Santa Barbara Mission

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The Mission Santa Barbara has a group of
spectral prayer warriors and a hands-on, spectral comforter.

Better not trespass here at night!

Suicide, murder and life’s tragedies have all caused restless spirits.

For a remaining original wall, its mortar was made with something creepy.



“Queen of the Missions”

Old Mission Santa Barbara was the tenth Californian mission formed by Spanish Franciscans, and is truly a beautiful cathedral located on twenty acres of a prime spot of Santa Barbara. What a glorious structure! It was the grandest California Mission built, thus earning its nickname, “Queen of the Missions”.


The Neoclassic facade was inspired by a mission archives copy of the Spanish edition of The Six Books of Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio; a Roman architect of 1st century B.C. The facade has twin towers with six bells. The lovely, Moorish-inspired fountain was sculpted by mason and carpenter José Antonio Ramírez in 1808. Father Junipero Serra is honored with a prominent statue, as the founder of Mission Santa Barbara.

The mission buildings are laid out in the traditional quadrangle, with beautiful rose and flower gardens. Newer buildings were constructed to meet the needs of the various schools/college/seminary that were here.

The inside of the church is as impressive as the outside. It has huge ceilings, decorated with chandeliers, to light its immense space below, beautifully decorated with inspiring art; both Chumash and Mexican style. The church has plenty of room for original and noteworthy paintings and inspirational statues. Highlights include: an abalone-encrusted Chumash altar, made in the 1790s, two of the largest religiously inspired paintings by Mexican artists: Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin (acquired in 1798), The Crucifixion, inspiring tile designs, and an impressive area above the altar that includes statues and windows.

The graveyard is the final resting place of 5000 former members; Chumash Indians and settlers. The richer Santa Barbara family crypts line the outside of the grassy tree area.



Though dedicated on a spring day in 1782 by Father Junipero Serra, the actual Mission Santa Barbara wasn’t built until 1786 because of the jealous Spanish Governor De Neve, who thought that the Franciscans gained too much power with each new mission built. De Neve had their funds cut through his connections with the very important Viceroy of Mexico. Father Serra left Santa Barbara a frustrated man and retired to the city of Carmel. One month before Father Junipero Serra died in 1784, a newly appointed governor told him that the funds were authorized for the mission.

Father Junipero Serra’s replacement, Father Lausen, went to Santa Barbara to start the Mission Santa Barbara, picking a location about one and a half miles northeast of the Presidio fort. The ground was dedicated on the Feast of Santa Barbara on December 4th, 1786. Padre Antonio Paterna was put in charge, and the mission buildings were built on this hilly area called “Rocky Mound”. It was a prime spot with an inspiring view of the valley and channel.

Padre Antonio Paterna immediately began his ministry among the Chumash Indians and confirmed the first believers among them. By the time the Mission Santa Barbara was completed in 1789, a well-constructed adobe with a red tile roof, the church congregation had grown by leaps and bounds and continued to do so as Padre Antonio Paterna was doing a great job feeding their spiritual development, and their relationship with God.

Indians also learned many skills and ways to make a living. The Friars taught the Indians the skills of growing food; harvesting 223,285 bushels of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos, and broad beans during the years of 1787-1834. Mission Santa Barbara had two vineyards and many kinds of fruit trees.

Mission Santa Barbara had cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, mules and horses in great numbers as well. “In 1809, there were 5,200 head of cattle, and in 1803, 11,221 head of sheep. The Indians made adobes, tiles, shoes, and woolen garments, learned the trades of carpenter and mason, and became herdsmen and farmers.”

The Chumash also learned European music and performed during the services. “Church services were accompanied by an Indian choir and instrumental ensemble of violins, cellos, woodwinds, and brasses rather than an organ.”

While teaching the Chumash all these new skills, the Chumash also held onto their cultural arts and customs that didn’t conflict with Christianity.

The buildings of the Mission Santa Barbara also changed from their simple, humble beginnings. Because the church building had become too small just five years later in 1794, a larger “edifice” was constructed; the third of the series of adobe churches that were built to provide for the needs of their skyrocketing numbers of believers. It had six side chapels, as Mission Santa Barbara enjoyed success and was blessed with a peaceful, positive existence that provided much spiritual fruit as well as other accomplishments. In 1812, the church was destroyed by a major earthquake, so it was back to the drawing board.

