Author Archive
general
Legends

PE Possession

Informant Information:

Jaden Davis is a student at the University of Southern California. He is originally from Smyma, GA, before moving to Los Angeles, CA for college.

Urban Legend:

“Have you been to the physical education building? Legend has it that if you go into the physical education building and you go all the way down to the bottom floor. There are lights in the hallway but they won’t turn on no matter what. Apparently one time there was an earthquake and 2 kids who happened to be down in the basement. Well the basement kind of caved in and the kids were buried in the rubble. They were presumed dead. But when they were repairing the damages people go down there and clean up the rubble but when the halls finally clear the bodies weren’t there. If you go down in that hallway, you can sometimes hear the sound of them screaming before the rubble fell on them. There’s also a door at the end of that hallway. The door has no handles but it can be opened from the inside. Now, if you go in that hallway on the night that they died which was March 8th, the door might be open and in that door is a bill collector to collect all your tuition. Just kidding there’s no bill collector, but if you walk into the door legend says one of the kids will take over your body and the kid possesses you till midnight. This is why kids wake up and don’t know where they are.”

Q: Where did you hear about this legend?

“One morning me, Eva, and Jack were in the physical education building. Some guy comes up to me and starts telling me this story.”

Q: Had you heard of this legend prior to your visit?

“Well Jack told me the physical education building was creepy, so I assumed there was stuff going on.”

Analysis:

Though I am also a student at the university, I have never heard of the urban legend that the informant mentioned. After doing more research,  I couldn’t find any information on the event that inspired the urban legend.

general
Proverbs

Wartime Proverb

Informant Information:

Clerisse Cornejo is a student at the University of Southern California. She comes from a mixed background (Japanese/Mexican), and is originally from Fontana, CA.

Story:

“I think that one story that really stuck with me that my grandmother told me was about her adolescence. As a child she was born into WWII and lost her dad at a really early age. Because it was wartime kids couldn’t really go outside and play so she often stood home and spent time with her cousin Hiroko who she considers her best friend. When the war was over in Japan they were finally able to go out and be kids. So when she was a teen they both decided they wanted to learn how to ride a bike. They would take turns riding it and help each other balance. My grandmother said that they both fell down a lot but they would always help each other up and try again. She told me this as a lesson for failure so even though I might fail a lot at first I should keep trying until I succeed.”

Q: What would your grandmother and Hiroko do inside if they couldn’t play?

“I never asked about that, but I would think as kids in wartime they would try their best to emulate what they would do if they were allowed to go outside. I think it was probably really important for them to make up their own games or play game they heard from other people outside of their house. You weren’t confined to your house every moment of the day, but going outside you were never sure if the bombs were gonna drop. So it was really important to them I think.

Analysis:

 The informant told me this as a sort of proverb/lesson from her grandmother. From what I can see, this proverb can be seen in other cultures/circumstances (the whole notion of never giving up/trying again), but it just so happened that in this case the proverb was told to the informant from her grandmother’s personal experience. Because her grandmother was isolated throughout her childhood, this goes to show that proverbs/advice such as this can pop out of basic human circumstances and different situations we all go through regardless of whether or not we’ve heard the proverb before.

Customs
general

Sukiyaki Family Gathering

Informant Information:

Clerisse Cornejo is a student at the University of Southern California. She comes from a mixed background (Japanese/Mexican), and is originally from Fontana, CA.

Tradition:

“Every New Year, this is pretty Japanese, but we eat sukiyaki so on the first day of the year we go to our Aunt’s house and our three aunts, my dad, and my grandma will get together in the kitchen and make sukiyaki together. Like traditionally speaking, it’s typical for the Japanese to eat sukiyaki only when it’s cold so usually during the winter time, but because we all live in California it’s still pretty warm out here even during the winter, so we just eat it on the first day of the New Year because that’s probably around the time of the year when it’s most cold in  SoCal.”

