Urban legends (not to be confused with Urban Legend Cellars, the Oakland winemaker, though they enter into this, too) are stories or information that spread, sometimes rapidly, but are usually false. Contemporary myths, if you will. The snopes.com website is devoted to debunking them.
Here are some urban legends from Oakland, some are mundane, some are downright weird. And a few are true.
- there's an abandoned Nike missile site in the hills near Merritt College - FALSE. There is a large, somewhat odd concrete structure in the hills. But it was part of a bucket system used at one of the nearby quarries. There were Nike missile sites around the Bay Area, including one near Lake Chabot in Castro Valley.
- the port cranes were the inspiration for the Star Wars AT-ATs - FALSE. Despite the popularity of this idea, with even a t-shirt based on it, George Lucas has politely but firmly said this is false. Urban Legend Cellars plays with this idea, both by the use of the port cranes in their logo, and by breaking myths about how wine is made.
Not quite to the status of urban legend, there are also some well-known but wrong "facts":
- Waterhouse Road is named because of the water company that was there. FALSE. Waterhouse Street was named for a soldier who served in WWI.
- Lincoln Avenue was named for President Lincoln. FALSE. Lincoln Avenue was named for Lincoln Rhoda, son of early fruit grower Frederick Rhoda.
- the Telegraph Avenue Windmill was part of Idora Park (or was part of a miniature golf course). FALSE. Although the windmill is not far from where Idora Park was, it was never part of the park. It was built as a lemonade stand.
Along with the urban legends, there are a number of strange-but-true events in Oakland's history:
- pedestrian killed by flying fire hydrant - TRUE. In 2007, an SUV struck a fire hydrant on 98th Avenue. The force of the impact plus the water pressure made the hydrant fly through the air, where it struck and killed Humberto Hernandez. Flying fire hydrant kills man Oakland Tribune June 23, 2007
- a Navy jet crashed in Montclair - TRUE. A Navy jet on a training flight out of the Alameda Naval Air Station crashed in Montclair in 1956, The pilot was killed, at least one person on the ground was injured, and multiple homes were damaged.