Author Archives: e

Korean Goblin Tale

Korean Goblin Tale

The following informant is a 21 year-old musician from Seoul, Korea, currently residing in Los Angeles. Here, they are describing a standard Korean tale that has been passed down; they will be identified as M.

M: It’s like Korean version of genie. So instead of genie, goblin. Instead of a lamp, it’s a, like, bat. A goblin bat. I don’t know the exact story of it, but there was a guy, he was very good at singing, but he got a very big tumor on his face, and he was singing at the night, and suddenly out of nowhere, two goblins came, and they loved his singing, and they asked, “what’s the secret of your voice and the singing,” and he was so scared, but he noticed that they loved his singing, and he was very poor before that and then he just lied to them. “oh it’s all from the tumor, this one.”

The face tumor — it was a big one. The goblin trusted that, and said, “do you want to sell it to me, or trade it? Lets trade.” He said, “oh, why not?” For a bunch of gold, and then the goblin swing the bat, and a bunch of gold appeared. and they give it to him, and the goblin touched the tumor, and it just cut it. He become rich, and there was another guy, he was already rich but a very greedy person and got a similar tumor. There was two goblins, so only one got the tumor, and believed “now i’m good at singing,” but the other go to that rich person, but the first goblin told the other that it was a lie, “I figured it out,” but this goblin went to the rich person, they asked him about the secret of singing, but he heard about the previous guy, so he tried to lie and did the same thing.

The goblin figured it out, and was very angry, so they swung the bat at him, so the previous guy’s tumor was on his face, so he had two tumors. And he was already rich, but they took all the money from him and ran away. The greedy guy lost everything. So, the moral is “don’t get greedy.”

Context

This interaction occurred on campus in a dining facility. I was sitting with informant M, as well as other Korean students from both USC and UCLA, whom provided additional contributions. During M’s performance, other individuals provided verbal and gestural affirmation, while one was not too familiar with the tale.

My Thoughts

There is a lot to unpack here. For one, this Korean tale, most likely told to children, is alike to many Western tales that we tell our youth; the root is fear, whereby children will refrain from lying or becoming greedy out of fear of goblin-inflicted punishment. This differs from, say, Native American cultures, where humor is often used instead of fear. It is also interesting how they compared goblins to genies — this, perhaps, demonstrates a cognate relationship between the figures.

For further relevant information, I read and recommend:

Jong-dae, Kim. “Dokkaebi: The Goblins of Korean Myth.” Korean Literature Now, vol. 35, 5 Apr. 2017, koreanliteraturenow.com/essay/musings/dokkaebi-goblins-korean-myth.

In this, Jong-dae shows relationships to Japanese folklore figures; this is interesting, as part of a conversation that occured this day between the informant, their friends, and myself pertained to Chinese linguistic and cultural influence over Asian countries and cultures, and how these “stories” may be related.

 

Civil War Ghost of Brighton, Michigan

Civil War Ghost of Brighton, Michigan

The following informant is a 19 year-old USC student from Brighton, Michigan. They attended the Interlochen Arts Academy for 2 years before moving to Los Angeles. Here, they are describing a ghost story they recall hearing about a Hartland High School friend; they will be identified as S. The subjects of his story will be identified as O and D.

S: There was this kid that I used to know in high school, his name was O, he was two years older than me, and he had a brother that was a year younger than me, and they lived on a farm. They lived on a farm, and their house was built in a, a long, long time ago, I think during the Civil War, actually.

We lived in a suburb, but he lived in, like, the farm, farmland part of Brighton, which is tractors, cows — he even had sheep, one was named Luigi. Anyways, no, since the house was so old, the owner, or someone that either lived in the house or was involved in the house, they just, obviously died, and Logan always said this type of “spook” just lingered, it was always there. It wasn’t a harmful, or like, it wasn’t harmful, I’ll leave it at that.

But it was, like, the typical things would be found out of place. Apparently it used to definitely linger around D [his brother] more. It would be, like, they — D would clean in his room, or whatever, and the closet door would be shut, and then they would leave, and then they’d come back from going to the store, or from playing outside, or something, and then the closet door would be open and some things would be out of place.

