A guide will lead brave souls to walk up to the ghosts haunting Elings Park’s Godric Grove in the dead of night.
Welcome to “Ghosts Along the Coast.”
Elings Park will present ghostly characters during the approximately 75-minute show, set for Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The Santa Barbara performances, which are designed for ages 9 and older, take place during guided walking tours that start every 30 minutes. A ghost hunter leads people to each ghost, who is there under the trees with various props and telling chilling stories — along with revelations about Santa Barbara’s history and Elings Park.
The ghost tours are scheduled to begin each day at 6:30, 7, 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Elings Park Foundation.
The show’s ghosts are a female bootlegger from Prohibition, a Depression-era hobo living near the railroad tracks, a survivor of an 1853 shipwreck, a Japanese “picture bride” from the 1920s, a longtime lady lighthouse keeper and a newspaper editor murdered in 1880. These are six characters who are either real figures from Santa Barbara’s history or inspired by local real figures.
“These theatrical portrayals are based on true events, but definitely are not ‘living history’ – they’re more like ‘deceased history,’” said Dean Noble, Elings Park executive director. “You’ll get a feeling for life in Santa Barbara in a different era as you listen to the stories, some scary, some humorous and all entertaining.”
The News-Press recently dared to explore Godric Grove (in broad daylight, to be on the safe side) and met with Kirk Martin, who is both the “Ghosts Along the Coast” director and one of the actors.
“It’s the kind of theater that has never occurred in Santa Barbara before,” Mr. Martin told the News-Press, looking a bit pale in his makeup as the ghost of The Bookman.
“The ghosts will tell you the story of their lives and how they met their untimely demise,” Mr. Martin said, noting the emphasis of the Halloween production is to tell stories, not to scare people.
“This is not a scary event,” Mr. Martin said. “This is an eerie event.”
Mr. Martin noted much of Santa Barbara’s history happened at or around Elings Park.
Mr. Martin, who has performed in the Santa Paula Theater Center’s outdoor ghosts walk, said he has always wanted to perform a ghost show in Santa Barbara. “Dean (Noble) and I partnered, and he has the perfect venue for it. And it’s an ideal opportunity to raise proceeds for the park. It’s a privately funded park, so we want to help out any way that we can.”
Mr. Martin described his character, The Bookman, as a proud man who loved books and built his own shack as one of “the hobos” living in Santa Barbara’s Jungleville, the site of what became the Santa Barbara Zoo. “He worked very hard on his shack. The one thing his shack needed was a good roof. Santa Barbara had some pretty heavy rains in the winter. So his whole fate depended on getting that roof.”
Joining Mr. Martin for the News-Press visit was actress Karen Dalton, who came in makeup and costume as the ghost of Julia Williams, a lighthouse keeper on the Mesa for 40 years.
Staying true to character, Ms. Dalton brought Julia to life for the News-Press.
“I came here with my husband and five children,” Ms. Dalton said as she portrayed Julia. “My husband decided he didn’t like it here, and he left us. There I was with five kids and the lighthouse, and the city of Santa Barbara knew I knew how to do it (operate the lighthouse), so they offered the job to me, and I took it.
“I got $750 a year,” Ms. Dalton said. “But my husband got $950.” She said she was paid less simply because she was a woman.
“But I was making my own decisions, and I had my own paycheck,” Ms. Dalton said.
Ms. Dalton declined to explain how Julia died. That’s the surprise twist waiting for people who dared to go on the ghost tour.
The other characters and actors include:
— Yuko (Deborah Cristobal): This “picture bride” arrived in Santa Barbara from Japan in the 1920s to marry a man she’d never met. She searches for him in the afterlife after a horrible fishing accident.
— Sally Stanford (Nicole Iaquinto): The spirit of this female bootlegger is still distressed about a big delivery of Prohibition hootch that was interrupted by the opening of duck hunting season.
— Theodore M. Glancy (Alfred Smith): The Santa Barbara Morning Press editor was gunned down in 1880 by a District Attorney nominee who was angry over a negative editorial. (The Santa Barbara Morning Press is a predecessor to the News-Press.)
— F. S. Crane (Patrick Turner): He made his fortune in the Gold Rush and survived the 1853 shipwreck of steamer Winfield Scott on Anacapa Island. His ghost just wants to find his lost gold.