Author Archives: Rachel Johnson

Hitori Kakurenbo – Hide and Seek Alone

The informant is marked IN.

IN: It’s kind of like a cult game, like in the same genre of the Ouija board, but like different…. And it’s called, like, Hitori Kakurenbo – Hide and Seek Alone. And it’s like, this elaborate ritual where you invite this ghost to come play hide and seek with you. And to do so you need to do like all this crazy shit. Like you need to get this doll, take all the stuffing out, and then you need to stuff it with rice, and they you need to put, like, a .. you need to put like blood, or a fingernail, or like a hair trimming into the doll. Like connect it with your spirit. And then you, what is it you have to like drown it in a bathtub and tie it with a string? Which are all elements of like, there’s some in Japanese folklore culture I believe. I know the rice has something to do with life, which makes sense cause it’s like, a carb. And i have read online that people did it and nothing worked. But then others say they did it and like, the TVs were changing. Apparently a korean version called living  doll, where like you take a doll – and I forgot to mention that in the original, Hitori Kakurenbo, it’s important that you get this stuffed animal that doesn’t look human-like. Because if you get one that looks human it has more power or something like that, which i guess kind of makes sense, like I don’t know? But living doll, you get a real ass doll, and then you invite it to like come, I don’t know, turn your lights off or eat you or something. And apparently people are like scared at shit that happened.

Context: I met the informant for lunch and she brought up an old game she heard about from her friend.

Background: The informant is a second year student at USC who is Korean-American. She heard about this game from a friend in Saint Louis, where she grew up. She believes her friend read about this game online on a website, likely Reddit.

Analysis: This was intriguing to me because it’s like a very ritualistic version of Ouija, calling out a spirit but adding in a physical voodoo-esque doll. It’s also interesting that people out there are willing to try this out in hopes of meeting or playing with a ghost.

The Green Lady

The informant is marked IN.

IN: There’s this one spirit, called the green lady, who wanders around this botanical garden, that I think has water or like some kind of pond in it. She has green scales and jagged teeth, very Shape of Water, and her hair is made up of seaweed, and so the story goes that she had visited that garden with her children and one of them got lost and drowned in the lake. Because of that, she died with a broken heart and is apparently supposed to roam that area, in search of her child. And anyone visiting this garden is told not to leave their kids alone, because the spirit will like, take them as revenge or a consolation to her own child, you know.

Context: I asked the informant at work if he had any Hawaiian folklore tales he could remember.

Background: The informant is Hawaiian, with Japanese-American family. He heard this story around from locals in the area around this botanical garden.

Analysis: I think that this story is very similar to La Llorona in nature. It also functions as a story to tell children to get them to stay with you while visiting this area, as it will scare them to be alone with a fish-like spirit with jagged teeth.


IN: Okay, so far away in a village in Africa, uhm there was a giant by the name of Abiyoyo. For some reason, he got angry and started rampaging, like towards the village of people. Until this little boy decided to take this guitar and start singing, “abiyoyo, abiyoyo, abiyoyo..” and all of the villagers joined in and it started to make him get happy. The giant started dancing, and he and the boy walked into the sunset singing the song.

JJ: Does abiyoyo mean anything? Or did it start to mean anything after?

IN: No, as far as I know it was just kind of arbitrary, like a cool sounding word. It could mean something I guess.

Context: During a slow work shift I asked the informant if he remembered any folktales from his childhood.

Background: The informant is s South-African American. This was a story his father used to always tell him before bed. It is one of the few ways that his family actively passed down their African heritage to him in the States, so this was a significant story to him growing up.

Analysis: In this tale, we see music as a healing tool and important instrument in society. Music is a huge piece in African culture, and this story undoubtedly expresses that. Music has the ability to calm and tranquilize even a beastly giant, and gives reason for little kids to learn instruments and develop and explain interest in music.


Palae, Fire Goddess

IN: Palae, our fire goddess, she like materializes herself into different forms and different ages stuff. And apparently, if you go, if your driving around in like a volcano area, and you see this women in white – but like you wont see her face – she’s hitchhiking you have to pick her up. And you’re not supposed to look at her in the rearview mirror adn she’s gonna ask you for a cigarette and you have to give her one. Or you have to get one to give to her.

JJ: Do you know anyone who that happened to?

