Friday, February 19, 2010

The Child Ghost of Ripon, California

When I lived in Ripon, I had a neighbor who lived in a haunted house. We would be out in the yard and see a shape that looked like a child, but without features, run into the space between the houses. When we would go to take a look, there was nobody and nothing there. Sometimes we'd hear kids playing when there was nobody around.

One night, my neighbor opened up a closet that had been closed ever since she bought the house. Inside of the closet, she found a box. Inside of the box was a small dress, like one that a very young girl would wear. As soon as she saw the dress, she was frightened, but didn't know how to react. When her husband came home from work, they talked about it and about the child-like figure that they had seen around the house, and both became more and more frightened as the evening went on.

Finally, they decided to burn the dress. They started a fire, and threw the dress in. As soon as the dress hit the flames, they heard a baby crying, and the crying continued until the dress was completely gone.

Commentary: This is another of the stories that I grew up with. One of the women in my neighborhood would tell this story, or some variation on it (it was always changing) to us kids. She loved to spin ghost stories for us, mostly because she seemed to like to entertain children, but also partially because ghost stories seemed to reinforce her particular religious view of the world.

As a kid, I bought this story, and asked for it many times. However, as I got older, the inconsistencies started to bug me, and I saw the stories of the neighbor for what they were: fun entertainments told by a genuinely warm and caring person who simply wanted to provide the children with fun in a safe environment, but not factual accounts.

I still love her stories. She told me the most memorable version of the Ouija Board Urban Legend that I have ever heard. And I have very fond memories of her as a neighbor and community member. So, in the end, her stories have done her credit, and I think that she would be happy to know that.

I was unsure how to classify this story. It clearly is a campfire story - a story told to entertain with a scare - based on the fact that the details were constantly changing and she didn't seem to much care how coherent the story was most of the time. It is centered around both a house and an object, so should it be considered a haunted house or a haunted object story?

To the haunted house story, I say no. It was always linked to some generic house, with no identifying details given, and the house seemed to be more a setting than an integral part of the story. A haunted object? Well, yes. The dress is certainly important to the story, and is clealry supposed to be the focus of the haunting.

Sources: Personal Account


  1. Hi!

    I live in Ripon, California and I do have a similar story and live in a sub-division that used to be of course what else, an orchard. My neighbor myself and her sister live within a triangle and ALL have activity with children. They almost all wear Pilgrim era clothing. Where did you live and do you know of any history of the town? My email address is and ANY answers would be greatly appreciated so we can maybe settle our nerves if anything :)

    Thanks so much!

  2. I used to live in Salida, so not too far to the south, and I also grew up in a house in an area that used to be an orchard.

    I can tell you a bit about the local history. The area is within the traditional territory of the Yokuts, though if you don't live near a permanent water source the odds of your home being near a Yokuts site is relatively low. Like most of California's Central Valley, Ripon wasn't really settled by Europeans until after the Gold Rush - there were likely a few settlers who made it a home as early as the 1830s, but there wasn't any substantial settlement until after 1850.

    So, if you're seeing 16th century clothes, they're horribly out of place.

  3. My auntie house sat for her brother in Ripon, and reported tons of activity in his house from the blinds moving, finger tapping on the counter, fists pounding on the kitchen counter, toys dropping and turning on behind her as she made her way up to the bedrooms, and the oven alarm going off in the middle of the night just as soon as everything had quieted down. She didn't see anything, however.

  4. I wonder if what you are seeing is German Baptist clothing??? Many German Baptists setteled in this area and still live here to this day. I can see how the clothing can look very pilgrimish.

    1. Heh...yeah, that's a good point.

    2. I live on jack tone road in ripon do you know of any haunted activity behind the quick stop at the apartments?

  5. I love a couple of blocks behind the apartments you are talking about. I have a little girl in my house, I have seen her many times. At first I thought it was one of my children out of bed as she would run down the hallway or peek at me from around the hall corner. I have had my wedding ring go missing for months at a time, only to show up sitting on top of a box under my bed. I hear footsteps walking towards me, but there is no one there. I have been poked in the lower back, and hugged around the waiste.