Author Archive
Adulthood
Childhood
general
Life cycle
Protection

Ghost Mom and her Daughter: Car Guardians

Tim is a father of 3 children, and he currently lives in northern New Jersey. He went to Iona College in New York where he studied mathematics; after graduation, he worked for the family printing business before breaking off and starting his own. Now, he lives about 15 minutes from where he grew up, so many of the local legends he heard while growing up still apply. He told me this story while I was growing up.

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Jack: “Dad, do you remember that road we used to drive down, the one that you said was haunted by a little girl and her mom?”

Tim: “Yeah, what about it?”

Jack: “Can you explain how that story goes again, and where you heard it?”

Tim: “Of course! So my dad actually told me and my siblings this growing up. The legend goes that this mom and her daughter were driving down that same road when suddenly their brakes gave out, but the problem was that the mom didn’t realize that until it was too late. When she got to the bottom of the hill and tried to brake, nothing happened, so they kept rolling into the middle of the road. Since it was early, there were some trucks going onto and off the highway, and one of them didn’t see the car so it smashed into it. The mom and daughter both died.”

Jack: “So how does the haunting come into play.”

Tim: “Oh, yeah. So the rumor goes that if you roll down that same hill, the mom and daughter will stop your car and hit the brakes for you, and if your brakes don’t work, they’ll just hold your car back. They’re basically trying to protect people from the same thing that happened to them. So these aren’t really your typical ghosts, I guess, because, you know, they’re nice. I guess ‘haunting’ is the wrong word. They’re more, like, lurking there and protecting the area or guarding the people that go there.”

Jack: “Can you see them?”

Tim: “I’m not sure about that. I haven’t seen them, but that doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t.”

Jack: “So you said that they’re guarding the area and the people there. Do you still think that they’re ghosts, or do you think that they might be something else?”

Tim: “You know, I’m not sure. They could be ghosts, but they also might be guardian angels. But then again, they’re both just spirits, so how different could they be?”

——————–

This was one of the first stories I had ever heard about a ghost possessing or controlling some sort of machinery. Since I was young when I first heard this, it’s possible that my dad made the entire thing up just to scare me or give me something to believe in, but the fact that he mentioned his dad telling him the same story gives it a bit more truth/realism. Also, my dad and his father are both very religious, so I doubt they would lie and I also doubt they would make something up about ghosts until he really thought it was true. The parallel between ghosts and angels, however, was very interesting. It is true that they are both entities, and I guess both could be characterized as spirits, but it’s strange that they could both be categorized as this considering they both carry such different connotations. Angels have a positive and friendly connotation while ghosts have a malevolent and scary connotation, but as my dad said, not all ghosts are bad.

 

general
Narrative

The Ghosts that Stop Your Car

Jack is currently a freshman studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He grew up in a small suburb in New Jersey, and because of this, it was very easy for local legends to form and be spread. This is one of the local legends he remembers hearing while growing up.
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“My dad used to take me to this windy road about 10 minutes from where I lived. According to him, a little girl and her mom were driving down a hill when the brakes stopped working. Because of that, they ended up going down the hill and crashing into either a tree or another car; honestly I forget, but regardless of what they hit, both the mother and the daughter died. The legend, according to my dad, was that if you put your car in neutral towards the bottom of the hill, the ghost of either the mother or daughter would possess your car and hit the break for you. It was to make sure your car stopped so that you wouldn’t get into the same accident that they did. Like I said, my dad used to take me to that hill a lot when I was younger and we wanted to go a drive. He would put the car in neutral, and just as he said we would roll down the hill for a little bit, and slowly but surely the car would stop. Of course I was younger so my dad totally could have made this up, and he definitely could have just been hitting the breaks himself, and even while thinking about it now I didn’t even realize that ghosts could possess cars and other types of machinery, but regardless my dad is very religious, so I don’t think he would even entertain the idea of a ghost unless he truly believed it.”
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The small town that Jack lived in is common amongst some ghost stories, especially the local legends that are well known by people living in the area yet completely foreign and unheard of by people living outside the town. Some of my friends had also heard of the legend, but again, they were my friends and our parents were friends, so the legend could have spread that way, regardless of whether or not it was true. Assuming the legend is true, it’s interesting that the ghost possesses the car in order to stop it before rolling into the middle of the street. In other stories, the ghost might simply possess just the driver and have him/her hit the bakes, but since the mother and daughter died because of a brake malfunction, it makes sense that the ghosts would possess the car. That is more related to their cause of death. This might show that mechanical ghosts are born if the death of the ghost is directly related to/directly caused by something mechanical. Possessing or becoming a part of that machinery makes the “haunting” closer to the cause of death, and as we’ve learned with other ghost stories, a lot of souls remain near the person/thing/place that killed them.

