Oakland Tribune, The (CA)

October 21, 2001
Section: Local

Grisly Halloween at Pardee Home Museum

THE Pardee Home Museum hosts its second annual "Halloween at the Mansion" event from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Proceeds benefit ongoing programs at the museum and the event's cosponsor, the Oakland Heritage Alliance. Kids of all ages will enjoy the costume contest (judging is at 7 p.m.); activity stations including making face masks; ouija and crystal ball readings; a walk through the estate's graveyard where the "tombstones" may make you laugh; visits to the spooky water tower and views down the deep well; and self-guided flashlight tours through the darkened mansion, an 1868 Italianate villa that is reputedly haunted.

Participants can partake of seasonal refreshments in the dining room under the malevolent gaze of the mounted elk head, and have their photos snapped in the ghostly gallery. The particularly stout of heart can visit the "autopsy room," located in the cellar, where "Dr. George Pardee" has gone a little crazy and offers up squishy eyeballs and guts for guests to touch.

Ghost hunter Tim Dennehy promises to return this year with his digital video camera, hoping to spot more "spirit orbs" on the loose throughout the house.

Three generations of Pardees lived in the home, built in 1868 for Dr. Enoch Pardee who came to California during the Gold Rush. Pardee's granddaughters Madeline and Helen (both of whom never married) lived in the home until their deaths in the early 1980s. Terms of their wills provided for a private foundation to maintain the house and contents as a museum. Their mother (also named Helen) was a lifetime collector of objects, candlesticks, brica-a-brac, vases, textiles, dishes and teapots (to name some).

"We have cataloged approximately 65,000 objects," says museum registrar Vicki Wiese. "There are things from Asia, Africa, South America and the Pacific Northwest (the scrimshaw collection is particularly notable), as well as Europe and the U.S."

Currently on exhibit in the upstairs billiard room: Mrs. Pardee's "dead stuff," which include examples from her extensive natural history specimens. "We scoured the cupboards and have found skulls, bird legs and beaks, and even a whale's eyeball," said Wiese.

Helen and George (Enoch's son) were high school sweethearts, Library History Room files reveal, both graduating from Oakland High School in 1875. While George studied medicine abroad, Helen became a teacher and enjoyed another lifetime hobby -- photography.

"She was a member of the 'Merry Tramps,' a lively co-ed group who enjoyed hiking, camping and taking pictures along the Russian River and Yosemite," Wiese said.

After their marriage, Helen and George lived for a time in East Oakland on Ninth Avenue. They soon had four daughters, Florence, Caroline, Madeline and Helen. The family moved back to George's boyhood home on 11th Street, just west of downtown, after his father's death in 1897.

Like his father, George served as mayor of Oakland, then went on to become governor, serving one term, from 1903 to 1907.

Helen and George would lose two of their children in subsequent years, Florence dying in a car accident in 1910 at age 22, and Carol of influenza in 1920, when she was 28.

"Mrs. Pardee was active in many organizations through the years, including the Ebell and the Ladies Home Relief Societies," said Wiese. "Their home was often used for entertaining and receptions."

Helen died in 1947 at age 89, five years after her husband passed away.

Entry to the Halloween event will be through the 12th Street Carriage House entrance (between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Castro Street). Cost: an "unlucky" $7 for children and an "evil" $13 for adults. Reservations are strongly recommended. Call (510) 444-2187.

(c) 2001 The Oakland Tribune. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.