Author Archives: burditt

Persian-American Nowruz Fire Jumping

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (AM).

CB “Okay, start by telling me why you participate in this event, what you call the event, and who  you participate with”

AM “I celebrate Persian new year every year because I am Perisan and both of my family members that I live with are also Persian. And they grew up in Iran. And because of that they grew up celebrating certain religions and certain customs throughout their lifetime.  So now they also allowed me to grow up in their roots and experience that Iranian culture that I wasn’t really able to experience because I live in the United States now.

“So one of the small events that I celebrate with my family is when we go to a park to celebrate Persian New Year., also known as Nawruz. At this park there are normally other Persians who agregate here and there’s various events that they do for customs, and one of them is that at night time they build a fire, a nice big fire, and they play Persian music and everyone sort of lines up and they take turns jumping over the fire. [laughs] Yeah, that’s one particular thing that occurs a lot

. . .

CB “Can you talk about the fire jumping thing? Is that supposed to symbolize anything do you know”

AM “Hmm. I’m sure it symbolizes something, I don’t know the finite definition of it but I can give you my interpretation of it because that’s sort of what folklore revolves around, right?  So my vision of it is a renewal of life, kinda like when a phenix dives into a fire and is reborn, and so its a meaning of a new year; a new life. So when you jump through it you’re kinda saying this is a new me now. And this is a new year as I branch into my new life.”

Background:

My informant is a Persian-American, first generation American citizen. He lives with his mother, father, grandmother, and aunt who all spent a majority of their life in Iran, and all communicate mainly in Farsi. A large amount of his extended family still lives in Iran, and so he has often talked about feeling disconnected from Persian culture. The Nowruz celebrations that he described happen every year in a park in the LA area. He and his family drive about 2 hours to get there, and it’s one of the only times during the year that they are able to connect with the larger Persian community in the area. The fire-jumping tradition that he spoke about seems to be a way to actively initiate a fresh state. I think that he and his family value this event so much because they are separated from the rest of their family, and their culture. By meeting with other Persians every year to celebrate a new beginning, at the same time that their family in Iran is celebrating Nowruz, they are able to bring their Persian culture, and family by extension, with them into their new year.

Context:

I know this informant fairly well, and we have often talked about his culture. When I was given this assignment, he was the first person I thought to ask. I interviewed him over Zoom, and we chatted a lot about the role of culture for immigrant Americans. We had a very comfortable conversation, as we had many times before.

Thoughts:

I was really interested in the fire-jumping aspect of Nowruz. Many different cultures emphasize the idea of new beginnings around the new year. However, for my informant, his Nowruz celebration gave him a ritualistic way of acting out this new beginning. It made it so that it was almost the action, not the holiday, that symbolized this rebirth. I also thought that it was especially interesting that he referenced a popular piece of western folklore, the phoenix, when describing his traditions. I think that this represents a large part of his assimilation to American and western culture. While he is still distinctly Persian and tied to his roots, the way he thinks of his celebrations is defined by both his heritage, and his surroundings. This exemplifies the development of Persian-American culture as a separate unit from either culture.

Dog on a Nail Joke

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (MH).

CB: “What’s the joke?”

MH: “So there’s this little old house. And sitting in front of this little old house is an old man in a rocking chair and a dog laying out on the porch. And that dog laid in the same exact spot on the porch all day, everyday. So one day the old man had a friend over, and he’s sitting there on the porch and they’re drinking their beers in the afternoon, and the dog is laying there next to them. But the whole time that the dog is laying there he’s moaning and moaning like he’s in pain.

And the friend goes ‘Well what’s wrong with your dog, he sounds like he’s in pain?’

And the old man goes ‘He’s laying on a nail.’

And the friend goes, ‘Well why doesn’t he move?’

And the old man says ‘It doesn’t hurt bad enough yet’”

CB: “What does it mean to you?”

MH: “I think it means… I think it shows how much tolerance you can have when you’re that stubborn.”

CB: “Why do you think it’s important to share the joke?”

MH: “Because it’s stupid to lay on a nail.” [laughs]

Background:

My informant is known in our family for his jokes, and most of the family can repeat them by memory.  In our family, this joke has become heavily associated with him, and can be referenced with just one sentence. My informant’s telling of this joke is often thought to be ironic by our family, as he is known for his stubbornness. This joke is different from most of his other jokes because it has such a clear moral. For this reason, the joke is often uses in our family to make a certain point.