Digital
general

Facebook from a Deceased Relative

The informant wanted to remain anonymous, but she stated that it would be okay to share some general information about her. She is currently a student at the University of Southern California studying through the school for communication and journalism. She claims to be moderately religious, especially after growing up with a Christian family in a predominantly Christian area.
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Informant: “So my brother died my sophomore year of high school. It was one of the hardest times of my life, and for the first few weeks after he died I always prayed and hoped that I would see him again. But one day, I don’t know if I was crazy or what, I saw him post something on Facebook. I didn’t get it. Like he was gone, but he was still on Facebook? At first I was angry. Did someone hack his account? Was this some kind of sick and messed up joke? Would someone really do this? But I did some thinking, and, I don’t know. Yeah it’s possible that my brother queued up that post weeks before he died so that it just automatically posted when it did, but I just hoped that maybe it was something else. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but do I believe in my brother? Yeah. Maybe it was his way of telling me he was okay, like the post was about basketball, and he loved playing it everyday. So maybe he was okay? Maybe this wasn’t as bad as I thought? I’m sorry I’m just still confused, and I’ve never really talked about it with anyone.”

Interviewer: “Did anyone else see the post?”

Informant: “I don’t know. I ended up deleting his Facebook later on. The post was there, but no one has liked it. Like I said I could’ve been crazy, or maybe everyone else was just as confused as I was that they just glanced over it and ignored it and hoped it would all go away.”

Interviewer: “So do you think it was your brother’s ghost?”

Informant: “I don’t know. I knew his password, and it wasn’t something someone could just guess and hack his account. I think it might have been. But not really a ghost; maybe an angel? Whatever it was, it was my brother.”
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The idea that these posts could have been made by either the ghost of the informant’s brother or simply set up by the brother while he was still alive creates an interesting juxtaposition. The idea that someone could be dead in the physical realm while alive in the digital realm creates this liminal/limbotic idea of life and death, similar to Schrödinger’s cat. While the brother is dead in the physical realm, his “spirit” or “ghost” lives on in the Internet. Again, it is unknown whether these posts were made by a ghost or simply queued up by the brother before his death, but it still creates an eerie yet complicated situation.

general
Legends
Narrative

Lani

Informant Information:
Lauren is a 19 year old student currently studying human biology on the pre-medical track at the University of Southern California. She was born and raised in a small house town in Hawaii and later moved to a suburban area closer to Honolulu. Lauren shared the following story with me after asking her if she had ever encountered a ghost before.

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Story:
Lauren: “The town that I grew up in was built on top of a torn down pineapple farm. It’s called Mililani if you want to look it up. Growing up I had always heard that there was a history of ghosts from the plantation haunting little kids and talking to them and stuff, or maybe kids even having visions of ghosts. When I was little I had a little girl ghost named Lani, and she would always ask me if I wanted to play with her. She would just say ‘My name is Lani. Do you want to play with me?’ She sounded sweet but it was just strange.”

Me: “Did you ever see her? Did you get the visions other kids got?”

Lauren: “So I never saw her, but I heard her a lot, and the way I distinguished it from a voice outside my head was that it was a voice I never heard and you can’t just make up a sound. Or at least that’s what I tell myself so that I know I’m not crazy (chuckles). But anyway, she was really quiet and shy, and I always wondered why a little girl was a ghost, and I just wondered what happened to her. It was weird because when she spoke to me it sounded like she was to the side of me, which might explain why I never saw her, but now looking back I wish I had known it was a ghost because maybe I would’ve looked over and seen her.”

Me: “Wait, so you didn’t realize that she was a ghost until you were older?”

Lauren: “Yeah. After a few years my family and I moved, and when we moved I had stopped hearing her, so she was definitely only in my house since I only heard her in my house. But, anyway, when I got to middle or high school I was talking to another boy from my hometown and he told me about his ghost. Like I said ghost stories are pretty common in Miliani, so he told me about how there would just be a woman in his room angrily looking at him, but she would never say anything. And when he was telling me this story, I realized Lani had to be a ghost too. Like I said, I couldn’t just make up a new voice, and also I had never met someone name Lani or even Elaine because sometimes Lani is a nickname for Elaine. When I was younger it definitely felt like there was a presence when she spoke to me; I didn’t feel anything touching me, but I just always got a feeling. So looking back all signs point to ghost, but I guess at that point I was just too young to put that together.”

Me: “Were you freaked out after you realized it was a ghost?”