IN: Because apparently um, when she’s, when she’s hitchhiking she’s in her beautiful form but if you look at her in the mirror she turns into her thousand year old self and shes all like “eeeeeehhhgg”

And her and her brother, the pig god, didn’t get along. so if you’re driving um towards the volcano and you pass this mile marker, your car will break down if you have pork products in your car. True. It has happened to me. I mean not like, right at the marker, but I mean like, four minutes in my car broke down. Because I had beef jerkey. And I was like, what the hell – I couldnt figure it out. and I was like, “Oh, so it’s true.”

JJ: Was it pork beef jerky? –

IN: Yeah

JJ: -I mean I guess I don’t know what beef jerky is made out of.

IN: But yeah pork products and you’ll break down. I’ve experienced it. Unless its just impeccable coincidence that my car broke down right at the marker.

Context: During a slow work shift, I asked the informant if he had any Folklore from Hawaii.

Background: The informant is Hawaiian. He heard this information about their gods throughout his childhood and adulthood in Hawaii. These gods are very present in current culture and life so it was always something prevalent to him.

Analysis: I was surprised at the relevancy of Hawaiian gods today. I had never heard about them so it was really cool to learn more about Hawaiian culture and beliefs. I’d imagine that Palae can serve as both a protector and a perpetrator. When she is treated decently, in this case someone lets her hitchhike, she is not angry and the volcanoes remain calm. If one erupts or a fire breaks out, it can be connected to someone not taking her along.

Hard Boiled Egg Black Eye

IN: When I was little, I fell up some stairs when I was trying to like, race up on hands an knees or something. I hit my face really hard, like thats why I have this scar on my eyebrow here. Anyways, I got this like really, really bad blackeye. And my grandma would take an egg, boil it to be like hard boiled, and then wrap in in a cloth and press it to my eye. And I remember her and my parents telling me it was sucking out all of the bad stuff. Like, the bad energy or something. Like she wouldn’t let me eat it after either, which I was pretty sad about most of the time. Like it was because of the bad energy that I couldn’t eat it.

I looked it up and it just says that like, it’s an actual thing people do, but like I guess it’s just the warmth that’s supposed to help you. But like I clearly remember my parents telling me it was sucking out the bad stuff, just bad evil energy and blackness from my eye.

Context: I met the informant at lunch and asked about any folk remedies her grandmother used when she was little.

Background: The informant is a second year student at USC who is Chinese-American, but her parents grew up in Vietnam. Her grandmother used a lot of folk medicine growing up, and this was a method used to treat her black eye.

Analysis: I found this really interesting because at the core it could be a more scientifically backed treatment if you approach it from the “heat-healing” perspective of increasing bloodflow in the area to alleviate the bruise. However, the informant was very adament that it was about the evil blackness for her grandmother, and that it was likely something she learned from her mother before her.

Spinach and Tofu

The informant is marked IN. The collector is marked JJ.

IN: My mom told me I can’t eat spinach and tofu together otherwise I would die. Like all throughout my childhood, she never let me eat spinach and tofu.

JJ: Did she explain why you would die?

IN: No she had no idea why and I told her I don’t believe you and she was like it’s real I heard it on the Chinese television. And my mom believes a lot of things from chinese television and they have the weirdest like, health talks where it’s like, they bring up the weirdest shit and it’s usually not true.

Context: I met the informant at lunch and asked about any folk medicine used by her parents.

Background: The informant is a Chinese-American whose parents were raised in Vietnam. Her parents collect a lot of health remedies from Chinese television, often explained with little scientific backing – which is something that the informant has never agreed with but faced a lot growing up.

Analysis: I found this interesting because both foods are very healthy and to my knowledge used often in Chinese cooking. I can’t imagine reasons for avoiding these two foods, folkloric or scientific.

La Llorona

The informant is marked IN. The collector is marked JJ.

IN: So the story goes that this woman in like colonial times in Mexico, she had a couple kids. And the story changes, like some stories say the kids drown, some say they got lost, or killed. So the story goes that at night whenever people hear any crying outside it’s like this woman that’s coming back to get kids and like kill them. So part of that is saying that you can hear like moaning and crying and you’re supposed to hide your kids and stuff. So I’m pretty sure they like take the kids and drown them in the river.

JJ: Did you hear it in your family like from older generations more?

IN: In my family they didn’t say it that much, but it was more like between friends when we were telling horror stories. I think it’s more of an older generation, and also in smaller towns where people walk around more in a smaller environment. But it mostly came up in people telling their friends or hearing it from like older grandparents.

