Author Archive
Legends
Narrative

The Shore Shark

Every summer I lifeguard down on the Jersey shore in this town called Beach Haven and there’s this legend on the beach I lifeguard on called Pearl Street about the shark in a series of shark attacks that occurred I believe in the summer of 1916.  So, it is said that an off-duty volunteer lifeguard at the time was enjoying the beach at dusk and wanted to watch the sunset. He had his dog with him maybe it was a poodle or a labrador…I don’t know what it was specifically. But he saw something flashing in the water and with his lifeguard instincts he of course assumed it was a victim in need of rescue. So he bolted into the water, swam out to the victim, and his dog ran into the water and chased after him until he got to the spot where he saw someone drowning… except there was nothing there. There was just crashing waves and some white water. He started to make his way in until he was stopped by a shark bite to his lower abdomen. His dog started barking ferociously and the lifeguard was screaming, still trying to make his way onto the beach. A couple of beach patrons ran into the water to assist the man who was bleeding profusely at this point, and they brought him onto the beach and dragged him to the closest motel… where he died on the front desk. His blood spilt down the desk, staining the hardwood floors. His soul supposedly haunts room 714, which was the date of this attack. And rumor has it the shark continued to some towns north from here, taking a few victims along way. And a popular book was written about this specific shark… called ‘Jaws.

N has spent his summers in Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey since he was born. The tiny town was established in the late 19th century and holds incredibly rich and often, dark history in the original structures that still stand. Many Victorian buildings still exist, which gives the beach town a unique flair. A popular pastime of teenagers on the island is to bike ride at night to the various, rumored-to-be-haunted locations and scare each other. Thus, the telling of ghost stories is prevalent in the childhoods of the children who grew up on the island. N learned this specific story from the lifeguard who passed down the torch to him on the Pearl Street lifeguard stand. This story is special because N himself is a lifeguard, and often while on duty he stares out into the ocean and considers what is lurking underneath the water.

Everyone knows the movie “Jaws,” so first it is interesting to me to hear the origin story of the shark, and it makes it even more interesting that I have a personal connection to it, knowing someone who swims in those exact waters. I definitely think the story has been stretched out and exaggerated a lot— especially the part about the lifeguard dramatically bleeding out onto a motel’s hardwood floor—by teenagers attempting to see who can scare each other the most. But I think it is interesting to try to pinpoint the exaggerated parts of an already-scary story that was attempted to make scarier because someone didn’t consider scary enough to begin with.

Legends
Narrative

The Kraken

My Aunt Elaine lives on the coast of Denmark in this tiny little town… I can’t remember the name. I probably wouldn’t be able to pronounce it if I did. But when I was little we would go and visit her… that was just about the only trip my family and I would take back then, to Denmark to visit the family. We’d stay at her house right on the beach, there was this grass out front that would blow all day long in the wind and tickle your face if you laid in it. And she had this airy room as her attic that was stocked full of toys, mostly Legos. And we’d play with them all day long. And help her cook. But the most fun was to go play in the water outside. There was this long dock that stretched into the water and kids would jump off of it, swim to shore, then jump off it again. All day long. But no one ever swam much past the dock. I’m sure you’ve heard of The Kraken. Well, the adults would tell us all stories of this giant squid that lurked in the deep ocean, but was too big to swim in past the dock. So as long as we stayed close to the shore—and never went past the end of the dock, we were safe from The Kraken. If we swam out too far, we were in danger of getting dragged down to the bottom of the ocean by it. My aunt used to tell me it liked little girls with long, blonde hair. I was a little girl with long, blonde hair. Ha, ha. They definitely told us this so they could drink too much wine and not have to worry about jumping into the ocean and saving us. But I still am kind of freaked out to go too deep into the ocean, and I think its because of this. My survival instincts are still telling me to stay away from The Kraken!

G learned the story of The Kraken from her aunt, and the story is special to her because it became a part of her adult life, as well. When she swims in the ocean, she still thinks about The Kraken lurking underneath the waves.

I’ve heard about The Kraken before—mostly through the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I’ve never been afraid of a giant squid, but I have heard stories about the megladon shark lurking in the ocean, so I suppose mostly everyone is afraid of some unknown, possibly mythical creature in the depths of the ocean.

