Seaport Village is a popular location for shopping and dining along San Diego‘s beautiful waterfront by both tourists and locals. Winding cobblestone paths connect shops together and foster areas for street performers or buskers. Whether your in the mood to shop, eat, get your fortune told, ride a 100 year old carousel, or even fly a kite, Seaport village offers a little bit of something for everyone including paranormalists.
What many people never fathom is that underneath the general area known as Seaport Village, likely lies San Diego’s oldest graveyard. Dead Man’s Point or Punta de los Muertos was the final resting place for a portion of the 1769 Spanish expedition to San Diego. The expedition was comprised of two ships, the San Antonio and San Carlos. According to ship logs scurvy, assisted by rancid food and brackish water, took over a majority of the crew aboard the San Carlos. Author James Nebergall wrote in his report of La Punta de los Muertos in 1939, “Yes the ship sailed into the harbor. It was indeed the San Carlos. But it might have been a ghost ship for all the activity on board, though they did fire a salute in answer to the San Antonio’s booming guns. No boat was put out. Not a foot trod the deck. She was silent as a tomb.” San Carlos, Sailing-Master of the First Class, Commander Vincente Vila wrote in his log, “1769 From Wednesday, 3, to Thursday, May 4 — At half-past one in the afternoon, the San Antonio weighed, and at three o’clock, anchored. At five o’clock in the afternoon, several soldiers with Fray Fernando Parron, Don Pedro Fages, and Don Jorge Estorace went off in the launch to bury the dead seamen ashore. At sunset, they returned aboard. At eleven o’clock in the morning, the San Antonio weighed anchor, and as she passed alongside, her captain shouted that she was going to tie up as near the watering-place as possible, as we had agreed. At twelve o’clock, she anchored a full gunshot from the beach. The sick showed no improvement.
Historians and scholars have debated the actual location and naming of Dead Man’s Point or Punta de los Muertos, made evident by two conflicting memorial plaques at two opposite intersections. The 1958 plaque claims the deaths occurred in 1782 among a party of Spanish surveyors led by Juan Pantoja de Arriaga, who was sent to chart San Diego Bay and other ports in Spanish California. The 1958 Plaque is viewed by some historians such as Harry Crosby as probably inaccurate. Crosby stated in a 2004 Union Tribune article that, he finds nothing in Pantoja’s log or any other written accounts that point to any deaths in his crew. If there were, he said, they would have been buried at a cemetery established by then on Presidio Hill. “In all likelihood, Pantoja had arrived in San Diego to find the point already named by the resident Hispanics in memory of the many seafarers who had died and been buried there in 1769, only 13 years earlier.”
On the 21st of July 1905, another tragedy would befall upon Dead Man’s Point. As the Gunboat USS Bennington was preparing to leave San Diego, California, she suffered a violent boiler explosion. More than sixty of her officers and men lost their lives in this tragedy, which left the ship beached and partially sunk. With so many dead and seriously injured, a triage was created at the foot of Market St (now Seaport village). Burned Sailors had to be cared for at the improvised facility largely staffed by volunteers. All Local morticians were summoned to ready the dead for quick burials.
Nothing, ever remains, as it was, 245 years have passed since the burials of the Spanish explorers at La Punta de los Muertos. Very few San Diego residents or visitors, are even remotely aware of the tragedy’s that once gave name and meaning to the area of Seaport Village. Perhaps the greatest dishonor remains in a 1958 plaque with likely inaccurate information, and so void of meaning and it was actually moved to accomodate a commercial concrete wall-billboard of eateries including Presto, Seasons 52, and The cheesecake Factory. The commercial value of a land parcel should not devalue the greater worth of human loss.
Luckily, the dead may rise again so to speak, as a new generation of history minded paranormalists are willing to seek out such viabal locations for paranormal research and exploration. The paranormal flood gate has already been breached for many of San Diego’s early cemeteries including, Presidio Hill, Pioneer Park, and El Campo Santo Cemetery. If by happenstance your at Seaport village and come upon a person(s) holding an unusual led meter, listening to a weird sounding radio, or asking one sided questions to a handheld digital recorder, try to give them some space to work.
ROGER M. SHOWLEY PUBLICATION: San Diego Union-Tribune, The (CA)SECTION: SPECIAL: PASSPORT DATE: May 16, 2004 EDITION: 1,2,3 Page: 19