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The Ghosts of San Juan Capistrano-Haunted California

As part of our Halloween episodes, Haunting History Podcast is starting a series we will come back to occasionally based on Hauntings in  California.

This week is The Ghosts of San Juan Capistrano.

San Juan Capistrano, better known for its Mission and swallows that leave and return every year, is a town full of ghosts, legends and lore. The locals and residents not only speak freely of their neighbors beyond the veil,they cherish them. Join us as we travel back in time to when the legends began.


Drawing of their lady in white, that started my search for and about Modesta Avila, some people say the picture above doesn’t resemble the drawing, I disagree, the Modesta in the booking photo has to be terrified and looks like she had been crying. What do you think?

I got this photo from San Quentin, their files say she was discharged 3/3/1892. I still want to know what really happened to her, I refuse to believe she died in prison.

When I say I do research, I wasn’t kidding, you can’t even see all the paperwork, most of it regarding Modesta, maybe I should write a book on her!




Letter where her attorney says Modesta was pregnant

Prison Census Record

Asking for her releaseNewspaper Articles

Special thank you to the Marin County Libraries and San Quentin State Prison


None of the photos on this page belong to Haunting History Podcast. No copyright infringement intended and are only used as enhancements to the story told. 
At times when reporting facts regarding a true crime, (and photos) multiple sources  use the same wording. Every effort is made to avoid any copyright infringements and no single work  was intentionally plagiarized when reporting the facts of the crimes. 
Below is a  list of resources  used during the research and telling of this story. (partial) 
San Juan Capistrano
Modesta Avila
 Brennan, Paul (October 30, 2003). “The White Lady Was Brown 100 years ago, fighting the Southern Pacific could get you killed in OC”. Orange County Weekly. ^ 
Orange Coast Magazine. Emmis Communications. February 1989. pp. 87–8. ISSN 0279-0483.
 Ruiz, Vicki L.; Korrol, Virginia Sánchez (May 3, 2006). Latinas in the United States, set: A Historical Encyclopedia. Indiana University Press. pp. 70–. ISBN 0-253-11169-2.
Arellano, Gustavo (September 16, 2008). Orange County: A Personal History. Simon and Schuster. p. 175. ISBN 978-1-4391-2320-1.
Emmons, Steve (August 22, 1988). “‘In an act of pure frustration, Modesta chose a symbolic act to voice her displeasure.’ : Act of Defiance Stops Them In Their Tracks”. Los Angeles Times.  
Tryon, Don. “First Felon was Railroaded – story of Modesta Avila”. Sanjuancapistrano.net.
 Acuña, Rodolfo (1996). Anything But Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los Angeles. Verso. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-85984-031-3.
 Frank, L.; Hogeland, Kim (2007). First Families: A Photographic History of California Indians. Heyday. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-59714-013-3.
Haas, Lisbeth (1995). Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769–1936. University of California Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-520-20704-2.
Hallan-Gibson, Pamela; Tryon, Don; Tryon, Mary Ellen (2005). San Juan Capistrano. Arcadia Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-7385-3044-4.
 “Avila, Modesta” (PDF). Brooklyn College. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
 Chalquist, Craig (June 2008). Deep California: Images and Ironies of Cross and Sword on El Camino Real. Craig Chalquist, PhD. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-595-51462-5.
 Oboler, Suzanne (November 24, 2009). Behind Bars: Latino/as and Prison in the United States. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 265–6. ISBN 978-0-230-10147-0.
 Olguín, B. V. (2010). “Toward a Materialist History of Chicana/o Criminality: Modesta Avila as Paradigmatic Pinta”. La Pinta: Chicana/o Prisoner Literature, Culture, and Politics. University of Texas Press. pp. 37–64. ISBN 978-0-292-77885-6.
 Rasmussen, Cecilia (February 1, 2004). “Protester May Have Been Railroaded”. Los Angeles Times.
Gottlieb, Robert (October 12, 2007). Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City. MIT Press. p. 313. ISBN 978-0-262-26297-2.
and of course Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, Newspaperarchives, FamilySearch.org
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