Author Archive
Folk Beliefs
general
Legends

The Haunting of Bakersfield High

The Haunting of Bakersfield

Personal Background:

Ashley is a 19 year old student at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Bakersfield and went to Bakersfield High School. She had a family that had a lot of American culture, as well as Japanese culture since her mother is Japanese. She is able to bring bits of each into her every day.

Local Legend:

Ashley says there have been rumors for as long as she can remember about her old high school being haunted. It is a very old school, built before the city even had a name. She has heard multiple stories from others that there were strange things happening around campus, specifically in the auditorium. Before the high school was a high school, it was a college, and before that it was a hospital, and it has been haunted ever since. Many of the students there are bodies buried underneath the school. Or that certain people who died in the hospital now haunt the school. There are also a lot of different rooms through the school that have not been opened for years. There are  underground tunnels that have not been used since the hospital was there, so people has their suspicions of what could be down there.

With the auditorium being the place with the most haunted things, people try not to go there very often alone. It has been heard that there have been strange noises and doors shutting without other people being there. This was due to an apparent death during a play of Peter Pan. One of the wires broke, killing the person who was attached to it. This person is known to be the one who is haunting the auditorium.

There is also a rumor of a couple who broke up and committed suicide on campus. They are also haunting different areas of the school at night. Ashley says that this is way to keep all the “stupid people” off campus at night. All of these stories come from people Ashley know and trust, and this is why she believes the what she has heard.

To Ashley, these stories are a fun way for people to spread rumors in school. It is a way to bring the community together, and a way to scare the young kids from going to the high school at night. It is a way to keep a story going through the high school, even after the people she know and who know her have gone off to college.

Analysis:

To me, these stories are way to keep the past and present connected. It is a way to connect the students and give them a common legend to follow. They can talk about it with the students from the past, as well as the current students. It can be a way of initiation to the newer students coming into the school. They may need to know the stories in order to be part of the theater groups or other groups that spend a lot of time within the auditorium. This is a type of urban legend that has the town keeping up with the things that are happening in the high school. It has a lot to do with the belief of the people in town, and nobody has been able to disprove any of it. The rumors that are very specific are what make it a legend. They have to do with historical events that may or may not have actually happened. It has created a belief within the school that seems to connect the student body.

Adulthood
Childhood
Customs
Gestures
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

An Armenian Greeting

An Armenian Greeting

Personal Background:

Arthur is a freshman at the University of Southern California studying applied math. He has grown up in Los Angeles with major Armenian influences. He is fluent in the language, and he speaks it at home with both parents. With a decent Armenian population in Los Angeles, he is able to practice some of his traditions more frequently.

Traditional Greeting:

One very specific rule one must follow in Armenian culture is to respect elders. One way of doing this is the traditional greeting Armenians do. They shake hands, as well as kiss each other on both cheeks. Kids must start doing this when they turn about 14. When they do not, it means whoever is the younger party is, is disrespecting their elder.

The greeting is also a way to show closeness with someone. When it comes to the people who are closer in age, they do not actually kiss each other on the cheek. It is as if they “fake-it.” They only touch cheeks and kiss the air. Arthur says he will only greet Armenians this way, and not people of other ethnicities. He also says he does not need to greet his younger cousins this way, unless they are close in age. It is something that has made him feel close to his roots. He loves being able to use his traditions that are not ones he uses every day.

Analysis:

This greeting is a ritual. It shows respect when it is done, as well as it is something that meant to be special. It is something only Armenians do with other Armenians. It is something that comes with age, and it is not meant to be taken lightly.

To me, this is a way to connect as a culture. Armenians have this greeting nobody else has. Other countries do have other greetings, but they do not have the same ones. It is a way to feel one is part of a heritage.

Childhood
Humor
Riddle

Time to Investigate

Time to Investigate

Personal Background:

Tiara is sophomore at California State University, Long Beach and she is studying accounting. She has grown up with Japanese and German influences since she has a mother from Japan, and a father who grew up in a German household. Even with her diverse family, she loves being part of American culture.