A stone church was built and was completed in 1820: 161 feet long, 42 feet high, and 27 feet wide. Initially, only one tower was built. In 1833, the other tower was added. This new version of Mission Santa Barbara remained in good shape for 125 years, until the quake of 1925. The damage sustained took two years to repair. The people of Santa Barbara raised a boatload of money; almost $400,000, and this restoration was completed in 1927.

More troubles followed the Mexican revolt against Spain, after Mexico became independent in 1821. This conflict caused considerable friction between the Spanish Franciscan Friars and the now Mexican-controlled Presidio. All the Friars were from Spain, so the Mexican officials that now were controlling local government ordered that the soldiers had the authority to police the Chumash Indians, without realizing what they were doing; setting up a revolt that didn’t need to happen. Uh Oh!

Mexican soldiers turned out to be cruel and nasty, and very violent toward the Chumash. Predictably, this harsh situation finally inspired a revolt in the Spring of 1824, when the Indians in three California missions:Mission Santa Barbara, Santa Ines and La Purisima took an ill-fated action. Chumash Indians who lived at Mission Santa Barbara, broke into the mission’s armory, and overcame their tormentors; the mission guard. While only two soldiers were wounded, the retaliation against the Chumash was brutal and a severe order of the death penalty to many was carried out, causing all the Chumash to flee the mission.

The Franciscan Presidente at this time got the politicians to see the error of their ways, and a pardon for all the Chumash was granted six months later, causing the Chumash to return to Mission Santa Barbara.

During the times when the missions were secularized, to be sold for secular purposes, Mission Santa Barbara managed to remain an active church with services for the people, just long enough until the United States took over California after Mexico lost the Mexican-American War. The rooms have been in use continuously for 200 years, very much like it was!

Two Friars took measures to keep the secularists at bay. Mission Santa Barbara was dearly loved, by the people of the city of Santa Barbara as well as the Chumash. To hinder its destruction, Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno, the first Catholic Bishop of California, resided at this mission from 1842 to 1846. Though the buildings were sold, it would be difficult to kick out the Catholic Bishop

Plus, Fr. Narciso Duran moved all the California mission records to Mission Santa Barbara, creating a major record depository, sending the message that this was a major Catholic Church for all the people; not just a mission church. The closing of the building as a church was delayed enough so that the new owner never had the chance to take control because California became a territory of America. Mission Santa Barbara continued on as an active church.

In 1865, when President Lincoln gave Mission Santa Barbara back to the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church refused to give the Franciscan Friars complete ownership at first, but wisely did so later.

From 1865 through 1877, the Franciscans ran a high school and junior college for young men, serving both boarders and local youth. In 1896, a seminary was opened for young men who wanted to study for the priesthood. In 1901, it would become a separate entity; Saint Anthony’s Seminary. Until 1968, the School of Theology was located in the Mission Santa Barbara buildings.

The Mission Santa Barbara is in need of constant repair. They have been awarded a grant from the Save America’s Treasures program. One large project that looms in their near future, is the repair of the sandstone walls and pillars of the portico, which runs along the front of the mission structure.

Other projects that need attention are the convent wing walls repair, structural reinforcement of the entrance to the crypt beneath the church floor, replacement of the church solstice window to a more historically accurate style, tuck pointing of the mortar in the Lavandaria brickwork, and the restoration of important artifacts and artwork.

To receive this grant, Mission Santa Barbara needs to raise a minimum of 650,000 dollars to match funds. The Mission Santa Barbara has met a variety of challenges in its past, and with everyone’s help, will meet the requirements.

It is good to know that not all Presidio soldiers were jerks. They came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds: “Indian tribes of Mexico, Sephardic Jews, and Africans as well as Spaniards.” Some intermarried with the Chumash, as did other early settlers. Today many people of Santa Barbara trace their heritage to these mixed marriages.



Sometimes people who are called to serve the Lord or to serve in a public area, want to continue to do so, even if they are in spirit form. Past Friars involved in ministry at Mission Santa Barbara haven’t been retired just yet, seeing the needs of the living congregation and its leadership, despite being in spirit form.