Context:

I called my informant on their way home from work to ask about this joke that I had heard him tell many times before. Our conversation was light and casual as we laughed about the joke.

Thoughts:

This joke is less amusing, as it is a lesson. As my informant says “its stupid to lay on a nail”. The dog is putting himself in pain for no other reason than his own stubbornness. Our family has long since laughed at the irony of the most stubborn member of the family telling the joke, however I think that it’s telling of a larger tradition in folklore. He likely tells the joke because he can personally identify with it, and wants to warn his family against repeating his mistakes. The joke is often specifically targeted at the younger generation in the family, and is referenced when someone is acting particularly hard-headed. In this way, the joke functions more as a warning, than as a source of amusement.

For another variation of this joke see Celestine Chua’s article “The Howling Dog Story” published in Personal Excellence. https://personalexcellence.co/blog/howling-dog-story/

One Legged Pig Joke

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (AH).

AH: “So I heard this from my dad, but I don’t know where he heard it. There’s this delivery guy and he’s making his normal rounds, but he has to go out to this really rural part of town to deliver this package. It’s a big ranch house and there’s a huge yard, and there’s pigs out and dogs out, it’s just absolutely gorgeous. So he walks up to the house and there’s a pig pen off to the side and he notices that there’s a pig out there with only one leg.”

CB: “Only one leg?”

AH: “Only one leg. And he thought ‘well that’s odd’. So he goes to the door to deliver the package and he asks the guy ‘hey what’s with the pig that has only one leg?’ 

And the guy looks at him and goes ‘See that pig right there! Let me tell you about that pig! THAT pig ran into my house and saved my WHOLE family when it was burning down. And we’ve rebuilt everything now, but he saved my entire family’s life’

And the guy says, ‘that’s cool, but why does he only have one leg?’

And then the man looks at him and he says, ‘Let me tell you about that pig right there. That pig saved my daughter from being eaten by a rattlesnake.’

And he says, ‘That’s awesome, but why does he only have one leg?’

And he says, ‘Let me tell you about THAT pig right THERE. It was the middle of the night and a wolf was coming down the mountains to eat my animals, and THAT pig right there chased that wolf all the way up the mountain saving my entire livestock.’

And he was like, ‘That’s GREAT. But WHY does he only have one leg?’

And the old man looks at him dead in the eye, and he says, ‘Well it’d be a shame to eat him all at once wouldn’t it?’ ”

CB: [Laughs] “Um… That’s great. What do you think the meaning of the joke is?”

AH: “Uh… uh don’t get rid of a good thing”

CB: “What do you think that it’s important to share that joke?”

AH: “Well it’s important because it teaches you how to properly eat a pig without killing it.” [Laughs]

Background:
My informant told me this joke, even though we had both heard one particular member of our family repeat it many times. The joke plays on a dark sense of humor that he is known for, and has become very heavily associated with that relative.

Context:
My informant called me with stories prepared after hearing that I had been interviewing other members of our family for folklore. We had a fun and casual conversation, exchanging versions of stories that we had heard growing up.

Thoughts:

My informant, and her father who told her the joke, grew up in Salinas, CA. Salinas has grown to be a decent sized city, however it is still surrounded by a huge agricultural community. This joke reflects tensions that are common in modern agricultural communities; a separation between the ‘city folk’ and the ‘country folk’. This joke mocks the farmer for their stereotypical behavior, and satirizes his choice to eat his livestock. By having the farmer eat such a clearly intelligent and amazing pig, the joke portrays him as ‘uncivilized’ and out of touch with modernly accepted behaviors. These ideas represent stereotypes for farming communities, and highlight the tension within the community.

For another variation of this joke see Doug Mayo’s post “Friday Funny: The Pig with a Wooden Leg” in University of Florida’s IFAS Extension. https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/phag/2016/01/15/friday-funny-the-pig-with-a-wooden-leg/

Bloody Mary

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (AH).

CB: “Can you tell me about Bloody Mary?”

AH: “Yes! So I learned about Bloody Mary when I was pretty little. I think that it was one of my friends in elementary school that taught me about it, but I don’t really remember honestly. But, uhhh…. The superstition was that if you went into the bathroom at night, traditionally you’re supposed to do it at midnight. But you go in and you flick the lights on and off again three times, and you say ‘Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary’ and she’s supposed to appear to you and kill you. 

CB: “So what does Bloody Mary mean to you?”

