Author Archive
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Threshold – Superstition

Informant: I also refuse to step on the thresholds of houses, which is an Asian culture thing,, which is weird.

Person: Because it will break your mom’s back.

MG: No, that’s exactly what I was told. It’s a really weird thing because I am not Asian, but I was told that by one of my Asian friends when I was a kid. She was like “oh we can’t step on the threshold” and I was like okay. And then her grandmother, I asked her I was lke “why can’t we step on the threshold, like, grandma lady?” And she was like, “oh because it’s gonna break, like, Mrs. Woo’s back.” And I was like, “Sweet.” And to this day I still don’t do it, and my parents really don’t like it.

DH: They don’t like that you don’t do it?

MG: Well, they just, like, they just, they like—I avoid it to, like, a point where they’re like this is annoying. Like, we’ll all be walking into the house at the same time, and I like have to step over it, and sometimes it takes me longer, I like cause a bit of a jam, and they’re like, why.

Collector: Wait, how do you mean the threshold?

MG: You know when you like open a door, and there’s like, that, slightly higher piece of wood that keeps the door from like just like sliding in and out? That’s a threshold. So you can’t step on it because it’s like “don’t step on the crack, you’ll break your mom’s back.” The same type of thing, but with the threshold of your door.

 

Informant is a junior at the University of Southern California. She is studying communications here. She is from Boston, Massachusetts. She spent a while in the southern part of Spain, and speaks fluent Spanish. I spoke to her while we were eating lunch at my sorority house one day. We were sitting together with some of my other informants. Much of what she told me was learned from her own experiences.

 

This is interesting because it combines a proverb type of saying with a practice this informant learned from a Chinese friend of hers. It’s interesting to see how older traditions and superstitions travel around through ages and places to become a common saying that kids use. When I was a child, I knew the saying about breaking your mother’s back, but I was not aware that this applied to any type of threshold. This also almost has a connection to vampire myths and how they need to be invited in before crossing the threshold of a home. She takes longer to get into houses because of this limitation.

 

For an example of this, https://books.google.com/books?id=5mU5dN3mDeIC&pg=PA65&lpg=PA65&dq=chinese+stepping+over+threshold+to+a+house&source=bl&ots=YaQVvHlkSb&sig=nTaz_Omz-JYjPrbqe4KgxA4LGrA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjYm6iP27DMAhUilYMKHR7LAyAQ6AEIOTAG#v=onepage&q=chinese%20stepping%20over%20threshold%20to%20a%20house&f=false

This book has a section on etiquette and it says to never sit in the threshold, similar to the informant not stepping onto it.

general

Maniac

Informant: This one legitimately scared me because I always associate it too heavily with, also, also the other thing that’s scary is that you have to tell it from the second person perspective. So…

Collector: Wait, what?

ML: You have to tell it from the “you” perspective. So, in this case, you are in your house where you see that a maniac has escaped, and you obviously find this alarming, but it’s from pretty far away, so you fall asleep. You always fall asleep to your dog licking your hand. So that night you go to sleep and your dog comes to sit next to you, and your dog starts licking your hand, and you fall asleep. Part way through the night you wake up, and your dog is still licking your hand. And then he stops. You think you see something, so you get up and you go towards the kitchen where you see your roommate’s head in the refrigerator. Because it just escalates like that. Anyway, obviously you’re freaked out, but you see a trail of blood leading to the other room, and because you’re an idiot in a horror story, you follow it, and you see a ceiling fan, and from the ceiling fan is a rope with your dog’s head tied around it. And it just say on the wall in blood, “Maniacs can lick hands, too.”

 

Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying animation in the film school here. She is from New Orleans, Louisiana. I spoke to her while we were eating breakfast in EVK one morning. We were sitting together with her two other friends, Ashley and Madeleine. Much of what she told me was learned from her sister or her own experiences.

 

This is an interesting ghost story because I have heard the exact same one before. I think this can’t have much variation because it’s so straightforward and short. The variation I could guess would be within the animal and how you find the head. I do recall perhaps the story ending with “you” only finding the head of the dog, and having to figure out that it was the maniac that was licking your hand. There wasn’t any blood on the wall. Many ghost stories like this seem to be short and not very in depth because they’re made for little kids. It also seems that these are passed through either friends or older siblings.

Customs

Shotgun

Collector: Do you ever say shotgun before you ride in a car?

Informant: Yeah, sometimes.

Collector: Do you have rules for that?

Informant: It’s usually when we’re on my ranch and we want to go for a ride on the four wheeler, on our ranger, which is like a golf cart. If my brother and I want to go, I’ll call shotgun. It’s usually just whoever says it first.

