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  • Susan Stoderl

A Sophia & Pedro Short-Short Story | Crocker's Nob Hill Ghost Gets Its Retribution

Crocker's mansion and the fence he built around a neighbors house
Forty-Foot Spite Fence Built by Charles Crocker

Sophia and Pedro take a tour of San Francisco's Nob Hill and Grace Cathedral with their pink-haired author friend. While they are touring the Cathedral, someone hands them a flier about the monthly Nada yoga sound bath.

Hey, this sound bath thing looks terrific. I’ve been thinking about taking yoga more seriously. When I listen to singing bowls on YouTube, they knock Zelda out within ten minutes. No more mischievous surprise attacks. Besides, my chakras need major cleaning after hearing about that Crocker guy.”

“That Nob Hill ‘spite fence’ saga was something else. Crocker convinces twelve owners to sell their property, but the final owner refuses to sell. Crocker wants the entire block for his 25,000-square-foot mansion, but the little undertaker guy, Mr. Yung, refuses the mighty Crocker’s offers.” Pedro whipped out his guidebook to look at the picture again. “He was so vindictive that he looked at that monstrosity for years! I can’t imagine what his rich neighbors said behind his back.”

Sophia harrumphed. “Crocker’s ‘Great Spite Fence of Nob Hill’ probably contributed to Yung dying before his time. Having your beautiful dream home and garden robbed of ocean breezes and light by a three-sided, forty-foot buttressed wall would do it. That was seriously bad for Crocker’s karma.”

“Gee Sophia, you’re sounding awfully Californian now.”

“You know, ‘when in Rome….’ Besides, I like to try on different personae. Tonight I’ll be getting my inner peace yogi nirvana on.”

“If you say so,” said Pedro. “You know what’s ironic? Crocker’s spite and Yung’s holdout got them exactly nothing. Even after Yung moved, he would not take down the fence. Mother Nature’s strong Bay winds threatened to take it down, so Crocker reduced its height to twenty-five feet.”

“When Mrs. Yung died, the four daughters sold the property to the Crocker descendants. The ‘spite eyesore’ was torn down in 1905. Then Mother Nature struck again—the 1906 earthquake and great fire.” Sophia took in a big breath and sighed, showing Pedro the picture in her book. “Look at this. As you said, nobody won anything.”

“The Crocker family wanted nothing more to do with the property and donated the entire block to the Episcopal Diocese of California. Probably trying to atone for all the problems their family had caused.”

“And here we are in this beautiful building built on that land.” A new thought occurred to Sophia, which caused her to snicker. “I think just retribution is being delivered to the ghost of Crocker Sr. He was vehemently against charitable giving. And I’m pretty sure the church’s mission of social justice, protecting the earth, and anti-gun violence is probably giving his ghost apoplexy.”

“Not to mention the sound bath!” said Pedro.


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