AH: “Bloody Mary was the very first folklore that I remember. I used to be scared shitless of Mary, whoever the fuck she was…. Oh! No! She wouldn’t kill you right away, her bloody severed head would appear in the mirror, and there would be blood in the sink, and then she would kill one of your family members the next night. That’s what it was!!”

CB: “But why do you think that piece of folklore is important?”

AH: “I just always thought it was kinda a way to keep kids out of the bathroom at night. I don’t know.”

Background:

Bloody Mary is a very popular tale or game that many of my friends and I have heard growing up. My informant and I discussed how the game seems to only ever be played by girls, and is very heavily associated with elementary school bathrooms. We compared versions of the story that we grew up with, and laughed at our fears. I had heard that the ghost was based on Mary Queen of Scots, and that she would haunt young girls because she was killed at a young age.

Context:

My informant called me with stories prepared after hearing that I had been interviewing other members of our family for folklore. We had a fun and casual conversation, exchanging versions of stories that we had heard growing up.

Thoughts:

Bloody Mary is a really common childhood game because it reflects young girls’ universal apprehension about blood and bathrooms. The fears associated with the game also reflect modern social portrayals of bathrooms as a dangerous space. Girls are taught from a very young age not to go to the bathroom alone. I grew up hearing stories about men hiding in women’s bathrooms to kidnap, rape, or murder the women who go in their. Because of this, girls begin to internalize this fear of bathrooms, particularly public bathrooms, at a very young age. This game reveals is a way for girls to channel and address their fears associated with a public school bathroom, often with the protection of their friends.

For another interpretation of Bloody Mary see “The Psychology of Extraordinary Beliefs” published by The Ohio State University. https://u.osu.edu/vanzandt/2019/04/17/bloody-mary-from-the-bathroom-to-the-laboratory/

Theater Ghost Spotlight Ritual

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (AH).

CB: “Can you tell me about that ritual for theater ghosts?”

AH: “Uh so have you ever heard of the ghost light?”

CB: “No”

AH: “So its tradition in theater that when you shut down at the end of the night that you leave a single light, its gotta have leads on it traditionally, and it even goes back to shakespearean times, you know they would leave a candle out or a lantern out so that the ghosts wouldn’t burn down the stage, but then, you know, sometimes the candle would burn down the stage.  But you leave a light out in the middle of the stage, and so the rest of the theater is completely black except for that light in the middle of the stage. And so the tradition is that you leave a spotlight out in the middle of the stage so that ghosts of theater past are able to perform for their audience.” 

CB: “That’s really interesting. Where did you first hear about that?”

AH: “I heard about it in theater at my high school. My theater technician teacher taught us that one”

CB: “And so, why do you think that people share it?”

AH: “It’s a very important tradition. Rumor has it that if you don’t leave a light out, its bad luck and your theater will be doomed to never have a successful show again.”

CB: “What does the ritual mean to you?”

AH: “Um, it’s more just something that I do because it was something that I was taught to do and less because it means anything to me. I think that it’s important to the theater community as a whole to put the ghost light out. It’s a superstition, and it kinda calms a certain type of feeling. And I find, but I’m not this way, but theater people in general tend to be more superstitious than your average individual.” 

Background:

My informant has spent many years actively involved in theater programs, and attended a high school with a very active program. There are tons of stories of theater ghosts, and the tradition can be seen going back to ancient times. With the stories come different rituals to appease the ghosts and protect their theaters. My informant has shared with me varying different stories about theater ghosts which she believed in to different degrees. She expressed that she didn’t completely believe in this ritual, but that she often partook in it out of respect for the community and the sentiments associated with it.

Context:

My informant called me with stories prepared after hearing that I had been interviewing other members of our family for folklore. We had a fun and casual conversation, exchanging versions of stories that we had heard growing up.

Thoughts:

I believe that many people within the theater community are attracted to superstitions because success in the arts can be very unpredictable. By working to appease the ghosts and performing traditional rituals, the theater community is able to reclaim a sense of agency over their success. The ritual also provides a scapegoat in case that a show doesn’t go well. The members would be able to avoid criticism of their personal performance, and instead blame a ghost. Theater is an incredibly old profession, and because of that traditions that have died out elsewhere are still passed down within theater communities. My informant cited the ritual as going back as far as Shakespearan times. I believe the ritual was likely a part of a larger theme of beliefs in ghosts, hauntings, and traditions that can appease them that are no longer popular. 

