Author Archive
Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

The Shadow Men

“The Shadow Men are an obscure, although certainly not unheard of phenomenon that has left it’s mark on the internet. This spectral figure is most often characterized as appearing pitch black, if not just dark with some illumination visible, and standing tall with an imposing, menacing presence. There is a variant of Shadow Men, usually referred to as the Hat Man on the internet, which exactly as the name implies, wears a hat. The hat is most commonly perceived to be in the shape of a wide-brimmed fedora hat, also black to match with the dark, dim features of the haunting figure. I have found myself to have an experience consistent with what I knew about this phenomenon, particularly in the form of the hat-wearing version of a Shadow Man. My own experience with this figure happened one night in either late spring or early summer 2013, and I had been asleep since a decent hour, probably 9:00 or 10:00 PM. I had been sound asleep, yet woke up suddenly, probably at some time past midnight or 1:00 AM, or alternately, before the sunrise closely aligned to the point after 6:00 AM. If it was not quite completely dark outside, excluding the night lights from the city and suburbs, yet it certainly was inside of my bedroom. I remember it being warm during the day, and earlier that night was not much different, at least indoors. However, I felt more of a breeze than I thought to expect. There is no air-conditioning in my house. In fact, the breeze sensation was bone-chilling. I did not feel myself to be completely awake, and strangely, I recall a feeling of sleep paralysis, not being able to turn my head, just with the corners of my tired eyes. I actually thought I sensed the presence of another person in the bedroom, not quite seen, yet distinctly with a human or semi-human characteristic. I glanced at the shadows against the wall, noticing the silhouette of what appeared to be a man wearing a trench coat or overcoat, and a hat, all black. The silhouette was human-esque, yet ominous, and strangely suggestive of stereotypical film noir characters clad in long coats and fedora hats. The entire situation was stereotypically enough as though it was befitting a horror movie. As if the cold, chilly feeling was not enough to accurately describe the experience, I also believed I faintly heard a voice, yet there were indistinct sounds. It sounded like whispers at the time, although I could not make out any words intelligibly. It was not long after my sensations of this phantom Shadow Man figure that I fell back asleep. Even though I felt unable to physically move, I do not believe this was a nightmare, and to this day, the event has left a lasting impression on me. I could not forget the silhouette, the icy chill in the room and on my face and arms, and the distinct sounds of what seemed to be a human voice, not quite audible, and never understood.”

This testimony of a Shadow Man is typically like one of paranormal sightings or sensations. The witness recalls his feelings and his apparent sleep paralysis, combined with the unexpected chilly air in the bedroom, and sensations of the ghostly figure in question. The apparition is described in painstaking detail as much as visual memory could offer.

I believe that accounts like this of the Shadow Man, or Shadow Men, may be the result of sensations gone awry when the mind and body are in unstable states. Mentally, people draw associations to things, so shadows could apply. The testimony of the figure’s shape, down to his clothes, is in line with previous perceptions of archetypal film noir, or more generally almost any film made during the era of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s heyday of that genre. This Shadow Men phenomenon also appears to have quite a bit in common with the Men in Black conspiracy, and individuals’ sightings of black-suited or otherwise darkly dressed government agents. The main difference between the two phenomenons seems to be that people sincerely feel physically attached to their sightings of the agents, whereas the Shadow Men are reported, yet viewed more ambiguously and with some skepticism. The Shadow Men may or may not be wearing hats, according to other versions of the accounts.

 

For further reference: Ahlquist, Diane (2007). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Life After Death. USA: Penguin Group. p. 122.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Signs

UFO Sighting

UFO Sighting:

G.H.: This was about, uh, 1974, or ’75. Back in the day, there weren’t many houses around here. I used to live in Hawaii, then I came back, and I was visiting my Mom and Dad, on Bloomwood over there. I had a dirt bike, and I took it, rode with J. He had a dirt bike. We rode them over by the quarry, you know, the quarry by Portuguese Bend. One day, we ride bikes, and we’re up by the Army radar tower up there, at the top by the road Crestwood, in RPV. So I stopped riding, and he did the same thing. So he said, what’s that? I was looking at the ground, because I thought it was a rattlesnake. So we’re looking at, our view is from Newport Beach to Malibu, and up in the sky are two white dots. I was guessing they were probably jets flying around. And they’re over Long Beach. And they’re going really slow, moving towards the north, and kind of like where Lomita and Harbor Freeway, downtown Los Angeles, and there, one of them stops, and the other one keeps going slowly, and when the one moving gets over LAX, the one that’s stationary goes “Shoom!” And in the blink of an eye, picks up the same position, and they go off. Really fast, like nothing I knew was possible.

ME: Very quickly, then.

G.H.: Yeah, just like this, so they’re over Long Beach, Downtown is in the distance, and this one’s almost from Malibu to LAX, and “Shoom.” To this day, I have looked out the windows to see if I could see something like this again. Never seen a damn thing.

 

G.H. describes a UFO sighting he has never forgotten, since believing the appearances in 1974 or 1975, while dirt biking with a relative.

