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Haunted Santa Barbara

Winners of The Independent’s Ghost Stories Competition


Thursday, October 25, 2012

We asked you, fair readers, for your creepy, hair-raising, unbelievable ghost stories for our Halloween issue. We received many submissions, and it was tough to choose a winner. So, we selected two. Read on to find out what some of the mischievous ghouls of Santa Barbara are up to. (For all the eerie stories, go to independent.com/ghoststories.)

Ghost of Kitchens Past

It was many a dark and not stormy nights … When we moved from South Lake Tahoe to Santa Barbara in 1978, we moved into this home in which a retired couple had offered full-time care for very elderly people. There had been two twin beds set up in the family room next to the kitchen when we viewed the home. We didn’t ask, but we suspected an elder or more had died here.

It was the hardest time of my life, moving into our home; overflowing boxes scattered everywhere waiting for me to sort and put away. I also had a very active 2-year-old, and a newborn baby to care for. My husband took no time off, but went straight to work in construction so we could afford our mortgage payments.

During the night, when I was up, awake, and sitting in the first bedroom, nursing and rocking my newborn baby back to sleep, I heard noises coming from the kitchen — cupboards slamming, intensifying, lasting about 15-20 minutes, maybe more. This carried on for several months, as if a regular ritual, but only when I was up, awake, nursing my baby at various hours throughout the night. Exhausted, I had little energy left, and I remember sitting there listening to these active kitchen cupboards banging, while at the same time telling myself over and over again that there is no ghost who wants to harm a mom and her baby.

Nightly, the noise repeated; kitchen cupboards slamming shut, one after another, then pause, then slamming one after another, again and again. It was dark in the hallway, and with tired eyes, I remember looking toward the bedroom doorway and imagining (or not) an apparition, female sized, cloudy white, watching me, watching us … there, and then gone. I did not allow myself to feel threatened, and I refused to become alarmed, working to stay calm, relaxed. This is my house now, we are staying — you’re not. Sure enough, after about three months of kitchen cupboards slamming through the night, it all came to an abrupt end.

I am absolutely sure it was not my imagination. The mind, my mind, did not invent or invite slamming kitchen cupboards in the night. And that’s the truth. —Gail Elbek

Samarkand Spirits

I have always been a rational person, but this made me question that. I had moved into a house in the Samarkand area and was really happy to be living in such a great space. It wasn’t long, though, before I started getting eerie sensations on my evening dog walks within the uniform stillness prevalent to the area. I couldn’t put my finger on it; but at times it felt like something was trailing me through the undulating solitudes of the Samarkand. Occasionally I would perceive dark figural gloom in far-off corners under the dipping trees that seal the neighborhood.

This culminated one night, as I was reading in bed, when I heard sounds that made no sense to my mind. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! was coming from my roof! It took me a second to realize that what I was hearing was someone running circles on my roof. My walls trembling, I propelled out of bed with heart in hand. This was no simple rodent or raccoon; of that I was certain. I flew out my front door and quickly looked up to see who was causing such a fright … nothing. There was nothing up there. I was deeply shaken. This happened three times with no physical finding.

Soon after the first incident, I became friends with a neighbor named Chumana, a Santa Barbara native. I expressed my concerns; she grinned, and then informed me that what I experienced were ghostly spirits running from roof to roof trying to take flight, quite common for this area.

I’m still not sure what I believe it was, but that dreadful description sure fit that horrible sound. I now can’t help but look up at the trees and wonder if ghastly spirits observe my evening strolls through the half shuteye of the Samarkand twilight. —Xavier Loza

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