For another variation of a ghost spotlight see Andy Wright’s article “The Story Behind the Ritual that Still Haunts Broadway” published on Atlas Obsurca. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-story-behind-the-ritual-that-still-haunts-broadway

Gertrude the Theater Ghost

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (AH).

AH: “So when I was at Salinas High, I was very active in theater. And the first year of my theater program, the older classmen have always told the freshmen about gertrude who is our theater ghost. And I kinda thought that it was all bullshit at first, you know, I didn’t really believe in ghosts, and I didn’t think that it was anything worth paying attention to until my sophomore year. Now the story behind Gertrude, is um… Gertrude was one of the first students at Salinas High back in…..actually I don’t remember when the school opened. But the story was that she was one of the first students there, the first freshman when the school opened. And she was in love with a boy from the opposing school, and he was colored as well. So it was a big to-do. And one night she snuck out to go see him, and he got caught, and he got beaten up by some of her family members. And so he ended up dying from the beating. And she was just so overwhelmed with grief, and she was in the basement of the theater, which back then I don’t remember what it was, at one point it was a bowling alley… but yeah, she went down to the basement and took her own life. And so she has continued to haunt Salinas High for the rest of eternity.”

CB: “Why do you think that the upperclassmen would tell the underclassmen the story?”

AH: “I used to think that the upperclassmen told them to try and scare them and as a kind of hazing sort of thing. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I actually thought gertrude might be real.”

CB: “Well why do you think it’s important to share the story still?”

AH: “As a warning for one, because some scary shit goes on. Like some really unexplainable stuff has happened. And so we explain it with Gertrude, you know, it’s kinda our way of reasoning. And I think that it also passes down a certain tradition to kinda keep a connection between older and younger generations.”

CB: “And what does Gertrude mean to you?”

AH: “Gertrude will forever hold a place in my heart as my first theater ghost. She probably scared the shit out of me more than any other theater ghost I’ve ever encountered.”

Background:

My informant has spent many years actively involved in theater programs, and attended a high school with a very active program. There are tons of stories of theater ghosts, and the tradition can be seen going back to ancient times. Every theater has a different ghost, with a different personality. The story and moral associated with the ghost changes depending on the theater in order to represent the values associated with the theater.

Context:

My informant called me with stories prepared after hearing that I had been interviewing other members of our family for folklore. We had a fun and casual conversation, exchanging versions of stories that we had heard growing up.

Thoughts:

Growing up in Salinas, my informant was in a very diverse community with staggering differences in socioeconomic status. This led to a lot of racial tension. It makes sense that their ghost’s story would portray this tension, however it’s interesting that it is portrayed as tragic. By doing this, this specific theater makes it clear what sort of attitudes are and are not tolerable within their community. My informant cites that the older members of the community told the new members as a warning against the actions of the ghost, but I believe that it was also told as a code of conduct. The older members used the story as a way to acknowledge that bigoted sentiments are common in the larger community, but to remind the new member that they are not tolerable in their theater’s community. My informant also cited the ghost as a means to explain unexplained incidents. She claims the ghost is memorable because of these incidents and her belief in it. In this way, by first explaining the code of conduct, and then by introducing the new members to a shared belief, the story telling acts as an initiation ritual. Once the new member accepts the code of conduct and respects the beliefs, they are a member of the community.

Healthcare Full Moon Friday

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (PB).

CB: “So tell me about the full moon friday night”

PB: “Well everyone in the hospital knows that on a full moon friday night, not only is the emergency room going to be crazy busy, but it’s going to be very bizarre, odd, and horrific things that you haven’t seen before. Somebody’s gonna come in with a severed foot, or you know, something really disturbing that you haven’t seen before, that because of the full moon and the full moon being out on a friday night where they are just more risk takers. So yeah, its also in the rest of the hospital. If you’re working in the ICU someone is probably gonna code, or go into cardiac arrest. Someone on the floor is gonna have something bizarre happening. More people are gonna have sort of crazy behaviors, the dememnted people are going to have more severe delusions or hallucinations that haven’t had any other time they’ve been there. It’s just that you believe on a full moon friday night that its just going to be a crazy night.”

CB: “Why do you think people believe that?”

PB: “Um, I think they believe that because one, there is some science behind the full moon having an effect on human behavior, uh, but also because when the night is just going very crazy you have to have an explanation. And we are the type of people, in the healthcare world, where we want to just explain everything. So we’re gonna say well, its a full moon and that’s why this is happening.”

