Normal is an Illusion
When I was in the middle of fifth grade, my parents bought a newer house, in a what was then called a modern planned community, and took me away from all the friends I’d ever known since first grade, at Dr. Peter Marshall Elementary School, in Anaheim, CA. They then moved our family to the smallest incorporated city in Orange County, known as La Palma, and if you blink you’ll most likely miss it. Eventually, I forgave my parents and began to acclimate to my new environment.
Before it was called La Palma, it was known as Dairyland, where dairy farmers owned livestock (mainly cows) that provided their milk and meat for sale. Walter Knott, founder of Knott’s Berry Farm, was a close neighbor of these farmers, because Knott’s Farm was next door in Buena Park. So, you can imagine what the area was like before the cookie cutter homes sprang up, which are now ubiquitous in the area.
(What Valley View and Walker looked like the early 1900's)
When I moved to LaPalma, there were still fields that remained, remnants of the farm days and prior times, situated between the cookie cutter homes that were built, waiting for developers to buy. These fields reminded us that the area was once a portion of a rural area in Southern California - part of the rancho establishments in the 1800’s. Along with the fields, older homes still remained when I moved there, like an old Victorian home that faced Walker Street, near Houston Ave. To me, it was the kind of home that would have been perfect to use in a horror movie or television show, and I had a vivid imagination of what kind of stories that house could tell about its history.
(The McWilliams Home circa 1900)
The last Halloween I went trick-or-treating with friends, we approached the house, which stood away and apart from all the other modern homes, for our share of candy. There was a huge tree out front that seemed to encompass the dark house, and the walk way was dimly lit, with only a glow of what seemed like candle light coming from the front window.
“Trick or Treat, “ we screamed!
Eventually, the door opened. A middle-aged woman, with dark hair in a bun, dressed in prairie clothing of the 1800’s - gray high neckline, long sleeve blouse, and black long skirt, emerged from the door with a black bowl cradled in her arms. Her eyes were fixated on us with a gaunt sinister look, and without saying a word, dropped what she had to offer into our trick-or-treat bags.
(The McWilliams in front of their home on Walker, near Houston Ave., circa 1910)
Years later, I discovered that this was a home owned by the George McWilliams family of Texas, who moved to Dairytown and had the home built in the late 1890’s. The McWilliams once owned a sorghum mill on the property, which did very well.
Additionally, a lake bed formed around the house due to artesian wells that were teeming in the town. The area was also known for Coyote Creek, where fishing and hunting was a way of life.
(The two buildings shown here is now the site of the B of A building. To the right of these buildings is now the site of a home where I was raised.)
I moved out of the LaPalma as a young adult and later learned the house was sold to developers who demolished it and built other homes on the land. This saddened me, of course, because it felt like part of my past was eradicated. My first thought was, 'Is nothing sacred anymore?' I asked people who lived in the area before me, and longer than I had, if they knew of the family that lived there around 1978. No one knew. I began to wonder if this woman was real or if it was an authentic All Hallow’s Eve occurrence, because as they say, Halloween is the time of year when the veil between this world and the spiritual world is thinned and inhabitants of both worlds mingle. Our collective unconscious is sensitive to energies at this time because some say the magic of the universe is at its highest peak.
(Hunters at Coyote Creek)
During this magical of times, we take time to honor our Self and all our relationships which bring us comfort and joy, in addition to remembering our ancestors, recalling our past, giving gratitude to God and the angels, and celebrating the bounty with which we have been blessed. Do you have an interesting Halloween memory to share? We’d like to hear about it. Have a blessed All Hallow’s Eve everyone.
(The Joseph Moody Family in 1887)
Credits: Some of the data for this story is from Ron and Elfriede MacIver's Book: La Palma. Photos from the book are from collected archives, such as: Orange County Archives, Luther Elementary School, LaVerne Moody Family, and Old Courthouse of Santa Ana, CA.