Tag Archives: bay area

Memorate: My Grandpa’s UFO Sighting


Informant J is a 73 year old Mexican-American man and is the collector’s grandfather. He is from San Jose, California, but his family moved there from parts of Texas and Mexico. For the majority of his life, J was a manager at a regional grocery store, and studied art in college with a focus in jewelry making. J is now retired and his hobbies include guitar playing, metal working, and reworking vintage cars.


(Please excuse typos, this is an unaltered text message from the informant): “I was fifteen years old and had just finished watching Superman on my grandfather’s television (he had one of the only color television on the block so I would frequent his house regularly). I lived caddy corner from them across the street so it only took a minute to get home. Upon reaching my house I stopped at my father’s 1959 surf green four door Oldsmobile which was parked in our driveway. It had a huge trunk like most cars of that era and I layer back on the trunk as was a regular occurrence. I was laying back on the trunk looking up at the stars when I saw a  pattern of five or six lights moving across the sky moving at a very fast rate of speed in a tight pattern. I was extremely frightened when the pattern of lights stopped for a few seconds and then split in different directions. I could not sleep with the lights off for at least a week and i was very reluctant to lay on that trunk to look up at the sky after that experience.”


This was a story my grandpa had previously told me, and I asked him to write it out for this assignment. He claims that this was his own personal UFO sighting, and is the reason he believes in aliens now. It’s an interesting memorate, however, because he distinctly remembers watching Superman right before it happened. To me, that reads as inspiration for the story, something that may have convinced his brain that the stars moving in the sky were someone or something supernatural was moving, rather than a shooting star or a plane. My grandpa seemingly wanted to believe that whatever was in the sky was a UFO. It’s important to note, too, that this memorate made him reluctant to look up at the sky again for fear of seeing what he was convinced were aliens of some sort, and that he associated lying in the truck bed with that experience. I also wanted to mention that my grandpa specifically included details like the car’s make and color; it makes me think that those smaller bits of the story are what helps him to remember it.

Memorate: My Great-Grandparents’ Joaquin Murrieta Sighting


Informant J is a 73 year old Mexican-American man and is the collector’s grandfather. He is from San Jose, California, but his family moved there from parts of Texas and Mexico. For the majority of his life, J was a manager at a regional grocery store, and studied art in college with a focus in jewelry making. J is now retired and his hobbies include guitar playing, metal working, and reworking vintage cars.


(Please excuse typos, this is an unaltered text message from the informant): “My parents said they were just finishing up a picnic at Alumn Rock park on the East side of San Jose and were getting ready to head home when a man who looked like he had been dug up (his clothes was old and tattered and resembled clothes from the cowboy days. He came up to their car window and just stood there not saying a word but staring in a daze. They believe it was the ghost of Juan Murrieta who lived during the late 1900’s. He was famous for robbing people in that area of the park. My dad started the car and got the hell out of there! My parents were very scared and they were familiar with the legend of Juan Murrieta and never stopped talking about the incident!”

“Ps: The cowboy did have an old style revolver as well!”


I’d like to note that people often confuse Juan and Joaquin Murrieta, and that my grandpa was almost certainly referring to the latter. I did some research after being told this story, as I hadn’t heard of either figure until now. Juan was a pioneer, whereas Joaquin is a Mexican figure commonly known as the Robin Hood of the West. More specifically, stories about Murrieta rose in California during the Gold Rush. I find it interesting that my great-grandparents claim to have seen Joaquin Murrieta, because they associated something strange with something they already knew about (ghosts), and their knowledge of it is heavily influenced by culture. Even though my family was Mexican-Texan, they had heard enough about this specifically Mexican-Californian legend in the little time that they lived there that they assumed the figure was him. What’s more, this story hints at a combination of folkloric beliefs, as my great-grandparents claim to have seen a kind of undead version of Joaquin Murrieta, who is more of a legend than a popular ghost. There are debates over whether he existed, but stories of seeing him are rarer. But my great-grandparents seem to have believed in ghosts in general, so this memorate only furthered their personal view of the world.

Abandoned Buildings at the Alameda Naval Base

Background information: My brother is currently a sophomore in high school in Alameda, CA. Alameda used to be primarily a Navy Base before it was a city, and one side of the island still has many large buildings that had been used when the base section of the island was still in use. These buildings are mostly abandoned and old now.