CB: “What does the superstition mean to you?”

PB: “To me, it means that we can explain things we can’t explain, and accept things that are out of our control. You know that the full moon happens once a month, and once a month you’re just gonna have that crazy shift. And it’s a way of giving reason to what can’t have reason.”

Background:

My informant has worked as a respiratory therapist for about 8 years. This position requires that she work with every part of the medical personnel and with every department. She has also worked in about 4 hospitals in the Northern California area. Because of this, she has become very integrated into the overarching healthcare culture surrounding her work. Despite the focus on the scientific, the healthcare field has many superstitions. They often help give the healthcare workers a sense of agency and meaning over the situations they find themselves in.

Context:
I interviewed my informant in person. We were in my bedroom on my bed, and the conversation was very comfortable and casual. I had heard many stories from her work beforehand.

Thoughts:

Within healthcare, the professionals are constantly faced with unpredictable factors. They face all sorts of horrible situations while seeing people in some of the worst circumstances of their lives. These situations make human behaviors even less predictable than they usually are. With the start of every shift, healthcare workers have to accept a lot of uncertainty, and be open to facing difficult and potentially traumatic events. Because of this, a culture of trying to predict the unpredictable has arisen and led to the development of many healthcare superstitions. By labeling and accepting one night out of the month as a horrible, crazy shift healthcare workers are able to regain the ability to prepare for the unpredictable. It also allows for an explanation as to why patients they might normally like are behaving erratically, or out of character. The superstition also bonds the community as a whole. They are able to prepare for their crazy night as though they are going into battle. They might see something disturbing, but they will do it together, and they will come out the otherside having helped people.

For more variations of healthcare superstitions see SSMHealth’s blog post “10 ER superstitions for a full moon Friday the 13th”. https://www.ssmhealth.com/blogs/ssm-health-matters/september-2019/10-er-superstitions-for-a-full-moon-friday-the-13

“Quiet” Superstition in Healthcare

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (PB).

PB: “I work in the healthcare field, and nobody is allowed anywhere in the hospital to say the word ‘quiet’. Because if you say the word quiet, then all you know what will break loose and your quiet moment will turn into chaos. And its in every hospital everywhere in the country, I don’t know about in the world. And if anyone is heard saying the word quiet, they are admonished by everyone around them. And usually we just say ‘you can’t say the q-word!’ And instead we would just say, you know, ‘it’s very calm’, or ‘I like the way things are going right now’. But if you use the word quiet you have broken the cardinal rule.”

CB: “So, why do you think its important that people believe in this?”

PB: “Um, I think that when you work in field such as the medical field where a lot of times things are just not in your control even though you want them to be, you know, you just want to make people better, and you want to have a workload that is manageable, and some sense that there is something that you are controlling. And so by not using that word, you have the idea that you are not bringing on the chaos.”

CB: “What does the quiet superstition mean to you?”

PB: “Uh, to me it means, it’s sorta a part of a brotherhood or sisterhood from being a part of that community in a hospital. It’s something that you all believe in and you all can joke about but its also something like I don’t want your night to get worse and i don’t want my day to get worse, and so we can all do this one sort of silly thing to try and help each other.”

Background:

My informant has worked as a respiratory therapist for about 8 years. This position requires that she work with every part of the medical personnel and with every department. She has also worked in about 4 hospitals in the Northern California area. Because of this, she has become very integrated into the overarching healthcare culture surrounding her work.

Context:
I interviewed my informant in person. We were in my bedroom on my bed, and the conversation was very comfortable and casual. I had heard many stories from her work beforehand.
Thoughts:
When my informant first told me about the quiet superstition, I was really intrigued because healthcare workers are so heavily associated with clinical scientific thinking. However, there are many holes in science. As we have it now, it cannot predict everything, and it certainly can’t predict what will or won’t be a crazy night. In the face of this uncertainty, healthcare workers have begun to believe in this superstition in order to regain a sense of agency. I think that this bad luck superstition is particularly interesting because there is no way to undo it. Once the bad luck has been brought, the entire hospital will be affected until the next shift. I was also really intrigued about how following the superstition was seen as a sign of respect. My informant seemed to acknowledge that the superstition was likely untrue in the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she became a wholehearted believer once she entered the hospital setting.

