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Image: Beyond the Rockies by Charles Augustus Stoddard, 1894

The Haunted Rock at Santa Barbara


In the course of doing research for MESApedia, I discovered a fictional tale from the 1800s that was set on the Mesa! The story was written by a local newspaper woman and published in The Overland Monthly magazine in 1873. The "lofty and rugged group of rocks" mentioned in the tale refers to the Castle Rock outcropping which was located near the base of the harbor breakwater. The "ancient ruin" in the story was inspired by a small Spanish fort located where Santa Barbara City College is today.


Here's the beginning, you can read the complete story at: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b4073287&view=1up&seq=427&q1=%22santa%20barbara%22


The Haunted Rock at Santa Barbara

By V. Forward Russell


"Immediately on the western limit of the town of Santa Barbara, a high, green tableland, or Mesa, rises from the ocean beach and extends for several miles up the coast. At one point at its foot, near the town, rises a lofty and rugged group of rocks, projecting huge masses into the ocean. Seabirds flit and call about their summits. At their base, the waves surge a perpetual harmony that rolls in heavy cadence, and, like a chorus of receding music, fades slowly away. The sea breeze blows over them, cool and invigorating, and beyond them, in infinite grandeur, stretches the boundless sea.

"The point of the tableland projecting seaward, and below which is piled the group of rocks, is the site of an ancient ruin; but after the rainy season, the land is covered with tall weeds, and visitor passes the spot many times without suspecting that the solitude of the place has ever been broken save by the steps of some wandering traveler like himself, or the call of the seabird, or the chirp of the rabbits and squirrels that now dart through the long grasses and burrow in the foundation of the ancient walls.


"I Meet an Old Man and Hear a Tale

"During one of my rambles many years ago, I was surprised at the appearance here of a very old man. He stood silent and motionless, and his gaze was fixed on what I now, for the first time, observed to be a circular rise of land, evidently the remains of a former wall or tower. He was dressed in the Spanish garb — tight breeches fastened with buttons of silver from the ankle to the loins, a scarf crossed over the bosom, and a black silk kerchief bound about the forehead. His hair fell in long white locks upon his shoulders, his form was tall but bent and, except that his eye was bright, I knew him to be very old. I advanced toward him, but he did not move. I accosted him, but he was silent, and I saw that his face wore an expression of deep and absorbing grief."

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