Just a sense of someone’s in the room with you but when you know you’re alone, just like eyes are on you, and hairs on your neck stick up, and it’s kind of like a cold presence. Something is in the room with you, some spirit or something. That’s the “spook” of S’s house.

Context

The informant is my younger sibling, and O was a friend of mine in the same class. I don’t recall hearing this story, but the informant was relatively close with the individuals described in the story. The performance took place in our apartment a few blocks away from USC, and I was the sole listener. Not to take any sort of credence away from the informant, but it would seem a noteworthy amount of emphasis was placed on the term “spook” during the telling, as if this alternative (and less common) term for “ghost” or “spirit” was the reason behind their remembering of the account.

My Thoughts

The area of Brighton, Michigan (where we were primarily raised) is an interesting one — there are plenty of Civil War artifacts and graveyards, and the town’s buildings retain an “old fashioned” style. Lots of our friends’ houses (those we would often visit) were older houses, and, as is characteristic of the houses in Brighton and its bordering areas, most had large yards surrounding them.

This combination surely lent itself to many paranormal interaction stories that were told as we grew up. I am less inclined to believe this story, purely based off of the informant’s performance, due to the lack of evidential exposition; perhaps a parent moved the objects, or closed the closet door. I’m sure a memorate influenced this narrative.

 

Dogman in Traverse City, Michigan

Dogman in Traverse City, Michigan

The following informant is a 19 year-old USC student from Brighton, Michigan. They attended the Interlochen Arts Academy for 2 years before moving to Los Angeles. Here, they are describing an urban legend they recall hearing about a dog creature while attending high school in Northern Michigan; they will be identified as R.

R: A popular urban legend is a, this creature called the Dogman, it’s right where we went to high school in Traverse City. This dog-creature, it wasn’t a werewolf and it wasn’t bigfoot, it was like a hairy many with the head of a dog.

But, no, you’d see him roaming around the woods in the north, it was said this, like, DJ in the 80s said, “I made up the legend as an April Fools joke,” but there’s definitely incidents found from the 30s and 1800s — it’s just, there’s been a tax? I don’t know if there’s videos. Obviously there’s going to be people that fake this, but the guy claimed it’s a joke, but there’s been actual, actual records behind it, and that is Dogman.

Context

The informant is my younger sibling, and the two of us attended the same boarding high school in Northern Michigan (near Traverse City in a town named Interlochen), though not at the same time. The performance took place in our apartment a few blocks away from USC, and I was the sole listener. The school was built on top of Native American burial grounds (there were many signs around campus providing a history of the land), and many paranormal encounter stories are told.

My Thoughts

Traverse City is much different than Brighton, Michigan, where the informant and I grew up; it is much more dense in forests, and simply sounds different, in part due to the many surrounding lakes and Great Lake. I am sure that this has an effect on the local folklore, as much of the stories I recall being told as a kid in Brighton involve farmland and the Civil War.

I never heard this story, but it sounds like a typical urban legend. Many of the creatures described in these sorts of Michigan legends involve animals — this may very well be a result of the woods, forests, and wildlife that are a part of everyday life.

The informant heard this story while attending high school near Traverse City; this story fits into the type of stories I remember hearing and exchanging at night time after classes on campus, especially while sitting with friends near the surrounding lake and enveloped in the ambience produced by the moving water, wind blowing through trees’ leaves, and wildlife (particularly the large population of loons that inhabited Green Lake).

The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Virgin Sacrifice

The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Virgin Sacrifice

The following informant is a 21 year-old student from California, currently residing in Los Angeles and studying at the University of Southern California. They have been a part of the weekly cast of Los Angeles’ “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” tradition for at least a year. Here, they are describing a weekly tradition they subject the audience to; they will be identified as I.

I: At “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the one in Santa Monica at the Nuart, we’re called Sins of the Flesh, and we do this thing, there’s a pre-show, an MC introducing the whole thing, and what the MC will do is ask if there’s anyone who has never seen “The Rocky Horror” show live, with the shadow-cast and everything, before. And of all the people that are left, who have never seen the show before, they get 6 people up there, and ask them to perform some kind of weird antics.