Q: Would you say that your celebration is similar to other families?

“I’ve never met another Japanese family and got to know them that well to ask about their traditions, but I do think that for people whose families have immigrated from Japan that getting together and eating traditional dishes is still an important activity. There’s not a lot of traces of Japanese culture in American culture so I think it’s very important for Japanese families to get together and participate in their culture.”

Q: Is your recipe for sukiyaki standard?

“Yeah I think it’s pretty standard. There’s like generally the same kinds of ingredients that always go into sukiyaki and that usually includes some sort of beef or other meat, a variety of vegetables and often tofu. We usually eat it alongside rice balls.”

Analysis:

The informant gave a lot of detail as to when sukiyaki is usually eaten by Japanese people (around winter time). Upon further investigation I found that one of reasons for this winter celebration was that because after the introduction of Buddhism, the Japanese were forbidden to eat meat unless special circumstances applied. One of those special circumstances was the winter celebration of bonenkai, a party towards the end of the calendar year. The informant mentioned that her family celebrates on the New Year because it’s when California is cold, but she didn’t mention this special winter celebration, probably due to the fact that she might’ve not been aware it existed.

general

Weston Women’s Asylum

Informant Information:

Frank Pol is a student at the University of Southern California studying Computer Science. He is from a Venezuelan background, and is originally from Weston, FL before moving to Los Angeles, CA for college.

Story:

“There’s this building, like Weston’s not huge  so if there’s a building in Weston someone’s gonna make up a story about it because it’s new and small. There was this big giant gray block essentially a building with a large fence around it. The story people made up was that it used to be a women’s asylum, my friends said they’ve gone and they ran into the police. They said they ran into people who lived there and they just chased them out. When I went, we were getting out of the car to get over another fence and some lights shined on us from a truck driving up to our car so we got back to the car and drove to the left of the fence trying to get back to the road without going back. We did see some people, I mean this sounds bad but we saw people with guns inside the area, so maybe they were cops. We kept driving until the guy behind us went home.”

Q: How long did this story circulate around the school?

“Uhm, there’s always been stories about this building but this one started in my class. So around 4 years.”

Analysis:

From what the informant told me, it sounds like this legend was inspired by the outer appearance of the building, as well as the police officers that occasionally walked around the perimeter. I could not find any prisons/other similar locations when researching the informant’s story, so it looks as though this story is contained in his old school.

 

Folk Beliefs
general

Pase del Diablo

Informant Information:

Frank Pol is a student at the University of Southern California studying Computer Science. He is from a Venezuelan background, and is originally from Weston, FL before moving to Los Angeles, CA for college.

Story:

“My dad, so in Venezuela where my dad is from, they have a mountain called the Avila and it has a bunch of hiking and biking paths all the way down. I would take them all the time. So there’s this one that him and his family called Pase del Diablo. It’s basically just a super deep drop they would never do on their bikes, because there’s a story of people always trying to do it but they always end up dying because it’s hard to land. The whole area was protected so you weren’t supposed to be up there according to the government, but because the government doesn’t mean anything in Venezuela they still go up there.”

Q: Before your dad started biking, was this place familiar for this atmosphere?

“Yeah from the way he told me it was a story that was told to him by older friends.”

Q: Have you ever had a personal experience with this mountain?

“I just saw it from a distance. We didn’t make it to the waterfall but yeah we didn’t see the actual thing but we passed the path and he told me the story.”

Analysis:

The informant had heard of this tale from his father, and didn’t really know much about this belief other than what his father had told him. After conducting further research, I could not find the specific pass in the mountain that he mentioned, nor any mentions of a “devil’s path” on the mountain of Avila. It must only be a belief held by his father and his father’s biker friends.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general

Balding

Informant Information:

Clerisse Cornejo is a student at the University of Southern California. She comes from a mixed background (Japanese/Mexican), and is originally from Fontana, CA.