Narrative

Spirit Coins

The dead supposedly communicate with us with loose pennies and nickels. Not just random coins in the middle of the street, but by placing them in weird places for you to find. It’s a symbol to let us know that they are okay. A few months after my dad died, I had this dream about him. I was walking through a park with a group of other people and I turned around and he was just there. Just standing there. And it was so vivid. Like… it wasn’t a dream. I said, ‘Dad, what are you doing here?’ and he told me he was okay and that I shouldn’t be sad or worried. He told me he was working out and lifted up his shirt to show me how flat it was. He looked so good! He said he got to pick the age he wanted to stay forever and picked his fifties. I gasped and was like, “Oh my god, Dad, you look so good.” He was so happy. And he reached out his arms all wide and I leaned in to give him a hug and then I was awake. It was so real… I can’t even tell you how real it felt. And so when I woke up I was all shaken and upset and I was crying that morning. And I had a party to go to later that afternoon and I was running late and your dad was hollering at me from downstairs that it was time to go. So I was running around looking for shoes and couldn’t find the pair I wanted so I just grabbed a pair of white sneakers. And as I was leaving my closet one of the shoes slipped out of my hand and dropped onto the floor. And there was this loud clanking noise, like “CLANK, CLANK.” And I was all confused, like, “What was that?” So I reached down and saw this penny. And I’ve never seen a penny like it before. And it was perfect, like so clean and shiny. Like brand new. Like, how does a penny end up in a shoe? And I can’t remember the last time I had a penny—I never have pennies. And so now I carry it around everywhere. I think it was from my dad… telling me everything is okay, things will be okay. It’s too weird for me to think anything else.

G read a story about loose pennies and how they relate to the dead a while before her father passed away. She remembered it a few weeks after his passing, but didn’t think much of it until she had the dream and found the penny. Now she believes steadfastly in the communication of the deceased with coins, and has her own story as proof.

This story was told by G first asking if I’d “ever seen a penny like this before,” and presenting a penny from her pocket. Its story followed suit.

This story gave me chills because of the penny presented as proof. I think it is a beautiful and comforting belief to have, and I’m not sure I will be able to shake it. I think every time I find a coin in a strange spot I might question how it got there—or who exactly put it there.

folk metaphor
Folk speech

Swedish Proverb

“De är inte alla karlar som bär byxor.”

Swedish: All are not men that wear trousers. 

G’s Scandinavian father used to say this to her and her siblings in Swedish while growing up. He immigrated to the United States from Sweden when he was young, and it was a phrase that he heard growing up. It’s a phrase that G repeated (albeit slightly butchered, as she does not speak Swedish) when she grew older, because it was relevant, reminded of her childhood and her father.

G’s father would say this to his five children to encourage them to break from the mold and be different. He said it to emphasize that his daughters could play sports and listen to rock music, and his son could design clothing and play musical instruments. He didn’t believe his kids had to do strictly things designated by society for their respective genders.

I love this phrase, and I think it is especially applicable in this age, where the previously-designated boundaries of gender are being pushed. Girls do not equal pink and boys do not equal blue. I think a variation of this proverb exists in every language and culture—not every woman has to be girly and not every man, manly.

Folk speech
Humor

Don’t Let Your Meat Loaf

“Don’t let your meat loaf!”

G’s father used to say this to her as a child, which is why she began saying it, too. She thinks it is funny and it reminds her of her childhood, as well as her father. She says it often and enjoys when her family members say it, as well. She says it mostly as a joke and has never considered its meaning while saying it.

My mom said this to my dad and me all the time while I grew up. She would say it when we were leaving to go somewhere, like, for example, if my dad was leaving to go to the grocery store. She would call out after him, “Bye! Don’t let your meat loaf!”

This phrase never seemed strange to me, because I heard it all the time growing up. One time, I actually looked it up and was shocked and sort of horrified to learn its very sexual meaning. I didn’t even know it was a common phrase; I always thought it was just something my grandpa made up and circulated around the family.

