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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

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Ghosts of Orange County: 3. Los Rios Street

To celebrate Halloween, Rancho Ortega Blog is counting down the ten most haunted locations in Orange County.  If you missed any of our earlier installments, you can find them at the links below:

10. Katie Wheeler Library and the “Lady in Blue.”

9.  John Wayne and the Wild Goose Yacht

8. Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm

7. Fox Theater

6. El Adobe de Capistrano Restaurant

5. Yorba Cemetery and the Pink Lady

4. Plummer Auditorium and the Tunnel Ghosts

We visit California’s oldest inhabited residential street, in order to meet some otherworldly inhabitants in our third most haunted place of Orange County!

***

3.                Los Rios Street (San Juan Capistrano)

With residences dating back to 1794, Los Rios Street is the oldest continually occupied residential street in California.  Thirty one buildings in the Los Rios District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including three of the original adobe structures.  The Rios adobe has been continuously occupied by the Rios family since it was built in 1794.  Los Rios Street is unique in all of Southern California – a quaint, shaded, tree-lined paseo in historic old town San Juan Capistrano that has largely been immune to the ravages of time and the curse of progress.  As the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society says, the Los Rios Historic District is a glimpse into the past.  Is it any wonder that so many ghosts feel at home here?

The Montanez Adobe — one of the three original adobe structures on Los Rios Street dating from 1794

The most notorious ghost of Los Rios is that of a sinister woman with dark hair and piercing black eyes who is most often seen on a foggy night beneath the pepper tree just north of the Rios adobe.  She is always seen wearing a long white gown that billows in the misty darkness.  According to witnesses, she might stare at you, searing deep within your soul with the intensity of her eyes.  In other sightings, she has beckoned passers-by to follow her into the dark voids, yet no one has ever been able … or willing … to catch her.  No one knows her identity, although she is believed to be malicious.  There are rumors that she was a convicted killer or an accused witch.

The haunted pepper tree of Los Rios Street

Female ghosts dominate the lore of Los Rios.  Another woman in white has been seen kneeling as if in prayer, in the vicinity of Los Rios park.  Thinking she was troubled, witnesses have tried to approach her only to have her rise and disappear into the night.  A third female spirit, the Phantom of Del Obispo is said to be the spirit of Dona Bernardino – a woman who is believed to have dabbled in the occult during her life in early San Juan Capistrano.

Others have reported ghostly figures walking alone on the railroad tracks during a dark night, or the apparition of a weeping girl who perished in a deadly house fire generations ago.  One of the eeriest stories tells of hearing the disembodied sound of a ghostly flute – a flute used by the Acjachemen people, the original inhabitants of the area.

The homes of Los Rios are not immune to the area’s supernatural reputation.  One of the original adobes is the location of a mysterious orb of light that can occasionally be glimpsed through the windows.  Ghostly footsteps have been heard in some of the early homes and the ghost of Albert Pryor – the namesake of the Pryor House (now the O’Neill Museum) – has reportedly been seen rocking on the front porch of his former home.

The Pryor House (now the O’Neill Museum), where the ghost of Albert Pryor has been seen rocking on the front porch

Finally, the ghosts of Los Rios include two ghosts that have reached near legendary status as they have been told and retold in many different locations.

The first is the appearance of the devil dog – a ghostly black dog who is often seen crossing one’s path in the shadows ahead and is believed to foretell tragedy or doom.

The other is La Llorona – a traveling spirit known in Mexican folklore.  Generally speaking, La Llorona (the “crying woman”) is the ghost of distraught mother, eternally grieving for her lost children.  In her Los Rios incarnation, she paces the banks of Trabuco Creek, perhaps mourning a child who drowned in ancient floodwaters.

Historic Los Rios Street – home to some of California’s most notable families, and some of its most famous ghosts!

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