IN: The main thing is there are people that say that they heard her and it’s actually popular enough that they made a movie recently. But if you hear her you’re supposedly supposed to die, so not many people really claim to hear her.

Context: The informant is my sister in law. I asked if there was any Folklore from Mexico that she remembered.

Background: The informant is from Mexico and has lived in California for about ten years. She heard this tale growing up from friends who would tell the story as being something they heard from their grandparents mostly. For her it was more of a horror/entertainment tale than a cautionary one, particularly because she lived in a bigger city so there wasn’t relevance for la Llorona.

Analysis: I found the informants explanation interesting because from class I always imagined it being a cautionary tale to make sure your kids don’t wander away. I also understand why older generations and people in more rural areas might hear it more often or spread it for caution there to make sure that their kids don’t wander into forests at night.

Sacred Owls in Hawaii

The informant is marked IN.

IN: There was this one myth about an owl that I kind of remember, like not exactly but I’ve heard it a couple times. So basically there was this kid, called Kapoi, who found some owl eggs, and he like, wanted to roast them to eat and stuff. And this all – by the way – kind of just relates back to how important owls are for Hawaiians. So like he’s about to cook these eggs and an owl comes down and tells him “hey, you can’t do that please give me my eggs” and the kid doesn’t really listen, but the owl asks again and the kid says “okay, come get them and they’re yours.” So the owl comes down and gets his eggs back, and he tells the kid to build a temple with an alter and everything and it ends up that on the same day, the king had set up a temple and he had already dedicated it, and basically just made up a rule on the spot that no one shall dedicate a temple on the same day as the king. So the king sends all these men to kill Kapoi, but the owls heard about this and they decide to intercept the kings men and attacked them all, just pecking and scratching and killing his men. So then like, the owls won, and like the king I guess acknowledged the God that Kapoi had dedicated the temple to, which was basically the owls, and since then owls have been seen as very divine, god-like birds and just show up a lot throughout Hawaiian sacred history and stuff. They just play a big role overall, in like, everyday life I guess and they have to be respected.

Context: I asked the informant during work if he had any Hawaiian folktales.

Background: The informant is a Hawaiian Japanese-American, who was raised hearing a lot of Hawaiian folklore around him. This is a story he heard less often but was an essential piece for understanding the importance of owls in Hawaiian legends.

Analysis: I thought that this was a really interesting piece because it gives the message that if you respect nature, nature will respect you. Treating animals kindly instead of stealing and roasting their eggs will lead to better karma and protection from those animals in the future. I also never knew that owls were prevalent in Hawaii so this surprised me.

Freshman Pool Passes

IN: Um, well, a common joke or practical joke that would happening my high school is that Seniors, or upperclassmen, would sell freshman uh, pool passes, and tell them we have a pool – and we do not have a pool. And they would say things like “oh the pool, is right next to the gym in the basement, or the pool is on the fourth floor, and we only had three floors. And they just constantly kind of just lied to freshman and get them to… like, some of them would make very official cards uh, thats a pool pass and try to get them to buy like $10, $15 pool passes for a pool that didn’t really exist. And uh, some seniors would actually try it, it devolved kind of into a practical joke where teachers would joke about the pool on the fourth floor, and where at orientation they would make a funny song and dance about it. Just remember: there’s no pool.

JJ: Did you ever buy a pool pass?

IN: No. But I was offered one. We were told over and over again at orientation: don’t believe them, there’s no pool. HIGH SCHOOL NAME OMITTED does not have a pool, we wouldn’t sell passes.

JJ: Did that make you believe it any more? Did you have any inkling of like, oh what if there is a pool?

IN: Yes, but then I went to the roof, which is effectively the fourth floor, and it was pretty boring. There was nothing up there. Just a pretty standard roof.

Context: I met the informant in his apartment to collect some folklore pieces from him. I asked about any traditions he had in high school.

Background: The informant is a second year student at USC who went to high school in New York city.

Analysis: I think pranking freshman is a pretty common thing in high schools and colleges. This piece reminded me of freshman year at USC, where they would throw “all-white” parties where you had to wear all white under the guise of it being a blacklight party or something, but it was only advertised as that to the freshman and all of the upperclassmen knew not to wear white because wearing white marked you as a freshman. I think that picking on freshman effectively unites the upperclassmen population and creates a sense of comradery. It’s just a weird feeling that even if you don’t necessarily fit in, at least you’re not a freshman.