Legends
Narrative

The Lotus Room

The days of farming have ended and the days of tourism have begun. Winter and spring awaken and summer begins. Busy people with busy lives from busy cities escape to Beach Haven. Today two twin homes stand at the intersections of Atlantic and Coral Street and Atlantic and Berkeley. They are larger than the homes around them. Each home features a sharp spire standing from the roof and an onion shaped rotunda called the Lotus Room. Both homes are now elegant bed-and-breakfasts, but they were once the summer residences of twin sisters. Built by their father as wedding presents, these two homes featured eight bedrooms each with its own character and charm.  The young girls would get married and have plenty of children each and escape metropolitan life in Manhattan every summer in order to enjoy the soothing sounds of the waves by the seaside. If only the lives were as harmonious as this sound. Well… supposedly… the more attractive of the two sisters caught the eye of her sister’s husband and an illicit summer affair began. Lies were told and the two somehow evaded publicity for decade.  They would crawl out of the balcony of their respective houses and meet on Pearl Street Beach and gush about their undying love for each other. Until one day, the man woke his wife accidentally on his descent from the Lotus Room and she caught him and her sister holding hands on their way up the Pearl Street Pavilion. Instead of calling them out right then she decided she have her own fun and made her way to her sisters home where her sister’s husband lay alone in his Lotus Room. She woke him seduced him and murdered him. Awaiting the return of her sister, she hid behind the armoire. When she heard her climbing back up the house to get into her room she emerged from her hiding spot and threw her sister down from the balcony. No one really knows what happened to her husband but I think it’s safe to say his end was just as painful as those of his lover and brother-in-law. My only advice is at all costs avoid the Lotus room.

N has spent his summers in Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey since he was born. The tiny town was established in the late 19th century and holds incredibly rich and often, dark history in the original structures that still stand. Many Victorian buildings still exist, which gives the beach town a unique flair. A popular pastime of teenagers on the island is to bike ride at night to the various, rumored-to-be-haunted locations and scare each other. Thus, the telling of ghost stories is prevalent in the childhoods of the children who grew up on the island. These twin houses are the most prominent and well-recognized because of their rotundas and spires. It is popular to dare each other to spend a night in the bed and breakfast because of all the ghosts that are rumored to haunt the premises.

Of the four island ghost stories, this one seems the creepiest and most plausible, as two proven murders took place on the premises. I can understand why local youth would be fascinated and simultaneously scared by this story.

general
Legends
Narrative

The Oldest Island House

Now the island is settled, the Native Americans have mysteriously disappeared, and the colonial farmers begin to set up their crops, their homes, their barns, et cetera…  Beach Haven is at the southern tip of the island near the mass burial site of the Native Americans, and all of Beach Haven was owned by a wealthy man his wife and their seven children who built a beautiful house in the center of their property.  The white colonial home had four floors, a cellar, a porch swing for the family to sit on and watch the sunset every night, a couple balconies so they could see the waves crash from the top of the house, and even a pool in the backyard for them to cool down when the days got hot. And around the house they planted corn and tomatoes, wheat, erected a beautiful barn to house hay for their livestock. There was a chicken coop, a pen full of pigs, an open field for their horses, and a wooden silo. Years passed, and the father would pass down his farm plantation to his oldest son and then his son after him. And the island became more populated… more people flocked to the shore to spend time with their family. But water and erosion and unruly weather slowly made their crop less valuable than it once was so slowly they halted their agricultural practices, but their house still stands on the island and is older than the other houses and bigger than the other houses. The house stands between two streets: Liberty and Iroquois Avenue. The lot is huge but it always seems like no one is there. The shrubs and trees and weeds have overgrown and spill out onto the street into the lots of the neighbors homes, marring the image of this beautiful White House to somebody passing by. Sometimes when the moon is full and the night is quiet you can hear the porch swing creaking back-and-forth in the wind, reminiscent of the days of the man and his wife and their seven children lived there. 

N has spent his summers in Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey since he was born. The tiny town was established in the late 19th century and holds incredibly rich and often, dark history in the original structures that still stand. Many Victorian buildings still exist, which gives the beach town a unique flair. A popular pastime of teenagers on the island is to bike ride at night to the various, rumored-to-be-haunted locations and scare each other. Thus, the telling of ghost stories is prevalent in the childhoods of the children who grew up on the island. This house is arguably the most historical monument on the island, and since no one is ever seen there and there is never any car in the driveway, despite its hulking size, it is the most prevalent ghost story on the island. Many of N’s friends have tried to sneak onto the property, but no one has ever made it past the driveway.

Again, it is funny to me to see the creepy, ghost story twist added to the tales from this island. This house cannot simply be an old, abandoned house with rich history. It must be haunted and creepy, with a creaky porch swing being ridden by its many ghosts.

