The Dark Watchers

Is this tall black figure one of the mysterious “Black Watchers”? Photo by Patricia Schallert

by Richard Senate

In passing though Ventura’s City Hall the other day, I paused to look at the decorative mural in the atrium. It was inspired by the sacred cave paintings of the Chumash People found in the Ventura County back country.

I saw that one of the images depicted was a tall black figure and that reminded me of stories I heard of the mysterious “Black Watchers” seen in San Luis Obispo County and Avila Beach. They are reported in the Big Sur area and along the Santa Lucia Mountains. They have been seen and reported for well over two hundred years.

The Spanish called them, “Los Vigilantes Oscuros” (The Dark Watchers) and they traced them back to the Chumash People.  They are described as tall, perhaps ten feet in height, wearing capes or robes, featureless forms, more silhouettes that figures. All black and motionless. They simply watch hikers and when approached, they vanish. Some believe they are negative spirit forms and can only bring bad luck. They have been seen for decades and even found their way into John Steinbeck’s short story “Flight” that appeared in his collection of short tales titled “The Long Valley.”

Steinbeck’s son Thomas Steinbeck told that he encountered one of them while hiking long ago. The images seem to only appear at dawn and dusk, when the sun is low in the high mountains, leading some to speculate that such sightings are similar to the Broeker Specter seen in the German  Alps.   A trick of the shadows or reflections in the mists?

Skeptics discount the recent sightings in the Big Sur of the Dark Watchers to drug induced hallucinogenic manifestations.    But such accounts remind me of stories of Shadow People, or the mysterious Hat Man seen by some. I recall one story of a hiker near Topa-topa in Ojai who saw such an apparition. I wonder if any others have seen this figure here in Ventura County?

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