“Have you ever received a warning or intimation of approaching good or ill while wrapt in dreamy slumber? Have you ever been the victim of baffling situations, mysterious penalties, grotesque associations, or weird inconsistencies, because all the while you were enchanted in the stable fetters of sleep?”
This is how, on Nov. 16, 1925, the Oakland Tribune launched the most surreal competition in its history: The Tribune-American Theater Dream Contest. Readers were asked to send in detailed descriptions of strange dreams they’d had, for the chance to win $25 and a movie role. “The winning dream,” the Tribune explained, “will be made with local backgrounds and with the dreamers themselves re-enacting their slumber visions.” The film would then be shown at the American Theatre—then located on San Pablo Avenue near the corner of 17th Street.
Within days, the newspaper was bombarded with entries from all over the Bay Area. “The chance to ‘see yourself in the movies’ has appealed to many aspirants who have long desired a screen test of themselves,” the Tribune reported, “and numerous replies have been received from kiddies ambitious to make their screen debut.” In addition to entries from Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley, one story proudly stated, the paper also received dream summaries from “Stege, Avon, Glen Ellen, Hayward, Niles, Pinole, Watsonville and San Jose.”