Tale:

“So the tale is a wive’s tale, very common among a lot of Latino families. Uh, so as a child in order to make your hair grow thicker for the rest of your life (supposedly) you’ll get completely balded. The idea behind this is that as your hair grows back it’ll grow back thicker. I’ve looked into it there’s no actual evidence anywhere that says balding your kids will make their hair more thick and beautiful but that did not stop my mother from balding me as a two year old. I think the tale is mostly on my mom’s side and it was more common for the people (kids/cousins) that came before me. I have some cousins on that side of the family that were never balded as babies, so I think the practice has finally fallen out of use in my family.”

Q: Was there a ancient myth/tale associated with balding?

“Not that I know of.”

Analysis:

The informant mentioned that this practice is common in Latino families, and after investigation, it’s actually very true. I was able to find many articles detailing exactly what the informant said, especially on the belief that the informant mentioned. Apparently, it is common practice in Mexican culture to shave the heads of infant baby girls so that in the future they can have great hair, but I wasn’t able to find the origin of this old wive’s tale.

Foodways
general
Holidays

La Cajachina

Informant Information:

Michelle Pina is a student at the University of Southern California. She is from a Cuban background, and is originally from Miami, FL before moving to Los Angeles, CA for college.

Recipe:

“La Cajachina is on Christmas Eve which is called Noche Buena, and we have this thing called La Cajachina which is essentially getting a pit in your backyard and roasting a pig carcass over the fire. So first off you have to make the pit or get a metal tub with coals. For the pig, some people do a whole pig and some people do parts. So for the parts you’d add seasoning to the meat you’re gonna roast. You get the roast from the butcher which means it should be clean but if you want to clean it more you can grab a hose and hose the whole thing down on the rotisserie rack.”

Q: Is there any reason for a pig to be roasted?

“With Cuban food, it’s a lot of pork so it makes sense for it to be a giant pig.”

Q: Is the celebration standard in your family?

“Oh yeah, it’s super standard. Sometimes if it’s only my immediate family we’ll just roast the pig in the oven and call it La Cajachina, but if we’re with more distant family and there’s a lot of people then we’ll do the official La Cajachina.”

Analysis:

I found out that “La Cajachina” translates into china box, which is essentially the box that the informant puts the pig in to barbecue. This box, from what I found, originated in Havana’s Chinatown, where Chinese laborers worked in the 1850s. However, my informant told me that there’s a tendency in Cuba/the Caribbean to call anything weird or complicated “china” or Chinese, so the box might’ve not been Chinese in origin.

Folk Beliefs
general
Protection

Barefoot in the House

Informant Information:

Michelle Pina is a student at the University of Southern California. She is from a Cuban background, and is originally from Miami, FL before moving to Los Angeles, CA for college.

Urban Legend:

“Whenever you’re walking around the house with your bare feet, no socks or shoes, when your grandmother or your mom sees you they’re gonna get mad because they think if you walk around barefoot on the ground you’re gonna get sick. Like because they think the ground is cold and your feet are awesome receptors of temperature so if your feet are cold your body’s immune system slows and you get sick.”

Q: Have you ever asked your grandmother/mother why they think that?

“I think it’s from their mothers telling them about it”

Q: Did you ever do research?

“Me in a fit of rage after my grandmother yelled at me for not having slippers in the house, I decided to do my own research and found that it was just an old wives tale and I told my grandmother and my mom and my mom believes me and my grandmother doesn’t.”

Analysis:

The informant’s old wive’s tale is fairly common among other Hispanic households. The informant told me her grandmother said this was supposed to prevent sickness. This is true in the present sense, but this wive’s tale could be traced back to class ranking. In Cuba and many other Hispanic countries, being barefoot is associated with being poor, as the many people in the country that are barefoot are peasants on the streets. Though this might not be what the informant’s grandmother intended, it could definitely be the origin of this old wive’s tale.