Two entities of perhaps Spanish guards or Indians apparently still are on duty. (See investigation below)

Spirits can be restless if their remains are not respected (being moved, desecrated, no markers)

Many Chamush Indian remains had been dissolved in the lye pit located where the rose garden is now planted. When the mission was built, the lye that had Indian remains dissolved in its substance, was used in the mortar to cement the bricks together while building the mission. There is still a wall that is standing that contains some of the original bricks.

People that were killed in a mass group because of murder, war, or disease, sometimes are restless and make themselves known to the people who are still in this world. Many Chumash Indians died of European diseases brought to them by the Spanish soldiers and perhaps the settlers. The Chumash had no immunity.

Many Chumash Indians and others died in the 1824 Chumash Indian uprising, caused by the Chumash Indians’ miserable mistreatment by the hands of the Spanish soldiers. After being so kindly treated with love and encouragement and fairness by the Friars, harsh treatment wasn’t going to work.

The ruins of the old jail

A female entity who was murdered in or near this building haunts the place of her demise, and is felt and seen as a cold, dark mist.

Feelings of dread are picked up by visitors near or in the ruins of the jail.

People who commit suicide often find that they have no relief from their distress and troubles on the other side.

An older man, Don Antonio fell in love with a lovely young woman. When she refused his proposal of marriage, he jumped to his death from the left tower.



Entity of a Franciscan Friar

When a woman was grieving in the church for her child who had died, he appeared as a solid person and comforted her, before disappearing in front of the altar.

People have felt a gentle touch, as they walk through the museum, that was formerly the Friars’ quarters.

An apparition of a Friar is seen in the bedroom.

In the statue room, people have felt a gentle touch of an entity’s hands; one on each shoulder.

Entities of other hooded Friars

People have seen them praying in the chapel, perhaps for the present members, leadership of the clergy and the mission of this church.

People have felt cold spots in the museum and church, where there is no natural reason for them.

Entity of Woman –

Not much has been reported about her.

Her figure has been seen walking slowly around the various pathways through the tombstones. Perhaps she is looking for the grave of a loved one or perhaps her own grave.

People have seen the shadows of presences traveling among the tombstones.

Entity of man who suicided – Don Antonio

Many have seen a dark apparition high in the left tower, usually spotted at early dawn or late at dusk.

Entities of Indians and pioneers

People walking around the gardens have felt overwhelmed by the number of unseen presences that surround them.

Entities of two spirit people,

perhaps Spanish or Indian guards help keep Mission Santa Barbara safe; guarding the Mission Santa Barbara from people who are not supposed to be there; like wily ghost hunters; ZEROparanormal, and others who come when it is closed for the day during the evening hours.


A big Yes Indeed! For a variety of reasons, entities can’t let go of this world; trying to work out their troubling emotions, or continue to do the service that they were highly dedicated to in their lives in this world. There may be two Spanish guards still on duty, guarding the Mission Santa Barbara from people who are not supposed to be there.

Throughout the years, many people have had personal experiences, seen entities and heard them as well.

On August 22nd, 2015, two paranormal investigators, Dave and Jon, from ZEROparanormal did a nighttime investigation of the ruins across the street from Santa Barbara; including the jail area and Indian burial place. In both areas, they caught some interesting male and female voices on their talking electronic voice devices.

On their walk down the arch walkway right next to the church building, two light anomalies were caught on film, and they received two stern warnings: “Go!” and “Leave!”,from two different voices on their electronic voice devices. A door suddenly moved and the sound of it latching shut was heard and caught on film.

Investigations by ghost hunter Richard Senate has caught hard evidence of the spirits here. He rates this mission as the most haunted of all the California missions.




2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara CA 93105
(805) 682-4713 x166

To make a visit to Old Mission Santa Barbara, take US-101 to Mission Street exit in Santa Barbara. On old Mission Street, turn: LEFT if southbound, or RIGHT if northbound. Follow Mission Street. for 0.9 miles. Turn left on Laguna Street.


  • Santa Barbara Mission Wikipedia page
  • Santa Barbara Mission home page
  • California Missions Resource Center — Santa Barbara Mission page
  • Santa Barbara Mission page at
  • Youtube video: Santa Barbara Mission ~ Paranormal Investigation 08/22/15
    — Uploaded August 22, 2015 by Call4Zero
  • YouTube Video: Ghosts of Mission Santa Barbara
    — Uploaded June 17, 2009 by HaintHunter

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in California