When traveling out of Santa Barbara, you might come across nice viewpoints and landmarks, including Summerland. Just off the freeway south of Montecito, you could easily miss this small beach town if you aren’t paying enough attention. Although it lives up to its name, being located in a sunny area, the origins of the name hold a different meaning, along with the spooky history of the town.
The land was originally purchased by a man named Henry Lafayette Williams in 1885 who, at first, planned to use it to raise pigs. His plans changed when the Southern Pacific Railroad was announced to be built across the area, giving him an idea to use the land to create a town for spiritualists, being a spiritualist himself. His idea brought him to address a letter out to other believers promising, “undoubted and immense resources of the Ortega Rancho” and “the promulgation of the truths of spiritualism.” A temple was built in the town, which would become a place for séances to be held when people began to move in. Lots of land were sold for $25 per 60×25 feet for people to move and settle into as homes, or for the spiritualist travelers who passed through.
Spiritualism is a religion that was created under the idea of communicating with the dead through varied manners of practiced séances. The religion began to gain popularity and attention from the 1840s to the 1920s and is still practiced during the present day. Spiritualism, unlike most other religions, did not build itself upon canonical texts, but instead continued by person to person events such as meetings and tours with other spiritualists.
“Sometimes when I’m taking walks I feel as though there’s a presence nearby yet there’s no one and I get chills,” shared Clara Franklin, a San Marcos student and Summerland resident. “The town has always been a little spooky to be in.”
“I’ve just heard really weird noises at night sometimes when I was a freshman,” said Summerland resident, Errol Sullivan. He would further describe it as, “Like it sounded like trumpets or something around 1 am but it wasn’t a foghorn or a train.”
One of few places that can still be pointed out easily as a place for the spirits that still wander is The Big Yellow House. The building can be found right in front of the freeway on-ramp with its yellow walls and the missing letters on it’s sign. Throughout the years, most “ghost stories” in Summerland are told to have taken place in and around the Big Yellow House. Séances were often held within the place early on in the town’s history, which is speculated to be the reason behind the amount of spooky experiences there. The place used to be a restaurant as well as a hotel, but has now been permanently closed down.
While Santa Barbara has various different locations for ghost hunting, Summerland as a town should be added to your list of places to visit if you find yourself on the lookout for the paranormal. With it’s interesting history and sightings, it is a fun place to walk around and investigate. If you do not have the time to wander, it is still a fitting location to drive through if you just want a nice view in the meantime.