Digital
general

Man Door Hand Hook Car Door

Informant Information:

Joey Tan is a student at the University of Southern California studying Interactive Media and Game Design. She has a Chinese background, and is originally from Toronto, Ontario until moving to Los Angeles, CA for college.

Story:

“Ok so, so, a man and a woman were in a car and they drove to a forest to you know get the sexy times on and they were like making out, like you know light touching, and suddenly they heard a strange noise outside. And they stopped and the guy’s like ‘what is that sound?’ and the girl’s like ‘I don’t know I couldn’t really hear it that well’. So they went back to making out and getting it on, but suddenly they heard the strange noise again. This time they stop and the guy’s like ‘I’m gonna go check it out you stay here, don’t let anyone in, even if it’s someone asking for help. Don’t let anyone in.’ the girl says ‘yes’. So the guy leaves, the girl stays in the car, she doesn’t hear anything. She stays there for 10-15 minutes. She starts to worry because she’s hearing nothing and she’s like when’s he gonna come back. Suddenly she hears a long banging from the back of the car. Like from behind the car. She turns and sees nothing there but the banging continues. She sees someone scratching on the back of the car ‘Let me in’. She’s reminded of what the guy said and she doesn’t let them in. She stays there and after awhile the noise stopped. She didn’t know what to do, she ends up waiting until morning until it’s safer so she goes to sleep. She wakes up the next morning, the forest is still silent, there’s no one around, and she decides to leave to find her boyfriend. Just then, as soon as she left the car, she turned and noticed that man door hand hook car door. The end.”

Q: Where did you hear this from?

“My friend was sleeping over and he was like do you wanna hear this scary story and I’m like yeah. It took an hour to tell it which is the worst part.”

Q: Is this supposed to be messing around?

“He couldn’t stop laughing for 10 minutes straight, it was crazy.”

Analysis:

The informant mentioned that she did not know the origin of this story because she had only heard this from a friend. After doing more research, I found out that this “story” is actually a “meme” from a website called 4chan. Apparently, the original poster of this story wanted to make a parody of a creepypasta (a website for horror/scary stories, very much a part of internet culture) story, and by doing so created the “man door hand hook car” meme.

 

Foodways
general

Tamale Recipe

Informant Information:

Clerisse Cornejo is a student at the University of Southern California. She comes from a mixed background (Japanese/Mexican), and is originally from Fontana, CA.

Traditional Recipe:

So on the other side of the family which is majorly Mexican like Mexican. We always try to get together on Christmas Eve and watch our tia make tamales. It takes a few hours and sometimes we help if she wants it. So the recipe is like masa on the outside which is like a corn based paste I guess that forms the outside of the tamale inside they’re usually stuffed with chicken, beef, or pork, and homemade chile. So at this point it’s all about getting the masa which you can make yourself or buy from somewhere else. I think my aunt usually buys it or she might even switch between the two actually. Then they soak the corn husks in hot water and this makes the casing around the entire tamale including the masa. It’s like a second layer. Once the corn husks are boiled they remove them from the water, add the masa, and fillings and spread it throughout consistently. Afterwards they’re folded in the proper shape and they’re steamed in this big pot called an oya. And they sit there for awhile and cook. After a certain amount of time we remove them and they’re ready to eat. I don’t put sauce but it’s typical for somebody to put more chile/another topping on their tamales.”

Q: Would you say this is a traditional/standard recipe?

“Definitely. I don’t think there’s too many unique ways to make tamales outside of picking different ingredients. We use pretty conventional ingredients so they’re pretty normal tamales.”

Q: Why on Christmas Eve?

“I think it’s because they take so long to prepare and make. So, families often make them for a special time of the year like birthdays or specific holidays they celebrate with their families.”

Analysis:

The informant’s recipe, upon further investigation, is fairly standard to other authentic tamale recipes. The only difference is that other recipes call for more chile oil/sauce. I was also able to find out that an “oya”, as the informant calls it, is actually a dutch oven.

[geolocation]