Author Archive
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic
Legends
Magic
Narrative

Witch Doctor

Informant (A.G.) is an 18 year old student from Los Angeles.

A.G.: “My mom is really religious and my grandma is really religious. I was raised Catholic and I used to go to church and stuff”

While his “dad is Italian” and his “mom is Colombian,” they “both grew up in Columbia” to come here when they were “18 or 19.” Alex’s mom is a “stay at home mom,” and his dad does “construction” and owns some local “properties.” We grew up in the same area of Los Angeles, and started to hang out in high school. He was telling some ghost stories at a party one weekend, so I set up an interview for the following Saturday afternoon. I picked him up and brought him to our mutual friend’s house to conduct the collection.

“My history teacher, I’m 100% sure he was serious about it. He’s from Mexico… he has a lot of family there. His family lives in this pretty small village, and his grandma was one of those witch doctors. There was this lady in the village who was this really big girl. I don’t know what was going on with her but she was doing really bad, I think she was homeless, like not doing well. My teacher said they were at their grandma’s house one day. His aunts were also there and he was young at the time, but him and his siblings snuck out into the back yard, they weren’t supposed, they were supposed to stay in at night. When they went back there they saw his grandma completely passed out on a chair. And in front of her was the other lady on the chair, and the four of his aunts were lifting the chair up on a finger, like really high up. He asked her about it and they were doing some healing thing.”

The patient was not healthy, and to lift her would either suggest that the aunts had extreme strength for the moment, or she became extremely light for the moment. The latter suggests the aunts were using homeopathic magic to making her lose weight. A.G. thought his teacher’s story was genuine, and shows some belief in the supernatural.

Folk Beliefs
Narrative

Alien Almost-Abduction

Informant (L.P.) is an 18 year old student. I had heard her enthusiasm for telling ghost stories the week before, and set up this interview. L.P. has spent some time in NYC over the past several years. This interview is conducted at my house one Saturday evening.

After sharing several ghost stories, L.P. casually adds “one time I almost got abducted by aliens.”

L.P.: “I was in New York at aunts apartment asleep and this Alien screamed into my ear really loud, and I woke up & saw a white flash but my eyes were closed. I felt light inside of my brain but nothing was there. Then my Aunt came into the room all freaked out and told me I screamed, and I didn’t even know.”

I suggest this sounds like sleep paralysis

L.P.: “I had a mark on my arm, it was red & had dots in it.”

While the alien abduction was likely a memorate from a severe instance of sleep paralysis, L.P. firmly believes in the supernatural from ghosts to aliens, and enjoys the thrill of firsthand experience. In my findings, people who believe in, and actively search for these mysterious entities are the most likely to encounter them in one form or another.

Adulthood
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Life cycle
Narrative

Toots The Gaseous Ghost

Informant (L.P.) is an 18 year old student. I had heard her enthusiasm for telling ghost stories the week before, and this one stood out. L.P. works at a local novelty shop. This interview is conducted at my house one Saturday evening.

I ask about the ghost in her workplace, which she had mentioned during our previous encounter.

L.P.: “There’s a ghost called Toots because it farts a lot and people smell it all the time. It’s not mean, it just likes to fuck with people. They have a video of it knocking a whole stack of books off the shelf.”

I ask her to elaborate on Toots’ antics

L.P.: “I saw it knock a book on my coworker. The book hit her on the side of the head and she spilled her tea… Today it knocked over a bucket in an aisle when some guy was reading a book.”

I ask her if the ghost has any legend attached to it

L.P.: “It used to be a post office, so maybe somebody died in there I’m not sure.

I ask her if she’s has the video, but she says no, as she doesn’t have access to the work computer. As the youngest employee at Wacko, I’m assuming L.P. is going through a right of passage in learning the store’s occupational legend of Toots the gaseous ghost.

Folk Beliefs
Narrative

Haunted Banana Tree

Informant (J.B.) is a 19 year old Los Angeles native. J.B.’s mother is an immigrant from Thailand, and his father is an immigrant from Guatemala. J.B. speaks English, Thai, Korean, Japanese, some Spanish. J.B. and I grew up in the same neighborhood, with mutual friends. One afternoon while overhearing another collection I was conducting, J.B. offered to share a story about his mother.

J.B.: “Back when my mom was a kid she lived in this house that went through a complete change, like renovation. It used to be… a funeral home, but then they turned it into the house. My grandpa bought it without knowing what it used to be, so there would be a lot of weird shit that would happen. Like my mom would wake up by a banana tree, and they would always trip out. A lot of weird shit would happen and they thought it was because it was a death house or whatever. One day she had a really bad fever and she heard a woman crying from out by the banana tree, and she was tripping out. I don’t know what happened after that, she was praying and freaking out and it went away. Nobody else was in the house.”

J.B. is interested in his mother’s ghost story, as it provides a sliver of insight into her youth. J.B. is open to the idea of the supernatural, as both of his parents have witnessed inexplicable experiences which have ultimately become such paranormal memorates.

For children it is common to see or even chase ghosts. I interpret this phenomenon to be not only due to a looser definition for reality, but also the thrill of the unknown (in this case being a banana tree outside the safety of her home).

