Driving around Scary Dairy
“Scary Dairy is what you do when you wanna pass the time as a teenager, but also don’t want to spend any money. It’s not really that scary or haunted, but younger kids like to believe it is so that they get a thrill from it.”
“What it is specifically is an old building on the CSUCI campus that used to be used to kill Mental hospital patients, so people drive past it or even sneak into it when they want to be frightened.”
SM is from Camarillo, California and has grown up in the area since he was born. He says he remembers Scary Dairy from driving past it and even going inside. He says he and his friends would make up ghost stories and talk nonsense when they were around it. He also says that he has done this with many other friends and that people that grew up in Camarillo always talk about it when they are in high school.
SM is an old high school friend of mine. I invited him to a Discord server and I watched him play The Witcher. He was open to talk about folklore of the area we grew up in during cutscenes he said he had already watched when he had played the entirety of the game before.
Ghosts are a very popular folkloric trope and it’s not surprising to hear about one in a suburban town like Camarillo. What I believe is that, like many other “haunted” places in suburban towns, it’s purpose less so is the straight fact that it is haunted, but instead the thrill that believing it is gives to young people. To go drive around Scary Dairy must have some sort of rites of passage meaning as well because SM specifically mentioned teens, but not younger kids like middle or elementary schoolers.
Main piece: In mental hospitals or treatment centers, patients will sometimes refer to their hospital or program as the “Loony Bin.”
Context: The informant (S) is originally from Marietta, Georgia, and their lineage traces back to Germany on both sides of their family. They are a high school student about to graduate and head out-of-state to college. They were raised Christian and consider themselves spiritual, but they do not align themselves with any organized religion. Our conversation took place over FaceTime while S cleaned their room and played Tame Impala in the background. The informant remembers this slang specifically because when they first walked into their room at the hospital, their new roommate exclaimed, “Welcome to the Loony Bin!” Funnily enough, S and their new friends ended up naming their group chat “The Loony Bin” after discharging from the hospital. While S sees the humor in the phrase, they’re wary of it, because “it reinforces this idea that mentally ill people are crazy – or ‘loony’ – when in fact we’re just normal people trying to get our brains to work correctly.”
Personal thoughts: The informant’s point about the phrase “Loony Bin” brings up complex questions of whether a harmful word or phrase can ever truly be “reclaimed.” If someone who has never experienced mental health difficulties referred to a mental hospital as a “Loony Bin,” many patients of mental hospitals might feel ridiculed or offended. However, when a patient themself uses the term (like with S’s example), the connotation is different – that person is most likely saying “Loony Bin” in a fond or humorous or exasperated way, as the phrase itself sounds silly. It brings lightness and childishness to a dark, serious situation, which can often be a relief for many patients. Additionally, the casual, humorous phrasing of “Loony Bin” somewhat de-stigmatizes mental health treatment, as “mental hospital” sounds taboo to many. Even if S is right about the phrase reinforcing that patients are “crazy,” there can be strength in normalizing looniness. What is so bad about it? Wouldn’t a “loony” person feel life more intensely and freely despite the circumstances they’re in? These are all important things to consider when asking whether the reclaiming of a phrase would be more beneficial than harmful.
My friends and I were hunting for haunted houses and after googling haunted places in los angeles, we decided to go check out the abandoned Hollydale Mental Hospital in Downey, CA.
We drove around the hospital campus for a bit, and then decided we should probably leave considering all of the buildings were fenced in and we really didn’t know what we were doing. Then we pulled in to a nearby parking lot and saw a group of people get out of their car who looked about our age, in their early twenties. We asked them if they were there to check out the hospital and they said yes, so we asked if we could join. They were very welcoming (the four guys were drunk, and the one girl was clearly their sober driver) and explained that they were there to “initiate” Cherry because it was his first time visiting this haunted place. According to them, it was tradition to run up to the main house, “where they kept the craziest of the crazies”, and touch the front door for your first time visiting Hollydale. We decided this was exciting and tagged along. The girl, Cindy, began to explain how they were from the area and that they heard stories about Hollydale all the time from other kids in school. She also told us the story she knows of why it was abandoned:
Back in the 70’s, there was an outbreak of Tuberculosis at the hospital, and their way of dealing with it was to get all of those who had not yet been infected out and then left the rest of the people there to die. That is why the whole compound looks as if everyone just up and left, because they did. They just closed up shop like it was the end of another business day.
Cindy told us that they had been inside one of the buildings before and they took a whole box of papers from beside a desk and it had a lot of old, interesting papers and files inside.
She also said that about a year ago, the town planned on tearing the place down because it was costing them money to have policemen constantly patrolling and whatnot, but a group of animal rights activists wouldn’t allow them too because the site has become a breeding ground for stray cats.