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Ten Thousand Mad Ghosts

Dreamed 1996/9/28 by Chris Wayan

My family's camped in a ruin on a bare hillside, with woods around us. It's an ecological island on the San Francisco Peninsula mudflats, near the Bayshore Freeway and Bay Meadows Racetrack.

My dad seems different, tougher, an outdoorsman and artist, maybe a potter or sculptor. He lived here years ago, and sealed up the building when he left. We plan to reclaim it, restore it. The others camp in the still-livable main house, but I look around for a place of my own. One shed draws me, but at first it seems to have no door. Built of rough panels. At last I find one is sealed shut on one side with a leather strap. "Wow," I think "Just like that dream I had of the gate I have to unstick." It's stapled down. I tear at it. The rusted metal gives way and the strap comes loose. I open the shed. Old dusty stuff. But I sense power! The place is bigger than I thought. Roof's only half intact, so I tear the rest down for lumber. I plan to build my own shelter on this site. It has stone foundations, in fact stone walls up to waist-high. And it's huge, encloses at least 1000 square meters, maybe much more. The whole foot of the hill in fact! It's the darkest part of the hill, overshadowed by the trees. But with all those stones I could build a Robinson Jeffers tower above the trees. Though the darkness, now that I look, is not just tree-shadows. Something happened here. Something bad.

Maybe I should build elsewhere.

But the city plans to build next to it, even if I don't. I explore the whole side, not just my corner of the hill. Big. There are traces of a spiral border, like a galaxy--or a worn-down swastika. Hmm. The border itself doesn't feel evil, but one section radiates old pain, fear, and rage.

I go to the library and dig up its history. In World War Two and after, up till the mid fifties, it was a "relocation" camp, for... funny, I'm not sure if it was for Japanese or others. Some group was brought here... to die! The government said they were being shipped elsewhere, but really they starved sickened and died--if not, if they were the stubborn sort who survive, they were discreetly killed. The old shower trick?

I propose to the city development commission that they move the planned complex 100 yards or so to avoid the core of the site, but even that may not be enough. Angry ghosts!

I tell the woman from the city development board "It's an American concentration camp."

She says "It can't be that bad. It was just an internment site, they moved them out..."

"They lied. 100,000 people were murdered here! And at least a tenth of them were so traumatized or outraged, they didn't move on to other lives. They're still here, STUCK here, as ghosts. TEN THOUSAND MAD GHOSTS. I planned to live here, that was our agreement, a free apartment in exchange for my design consultancy, but frankly I'm not sure I want to now, the site is that toxic. You're going to need a SQUAD of shamans to handle THIS. Even a whole team of us may not be enough to clean up the mess."

She just repeats "No. You must be mistaken. That couldn't happen here."

"Lady, it's a death camp. An American death camp. Do I have to call in reporters and historians and have a media circus, just to make you face facts?"

Old rusty barbed wire--or is that dried blood?


Chinese-Americans here in San Francisco are demanding that the history books in City schools at least mention that the Japanese massacred up to 30 million Chinese during their occupation--a far worse Holocaust than the Nazis. No reparations, no apology! Not even acknowledged. Forgotten.

But we have, as it happens, our own concentration camps to cover up.

First: Bay Meadows Racetrack really was used in World War Two to hold Japanese-Americans before sending them off to internment camps in the desert.

But the site in my dream more closely resembled Agnews State Mental Hospital, later notorious as California's worst facility--little more than a lobotomy-factory and death camp--on the mudflats some miles to the south of Bay Meadows. The dream dates the death-camp to the 1940s or 50s, the heyday for prisoner abuse at Agnews. I saw it, too. When I was a baby, one of my uncles was locked up there. My parents took me along to visit him, and I saw inside Agnews. My childhood picture of hell.


My parents admit that my crazy uncle lived with us when I was very young! I'd wondered for decades why I had recurring nightmares of being strapped down and tortured, dreams of sinister psychiatrists and nightmare asylums and death camps... they were memories of Agnews State. I knew my uncle had been there, but not that I'd had much contact with him. But it turns out he lived with us, maybe just for weeks, maybe months, maybe a year--my parents are still maddeningly vague, they don't want to remember. But however long it was, during that time, my uncle apparently told me all about shock treatments, and convinced me that I better conform or my dad would commit me too.

Within days, I'm able to confirm this--my sister Althea recalls that when we were small, I told her what it's like to undergo electroshock. The whole procedure. In detail.

Anyway, during the month or two before (not after, before) my folks admitted the truth, I had a whole string of dreams like this. Dreams making no sense at all... till after the truth came out.

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