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Myths
Narrative

Metta -Lovingkindness

Informant (J.H.), my mother, is a 50 year old Buddhist meditation teacher from Los Angeles. J.H. identifies as biracial, with both African and Southern European heritage. I interviewed her after stopping by for dinner one Monday evening. J.H. had a traditional roman Catholic upbringing, and has been studying meditation for 15 years. J.H. shared one of her favorite Buddhist stories, which explains the origin of a meditative chant that she teaches. Our story takes place during the Buddha’s lifetime.

J.H.: “There were 500 monks and nuns, who were sent into the forest to meditate for the rains retreats, which lasted for three months in the winter. Within days, they came running back to the Buddha saying that evil visions and sounds and smells were haunting them and they were too scared to stay in the forest, but the Buddha sent them back. Again, they came running back to him, terrified. Little did they know, that the tree spirits in that forest didn’t want them there, so they were doing anything they could to scare them off. So the Buddha sent them back a third time, but this time he sent them back with messages of love for the forest deities. These messages were; may you be happy, may you be at peace, may you be safe, may you be free. So when these monks went back into the forest, spreading love to these deities, it melted their hearts and they welcomed them. This is called ‘Metta,’ and one would use this when dealing with their own internal fear, or pain, or sadness, or when wanting to send compassion or care to others’ fear, pain or sadness, or suffering. We still use the ‘Metta practice.’ It is a traditional Buddhist practice for emanating kindness and care.”

While J.H.’s story stands on its own, Metta, or lovingkindness, is also a central part of the Buddhist tradition. Such stories in Buddhism are common, and often walk the line between myth and legend. While they are myths to Agnostic-Buddhists such as J.H., who teaches them strictly as metaphors for a greater lesson, these stories can be considered legends by the more traditional Buddhists who do not question their literal truth. Further, this particular Buddhist folk story does not leave the timeline of human existence like most religious mythologies, as from my experience Buddhism traditionally discusses life on earth rather than any divine being or beings. Metta is a very popular form of Buddhist meditation, always using some variation of the quote the monks told the tree spirits in J.H.’s performance.

Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
Folk speech
Myths
Narrative

Angulimala

Informant (J.H.), my mother, is a 50 year old Buddhist meditation teacher from Los Angeles. J.H. identifies as biracial, with both African and Southern European heritage. I interviewed her after stopping by for dinner one Monday evening. J.H. had a traditional roman Catholic upbringing, and has been studying meditation for 15 years. I asked J.H. for her favorite legends and myths surrounding the Buddha. As a self identified Buddhist agnostic, she takes these stories as metaphors with values them for their important teaching opportunities.

J.H.: “Angulimala was basically a serial killer. He was a bandit, who would kill people in the forests of India, and he would cut off a finger for each person he killed, and put their finger on a necklace that he wore around his neck. So mala means necklace basically, and Anguli is finger. So he had a finger necklace around his neck, and one time he came across the Buddha in the forest and he started chasing him to kill him, but no matter how fast he ran he couldn’t catch him. And so finally, the Buddha just stopped and Angulimala caught up to him, and the Buddha promised him freedom from his pain and suffering if he would just start meditating with him. Angulimala was so impressed… by the Buddha’s fearlessness, that he decided to try it. And the legend has it that he became enlightened, and what’s so beautiful about this story is that the Buddha thought that nobody was irreparable. Because the Angulimala apparently killed thousands of people, as the legend has it, but the Buddhist tradition says that all people have the opportunity for full liberation, no matter what your path has been.”

J.H.’s Buddhist Sangha is especially targeted toward people who have had struggles with society and are seeking alternative guidance or recovery through spirituality. J.H. seems to appreciate the Angulimala myth for its teaching of acceptance of all people. As a teacher, J.H. speaks fluently and openly about the history and philosophies of Buddhism in general as well as her particular Sangha, or group.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Myths
Narrative

Duende’s Curse

Informant (J.B.) is a 19 year old Los Angeles native. J.B.’s mother is an immigrant from Thailand, and his father is an immigrant from Guatemala. J.B. speaks English, Thai, Korean, Japanese, some Spanish. J.B. and I grew up in the same neighborhood, with mutual friends. One afternoon while overhearing another collection I was conducting, J.B. offered to share a story about his late uncle.

J.B.: “My dad, when he was 8 years old, he was living in Guatemala, and his older brother was about 16. He had this job as a dude who delivers to the construction workers up in the mountains. There’s a folk story that in the forest there were spirits that would ask you to bring them a child as a sacrifice to eat, and they’ll reward you with fame, money, and whatever. If you decline than you’ll die or get sickness, your life is screwed over somewhere. My dad’s brother was walking one day, at night, to do a delivery, and a tree was talking to him, and he thought he was tripping out. And the tree asked him to bring a child and he said no. And the tree said I’ll give you a chance, if you don’t bring it in a week you’re going to get sick and die. So obviously he didn’t go back, and in a week he actually did get really sick, like on the verge of death. They had doctors there, and I don’t know exactly what it was, but he had an illness that couldn’t be cured for the rest of his life. He lived out the rest of his life pretty normal, but would have episodes from his sickness. A few years ago he died from one of the episodes from that sickness. I don’t know what he had, I’m trying to remember but I have no idea.”

