Urban myth or Chico truth?

Quiz yourself on local folklore

Home of the Titans?

Home of the Titans?

photo by Sara Sipes

Which of these stories, repeated though the streets of Chico, are true? Put on your b.s. detector and see if you can separate truth from fiction in local urban legends.

1. Chico is home to Cold War-era missile silos.

2. One of the Kennedys trysted with Marilyn Monroe at Richardson Springs.

3. There’s a VW Bug buried in Alumni Glen at Chico State.

4. A huge tree called the Hooker Oak had to be felled after it was struck by lightning.

5. Warner Street is named after the Warner Bros. movie studio.

6. There’s a day in Paradise each month when unlicensed senior citizens can drive.

7. Starbucks coffee is piped in from Seattle.

8. Hershey was going to build a huge chocolate factory in Chico, but the city ran it off.

9. The Safeway on Nord is the most expensive Safeway in the country.

10. Chico State’s president lives in the President’s Mansion on campus.


1. True. The silos, intended for Titan missiles, were built near the Chico airport during the early 1960s and were dismantled and abandoned in 1965. Trespassers curious about the silos, including rumors that they are haunted or somehow satanic, have met with injuries. According to SiloMan (www.rosewell-online.com), the Chico silos are “probably one of the best in terms of equipment and salvaged materials just laying about, including exterior buildings.”

2. False—we think. While Hollywood stars like Errol Flynn frequented the Chico-area resort in the 1920s and ‘30s, Camelot came after Richardson Springs’ heyday. Even so, pointed out Chico State Political Science Professor Michele Shover, it would never be a likely destination for such a pairing, be it Marilyn and Jack or Marilyn and Bobby. “They would more likely go to Palm Springs than Richardson Springs.”

3. False. This tale is repeated on some campus tours, but with the caveat that it doesn’t seem likely. The idea was that the class of 1969 put the Bug there, and planting a 1969 Bug—besides being hard to fit underground near the creek—would be a pretty costly prank.

4. True and false. There was indeed such a tree, the majestic oak named for an English botanist, and it had to be cut down after it was struck by lightning in the mid-1970s. But at the time it was discovered to be two trees growing together.

5. True. After the movie The Adventures of Robin Hood was filmed in 1937, the city renamed the north part of Ivy Street in the Warners’ honor.

6. False. This has been a prevalent rumor on the Ridge, with the added warning that it’s safest to stay off the streets on that day—supposedly the day the Social Security checks come out. This makes no sense, because (A) if you don’t have a license, you don’t have a license—it doesn’t matter what day it is, and (B) they can mail those checks to your house or even deposit them directly in the bank. (We tried to call the DMV to sign off on the denial, but the idea that you can get an actual person to answer the phone there is apparently another urban legend.)

7. False. Just think of the logistics. This one surfaced here when Chico first got a Starbucks.

8. False. The story was circulating in the economic development community that the chocolate giant wanted to set up shop here and an unwelcoming city government ran them out of town. The story goes, City Manager Tom Lando said, that the Hershey people got fed up and went to Oakdale instead.

9. False. The thinking behind this rumor is that because the store is in a college neighborhood, they can bump up the prices. But a chain supermarket’s prices seldom vary in one town or region. This is even easier to track with the Club Card—everything on sale is the same.

10. False. The mansion was in such disrepair when Manuel Esteban came on board that he refused to live in it. Instead, he was given a housing allowance and bought his own pad. Last we heard, the mansion is used as a reception center for visiting dignitaries.