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The Californian Dark Watchers: The Native Legend

How the dark watchers appear
How the dark watchers appear

If you’re ever near the Santa Lucia Mountains by twilight, take a closer look at the clifftops. Chances are, you would see nearly ten-foot-tall figures, silently considering you. However, don’t rush to take out your camera. Within moments after appearing, they would disappear.

They are not a new phenomenon either. For hundreds of years, these beings have been spotted by the Spanish settlers and people near California. Though they would not harass or interfere with human activities, people have been wondering who these giant beings are. Many legends say that they’re the ghosts of settlers, while others speculate that they have a more scientific explanation.

The Spanish called them Los Vigilantes Oscuros, which can be translated as The Dark Watchers. The watchers are usually seen wearing brimmed hats like a witch and holding a long, slender cane. Though the watchers are not known to have harmed anyone, there are accounts that state that people who get too close to the watchers can sometimes get snatched away.

Who are the Dark Watchers?

Though the tales of the dark watchers are usually connected to the native American tribe of the Chumash, these people don’t have any connection with the legends or the beings. The dark watchers were either completely ignored by them, or they’re a recent phenomenon.

However, the Spanish settlers of the 1700s have a completely different story to tell. With tall hats that resemble the ones worn by witches and a slender walking stick in hand, these dark entities can easily tower over men. They are considered to be at least 10 feet tall, and their cloaks successfully hide their appearances.

The legends and the folklore warn the men from approaching these spectral figures, who are known to carefully study human movement with much interest. It is best not to associate with the beings in any way or even approach them. If you do, legends say that these beings would disappear and would pull you with them into their dimension.

A representation of the dark watchers

A representation of the dark watchers

Thankfully, verbal accounts are not the only remaining records of these mute beings. John Steinbeck, a 20th Century author, had witnessed the watchers himself and went on to document their existence in his short story, Flight. Like other Californian writers from that era, Steinbeck had grown up listening to stories about the Dark Watchers. As a child, he recounts the tales his mother told him, where she would offer food at places these beings would frequent, but when she would later return, there would be flowers in its place.

Other writers, like the Californian poet Robinson Jeffers, wrote about the Dark Watchers in a much more supernatural and eerie light. According to Jeffers, the Watchers would look human to the human eyes at a quick glance, but this is merely a facade; the beings are not remotely human.

He also noted that the watcher would arrive from behind the ridges and the rocks near the cliff and would watch the travelers with great interest. According to the poet, they appeared out of the twilight and would disappear into the shadows not long after.

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Is the Watchers a Natural Phenomenon?

Though there is little to no physical evidence to come to a conclusion, there have indeed been pictures of the supposed Dark Watchers. These photographs have been closely studied; first, to see if they are indeed genuine and not doctored in any way. Second, to see what actually causes this phenomenon and if it can be rationally explained with the available scientific knowledge.

The researchers have come up with some theories, too. A major theory that is widely accepted is that these figures are nothing more than a good example of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon where the human brain would try to make sense of a visual image that has very little information available on it.

This theory does have some basis for around the time the Dark Watchers arrive, the mountains are covered with mist. This would lead to reduced vision, and the human brain could be filling the blanks and connecting dots to make the figures make some sense.

A Dark watcher on the cliff

A Dark watcher on the cliff

This is not a new phenomenon either. This has been observed in the German locals of the Harz Mountains. These people have also seen phantoms lurking on mountaintops and have named them “the Brocken specter.”

Named after the mountains, the Brocken Specter is suspected to be the shadow of the view that has been magnified into the clouds by refraction. And the existing mist would make the shadow seem like a vague figure in the clouds, much larger than a human being, before it evaporates.

Perhaps this could be the rational explanation for this phenomenon. Or perhaps, the researcher would venture into the mountains and discover a new portal to another dimension that opens up every other misty evening.

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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian is a blogger who loves to talk about TV shows, Movies and Historical Trivia to anyone willing to listen. He is also a Senior Graphic Designer and the Editor-In-Chief of Morbid Curiosity.

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