Upon conducting further research, I discovered a mythological creature, present mostly in Latin American culture, called the ‘duende.’ Europe’s goblins, fairies, and leprechauns all fit into the same category as the duendes of Latin America and the Philippines. While the duende has many different oikotypes throughout the Latin world, they are broadly defined as magical sprites known to cause mischief, especially in areas surrounding forests. I am not acquainted with J.B’s family, however J.B. was happy to share a piece of their heritage with me this afternoon. As J.B. lost an immediate family member to an unknown illness, his father’s account of the duende’s curse carries sentimental value to J.B., and will forever be entwined with the folklore of his father’s distant homeland.

Legends
Narrative

Haunted House

Informant (A.G.) is an 18 year old student from Los Angeles.

A.G.: “My mom is really religious and my grandma is really religious. I was raised Catholic and I used to go to church and stuff”

While his “dad is Italian” and his “mom is Colombian,” they “both grew up in Columbia” to come here when they were “18 or 19.” Alex’s mom is a “stay at home mom,” and his dad does “construction” and owns some local “properties.” We grew up in the same area of Los Angeles, and started to hang out in high school. He was telling some ghost stories at a party one weekend, so I set up an interview for the following Saturday afternoon. I picked him up and brought him to our mutual friend’s house to conduct the collection.

A.G.: “In my apartment building, we used to live in one of the back apartment units.”

While the family still owns the apartment building, A.G. has since upgraded to a nearby house.

A.G.: “At the dinner table… my brother and sister used to talk about stuff that would happen to them because our house was super creepy.”

Here “our house” refers to the family’s apartment building.

A.G.: “The roofing in the house used to be really fucked up and you could see through the roof to the wooden beams. My sister and brother said that every night there were these two green dots up there looking down into the bunk bed. My sister said that one night it just wasn’t there anymore. They said it looked like eyes or something.”

By only sharing their unpleasant supernatural experiences attached to the old building after moving out, A.G.’s siblings expressed relief in the move to the family. As A.G.’s siblings’ description of the unidentified eyes don’t doesn’t mention them belonging to any particular entity, I inferred that the building itself was responsible. Further, A.G.’s description of the building suggests it was not an ideal environment to grow up. I interpret A.G.’s siblings’ scary story as expression of both happiness for having moved, and fear for the condition of the apartment building.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Legends
Narrative

Grandma’s Ghost

Informant (A.G.) is an 18 year old student from Los Angeles.

A.G.: “My mom is really religious and my grandma is really religious. I was raised Catholic and I used to go to church and stuff”

While his “dad is Italian” and his “mom is Colombian,” they “both grew up in Columbia” to come here when they were “18 or 19.” Alex’s mom is a “stay at home mom,” and his dad does “construction” and owns some local “properties.” We grew up in the same area of Los Angeles, and started to hang out in high school. He was telling some ghost stories at a party one weekend, so I set up an interview for the following Saturday afternoon. I picked him up and brought him to our mutual friend’s house to conduct the collection.

A.G.: “In my apartment building, we used to live in one of the back apartment units.”

While the family still owns the apartment building, A.G. has since upgraded to a nearby house.

A.G.: “At the dinner table… my brother and sister used to talk about stuff that would happen to them because our house was super creepy.”

Here “our house” refers to the family’s apartment building.

A.G.’s family connects over the supernatural. For instance, while the non-religious A.G. is less concerned with Christianity than his pious mother, she is less concerned with the supernatural. However, they all contribute supernatural experiences to the dinner table discussion.

A.G.: “This happened to my mom. It was weird hearing it from her because she’s always like ‘oh that stuff’s bullshit.’ This happened in Florida when she was visiting my grandma in her last days. After a few days after she passed away, my mom said she was sleeping in the living room or something and then she said that she woke up at night and the TV was on and she saw a figure that reminded her of her mom.”

A.G’s mother’s experience of seeing a recently deceased family member is a regular part of the grieving process. Such memorates, referred to as crisis apparitions, make up a large part of the ghost story genre. While A.G.’s mother’s experience was attached to the deceased grandmother, A.G.’s siblings had their own supernatural experiences attached to the old apartment building. Whether it’s remembering the loss of a loved one, or a displeasurable living situation, I interpret the exchange of scary stories to be the family’s way of bonding over personal tribulations.

For more ghost stories about deceased loved ones, visit http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/23/living/crisis-apparitions/

Adulthood
Childhood
Digital
Humor
Life cycle

Supernintendo Chalmers

Informant is a Facebook page that posts only memes. As the page’s primary following is teens and young adults, most of their content is humor based on early 2000’s culture.

Supernintendo Chalmers

This particular post shows a Super Nintendo gaming console (1990), with a decal of Superintendent Chalmers of the popular TV show the Simpsons. The pun here is on the words ‘superindendent’ and ‘supernintendo.’ By combining the show known for its success in the 1990’s, with a 1990’s video game console , this satirical image is aimed to evoke nostalgia for people who grew up in this era.

[geolocation]