For more variations of healthcare superstitions see SSMHealth’s blog post “10 ER superstitions for a full moon Friday the 13th”. https://www.ssmhealth.com/blogs/ssm-health-matters/september-2019/10-er-superstitions-for-a-full-moon-friday-the-13

Watch Proverb

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (PB).

CB: “So what was the proverb?”

PB: “Well my grandfather used to always say that a man with one watch always knows what time it is, but a man with two watches is never sure”

CB: “What does that mean to you?”

PB: “To me, it means to me that if you have too much information it’s too confusing. Like just stick to what you know. If you have two watches and one says 2 and the other says 2:05 you won’t know which one is true. Well I guess now you do with cell phones, but back then you didn’t. So it was just about picking something and sticking with it rather than second-guessing yourself” 

CB: “What context would he say it in?”

PB: “He would say it in the context of when you were trying to decide something. And he would say, you know, you know too much about everything and why don’t you just pick the one that you want, and that you instinctually trust the most. You know? Even a man with two watches has a favorite one, one that he trusts more than the other watch.”

CB: “Why do you think it’s important? Why do you think he said it?”

PB: “It reminds you to just narrow your focus and to not listen to everything that’s around you, and all the noise around you can be confusing. You just need to make up your mind and go with it. You can’t get too focused on and distracted by the other things in life.”

Background:
My informant’s mother and grandparents grew up in Tennessee, and were known to have some sort of proverb for every situation. Many of them sounded ridiculous and haven’t really continued in the family since their passing, but there are several that even I will catch myself repeating. 

Context:
I interviewed my informant in person. We were in my bedroom on my bed, and the conversation was very comfortable and casual. I had heard the proverb many times beforehand.

Thoughts:

The proverb talks about how conflicting pieces of information will never allow you to be totally certain in the truth. I thought that it was really interesting that my informant interpreted this to be an encouragement to narrow your focus and ignore the noise. I’ve heard the proverb used to describe how a foolish man is completely confident in the information that only one watch provides. I think the fact that proverbs can be interpreted to have opposing morals really shows the irony of them. The meaning is entirely contextual, which is what allows them to be passed throughout so many situations.

Fort Ord Suicide Ghost Story

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (HH).

CB: “Can you tell me about Fort Ord?”

HH: “Okay so i heard this story about the old Fort Ord barracks and how they got abandoned because there was this soldier who… um… was apparently was like ignored and really unhappy for a long time and he would like talk about seeing ghosts and a couple people thought that he was like maybe schizophrenic. But he…uh… he ended up hanging himself in the barracks in front of a bunch of his fellow soldiers. And then, after he died, a bunch of people would say that they could like still hear his warnings and like his stories of seeing things. And hear his footsteps. Its really simple and kinda stupid, but that’s what I heard about the old Fort Ord barraks. And thats why they had to shut everything down because it was like affecting their life and the government was getting backlash for it”

CB: “So, where did you hear this story?”

HH: “Um, it was from someone I knew in high school.”

CB: “What do you think is the meaning behind the story?”

HH: “Um, I think it was that um… the government doesn’t really care about our soldiers and their mental health”

CB: “Why do you think people tell the story”

HH: “I think that it’s still very much a problem. Like for soldiers who come back from active duty and they suffer from PTSD, they just don’t really have a lot of resources or outreach. Like they do now a little more that mental health is on the front line of peoples worries, but even now i still think soldiers are kinda shamed for having it.”

Background:

My informat grew up in Salinas, California, which is just minutes from Fort Ord. The fort was abandoned in the 90’s, and there have been all sorts of mysterious stories about the abandonment. The community had a very close relationship with the The old barracks of the fort are a known hangout spot for teens, and with that comes all sorts of ghost stories.

Context:

I had actually called my informant’s mother to interview her about folklore, but my informant overheard the conversation and told me this story. My informant and her mom were in the car, and they told me this story while driving around Salinas. The conversation was fun and casual.

Thoughts: 

I think that ghost stories naturally present themselves whenever there is an abandoned structure. I think that ghost stories are particularly common when dealing with american teen culture.  However, I think that it’s really interesting what the stories reveal about what that culture values at that time. Most of the ghost stories that I’ve heard place little emphasis on who the ghost used to be, just on the death and the haunting. But this story explains a history of untreated mental illness as the reason for the death, and possibly even the haunting. It places a clear blame on the US government for neglecting their soldiers. A lot of the more recent movements for mental health awareness and help have been led by young people, and so it makes sense that the folklore that young people tell would begin to incorporate their values.