 

Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying Theater Arts in the School of Dramatic Arts here. She is from Austin Texas. I spoke to her while we were eating lunch at my sorority house. Much of what she told me was learned from her sister or her own experiences.

 

This is a piece of folklore that I personally see multiplicity and variation in. For many people, the only requirement of shotgun is that you have to call it first. In my experience, we have three rules. The first is that whoever calls it first gets to ride shotgun. The second is that everyone has to be within vision of the car. The third is that everyone has to have their shoes on. This third rule usually trips everyone up, but it has a purpose. It is to make sure everyone is actually ready to get into the car and go. Nobody can run out, call shotgun, and come back to finish getting ready. This type of thing is a funny little ritual, and people put more stock into it when riding in the front is a cooler thing to do than riding in the back, for example if you’re in a Jeep Wrangler with the front doors off.

Material

Souvenir Keychains

Collector: Um, do you have any, like, souvenirs you’ve gotten from any place?

Informant: Yes. I collect keychains from different places.

Collector: Where have you been?

Informant: Florida, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Maryland, London, Germany, Switzerland, France, um…

 

Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying Theater Arts in the School of Dramatic Arts here. She is from Austin Texas. I spoke to her while we were eating lunch at my sorority house. Much of what she told me was learned from her sister or her own experiences.

 

This seems to be a common thing that people collect when they go somewhere. I think it’s a pretty stereotypical traveler or tourist thing to pick up, and there are often many different types, so the appeal is that you don’t get the same thing as everyone else all of the time, These can be taken with people wherever they go, and might represent some special part of the visit.

general

Cooties

Collector: Talk to me about cooties.

Informant: Like, it’s what younger kids, well like, boys and girls think each other have cooties because they don’t like to interact with other children of the opposite sex.

 

Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying Theater Arts in the School of Dramatic Arts here. She is from Austin Texas. I spoke to her while we were eating lunch at my sorority house. Much of what she told me was learned from her sister or her own experiences.

 

This is a part of folklore we discussed in class, and we can see here that it has spread to this area of Texas. While the informant doesn’t go into huge detail about the piece of folklore, we get the main part of it: that it separates the genders. In my experience, cooties were passed by touching the opposite gender and could be passed along and gotten rid of. Many people have different versions of how cooties spreads and how to get rid of it like the cooties shot. This seems to be specific to a young age.

 

For a more in depth look at cooties and its variations, visit: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1499801?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Humor

Tomato Joke

Informant: A baby tomato, a mom tomato, and a dad tomato were on a walk, and the mom and dad went aheaad of the baby tomato, and it was left behind, and the papa went over and smashed it and yelled, “Catch up!”

Collector: Where’d you hear that from?

Informant: My friend grace.

 

Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying Theater Arts in the School of Dramatic Arts here. She is from Austin Texas. I spoke to her while we were eating lunch at my sorority house. Much of what she told me was learned from her sister or her own experiences.

 

This is a good piece of folklore because the joke relies on a punchline that is a play on words. This might be difficult for some people to understand if they’re not familiar with Ketchup, so this joke may be restricted to certain places in the world with access to this specific product.

general

Footprints

Informant: Okay there’s this story they always talk about where it’s like, there’s a man on a beach with Jesus, and he has these two footprints in the sand or two sets of footprints in the sand. And at one part he looks back, he looks back and he sees in his life there’s a time where there’s only one set of footprints, and he’s like, “Jesus, that was a really rough time in my life, what you doin’? Why you leave me?” Um, and Jesus is like, “No, during those times, those footprints were mine because I was carrying you, and that’s it.

Collector: Where’d you learn that from?

ML: Um, I’m not sure where I learned it from, but the instance I can most vividly remember about hearing it was in religious class, religion class, probably religion class to be honest. They sometimes say it at funerals.

 

Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying animation in the film school here. She is from New Orleans, Louisiana. I spoke to her while we were eating breakfast in EVK one morning. We were sitting together with her two other friends, Ashley and Madeleine. Much of what she told me was learned from her sister or her own experiences.

 

This is an interesting story because it always seems to come up when there’s a difficult time. The story itself is based on a person going through stuff, and seems appropriate to be shared with young people as a way of reaffirming their belief in God, even when times are difficult. This story also seems to have spread pretty far because it’s a part of the Kairos retreat in Sacramento as well as being shared in a religion class in New Orleans.

general

Louis Tomlinson – Babygate

Informant: I believe in conspiracy theories. Okay, um, can I do the conspiracy theory that Louis Tomlinson’s baby doesn’t exist?

