BAKERSFIELD, California – High school kids do a lot of stupid things, especially the boys. It was a rite of passage for the new members of the Bakersfield High School football team, the Drillers, to ride a pumpjack to display their fearlessness. This act consisted of climbing over whatever fences were around the pumpjack, climbing up the ladder on the Samson post to the walking beam and then slide out to the horsehead and ride it like it was a bucking bronco.
Elwood P. Pfister was a cheerful, easy going sophomore. At 5 ft. 5 in. tall and weighing only 120 lbs he had no chance of making the team as a player so he became one of the equipment managers. This made him feel like he was part of the team and took great pride in doing his job and attending the games. When it came time for the new players to ride a pumpjack he asked to participate in the ceremony, thinking it would lead to greater acceptance by the players. To his great relief he was included.
Late that Halloween night, a group set out for a nearby oil field that was easy to sneak into. Unknown to the players, the timers on the pumpjacks had been reset that day. The intent was for Elwood to climb up an inactive pumpjack, but just as he reached the horsehead, the electric motor started and being totally unprepared he was tossed high in the air. He landed headfirst on the concrete pad and died instantly from a broken neck. Needless to say, that ended the tradition permanently. Anyone who attempted it in the future would be kicked off the team, expelled from school and charged with criminal trespass.
The well immediately went dry and the pumpjack was moved to the stadium and set up as a memorial to Elwood and to serve as a warning to other students. Whenever the Drillers play a home game around Halloween, at halftime from seemingly nowhere will come a bloodcurdling scream that reverberates throughout the stadium. People have tried to locate the source of the scream but to no avail. Those who remember Elwood say it sounds a lot like him.