Beware The Dark Watchers | Chilling Phantoms Of The California Mountains

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The Dark Watchers stand vigilant up along the Santa Lucida mountain range in California, US. Tall dark figures were spotted by hikers along the trail; almost remaining as a firm part of the environment, beings that seem to predate the first settlers in the area. Sightings are still coming in today. In conclusion, what are these strange and mysterious figures? Are they spirits, guardians, shadow people, or simply a trick of the mind?

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The Dark Watchers of the Santa Lucia Mountains

The Santa Lucia Mountains in California, are guarded by strange figures known as the Dark Watchers. The Watchers are tall, giant-sized, featureless dark silhouettes. Standing between 7-to-10 ft tall, with some cases reporting them at even greater heights. The Watchers are often adorning broad-brimmed black hats, long black cloaks, and holding either staff or walking sticks. They are most active in the hours around twilight and dawn. 

They stand and watch travelers along the trails, silently atop the horizon of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. Some reports simply have the Watchers standing vigilantly facing out towards the ocean. These mysterious figures stand motionlessly along the Mountain Range and never move or change positions. They do not have any notable facial features. However, this may be due to the legend. No one has seen one up close, and if one were to approach them they simply vanish on the spot; leaving no footprints or evidence that they had ever been there, to begin with. Ghost rules as well, as some reports have the Watchers simply disappear after a hiker or traveler looks away.


Early Accounts

The Watchers have sometimes been linked to the Chumash (chü-ˌmash, chew-mash) people; who have historically inhabited the central and southern coastal regions of California. Although nothing strongly concrete to the legend appears to exist within their mythology. 

Later, when the first Spanish settlers come to the area, they were said to have witnessed the Watchers. Naming them Los Vigilantes Oscuros. Which translates to, the Dark Watchers.

There are also some requirements for the Dark Watchers to make themselves known to hikers in the mountains. Those who are carrying guns or wearing waterproof clothing seem to scare off the Watchers, weird. They also seem to prefer hikers who are wearing “older fashioned garb,” according to paranormal investigator Jason Offutt; A journalism instructor at Northwest Missouri State University, and paranormal investigator. 


Looking for information on the Dark Watchers will ultimately result in the same vague story told over and over. Brian Dunning, of the podcast series Skeptoid, took note of this as well. Brian believes that the authors of these stories have been copying and slightly altering the same details across the years. Dunning points to three sources that the story might have originated from – a John Steinbeck short story titled “Flight,” a poem called “Such Counsels You Gave to Me,” written by Robinson Jeffers, and an assertion that the stories of the Dark Watchers originating with stories from the Chumash Native American tribe, as mentioned earlier.

People generally believe that the stories and legends of the Dark Watchers pre-date Steinbeck and Jeffers’ respective writings. But when it comes to the mention of Chumash origin, there doesn’t seem to be much validity to these claims. If you look into one of the most authoritative resources on Chumash beliefs, a book by Thomas Blackburn titled December’s Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives; which is a collection of Chumash legends and folktales. This does not mention the Dark Watchers or anything that bears a close resemblance.

Narrative Existence & Research

The more likely connection to the Chumash tribe, is they are vaguely a part of origin legends. This gives them an air of “legitimacy” that seems to be enough proof for some people. Similar to creepypastas today that vaguely give real names and locations. Along with believable enough photos to stir a sense of uneasiness or believability.

Thomas Steinbeck, son of John Steinbeck, later collaborated with artist Benjamin Brode on a book titled In Search of the Dark Watchers, chronicling the legend’s history and recording interviews with locals who claim to have encountered them. In their book, Steinbeck and Brode claim that the term originated from the Romans. The Watchers were like physical creatures, that took the form of guardian animals or other supernatural beings. Additionally comparing them to other mythical creatures like fairies or ghosts.

Ultimately, there is no real way to pinpoint the original origins surrounding the Dark Watchers; however, locals seem to have known about their legend and presence prior to 1937. This was before Robinson Jeffers’ poem was publicly obtainable.


Dark Watchers Explanations

There are many explanations to solve the mystery of the Dark Watchers. Conclusions as to why people are witnessing these looming figures out in the mountains.

One common theory is that they are illusions or hallucinations caused by feelings of exhaustion or isolation during hiking. Infrasound is also considered. You also have low-frequency sounds that have been suggested to cause feelings of fear in people who hear them. This is similar to haunted houses, as these low-frequency sounds can be given off by old machines and appliances. Finally, the Brocken specter, an optical illusion that can cast a magnified shadow on clouds or fog. This visual phenomenon is a possible natural explanation for the mysterious sightings.

A less natural explanation for the Dark Watchers links them to reports of shadow people due to their similar physical appearances, particularly the stories and sightings of the notorious “Hatman” legend; which itself, is often from sufferers of sleep paralysis. However, the Dark Watchers seem to predate when the Hatman legends began to sprout up. The Watchers are also extremely local, meaning that this comparison doesn’t really hold much ground.

Many witnesses and locals believe the Dark Watchers are spirits. Though the type of spirit they are is in high contention. Some say they are omens of bad luck. Others claim they are more benevolent spirits, as there are no reports or encounters that involved violence towards witnesses. Some even claim that the Dark Watchers are simply physical manifestations of the Grim Reaper itself.

When it comes down to it, there isn’t much to go on with the Dark Watchers. Asides from stories made by witnesses spread about across many years. Even if many are strikingly similar, or relatively vague; local believers and witnesses of the Dark Watchers, firmly support their existence.


Episode 2 – The Dark Watchers of California. Produced by Shane Cummings; Audio Editing & Research by Shane Cummings. Intro & Outro music “Creepy Regrets” by AnMo.


Dark Watcher of the Santa Lucia Range by Darcie Nadel
The Dark Watcher ( by Brian Dunning
Dark Watcher Of The Santa Lucia Mountains (Weird California)
Dark Watcher (Wikipedia)

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  1. California Dark Watchers

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