And there’s a couple different games that they’ll play, a popular one is “Who’s Your Daddy?” They ask someone the actual name of their actual father, and they have to do an impersonation of their mother screaming their father’s name in bed, you know? Things like that that are lude, and inappropriate, and just fun to see.

There’s another game that they play, called “Scavenger Hunt,” where they basically ask for ridiculous things from the audience, like a pair of panties, or like, a Universal Studios annual pass, or like a condom, just some ridiculous topical things. Once the game is finished, they pick two winners, usually one boy and one girl, but sometimes it’s not that — and what they used to do is a very inappropriate thing where they’d get them into a, kind of, lude position, and then lift them up and down in that position, and it was a lot, and I think it was a liability.

So now, what they do, is they make it so the winners are part of the show, they have small roles at the beginning. There are some callouts where, if you’re going to lie, don’t say you’ve seen it 50 or 100 times, because we would have recognized you by now.

Context

The informant is my roommate, and I am friends with this individual. This bit was told to me in our room. They have been a part of the cast of the Santa Monica weekly performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for at least a year, but have attended the performance for a longer period of time.

My Thoughts

I attended the show once last year — it was fascinating. The seemingly countless callouts, memorized musical numbers, and objects thrown around were a spectacle. It was interesting hearing someone behind such a performance describe the tradition of inducting new members of the community.

It is truly a matter of identity and initiating those who are not yet members of the “in crowd” with harmless yet deprecating jokes that they are not fully aware of, so that they may subject their friends who might eventually attend the performance with the same jokes.

 

Los Angeles Swedish Festival

Los Angeles Swedish Festival

The following informant is a 21 year-old student from Sherman Oaks, California, currently studying at the University of Southern California. Their stepmother was from Sweden, and included the informant in traditional Swedish holiday festivities. Here, they are describing memories of attending the Shrine Auditorium, and a belief they recall. They will be identified as X.

X: My stepmom was from Sweden, and so, obviously her heritage was very important to her, because she was living in a different country, but she’s Swedish.

I guess Christmas time in Sweden is a big cultural thing, and they have all these different traditions than what we have over here. So, the Swedish community in Los Angeles puts together an annual Swedish Christmas fair at the Shrine — it’s basically like every Swedish person in LA is in the same room at the same time, and they have all the vendors selling things from Sweden, all the clocks and all the food, they’d have Swedish meatballs and spiced wine, which they make around Christmas time.

They’d also have the Santa Lucia celebration, I think. It’s like the blonde girl with candles on her head, like a candle crown. They’d sing a traditional folk song, which I still kind of know the melody — I never learned all the words.

It was beautiful, they’d turn the lights down, and all the girls would come in and, their white gowns with little red accents on it, because that’s the Christmas colors. Santa Lucia would have the crown of candles on her head, and everyone else would have a little wreath on their head — it was really pretty.

They have these little Christmas elf characters called tomte, and they’re little wooden creatures, with little beards and hair, and made of sheep’s wool, I think, but it’s really soft. They all have little red caps on, like Santa hats. But the story goes, the tomte are little older men type characters, like elves, and they’re the size of a small child, and they would either live in the barn or the pantry of the house, and their job was to take care of the animals.

You’d feed them porridge, leave it out for them and they’d eat it. And the way you know you have a tomte living with you is if you have a tidy house and tidy barn, that means there’s a tomte there. We still have our tomte decorations that we put out every year, now it’s become just a part of Christmas.

Context

The informant is a friend of mine who studies in the same program. I asked them if they recall or would be willing to share any special holiday traditions or rituals that they or their family takes part in annually.

My Thoughts

All of what the informant shared with me is factually accurate, as far as I can tell. It is interesting how there are small variations in holiday celebrations; instead of what I know of as elves in Western culture and Christmas celebrations, decorations, and stories, the Swedish Christmas holiday includes tomtes, which I have found stem from Nordic tales, and do in fact resemble gnomes.

