Weird California
Weird California - By Joe Parzanese

El Campo Santo Cemetery

Map 2410 San Diego Avenue, San Diego, California 92110

El Campo Santo Cemetery (The Holy Field) Founed 1849 - State Historic Landmark #68
El Campo Santo Cemetery (The Holy Field) Founed 1849 - State Historic Landmark #68

This very old cemetery is located on the outskirts of Old Town in San Diego. Established in 1849, the cemetery is rumored to be the nexus for a surprising amount of spiritual activity ranging from cold spots and misty figures to floating torsos of spirits and vanishing spectral people.

Grave spots in the road
"Grave" spots in the road

The cemetery was bisected by a street car line in 1889 and parts were later paved over in 1942 becoming San Diego Avenue. Cars parked on the street would often have problems starting and their car alarms would often go off. In order to appease the spirits beneath the street, special marks have been placed in the pavement to show where the original graves were. If you visit look for them, they are little metal circles that simply state "GRAVE" on them.

A lot of spiritual activity is said to occur here. One possible spirit is Yankee Jim Robinson, a man who stole San Diego's only row boat, and was hung at the nearby Whaley House. Afterwards he was buried in this cemetery.

Yankee Jim's Grave
Yankee Jim's Grave
The grave of Antonio Garra
The grave of Antonio Garra

Antonio Garra, a Native American and chief of the Cupenos tribe, is also buried here. In 1851, Garra led an uprising of Native Americans against the people of San Diego. San Diego levied taxes against the Native Americans who not having the right to vote, found this practice of taxing unfair as they were denied representation. Garra was eventually captured, and found guilty of leading the uprising. He was made to stand before his freshly dug grave, and executed by a firing squad. On the day of the execution, January 17, 1852, while standing before his open grave, Garra was requested of Padre Juan Holbein to ask for pardon from the large crowd that had gathered to witness the execution. Eventually, Garra stated, "Gentlemen, I ask your pardon for all my offenses, and expect yours in return." Afterwards the firing squad shot him and his body fell backwards into his grave. Several visitors have had odd experiences standing in the position where Garra did all those years ago. As a side note, Thomas Whaley of the Whaley House was apparently a member of the firing squad.

Another ghost lurking outside the cemetery is that of a woman in a low cut dress, long skirt, and bandanna. She stands outside the gate of the cemetery, and it is believed that she was a prostitute who was refused burial inside the cemetery, forever wanting to be buried with everyone else.

Supposedly the local businesses and residents pooled their money and had the graveyard and surrounding area exorcised in 1996. It is reported that spiritual activity has declined since then.

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Last Edited: 2012-07-11