My EPIC Cemetery Visit (Part One)

I admit it, I am fascinated with cemeteries and the afterlife. I’ve had so many loved ones pass away that I guess I’m just in search of some kind of confirmation that there is something after, that we will reunite again.

A few months ago I had my first Mission tour. Being from Utah I didn’t really have an educated idea of what, where or why they exist.
I chose the Mission in San Juan Capistrano. Pretty much just because it’s the closest one to where I’m located. Two visits now and I’ve got a pretty bold idea of the history, as well as hundreds of breathtaking pictures.

During these visits and lots of cyberstalking of the area, my attention has been drawn to the paranormal activity reported. There are even haunted tours available. The Mission itself has an apparition of a headless monk and a young girl who has been identified by locals as Magdelina; a young woman who perished while in the Great Stone Church during the 1812 earthquake.



As I continued to investigate, I quickly learned of Los Rios. The Los Rios Historic District is a neighborhood in the city of San Juan Capistrano, California and, with buildings dating to 1794, is the oldest continually occupied neighborhood in the state. The nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano was the first of the 21 California Missions to have Indians, soldiers and workers live outside the mission grounds. Three adobes are remaining in the Los Rios neighborhood itself, although there are a number of others close by outside of it which were part of what was once a larger neighborhood.



I remembered a few of the articles mentioned another well known apparition that was referred to as the Lady in White. She makes several appearances in the area but particularly under an old pepper tree. The pepper tree in my photo I am assuming. We had lunch in a place called Starducci’s San Juan Capistrano’s historic train depot built in 1894. Beautiful scenery, lots of history and wonderful Italian food.


I’m getting to the good… well the juicy part of my story anyways, I promise. Of course I went home with all of this new knowledge and dug a little deeper for more stories, folklore and legends about this spectacular place that is right in my backyard. More information is exactly what I found. After all they say “If you dig for dirt, you’ll get dirty”. I found a few different articles about the old Mission Cemetery, not the one located outside the doors of the Serra Chapel. Apparently the one located at the Mission was filled to capacity during a smallpox epidemic in the early 1860s forcing the expansion to a new cemetery atop a hill about 3/4 of a mile to the east. (Strangely, however, there are earlier burials at this site, beginning with the 1847). It is a hodgepodge of unidentified graves with simple white wood crosses, hand-lettered grave markers made of every material imaginable, simple modern memorial plaques, and a few larger, more elaborate monuments. It is also locked to the public and apparently not easy to find. Obviously this has all of the ingredients I crave!

One random Friday I decided that I should combine this cemetery visit with a needed date night with my love. After all it’s October and the restaurant options around there are simply delicious. It didn’t take to much convincing and we were off. However I realized it was getting extremely close to sunset which means darkness will follow quickly. At least I would be able to snap a few pictures and the darkness would probably give a great spooky effect in my photos.

I knew the vicinity of the old cemetery but not the exact location. Our gps actually helped get us close. After being led to dead ends and closed up gates we were about to give up, I told him to pull through this parking lot of industry type buildings and see if we can see anything. I was still puzzled trying to figure out where it could be when Damien startled me with “This is it, look at all of those white crosses!” We parked and got out of the car. I was instantly met with an uneasy feeling. Damien hopped right over the fence, reluctantly I looked for an easier place to get over and followed. Here’s where my “Old Mission Cemetery” story starts:

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