It is nice how this almost foreign version of something has become a staple of Christmas for the informant; it is a means by which they might reconnect with their stepmother and show appreciation for their relationship, even without her being there.

 

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” Swearing-In

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” Swearing-In

The following informant is a 21 year-old student from California, currently residing in Los Angeles and studying at the University of Southern California. They have been a part of the weekly cast of Los Angeles’ “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” tradition for at least a year. Here, they are describing a the swearing-in of new members of the community; they will be identified as Z.

Z: At the beginning, it’s like “Raise your right hand, or the hand you masturbate with,” and then people would raise both their hands, “and repeat after me,” and everyone says “after me! after me! after me!”

And then the chant is, “I state your name, pledge allegiance to the lips of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ And to the decadence, for which they stand, one nation, under Richard O’Brien, on top of Patricia Quinn, with sensual daydreams, erotic nightmares, and sins of the flesh for them all.” That’s like the induction speech, or whatever. It’s a lot.

Context

The informant is my roommate, and I am friends with this individual. This bit was told to me in our room. They have been a part of the cast of the Santa Monica weekly performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for at least a year, but have attended the performance for a longer period of time.

My Thoughts

There are layers to this tradition. First off, it is lampooning the swearing in process that is typically held in judicial or political office. While this jokingly places the “induction ceremony” in a substantially more serious light than it rightfully deserves, there is no doubt that this film has become a sort of folklore, and acts as a canon for this community of “followers,” who have clearly come up with their own traditions, jokes, and beliefs as they relate to the film (genres of meta-folklore).

They are also, in ways, playing with the long-used term of “cult following” regarding “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” almost reclaiming the idea of a cult. In my opinion, it is a means of waving goodbye to the already-there establishment, and creating their own “legitimized” community — this is consonant with the overall tone of the film itself.

To read more on this topic, feel free to read:

Tyson, Christy, et al. “Our Readers Write: What Is the Significance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show? Why Do Kids Keep Going to It?” The English Journal, vol. 69, no. 7, 1980, pp.60–62. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/817417.

 

Pasadena and the “Suicide Bridge”

Pasadena and the “Suicide Bridge”

The following informant is a 25 year-old who was born and brought up in the San Fernando Valley of California. Here, they are describing a local urban legend that they had heard about a specific bridge in Pasadena; they will be identified as J.

J: There’s a bridge in Pasadena, where a ton of people commit suicide. Apparently it’s haunted. Google it, it’s a thing. I think the legend spurred people to commit suicide there, so the legend kind of fed itself. It’s definitely a thing.

Context

This interaction took place at a family gathering for a friend that I had been invited to; the informant is the cousin of the friend who invited me along.

My Thoughts

I tried looking up this particular urban legend online, with much luck. There is truth behind the Colorado State Bridge being the site of numerous suicides. There have apparently been “thousands” since 1919. There are also numerous well-known ghost sightings and haunting stories that can be easily accessed. I find it interesting, though, how the folklore behind the bridge has potentially spurred people to commit suicide at its location.

For more information, visit:

Weiser, Kathy. “Suicide Bridge – Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, California.” Legends ofAmerica, May 2017, www.legendsofamerica.com/ca-suicidebridge/.

 

Fourth Floor in Chinese Culture

Fourth Floor in Chinese Culture

The following informant is a 21 year-old musician from Seoul, Korea, currently residing in Los Angeles. Here, they are describing a Chinese belief regarding the number 4 and its connotations that continue to be passed down; here, they will be identified as F.

F: In China, in hospitals, they have no fourth floor, because four means death. Lot of Korean culture is adopted from China, lots of Asian countries are adopted from China, because it was so dominant. We have characters, and one word, depending on pronunciation, can mean a thousand different things. So, number four could also mean death. Different characters, though.

Context

This interaction occurred on USC’s campus — I am friends with the informant, as we occasionally perform together in musical settings. While it took place in a public space, this performance, as opposed to my other collections, did not occur in the presence of many additional individuals; as a result, there were not many validating reactions in addition to my own. They provided me with two other topics in my collection.