Joke:

Tiara loves telling jokes that have a pun involved. She works with children, so a lot of the jokes she hears are from kids.

Tiara: What do you call an alligator in a vest?

Me: What?

Tiara: An investigator!

She loves being able to tell this joke. She had heard it from one of the kids she works with, and she decided to tell the joke to a group of her friends when they went to a reptile museum. She thought the timing was right since there was an alligator in the museum. All of her friends gave her really good feedback from the joke. When asked about the connection with the joke, she said she really liked the little girl she heard it from, but the day Tiara used it herself was a day her friend was able to conquer her fear of snakes and hold one. She feels really happy when she thinks about it because it reminds her of a day she was able to make her friends feel good.

Analysis:

This joke is part of folklore because of the way it uses its words. Jokes are a way to use the power of words and how they can affect the punchline. Jokes usually involve using words that sound similar to get something different for an outcome.

To me, this joke is bringing childhood into adult world. We are still able to laugh at jokes from younger kids. They are always coming up with new ones, and they are always going to be changing.

Humor
Riddle

Deer Crossing

Deer Crossing

Personal Background:

My sister, Katie, is a senior in high school in Huntington Beach, California. She has been very involved with cross country and track and field in her school. She will be graduating this year, 2014, and will be studying art when she gets to college.

Joke:

There is one joke Katie uses whenever people ask for jokes.

Katie: What do you call a deer with no eyes?

Me: What?

Katie: No eye deer!

What makes this joke so important to my sister is that she heard it from my brother a few years ago, and she thought it was hilarious. She is not sure where he heard it, but it may have been on TV for from a little kid. What made it great was the fact that three of us would try to make each other laugh by saying the punch line in a new and funny ways. The more someone sounded like they were from the south, the better it was. The goal was to see who could be the funniest. They now use it as an inside joke or say it during awkward situations.

Analysis:

Jokes are a great way to spread folklore. They are all about speech, and how speech can be changed in order to get a different answer than what was originally thought. They are very similar to riddles in that sense.

To me, this joke is a way to keep the family connected. It keeps my brother, sister, and me close, even when we are all living in different places.

 

Childhood
Initiations
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Girl Scout Memories

Girl Scout Memories

Personal Background:

My sister is a senior in high school in Huntington Beach, California. She has been very involved with cross country and track and field in her school. She will be graduating this year, 2014, and will be studying art when she gets to college.

Folk Song:

When Katie was in girl scouts in elementary school, there were songs all the girls sang when all the meetings were finished.

“Make new friends but keep the old/ One is silver and the other gold/ A circle is round, it has no end/ That’s how long I want to be your friend.”

This is sometimes repeated a few times, depending on who is leading the group. While the girls sing this song, they are holding hands. One of the girls starts a trend of squeezing one of the hands from a girl next to her. It then goes around the circle until everyone’s hand has been squeezed. It was a way to make sure everyone there knew they were friends. Katie was able to feel a connection with the rest of the girls after all of this was done. She said she does not really remember being taught the song, it was just something everyone knew. The leaders started it and the girls just started catching on. It definitely had an impact on her life since she is still able to remember it about ten years later.

Analysis:

This is a folk song because it is not something that is copyrighted. It is a simple song for young girls to remember, and it is filled in with small rituals to end the meetings. It is only a song a girl scout would know, making it very exclusive to be part of the group.

To me, this is a way to show important friendship can be to young girls. It can inspire them to really help their community. I feel it is also important to let them know as they change, keep some things the same.

Legends

Lady in White

Lady in White

Personal Background:

Sydney is a sophomore at the University of Southern California and is studying Environmental Science. She lives in Los Angeles right now, but is originally from Chicago. Living in big cities has been great since she has been able to be around so much diversity with the schools she has gone to.