Collector: Yes

Informant: Okay, so, Louis Tomlinson was in One Direction, and there’s always been rumors that he is dating Harry Styles. And, um, but they like obviously could not reveal that they were together because they were in One Direction, a controlling boyband. They had to be like single and into girls and all that stuff because that’s their claim, like why would they release that they’re gay? But One Direction just broke up, so now they can, so they needed a reason to break up, so Louis decided he was going to have a baby, so that way he could take some time away from the group to raise it, and the group would break up, and he could be with Harry Styles. So, the reason it does not make sense is because, so, first off, if you look at the dates of like when the girl says she had the baby and when he says she had the baby, it like doesn’t add up, like, they’re days apart. First of all when the girl was introduced to the public, like when they first hung out, she was already posing for pictures with him as if somebody was like, “hey you’re going to be important later on, like pose for these pictures.” And then, like, um, after she gave birth she was already really skinny, which like, people it’s not like that. And there was never really photos of her as she was pregnant. Also the photos from when she was leaving the hospital, she was not in a wheelchair, no nurses escorted her out of the hospital, and it also said that it was private property, which hospitals are not. And then Louis wasn’t there, the pictures he posted weren’t real or something. But also, all the pictures seem like they’re fake because the baby could be a baby doll because it has the same feet position and hand position in every single photo, and also in all the pictures that Louis posted, if you photoshop, like if you use photoshop to look at them, the baby isn’t even touching him, and it honestly could not even be him because some of his tattoos aren’t the same, and other tattoos are like noticeable, which brings me back to the Harry Styles thing. Harry Styles has a tattoo of half a heart, and Louis has a tattoo of half a heart, but in the photos of the baby, his tattoo of half a heart wouldn’t be showing but it’s photoshopped so it is. And also for the girl, all of her photos are literally exactly the same as one of a mom blogger’s photos as if she just took those photos and was like, “this is my baby.” Isn’t it trippy? It’s totally like, the baby doesn’t exist.

 

My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is from San Diego, California. We had this conversation in the study room of my sorority house.

 

This is a really interesting piece because it’s so specific to this year, and continues to grow. The conspiracy that the two people in the boyband were in love with each other secretly dates back to when the band was founded, and many people analyze photos and interviews to point out ways that they could be in love. This conspiracy takes it to an entirely new level with many people claiming they’re aware of how types of metadata in photos work. This illustrates a way that a group of people can become so involved with a piece of folklore that they deceive themselves into thinking that it’s true.

general

Haunted Sorority House

Informant: Okay, so, um, my sister’s sorority house is haunted. And, um, she’s in AChiO at Oregon, and they were like the first sorority on campus, or first ones to have their house that they live in now on campus, so basically like AChiO here. So like because it’s been there for so long, two girls have died there and one of them died at the turn of the century. I think she fell down the stairs, but it doesn’t matter much, but the other one, this girl died in the seventies because she was on the stairs in some high heels and her sister as a joke, like, pushed her, but she fell down the stairs, and it’s a three story staircase, and she fell and broke her neck. And so she died in their house on like a normal night, and now she haunts the house and um her thing is that her ghost comes in the form of a cat so people hear weird meows in their room, and also she’ll come in the bathroom and like flicker the lights. She like threw paper towels at somebody, like this girl was just in there and paper towels just flew at her like peoples baskets will just get knocked off the wall. Also, they have a cat statue in their house, don’t know why, but they always say that it’s the ghost of the woman, and they’ll put it in people’s rooms and their suitcases when people go home just to scare them. It was really scary when I went up.

 

My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is from San Diego, California. We had this conversation in the study room of my sorority house.

 

This is something that seems to be a basis for some fictional stories. There was an episode of Psych having to do with a haunted sorority house. It seems that in this type of horror story, the person who dies always dies in a certain way, and if there are multiple deaths, they happen in the same way. In this case, both deaths happened on the stairs. It also seems common in many ghost stories and perpetuated by the show Supernatural, ghosts inhabit some type of object to haunt people with.

Proverbs

“Faith over fear.”

Informant: At my gym, we always say, “Faith over fear.” And that was like something we used to say all the time, and that was the one point that I was even semi religious in my life.

 

My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is from San Diego, California. We had this conversation in the study room of my sorority house.

 

This is interesting because it somewhat can be related to a ritual before going out to perform. My informant was a cheerleader for a while, so this would work as a ritual and a superstition for some kind of performance she would ever do. It seems that many people have religious rituals they do before a performance, such as one of my informants doing the Catholic cross before going on in every ballet number she did. These manifest even in people who aren’t religious, and my informant is not religious anymore. This is interesting and shows some type of dependency on the idea of some hope for help from some other place, even without the belief that a God or higher power exists. It seems to be a type of mechanism that people just develop.

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