Brother: One time, my friends and I found a building on the base we could get in to, you had to go through like, a hole in the fence and then crawl through all this dead grass…and then crawl through this little opening door thing to get inside the building. Inside, I saw this super long and dark hallway, and it just kept going and getting darker and darker, even thought it was a bright day in the middle of summer. I thought I could hear voices…or no, like just noises…at the end of the hallway. I got super scared when I saw it. I didn’t wanna keep going down the hallway.

Me: How scary. What did your friends do? Are they the ones who told you about this building?

Brother: Nah, we just found it one day. They were all scared too, like, no one wanted to keep going so we just left. I still go to the base though.

Growing up in Alameda, exploring the abandoned buildings at the base feels like somewhat of a rite of passage. While I don’t think I’ve been to the building my brother spoke about, I know that the buildings are all incredibly creepy and feel weirdly unsettling, whether you’re there in the day or night time. I think that part of this unease comes from the fact that the only people that really explore these buildings are teenagers living in Alameda, so no one really knows or has documented any official “hauntings” or legends about them. However, this practice has become a sort of social event for teenagers as well – it can feel like a way for friends to bond and do something exciting together, as it was for both me and my brother.

4/20 An Informal Holiday

This is the transcribed conversation I had with a friend from Marin County, a county extremely close to San Rafael. This friend also happens to observe this Holiday and I inquired into its origins.

E: How did this unconventional holiday come to be?

J: In the early 70’s at San Rafael high school a group of friends who called themselves “The Waldos” began this tradition. One day one of the teenage boys got word from his brother’s friend that someone had planted a massive field of marijuana plants. Fortunate for the Waldos the field was apparently abandoned, so they decided to try and harvest.

Everyday, at 4:20 p.m., after their sports practices had ended the boys would go search for the bud. Unfortunately they never found the treasured field but it eventually became a tradition that everyday at that same time they would congregate and partake in a group smoking session. Eventually the tradition caught on with other students. It became part of of everyday vernacular. Because the Grateful Dead originate from an area not too far from the origins of 4/20 apparently some of the Waldos were friends with members of the group. Eventually the group further popularized the tradition and terminology, thus this day came to be.

E: When and how did you first hear this story?

J: I was fairly late into middle school or early into high school when an older friend of mine told me about it.

E: There are a lot of other theories as to its origins why are you so certain it stems from the Bay Area?

J: To begin it’s actually a common misconception that Bob Marley’s birthday is 4/20, it’s actually in February. Also, yes it does happen to be Hitler’s birthday but that’s no cause for celebration. The Waldos have the earliest recorded evidence of the use of the phrase and ideas about the tradition.

E: What does this day mean to you?

J: Honestly it’s more than weed. It’s about getting to spend time with people that you enjoy, and if people that you don’t enjoy are present then you can bond over weed. There’s a whole culture that came from that one group of friends in high school, I think that’s pretty special.


I found the alleged origin story of this modern holiday that came to be really interesting. Humble roots to say the least. I think it’s also amazing to see the pride people from the Bay Area have for being the site of its creation. The hometown pride and the sense of camaraderie showed me that the day means a lot more to people than it seems.

The Cowboy Raver of the Bay Area

Background: I interviewed Professor Nye to talk about his raving experiences. He described his most active era to be from 1997-2001 in the underground trance music scene of the Bay Area. He attended many outdoor, open-air, camping events that are described as “underground” or not necessarily sanctioned in the same way that official music festivals, such as Coachella, or Outside Lands are.

Context: Professor Nye was at this point in the conversation reflecting on the colorful culture of raves, and the neon colors he associates with his memories of it.

“I’ll also introduce one figure from the mid to late 90s that I would be fascinated to know what happened to him. You’d see him at all these events. He was this amazing guy, I think he was – whether it was his regular job I don’t know- I think he was kind of a traveler who was a former cowboy or was a cowboy. And he would get dressed up and actually had, in the middle of these parties, a glow-stick lasso. And he’d be like lasso-ing with this glow in the dark lasso, or even multiple lassos, and that was pretty incredible. He was affiliated with this Bay Area trance scene that I was primarily involved in. Around ‘98, ‘99, 2000.”

Aside from the illustrious raver cowboy figure, there is an element of rave dance from the late 90s being shared here. The use of neon, glow in the dark lassos as part of the ritual of dancing in a crowd is an important aspect of the information being imparted here.