Holidays

Behavior, Traditions, and Rituals

“With only few exceptions, my family and extended family is entirely Christian of a certain variety, mainly Baptist, Roman Catholic, a few Methodists and non-denominational as well. I had the pleasure of visiting Nana’s hometown in Arkansas with her about a year before she passed away. I remember driving past a river and when all of a sudden she lit up and exclaimed: “I was baptized in this river!” Although she was baptized as an infant in her father’s Roman Catholic Church, she would later be baptized as a teenager in her mother’s church, which was Baptist. This was the tradition she practiced all her life. In those days her mother’s church did not have the resource to build or maintain a baptismal pool in the church, so when someone was to be baptized, the church community would gather at the river to pray. The baptismal candidates, dressed in white, were baptized by submersion in the river. They would then process back to the church to singing hymns of deliverance, thanksgiving and praise to God. We gather to celebrate christenings, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, graduations and marriages. We celebrate the lives of our departed loved ones, and gather during the major holidays to enjoy our family and close friends. One of my favorite traditions during Christmastime is eating gumbo on Christmas Eve. Made of a rich assortment of meats and seafood in a thick rue, it finds its in the rich cuisine of Louisiana with African, Native American, Spanish and French influence. It is perhaps my favorite meal. It has been a tradition of my family to gather on Christmas Eve with family friends and share a meal before we head to Midnight Mass.”

 

The contemporary Christmas celebrations described by J.S. have delighted him, and he shares what normally took place in his family. It is notable that coming from a Southern U.S. African American perspective, his Christmas culinary traditions are shaped by this. I am shaped by the Christmas traditions of my family, and extended relatives, much in the same way as J.S. is. His experiences, although different, are very interesting and cheerful. Different families may celebrate in different ways, yet he also religiously observes Christmas, which I share in common with him, despite being Protestant, and he a Roman Catholic.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas in Rural Tennessee

Christmas in Rural Tennessee:

ME: All right, what can you tell me about what you did regularly for Christmas while you were growing up?

M.H.: Well, we were very poor, each one of us in our home, we had a chair that was just the right size for how big we were. So on Christmas morning, when we would get up, well I should say we would bring in a cedar tree and decorate it, and make homemade decorations like a paper chain, and stars, and stuff like that, because we didn’t have electricity. So, no Christmas lights, only from the fireplace. And then on Christmas morning our chairs would be around the fireplace, and of course, we didn’t have a lot of presents and anything like that, but we would always get something we wouldn’t normally get, like a banana, or an orange, or some kind of Brazil nuts.

ME: Something that would be considered a luxury.

M.H.: Very. It was something we didn’t have, we didn’t raise on the farm, because normally we didn’t go shopping. We would trade with the peddler for the meal what we really needed. But Christmas morning we would get up, and here we’d always have a candy cane, and basically, that was all we got for Christmas. But it was nice, because we were getting something we hadn’t had before.

ME: Very nice! What kind of food would your family prepare for Christmas? What was it like to gather around the table? Was it just your family, or did you have friends and other relatives over?

M.H.: With six children in the family, and our home was so small, we didn’t have room for anymore people. Normally relatives would come over in the summer, when it was warm outside. But during Christmas time, my mother told me if I gave her oranges, she would make an orange cake. And so we did that, but she always had, uh, maybe a ham for Christmas, that we did not normally have every day. I could not remember having beef, when I was young, because we did not go into town often, and it was expensive. I think I was probably around fourteen before I had my first hamburger that I could remember, but we would have plenty of dried foods like nuts, like peanuts, and walnuts, and that’s basically what food was like where I lived, because that’s what was grown. We would also have, uh, rabbits and squirrel, and that was the game, deer was very rare.

ME: Back then, there were no pesticides? So, there were no toxins sprayed into the environment, so it was OK to have squirrels?

M.H.: Well, squirrels were very rare, but in the winter time when we needed meat or protein of some kind, my mother would go out with a rifle, and she would then make squirrel stew.

ME: And was that a normal part of your Christmas dinner, too?

M.H.: Uh, no.

ME: And rabbits? What about beef, or pork?

M.H.: For pork, we practically had pork all the time for Christmas; smoked ham. And we had fish because we lived on the banks of the river, and chicken, and that was about it.

ME: And also about Christmas, that was Christmas Eve you were describing?

M.H.: No that was always Christmas Morning. Christmas Eve, we would hurry up and go to bed, because Santa Claus was coming.

ME: Then Santa Claus was for a long time a part of growing up for you?

M.H.: Yes, yes.

ME: OK, thank you.

 

The holiday of Christmas, as described by M.H., was heavily shaped by her rural background, as well as the bleak financial circumstances of the Great Depression. M.H. and her family rarely ate meat, due to expenses, although on Christmas, pork was often eaten. She also mentions that she held the familiar belief in Santa Claus, throughout her childhood. I live in luxury, compared to what M.H. had to endure, although she comes across as having been content, as though it was all that was familiar to her. There is one thing that we both hold in common however, and that is the ritual concerning Santa Claus, making an appearance and bearing gifts in the night, to be opened the next morning.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Croatian Cold Remedy, from Dalmatia

Cold Remedy in Croatia:

ME: What did you do to treat a cold?

