Thursday, March 24, 2011

Walnut Girl Ghost and Train Depot, Armonas, CA

There is an odd ghost that is said to haunt the walnut orchards of California's San Joaquin Valley, and she seems to have a connection with an equally odd haunted building.

First, the ghost. As the story goes, at some point during the 19th century, a group of young girls were swimming in a waterhole outside of town. A group of young boys showed up, and teased the girls, threatening to enter the water (remember, this was the 19th century, meaning both that people were likely to be swimming nude). All but one of the girls took off running, and hid in the nearby walnut orchard until the boys went away. The last girl decided to hide underwater. However, something went wrong, and she ended up drowning.

Since then, strange events said to be assoiccated with the girl have been reported. The drowned girl is said to appear to other girls of about the same age, always reported to be naked, and always near either the walnut orchards or places that store walnuts (thus the name Walnut Girl), as if she's trying to make up for her mistake of not running to the orchards. Boys of that age are said to never report seeing her, but will attribute instances of bad luck to her, as if she is trying to get even with the boys who precipitated her death.

This brings us to the haunted building, an old Railroad Depot near Armona, where walnuts from the harvest would be loaded onto trains and taken to markets throughout California and the United States. The depot, now abandoned, is said to be the home of many strange phenomenae: lights would appear at night, compasses will not read accurately (and may simply spin), and photographs routinely show strange bright spots on the building that were not visible when the picture was taken.

And, naturally, sightings of the walnut girl are said to be especially common near this building. One person, placing her story on numerous internet sites, claims to have seen the walnut girl at the depot, and on telling her mother of this, was told that her mother had also seen the walnut girl at the depot.

Commentary: There are two points about this story that I find interesting. The first is the way inw hich something generated at one point in history can take on a very different meaning at another point in history. In the story of the young girls skinny dipping, and being menaced by a group of young boys, it's hard not to read much of our early 21st century sexual politics into the situation, including the very real problems of both sexual assault and the sexualization of children. However, if this story dates to the late 19th or early 20th centuries, which is possible (I haven't been able to find out with any certainty), then it is likely that the story of the boys teasing and threatening the girls would have come off as more of an "innocent prank." Whether this reflects the unwillingness of earlier people to face very real problems or reflects modern paranoia, or a combination of the two, I leave to you, the readers, to argue.

The other point that I find interesting here is that there seems to be one "definitive" acount of the Walnut Girl ghost and the haunted depot, and it is, word-for-word identical on every web site that I have found, indicating that the author posted it everywhere that she could find. Those few web pages where it's not quoted at least refer to it. This raises the question: how much of the story is actual local folklore, and how much of it is the result of someone posting the story to every paranormal-themed web page she could find? I hope to head down there in the near future to see if I can find any evidence of this story being part of the local folklore, but in the meantime, it's an interesting question.

Sources: Weird Fresno, OBI-WAN's UFO-Free Paranormal Page, and the exact same story appears verbatim at numerous other places on the web, including Strange, Spooky, and Weird

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