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Happy haunting at historic schoolhouse

  • Leah Taylor and her husband, Rick Williams, have seen ghostly apparitions and experience creepy, unearthly noises while living in the circa 1880s Potter Schoolhouse in Bodega. (Photo illustration by JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

Leah Taylor is peering out the second story window of her Bodega home at a sight that would alarm most other homeowners — a young couple snapping pictures of her house, feigning horror.

Taylor is simply bemused. It's a scene that plays out virtually every day, sometimes multiple times a day, along Bodega Lane. Looky-loos have been poking around her property for some 47 years, ever since Taylor's parents bought the decrepit Potter School in Bodega back in 1966 for $10,500.

The eerie-looking two-story Italianate building, a classic “haunted house” with its arched windows and six-sided cupola, is recognizable to people all over the world. It was here that innocent children were attacked by a savage flock in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 thriller, “The Birds.”

Potter Schoolhouse


Even funnier to Taylor are the endless people who act out the scene when the terrified kids fled the school, shrieking and flapping their arms. (That scene was actually filmed in Bodega Bay.)

“Everybody comes and they take pictures of themselves running and screaming down the hill. Maybe they bring a bird. And they all think they are the only people that ever do that,” Taylor chuckles. “The German, the French, all these different people of different ages. Eighty-year-old grandmas and 8-year-old kids, all doing the same thing.”

Taylor says her parents, Tom and Mary Taylor, teachers by trade, never thought about “The Birds” when they bought the school, which had been closed for safety concerns and sold at auction in 1961. She was told it had first been bought by a lumberman who wanted to harvest its spectacular virgin heart redwood. But after Hitchcock turned the school into a cinematic landmark, the lumberman may have changed his mind.

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