My Thoughts

I did not know of this belief prior to speaking with the informant. Still, it is similar to the lack of 13th floors in the U.S. However, there is no clear distinction between the usage of a 13th floor in hospitals and non-hospitals; my old dormitory, for example, lacked a 13th floor. While I find this additional layer interesting, upon researching the prominence of the number 4 in Chinese culture, it would seem that the lack of 4th floors goes beyond Chinese hospitals.

I also found that Chinese license plates often avoid ending in the number 4 — this concept is wholly new to me. It is also interesting how such beliefs, initially disseminated by way of colonization, still permeate separate cultures and are passed down from generation to generation. Here, Korea maintains this folk stigma of the number 4 largely due to China’s language (I also found that, in Korea, if a building is to include the 4th floor, the letter ‘F’ will often be substituted in place of the numerical character).

 

The Watchung Reservoir

The Watchung Reservoir

The following informant is a 66 year-old man who was born and brought up in New Jersey. Here, they are describing a local urban legend that they had heard throughout their upbringing; they will be identified as R.

R: The Watchung reservoir, off of Route 22, going west in New Jersey. At nighttime, we’d drive up there, and it was a dark two-lane, windy road, and there was one stretch, I forget what they used to call it, but rumour has it, and I actually did this once, where you drive in, and the road, you stop in this one part of the road, and it appears to be going uphill — you put the car in neutral, and the car keeps going uphill.

So, the story goes, one night, a couple of, the guy and his date, they were going up there, and he was showing it to her, put the car in neutral, and it started to go uphill, and she got so freaked out that she jumped out of the car, and he jumped out after her, and the next morning they were both found hanging from a tree. That’s what happens in Watchung…

Context

This interaction took place at a family gathering for a friend that I had been invited to; the informant is the father of the friend who invited me along. This performance took place with the informant’s girlfriend listening and occasionally laughing or expressing surprise and disbelief of the story. Having an audience most likely aided in the particular delivery of this legend, as everything led to the final cadence (almost as if to add shock).

My Thoughts

I tried looking up this particular urban legend online, but without luck (this is not to say that I disbelieve the informant). There is a plethora of additional paranormal sightings, interactions, and legends. While there does seem to be an actual Watchung reservoir, the Watchung Reservation yields many more results online — perhaps this is what the informant was referring to.

The bounding borough of Mountainside is a hotspot for these stories, including rumors of witchcraft and satanism. In this regard, this legend, whether the result of countless retellings of a rumor, or an actual optical illusion affected by the location’s “haunted nature,” makes sense.

 

Haunted Santa Fe Hotel

Haunted Santa Fe Hotel

The following informant is a 21 year-old student from Sherman Oaks, California, currently studying at the University of Southern California, but raised for a few years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Here, they are describing a legend they heard of while living in Santa Fe; they will be identified as B, and I will be identified as U.

B: There’s this one hotel in Santa Fe, it’s kind of in the middle of town, too, but if you’re a bride, you’re not supposed to stay there, because once upon a time, there was a woman who was left at the altar at the hotel, like she was staying there, and her husband, just like, didn’t show up, and then, it was told she died of sorrow. And so, she haunts the hotel now. So, you’re not supposed to stay there because she’ll ruin your wedding.

U: Just for brides, or…

B: It’s just brides. Well, if you’re, like, getting married, you’re not supposed to stay at that hotel.

Context

The informant is a friend of mine who studies in the same program. I was aware that they have lived in a few different locations while growing up, and was curious if they have carried any urban legends with them that they would be willing to share.

My Thoughts

Among the few ghost stories that I have been told for this collection, this one stands out, as there is a deterrent factor included. Whereas many stories are composed of a simple chronological plot, this one possesses a “don’t do this, or this will happen” quality. It offers a specific sort of identity to the hotel in question (I could not find a specific hotel name online).

However, I am sure this story has brought in many tourists; many of the haunted Santa Fe hotels I read about online have drinks served at the bar that are named after the ghost’s supposed name and other sorts of souvenirs. This gives the location and business a unique identity that I have no doubt brings in many willing customers, even engaged couples.