Lauren: “Yes and no. Obviously it’s creepy that I grew up in a house that had a ghost, but she was never mean or scary or threatening. But also Hawaii has a really strong ghost belief and history, so it also wasn’t out of the ordinary. Like if you talk to someone from Hawaii there’s a good chance that either they’ve encountered a ghost or they know someone else who has.”

——–

Thoughts:
It’s interesting that Lauren’s story begins with the fact that her town was built on the “ruins” of an old pineapple farm—ruins are a common motif seen amongst other ghost stories. Children are also another motif in some ghost stories, and both Lauren and the ghost she spoke about were children during the time this all happened. Lauren was very calm when she was talking about her ghost encounter, especially when compared to Christine who still seemed nervous about the experience despite the fact that it happened several years ago. Lauren, however, explained that Hawaii has a rich ghost history, and I personally never thought of Hawaii to be a ghost-filled place. After doing some research, however, I then realized that one of the largest ethnic groups in Hawaii is the Japanese-American group; this is relevant because we had learned about Shintoism and how many people in Japan believe in ghosts and spirits, so it is possible that the large Japanese population influenced Hawaiian beliefs over the years. It is also possible that this shift in belief over the years thus affected Lauren’s context. Lauren grew up in a place where ghost stories and beliefs were common, which might then explain why she was so calm.

Folk Beliefs
general
Magic

Homemade Ouija Board

Informant Information:
Christine is a 19 year old student currently studying anthropology and human rights at the University of Southern California; she is also on the pre-law track. She was born and raised in Orange, California within a small, yet traditional, Korean family. Christine shared the following story with me after asking her if she had ever encountered a ghost before.

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Story:
Christine: “I’ve never seen a ghost, but now that you mention it, I think one did kind of mess with my friends and I in middle school.”

Me: “Was your school haunted?”

Christine: “No, the ghost wasn’t in our school; it just happened during middle school. We were messing around with a Ouija Board one day after school because we were all bored and had nothing else to do.”

Me: “Can you explain what happened?”

Christine: “Let me try to remember what happened (paused). It was at my best friend Jacquelyn’s house. It was me, Jacquelyn, and Johanna, and we were sitting on the ground in her room. It was late afternoon-ish but definitely already dark, and Jacquelyn was, like, ‘We should do a Ouija board!’. I don’t remember how it came up, but Ouija boards were kind of popular at the time. But the strangest thing was that we didn’t have a legit Ouija board, so we just drew one out and looked up some chant online to make it real. Then we just used some glass we found as the triangle replacement. Then all three of us put our hands on the glass, and we said the chant to make it start. Then the cup just started moving even though none of us started to push it – and it was weird because the triangle can move easily but this was a glass that you really had to push.”

Me: “Did the glass say anything, or did you ask it any questions?”

Christine: “The first question we asked it was whether or not we were talking to a good or bad spirit. It ended up being a good spirit; it was a girl.”

Me: “Did she say anything about herself?”

Christine: “We asked her a few more questions and found out she was from like the 1900s, but a lot of the other questions she asked her didn’t make sense and were basically gibberish. Then eventually we asked her how many other ghosts and spirits were in the house, and the answer was really high. We got really freaked out and I wanted to stop, so I took my hands off the glass but then all of a sudden the door slammed shut. It was probably just the wind but still the timing was just really freaky. I put my hands back on and we said goodbye. I don’t know if it was a ghost or not, but it was just way too coincidental and specific and we swear to this day that none of us were pushing the glass.”

Me: “Would you ever use a Ouija board again?”

Christine: (Immediately) “No. We used a homemade one and it freaked me out; I wouldn’t go near a real one because I don’t even know what might happen.”

—-
Thoughts:
It’s interesting that Christine seemed to bounce back forth between believing that she actually encountered a ghost/spirit and that she just witnessed a series of coincidences. For example, she specifically describes the fact that a ghost “messed with” her and her friends, but at the end of the story she blames the wind for the slamming door instead of the ghost. This can just show that belief—whether it is the belief in ghosts or in something else—is fluid and can therefore changes over time and between different contexts. In this situation, her and her friends were playing with the homemade Ouija board when it was already dark out, which might explain why Christine was so quick to call this experience a ghostly encounter; if they had done this during the day, perhaps Christine would not have been so bold as to start her story stating that a ghost messed with her friends. Another way to look at it would be to look at how Christine immediately dismissed my suggestion of using a real Ouija board. The experience with a fake/homemade board was creepy enough, so she would not want to put herself in a context/situation that involved a real Ouija board that has been used/discussed in other scary stories, movies, or the like. This context, in comparison, is much scarier/creepier.

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