Legend:

Sydney says she has one story she always tells when people ask for ghost stories, although this is more of a legend. It is called the Lady in White.

“There is a woman who is dressed all in white, because she is a ghost. She tries to seduce men who are driving alone at night. She stays off to the side of the road dressed in a white dress, and when the men who are alone pull over to talk to her, she kills them. She would do this late at night, and usually on older country roads. She did this because she was killed by a man in a car, so she is getting her revenge.”

Sydney says she heard about this story when she was about 10 from TV, though she does not remember the show. It was something she was never afraid of since she was not a single man. It was just not a story she was able to relate to, which made it more fun to be able to tell the story. She does not believe to be real anyway, so it was more of a fun story she was able to tell her friends.

Analysis:

This is a ghost story that also has legendary aspects. The original story about how the woman was killed in a car sounds as if that could possibly be real. A woman who is killing men that are driving alone does not sound like something that is impossible either.

To me, this sounds like a story that is made for kids to tell during campfire. It is simple enough to remeber, and it is a way the girls are able to scare the boys. The title is so generic, it could be any woman who is dressed in white.

Legends

El Callejon de el Beso

El Callejon de el Beso

Personal Background:

            Paola is a junior at the University of Southern California. She has spent a lot of time if Mexico with her family, and is able to keep her connection with her family since she lives in Los Angeles. She grew up in Los Angeles with a lot of different Mexican influences throughout her life.

Ghost Story:

Paola knows a lot of different stories from growing up, but the one she liked the most was called El Callejon de el Beso, which in English translates to The Alley of the Kiss. She does not remember if she heard it on a tour of a city when she was little, or if she heard it from her parents. She feels it must has been her parents trying to scare her from staying away from the alleys of buildings, as well as to listen to them when it comes to serious situations. This ghost story takes place within a city, similar to where Paola had family.

“When they were rebuilding a city in Mexico, they built the structures so close together that you were able to touch the windows from each building at the same time. A boy and a girl had their windows very close together, and they ended up falling in love. The father of the girl did not approve of the boy, but that didn’t make the girl stop seeing the boy. One day when the girl and the boy were meeting in the alley between their buildings, the girl’s father came out with a gun and tried to shoot the boy. Since the alley was so narrow, the father ended up shooting both the boy and his daughter. It is said that the two haunt that area now.”

Paola did not have all of the details, but this story means a lot to her. To her, it meant that she needed to listen to her parents, otherwise they would hurt her in some way, as well as the person she was seeing. As she got older, she realized this was not the point of the story, but she still does not want to do anything to disobey her parents this much. A lot of this has to do with her culture and the morals her parents have taught her.

Analysis:

This is an example of a ghost story, as well as a legend. The story before the haunting part seems as though it could be completely true. It may have been a legend that turned into a ghost story over time.

To me, it was a way for Paola’s parents to keep her from doing things she was not supposed it. It has as though many of the Mexican tales have a to do with keeping children out of trouble.

 

Customs
Folk Dance
Gestures
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Mexican Rain Dance

Mexican Rain Dance

Personal Background:

Stephanie is a junior at the University of Southern California studying biology. She has grown up with a lot of Mexican influence, and has even spent some time in Mexico with her parents and grandparents. She is living in Los Angeles at the moment and is very happy with some of the Mexican influence L.A. has.

Ritual:

In the small, rural area that Stephanie is from in Mexico, crops are a necessity. The people grow and eat all of their own corn, as well as other warmer climate vegetables. When she was around six years old and visiting her grandparents in Mexico, there was a lot of rain happening. It is important for the crops to get rain, but there was more rain than they needed. Stephanie’s family then decided they needed to do the dance that would stop the rain. They all started walking in a circle and started to sing as they walked. She says she does not remember how the song goes, but she remembers she liked it. It then turned out that the dance worked and the rain stopped. She is not sure if it was luck that it stopped, or if the dance actually worked. She has not tried it since, but she likes the idea that worked because of the dance her family did.

