Tag Archives: bay area

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.

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.