Legends
Narrative

Island Burial Grounds

This island I was talking about has an interesting history itself. During colonial times, the entire state was settled, and Long Beach Island was home to a specific tribe of the Lenape Indians. The island is fourteen miles long and roughly a mile off the coast of the mainland, and there were no bridges, there were no motorized boats, there was no walkway—the only connection between the mainland was the canoes the Native Americans made from the trunk of the great oak. Much controversy surrounds the shifts in inhabitants from Native Americans to the Colonial settlers, but one thing is agreed upon: somehow…some way, the slaughter of an entire tribe of Native Americans occurred, and a mass burial took place on the southern tip of the isle.  Some say it was syphilis that took down the tribe, others think it was a severe hurricane, some say the settlers who valued land for fishing and farming and agriculture decided to head over to the island in middle of the night and execute every Indian in sight.  There is no evidence of exactly what happened, but people who live on the island sometimes report that sometimes, late at night, they can almost hear the wails of the dead echoing from that burial site.

N has spent his summers in Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey since he was born. The tiny town was established in the late 19th century and holds incredibly rich and often, dark history in the original structures that still stand. Many Victorian buildings still exist, which gives the beach town a unique flair. A popular pastime of teenagers on the island is to bike ride at night to the various, rumored-to-be-haunted locations and scare each other. Thus, the telling of ghost stories is prevalent in the childhoods of the children who grew up on the island. N’s grandfather told him the story of the slaughter of the Lenape Indians on LBI, and is another ghost story that was prevalent in his youth amongst his friends as they biked around in the dark.

This piece reminds me a little of the lost colony of Roanoke and the mystery surrounding the disappearance of its inhabitants. The unknown leads to peoples’ imaginations wandering, and it’s interesting that various theories were mentioned in this performance. It’s also interesting to consider the sordid past of this quaint beach town.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Modern Leeches

My grandma still believes in the use of leeches… yeah, I know. Gross, right? Like bloodletting leeches. I don’t even know where she gets them from. I’m picturing her, like, hunting for leeches. I think she gets blood clots and uses them for those. I don’t ask a lot of questions. But, yes. My grandmother still uses leeches.

M likes this folk medicine because it is antiquated and you don’t often hear about the use of leeches. She likes to tell people about her grandmother’s modern use of them because it is gross and gets a horrified response from them. She also enjoys talking about her grandmother.

I cannot imagine sticking a leech onto myself to help with my ailments, but if there are helpful results, I suppose no harm is being done. I would rather go to the doctor, however, and receive modern medicine rather than leeches.

Legends
Narrative

The Real Mannequin

There’s this little town in Mexico. It’s name is a dog, I think. Chihuahua, I think. Yeah, Chihuahua, Mexico. And there’s this famous bridal dress store there… the only famous thing about Chihuahua, Mexico. And there’s this mannequin out front. And it’s a really creepy mannequin; I’ve seen pictures of it. There are rumors that the owner of the shop, this creepy old guy, did that thing where he put formaldehyde all over his daughter when she died young. What is that called? Uh, embalming. Yeah. There are rumors about this shop, that the mannequin in front is his embalmed daughter. I know it sounds crazy. But if you look at it… at the mannequin… her fingernails are so… real. Like, yellow and crusty where they meet her skin. And her skin is all sallow and rubbery looking. And she has this long, stringy hair. I can’t remember what color it was, but it wasn’t pretty. Kind of matted looking. And all crusty where it meets her scalp. Oh, yeah and her eyes are all murky. They don’t look like the typical painted-on or glass eyeballs that typical mannequins have. Like, at all. But it’s the fingernails that got me. I’m inclined not to believe this kind of stuff, it sounds insane. But I’ve seen the pictures and the mannequin looks like… a dead body. And it’s not nice to look at, especially given it’s supposed to be used to sit out front and look good and sell dresses. Like, why would somebody put a crusty, creepy mannequin out in front of their store? Because it’s their embalmed, dead daughter—that’s why.

M heard this story from her friend, and after seeing the pictures of the mannequin online, it’s haunted her ever since. She likes this piece because it scares her, and usually horrifies the people she tells it to, eliciting a good reaction. She’s so interested in this story that she wants to one day visit Chihuahua and see the famous mannequin in person. Maybe that will answer her question of the story being true or not.

This story is chilling, especially with the photos as a supplement to the story itself. It’s easy to discredit it as a scary story, but the pictures do look like a real body. I think I might believe that it is true.

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