Friday, October 26, 2018

1880s-1890s Halloween: All tricks and no treats

Trick-or-treating is a rich American tradition, but it wasn't until the 1930s that it began to catch on as replacement for the just plain tricks (no treats) that were part of Halloween in earlier generations. A few examples from Orange County follow:
1884 -- In one of the earliest references to Halloween celebrations in Orange County, the Anaheim Gazette announced, "HALLOWEEN DANCE at Placentia School House on the evening of October 31st. The proceeds are for the benefit of the school bell fund. All are invited... Tickets...(including lunch), $1.00."
1891 -- John Gould of Tustin, confined to his bedroom all night for having caused trouble the previous Halloween, slipped out the window, went downtown and climbed a tree to sneak into the bell tower of the Presbyterian Church. He rang the bells as long as he dared, waking most of Tustin, and then rushed back home and back in through the open window before the authorities arrived. His grandfather told the cops that John "was up in his room all night." 
1891 -- The Anaheim Gazette reported that "mysterious witches came to town at midnight and amused themselves by changing signs and carting off several of the wagons awaiting repairs at Schauman's blacksmith shop. The witches must have been muscular cusses." The wagons at Schauman's remained a target of youthful Halloween troublemakers for years, sometimes being disassembled and then reassembled on the roofs of other downtown buildings.

1892 -- Among the reports from Santa Ana in the Nov. 6 edition of the Los Angeles Times: "Several businessmen of this city are still being inconvenienced by the questionable pranks of a gang of boys on Halloween." Halloween pranks that take five or six days to clean up after sound pretty serious.

1895 -- Some of the boys in Garden Grove decided to "round up" all the wagons and buggies of farmers in the surrounding countryside and leave them all at the blacksmith shop in town. It was dangerous business, as some folks couldn't tell the difference between a prank and out-and-out theft. In fact, one of the Garden Grove boys -- Seventeen-year-old Oscar Ingram -- took a shotgun blast from farmer Ira Woodman, whose carriage he was stealing. At first it seemed Oscar might die. He pulled through, but doctors never could get all the lead shot out of his back.

1895 -- Anything in Santa Ana that wasn't nailed down was moved to an unexpected spot during the night, including a spring wagon placed atop an outhouse at the grammar school. At least one lad, Ray Jones, was injured during the shenanigans when he was hit in the head by a large piece of lumber he was "liberating."

1898 -- Santa Ana boys took the nuts off the axels on a wood and hay delivery wagon, rendering it dangerous and useless until it could be repaired. Some of the pranks were pretty costly.

1899 -- "Halloween was celebrated in Santa Ana in the usual way by mischievous lads, and as a result many gates and other loose paraphernalia about the door-yards were missing this morning," reported the L.A. Times. Gates were a common target on Halloween. Pranksters would neighbors' garden gates from their hinges and then hide them elsewhere. Some were never found.

Attempts to deter young people from such behavior by distracting them with alternatives began early. At first parties were held -- sometimes by families and sometimes by organizations. Events sometimes included bobbing for apples, games involving fortune telling,and dinner involving special foods like tamales and pumpkin pie. Later, larger events like the Anaheim Halloween parade (1923) were held as a fun and harmless way to enjoy the season. And finally, trick-or-treating offered beleaguered citizens a chance to bribe their way out of mayhem with candy and other treats.

Not that plenty of people don't still cause trouble on Halloween, but most of that involves adults with alcohol, not kids with costumes.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Buena Park's mystery monster

Watch for falling arches. (Photo by Gnashes30)
In one of my old April Fools Day posts, I told you about Santiago Sam, the world's shortest bigfoot, who lives among the scrub brush of the Santa Ana Mountains. Now, here's another local bigfoot tale, but I promise I won't make stuff up like I tend to on April 1. (Or at least, I'll only doctor the last photo a little.)

On the night of Monday, May 10, 1982, five people called the Buena Park Police Department to report seeing an eight-foot tall, stinky, hairy, man-like creature walking through a concrete storm drain tunnel on Brea Creek behind Executive Park Apartments (7601 Franklin St.) Witnesses included three teenagers: Bennie Hinsley (18) and brothers Raymond (16) and Chris Bennett, who noticed the creature around 9:30 p.m. and watched it for about an hour.

“We could see the monster's shadow in the drainage ditch," Bennie told a UPI reporter. "We heard the water splash and then we smelled something awful."

It all matched what they knew about bigfoot. The young men also heard the creature made terrifying noises, like a cross "between Godzilla and a gorilla," before it headed west and out of view.
The delightfully mid-century-esque Executive Park Apartments, as they appear today.
Frank and Lorraine Missanelli, managers of an adjacent apartment complex, said they’d heard but not seen the creature. "It roared and growled just like the dinosaurs in the movies,” said Frank.

Disappointingly, the monster didn’t show up for the "monster watch" attended by about a hundred people the following night. However, unexplained phenomenon investigators Dennis Ruminer and Tom Muzila of Special Forces Investigations claimed to have found giant footprints and handprints near the mouth of the tunnel by using a divining rod and that they had made a cast of the handprints.

They had less luck with the footprint. "We were looking around the mouth of the tunnel when someone shouted, "There's a track,'" recalled Ruminer. “There were a lot of people around, and as we went to look a kid stepped on the track. So we only saw the front part of the track. It was a humanoid foot with five big toe marks, about seven inches across the ball of the foot. Before we got a good clear look at it, another kid stepped on it and completely obliterated the track."
John DeHerrerra with his hobo photo.
The Buena Park Police Dept., annoyed with hundreds of calls from concerned monster-phobes, held a press conference and announced that they had investigated the area but found nothing out of the ordinary.

The police also introduced freelance photographer and "unexplained phenomenon" buff John DeHerrerra, who presented a photo of a "hobo" he'd taken while waiting for a chance to photograph the creature people had begun to call "Buenafoot." The hobo was only about 6'4", but DeHerrerra suggested that the hobo may actually have been the mysterious hairy hominid in question. The man in the photo was shirtless, covered in dark grease, and according to DeHerrerra, stank to high heavens. The public hubbub died down considerably when it was discovered that the cryptid creature was likely just a filthy bum.

Well, MOST were satisfied with the explanation. "A hobo doesn't walk in water, he walks along railroad tracks," said Frank Missanelli. "Plus, he smelled so bad that if he was on a freight train the engine would uncouple and go off by itself."

Already losing steam, the story still got enough attention that even Dan Rather covered it on the national CBS Evening News.

The story received one more small flash of attention in July 1982 when the County of Orange's County Roundup employee newsletter reported that the staff of what 's now Ralph B. Clark Regional Park "found a footprint measuring 15" in length by 6 1/2" in width, west of the office and cast it in plaster shortly after" the nearby "Buena Foot" sightings. 
1960s photo at Knott's Berry Farm may indicate presence of cryptids.
Six years later, on the other side of Buena Park, Knott's Berry Farm announced its new Bigfoot Rapids ride. It was themed to the sort of wooded habitats where bigfeet (bigfoots? bigfootses?) supposedly are most common. (Sadly, the original incarnation of the ride lacked any animatronic monsters leaping out of the woods at the passing ride vehicles.) Did Buenafoot provide any of the inspiration for this attraction? Will Buenafoot return to Buena Park any time soon? Does Buenafoot have as much trouble finding shoes in his size as I do in mine? Stay tuned.