Even when there is a lot of rain, there are times when there is no rain. One thing Stephanie’s family has done in the past to help get the rain to come is carry a Virgin Mary statue around in the spots they want it to rain. This starts bringing the religious aspects that come with the Hispanic cultures.

These rituals mean a lot to Stephanie because without the rain her family does not have crops to eat. It makes her feel better to think these rituals work because her family spends a lot of time performing them. They give her memories of helping her family have things to eat, and she remembers having fun as kid getting to really embrace her Mexican culture.

Analysis:

This is some religious folk belief. They are doing the dance is part of a superstition, or even a magic to make the crops grow. It might be more of a psychological thing than anything else. If they think their dancing and prayers and work, then they will continue this way.

To me, this is exactly the type of thing a small area would do. They seem to have more rituals and traditions. They rely to heavily on nature, it is there only way they can feel they have control of anything.

Folk Beliefs
general
Protection
Signs

Death of a Crow

Death of a Crow

Personal Background:

Stephanie is a junior at the University of Southern California studying biology. She has grown up with a lot of Mexican influence, and has even spent some time in Mexico with her parents and grandparents. She is living in Los Angeles at the moment and is very happy with some of the Mexican influence L.A. has.

Folk Belief:

            When Stephanie was about six years old, she visited Mexico with her family to see her grandparents. One thing she noticed that was odd was when a crow flew into a tree that was nearby. Everyone she was with started shooing the crow away in a panic. When she asked why her family did this, they said it was because a crow brings bad luck. Her parents told that when a black crow flies into a nearby tree and caws, it means someone is going to die soon. This scared the family because Stephanie had a great grandmother who was getting very old and sick at the time.

Stephanie still believes that will happen when crows are around. She gets very nervous when there are crows around, even if they are not in trees making noise. She did not lose her grandmother right when that happened, but it was enough to make her uncomfortable.

Analysis:

This story is a perfect example of folk belief and superstition. It is a belief Stephanie and her family has, and there is no actual rational belief behind it. They crow represents something evil the family does not want to be part of.

To me, it seems as if there are certain groups that have more beliefs than others. It seems as if the people in the small, rural areas tend to have the most folk beliefs. They focus on small signs for big signs.

general
Humor
Proverbs

USC Proverb

USC Proverb

Personal Background:

My mom works in admissions for a university. She grew up in Palos Verdes, California where her father was a dentist known throughout her entire community. She now lives in Huntington Beach with her family.

Proverb:

“The first year: It’s brand new. The second year: It’s tradition. The third year: We’ve always done it that way.”

My mom heard this quote from a man named Ken Taylor when she was a young professional working at a university. It meant a lot to her since she was always trying to give new ideas to the students, but they did not seem to want to change anything since everything they did seemed to follow certain “traditions.” It taught her that she had to try even harder to get her new ideas across since she would not be taken seriously the first time because she would be seen as breaking tradition. It also showed her how fast certain traditions catch on. It may not necessarily be the next year as it is in this case, but it can be a similar time scale for the fact that once it has started, the change becomes very difficult.

Ken Taylor came up with this when he was working with Greek Life at the University of Southern California. He started to break some of the old traditions by replacing them with newer ones. He was able to make a breakthrough in a sense. It made it easier to work with the other systems when they were not looking at everything as a tradition to be broken. It was a way to start new ones, and keep parts of the old ones.

Analysis:

This a proverb because is a fixed phrase. It is something that is meant to make someone laugh, as well as think. It is also a proverb that challenges many young professionals that they need to be able to try their hardest to make their way into a new place. New ideas do not always get recognized.

To me, this proverb says something about the school I go to. We are very fond of out traditions, and we want to keep them. It is both good and bad that we do this. We may be neglaecting new ideas without even knowing. But I am also proud to be part of my school’s pride.

[geolocation]