USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’
Initiations
Legends

The Proctor House

Folklore Piece

“There’s this house in my hometown of Castro Valley, California called the Proctor House and it’s near Proctor Elementary School and it’s also near my house. It’s empty now, like no one lives in there, and it’s mostly populated by homeless people or drug addicts. But, basically like teenagers are dared to go in there and there’s this room that you go in and there are all these dolls lined up on the mantle. And the story goes that there was this couple that used to live there together and they um they’re foster parents, like they would bring in kids every so often, and one by one these foster kids would kinda just disappear from the foster system and no one knew why. And it was discovered that this couple had just kinda murdering their foster kids and they murdered like four kids. I heard this story when I was in the 7th grade from my friends when I went in the Proctor house. But I heard it throughout my teenage years. The dolls, like, had the spirits of the kids inside of them, or something.”

 

Background information

This story would mostly be performed by children around the playground or in social situations near his school and the house. As our informant mentioned, he learned this story first from his friends. He would later also tell me that all the parents knew about this story and wouldn’t let their kids go near the house. He said while this was probably because of the aforementioned homeless and drug addicted populations, many kids like the informant would interpret this as an affirmation of the mystic dangers of this house.

 

Personal Analysis

The dynamic between the children that recount this story and their parents are what I find to be most intriguing. The children believe the tall tale of the haunted house and the clichéd dolls-as-murdered-children horror story, most likely as its grandiose details are continuously reinforced in those kids’ social circles and media. The parents, however, know the house’s true nature, and that it is potentially very dangerous and filled with drug addicts and squatters. These harsh realities of life might be too much for a kid to hear, and so they simply say “Don’t go into the Proctor House.” Somewhat unintentionally, this furthers the legend of The Proctor House as being haunted. In my research, I couldn’t find any authored material on the Proctor House; this would suggest that this legend is relatively local and new. Perhaps the house became abandoned and overrun when the participant was young, spurring the rumors. When I asked the participant about the story’s origin, he said that he wasn’t sure.

Also interesting is the house’s role as a legend quest. When the kids are old enough to brave a trip into the Proctor House, it’s viewed as somewhat of a rite of passage, affirming their role as a “big kid”, or young adult. Ironically, though, it is their discovery of truth about the house, either firsthand or from their parents, and the loss of the childlike innocence about the house’s true state, that affirms their role as an adult.

Festival
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

May Festival

The source went to a private school in San Francisco, and every year the school has a May Celebration.

“Every year we’d have this huge festival, where each grade would sing a song. And um. Then we’d, the eight graders would do the May Pole, and all of the grades would do turkey in the straw, you know line dancing. And then at the very end, um, all- the whole school would line up, um, and each grade would line up shortest to tallest. And we’d all line up and make this huge line, and um, the tallest 8th grader would hold this, uh, dragon head, and behind it would be this sheet that would cover the entire rest of the school. Cause like each grade had 16 or 18 kids, so you know. It was K through 8. So the entire school would then do the dragon dance. The school was built in like 1918, and it was this woman’s house. But um, the house was in a fire, and so they had to leave the school. And then when the original school reopened, they did a parade, from the, from the temporary school to the renovated old building. And the dragon was like a part of the parade, so they do the dragon dance every year to commemorate it.”

 

This festival seems to take a lot from many different cultures. It reflects what a multi-cultural city San Francisco is. The fact that they’d have a may-pole, a European tradition in the same festival as a Dragon dance mirrors the East meets West aspects of the city. While the school was neither European or Chinese, they included aspects of both traditions.

 

 

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