S.H.: For a cold, we cook a tea at home.

ME: Oh, tea?

S.H.: Yes. Tea, or hot soup. Soup.

ME: What was put into the soup?

S.H. It depends, we put into it chicken or a little of meat, and that’s what we did for colds.

 

S.H. describes a cold remedy that he used in his village, in the Zadar region of Dalmatia, Croatia. It consists of tea, and either chicken or possibly another kind of meat. This recipe is simple, yet these and other such remedies are quite commonly done. Every culture has it’s own remedies for illnesses, such as colds, but this one recalls the region of Croatia he was from, as it was a part of his upbringing. This is close to the usual American concept of chicken noodle soup, which is very prevalent as a comfort food, and is often had during sicknesses like the common cold, flu, and others.

Foodways
general
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas Foods in Croatia

Christmas Food in Croatia:

ME: Now, tell me, what did you cook for Christmas?

S.H.: Usually, one day before Christmas, make fritas, and some kind of stuff for eat, and make special wine, vino, and on Christmas Day go to church, and on midnight. On Christmas Day, we usually had lunch at home. Also, we raised pigs, and in tradition, we killed pigs to eat for Christmas.

 

Much like the case with Easter, Christmas meals and desserts are taken seriously as a tradition, as described by S.H. Fritas are sugary, round, small pieces of doughnut-like sweets that are popular in Croatia, and many Croatian immigrants abroad.

Adulthood
Childhood
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Gestures
Humor
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Standard Birthday Customs

Standard Birthday Customs:

D.S.: In birthday cards, we would put a bunch of confetti in it, and so that when they opened up, it would go all over the place. Whenever I would go to a birthday party live, I would go there and bring poppers, to pop.

ME: Oh, I remember those.

D.S.: Yeah, just to make it more fun I guess.

ME: OK, so how that’s your way of demonstrating a right of passage in somebody’s life, as in another year, and another number.

D.S.: Yeah, celebrations. That’s right.

ME: And those are practical jokes. In it’s way, that’s a celebration.

D.S.: Yeah. One of my girlfriends, when we would get together for lunch on birthdays, I would buy them these ugly, hideous looking glasses that say “Happy Birthday,” and I make ‘em wear ‘em, all during the lunch. So, that’s kinda fun. Trying to embarrass them, you know.

ME: Do you remember being the subject of an embarrassing practical joke, recently? Anything that comes to mind?

D.S.: Um, no. I can’t think of anything.

ME: Thank you.

 

D.S. discusses her customs of practical jokes done towards others, especially with regards to representing a right of passage; a transition from one life stage to another. It is widely spread to celebrate birthdays, although certain customs come with different families, or even cultural groups.

Customs
Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Croatian Easter and Baking Bread

Croatian Easter and Baking Bread:

V.H.: For Easter we go into church, we had a branch, my Mom had a palm, we called Easter Palm, and we went home. We made Easter bread, and had fish and meat, and that’s it.

ME: And what do you do to make Easter bread?

V.H.: Oh, for Easter bread to make, we use eggs, butter, flour, sugar, and uh, baking powder, making loaf in, uh, we had no oven at the time, but one outside. Mom had a fire inside burned, and we put into the oven the dough, to make the Easter bread.

ME: And you have kept the recipe the same to this day, when making Easter bread at your house, like recently?

V.H.: Yes, same recipe, like last time.

 

Based on my experiences of traveling to the country Croatia, and in the immigrant community in the United States, Croatians and Croatian immigrants abroad traditionally make an Easter bread, called pinca, which is a kind of sugar bread powdered on top with another bit of sugar. This bread is also served by the family on Christmas, and Thanksgiving, as well as other family events like weddings and anniversaries. It seems to have developed from being an Easter tradition, to an all-encompassing recipe that is served for dessert on those other occasions.

Childhood
Customs
Game
general
Life cycle

Toys in mid-20th Century Croatia

Toys in mid-20th Century Croatia:

V.H.: We did not have many toys, we had one box, and dragged on a rape, and had fun like a wagon ride. Me and my sister and two, or three cousins together played this way.

 

V.H. recounts an experience of child lore that has left a lasting impression upon her.On the island that V.H. was raised, in Dalmatia, there was poverty. Children had to make due with what was available, and while there were not many toys, they fashioned toys out of available resources, such as the makeshift wagon described here.

Musical

Accordions in mid-20th Century Croatia

Accordions in mid-20th Century Croatia:

ME: When you were younger, what instrument did you play? What did you do for music?

S.H.: Music, I played accordion.

ME: And what age were you when you played accordion?

S.H.: Uh, sixteen, and into twenty.

ME: Uh, did you just do it for entertainment, or did you do it for events like parties?

S.H.: For fun, but played also with groups at family parties.

ME: Thank you.

 

S.H., a Croatian immigrant, explains the sort of music he was playing in Croatia, in the 1950s and 1960s. The accordion is to this day associated with the Mediterranean regions of Southern Europe, and this is a man with a coastal island, Dalmatian background. He immigrated to America in 1970 with his wife, V.H.

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