âSF Gate Reportsâ As the sun begins to descend behind the waves, watch the sharp ridges of the Santa Lucia Range, the mountains rising from the shores of Monterey and along the central California coast. If you’re lucky, you might see silhouettes looming against them. Some say the watchers are 10 feet tall, made taller or wider by hats or capes. They may turn around to look at you. But they always move away quickly and disappear.
For centuries, tales of the Dark Watchers have swirled in the misty mountains of Santa Lucia. Most of the stories begin with the local indigenous tribes, who are said to have spoken of the shadowy figures in their oral traditions. When the Spaniards arrived in the 1700s, they began to call the apparitions los Vigilantes Oscuros (literally “the dark watchers”). And when the Anglo-American settlers began to lay claim to the area, they too felt the sensation of being watched from the hills.
“The legend of the Dark Watchers has been around for decades, and they are mentioned in several books,” Big Sur Kate editor Kate Novoa told the Paso Robles Daily News. “Most Big Surians today have never heard of it. No real reliable sightings, which I have heard of. Hallucinogen ingestion is a theory for the sightings.
Accounts vary, although everyone agrees that the beings are more shadowy than human and more observant than aggressive, reports SF Gate. “They took on their strongest form in the first half of the 20th century when two legendary writers commemorated them.”
The poet Robinson Jeffers wrote about them in his 1937 collection of poems “Such advice you gave me and other poems.â The poem reads in part: âHe thought it might be one of the watchers, who are often seen in this length of coast, shapes that look human to human eyes, but are certainly not human. They come from behind the ridges to watch.
Author John Steinbeck wrote about them in his 1938 history “Flight“…” when you get to the high mountains, if you see any of the dark men watching, don’t approach them or try to talk to them.” Steinbeck grew up in the valley of Salinas and the Monterey area.
One theory is that at sunset it can cast the viewer’s shadow onto the misty hills, creating the effect of seeing a shadowy observer.
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