t go to the happy hunting ground without a head, he then cut off her head in revenge and buried it elsewhere.

Entities of friars and padres have been seen and experienced at Mission San Antonio De Padua. Listed below are perhaps the reasons why they are here.

When a favorite structure in this world is brought back from nothing or ruin to be its glorious self once more, former living people who loved the place also are sometimes drawn back to enjoy it once more, doing familiar routines, and perhaps work on issues that bother them as well.

Father John Baptist who died sixty miles away in retirement, came to visit the next day after he died at the Mission.

Other padres also enjoy doing their routines as well.

People who are buried near their favorite place in this world, sometimes like to visit their old, beloved structure. Five Friars have been buried in the sanctuary floor.

This also may be the reason for paranormal manifestations on the grave of a young girl, Gigi Geardino who was dying of cancer and wanted to be buried at Mission San Antonio De Padua.

People who enjoyed with a passion their service to others and to the Lord, sometimes like to continue in spirit-form. Entities of Friars have made themselves known to the living people who are tied to this mission.




Spirits of Friars

Footsteps had been heard in the attic over the dining room of the Friars.

Balls of energy have been caught on film and also seen by the naked eye.

People have seen spirits of Friars in various places around the mission buildings.

Entity of Father John Baptist

Archeological students working on site, examining the ruins, saw a cloud that floated out from underneath one of Mission San Antonio De Padua’s arches, that proceeded to float out to the center of the garden to the fountain. After a good look at the fish swimming around, it went inside the door of the church.

Entity of Padre – dressed in a cowl

Early in the morning, this entity was seen as a real person, moving down the path to the Mission San Antonio De Padua sanctuary, carrying a candle on his way to pray for the people and Priests of this parish church.

Headless female entity –

She is described as being a native American woman.

This see-through female entity with no head has been seen by many, sitting on her favorite horse on the mission grounds in clear sight. She perhaps wants help in finding her head and enjoys the attention of the startled witnesses.

She has had the fun of scaring soldiers with her appearance. For added excitement, she appeared in front of some MP’s at the guard stations, resulting in a chase by two cars with two pairs of MP’s hot on her trail. She vanished into thin air.

On the grave of Gigi Geardino

Violets mysteriously sprung up and thrived, despite a climate that was normally too hot for violets to grow in. Some years later, when the girl’s mom died, a white violet again mysteriously sprang up among the purple ones.


Most probably so!

So many people have had so many experiences with the spirits that visit or stay here, that it is very probable that the spirits are friendly visitors or residents that are extremely happy to have their Mission San Antonio De Padua in such great shape and so active as a parish church. Plus, they still pray for the living and the Mission San Antonio De Padua parish church that is doing well.

Personal experiences have long been reported. The archeological team won’t forget their experience any time soon.

One archeologist actually changed his profession. In 1978, Richard Senate who was an archeologist at the time, was at Mission San Antonio De Padua, cataloging Spanish ax heads. He became hungry around Midnight and headed for the kitchen fridge. He saw the Friar dressed in a cowl, carrying a candle, moving down the path.

Thinking that this Padre was a real, breathing person, Richard went up the path to meet him; maybe he would have some company! Imagine Richard’s surprise when the Padre vanished when Richard had gotten within 12 ft. of this spirit.

This experience spurred Richard to become a paranormal investigator. He has taught classes on the History of Ghosts and Ghost Hunting at Ventura Community College.

Other padres, priests, students at the mission, soldiers at the surrounding army base and local residents have also given witness to the spirits who visit or stay here.

One such padre was Brother Timothy, who served at Mission San Antonio De Padua for 15 years, and was a great source of these personal experiences of others. He was the historian for all the California Missions.

Brother Timothy reports that Father John Baptist liked to visit the fish in the fountain garden before going into the church to pray. He also reported the incident of the headless native American woman who got her chuckles appearing in sight of the MPs.



P.O. Box 803
Jolon, California 93928

Mission San Antonio De Padua is located in the Los Robles Valley by the Santa Lucia Mountains, in the middle of vast, undeveloped land. It is 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, 250 miles north of Los Angeles, by way of Route 101, and is 20 miles south of King City. The nearest town is a small village of Jolon.


  • The Ghosthunter’s Guide: To Haunted Landmarks, Parks, Churches, and Other Public Places
    by Arthur Myers
    Contemporary Books
  • Richard Senate’s Haunted World — Mission San Antonio de Padua
  • MissionTour.org — A Virtual Tour of the California Missions — Mission San Antonio Exterior
  • Mission San Antonio website history page

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in California