The following conversation is between myself (referred to as “N”) and my friend, Jenna (referred to as “J”). For reference, Jenna is from Long Island, and the bridge discussed below is the Northern State overpass located on Sweet Hollow Road in Melville in New York state.
N: Does the town that you’re from have any traditions or places that are supposedly haunted.
J: There’s this bridge, uh and the legend is, its that a school bus fell off and then like landed into the underpass. So what happens is that, there’s like a bunch of creepy things that have happened around this bridge. And I think that if you stop underneath it, a cop will come up to you and like knock on your window, but like its on a dirt road, like you literally like wouldn’t be able to… like it would make no sense why a cop would be there, so like the cop’s a ghost.
N: Oh my god.
L: I think the bus one’s creepier because the kids fell off, and like what happens is if you go there and you stop your car underneath the bridge, they’re supposed to push you forward. Cause they’re like trying to save you.
N: So a bus full of kids actually, like, fell off?
L: I mean, that’s like the urban legend of it.
N: Have you ever experienced that?
L: No. My friends went there and they said that like they just got spooked so quickly. And like something supernatural might have happened, or like it might have just been in their minds, but like, regardless it scared the s*** out of them and they haven’t gone back since. And they asked me to go and I was like, I would rather die than experience that first hand.
After some research, I found that Sweet Hollow Road is known for paranormal activity and ghost sightings. The stories Jenna mentioned are only two of the five stories associated with Sweet Hollow Road. The bus full of children is explained in good detail above, however the story about the ghost cop is that a police officer was shot and killed under the bridge. Supposedly, if you turn to watch the cop walk away, you’ll see him get shot in the back of the head and then disappear. Other stories include three boys who hung themselves with some drivers reporting having seen the bodies when they drive under the bridge, as well as a “white lady” named Mary who either jumped or was kicked out of her boyfriend’s car and was then hit by the car behind them on the Northern State overpass bridge. With regard to the legend about the bus, if you put your car in neutral, the kids from the bus will apparently push you forward to save you from harms way. What is even more interesting about this legend is that the underpass is inclined, so if anything the car would move backwards instead of forward.
Informant: Natasha is a 19 year old girl who grew up in Bangladesh but attended high school in Manila, Philippines and now lives in England as a college student. Her mother is Filipina and her father is British.
Original script: “Okay so my parents met in the Philippines whilst my Dad was working there, but at the time since my Dad was so busy with work and was constantly being called in on the weekends, both my Mum and my Dad would get frustrated at the little amount of time they got to spend with each other. Seeing as though my Mum was rarely with my Dad on the weekends she would often use the opportunity to go see her grandfather who was quite ill during this period, so she’d come along to take care of him as well as bring him medicine. Over time my Dad was quite frustrated with not being with Mum and in a slightly selfish manner was irritated with the amount of time she was dedicating to her grandfather. He then decided to take the initiative and plan a weekend away and so my Mum agreed and they went off. One night in their hotel my parents were lying down in bed and as they are laying there a huge black moth- which both of my parents say to this day was the biggest moth they had ever seen- flies into the room and lands on the wall facing my parents. Immediately my Mum senses and tells my Dad that something feels wrong and both feel very unsettled. 10 minutes later my Mum receives a phone call from her family telling her that her grandfather has sadly passed away. My Mum believes that the moth was a symbol of death and was warning her that her Grandfather was passing. At Filipino funerals it is common for them to be open casket. As my Mum approaches the casket she finds herself crying and blaming herself for being irresponsible and not being there to take care of him. As she apologizes over his body she says her last goodbye by kissing him on his cheek. Now one of the weirdest part of the story is what happens next. To this day my Mum swears that after she kissed him on the cheek her Grandfather cracked a small smile. After all of the events that have happened and the guilt she felt before, she now felt like all was ok as she believes this was a sign of his forgiveness. The end.”
Thoughts about the piece: This story is a great exemplification of how a person’s belief system can be shaped by people, in this case Natasha’s parents. Parents can be a huge influence on their children’s belief systems- most especially in early life where they are likely the single biggest influence. The way that Natasha’s parents believe so strongly in the presence of a supernatural being in this story, most especially her Mother, has definitely influenced the way that Natasha perceives things. To an outsider looking in, you may just think that the moth was a coincidence and that the Grandfather smiling is just something that her Mother convinced herself of in a moment of grief to try to overcome it. However, the fact that this took place before Natasha was born, that she has been told this story countless times since she was very young, and that her mother is someone who she trusts deeply are all factors which shape Natasha’s belief and consequently the way in which she tells the story. She has a deep emotional connection to the story and thus, she tells it as an absolute occurrence.
Something else to note is the Filipino culture that peeks through the story. Filipinos are generally very family oriented and they also have very strong belief in ghosts and superstition. The fact that Natasha’s father is British and was initially skeptical about the whole moth situation and did not look as much into it as her Mother but now completely believes in the supernatural aspect of the story shows how possibly being immersed in Filipino culture and such could have altered his belief system.
Informant: At my house, before I moved, whenever I went to sleep I had a lot of weird dreams of stuffed animals that were possessed. There was one where I would be in my mother’s room and stuffed animals would be holding me back from my mother. I never watched anything related to that, except when I watched Chucky when I was like 4 and then I stopped watching ghost stories related to dolls. It wasn’t anything related to that. Once we moved from the house I never had those dreams again.
Collector: How old were you?
Informant: I lived there from age 7 to 16 and I sporadically would have the dreams while I lived there, but the feeling of a presence in the house never went away.
Collector’s thoughts: While this may just be a case of a reoccurring nightmare, the fact that the informant never experienced these dreams again after moving is unsettling. She also mentioned to me that she would often feel as though someone were under her bed or peaking in her windows. Having these dreams and the feeling of a presence within the house for 9 years is a very long time, and often these experiences shape our beliefs in the future. The informant is still clearly shaken up over the experience as she would repeatedly mention how creepy and unsettling it was. This experience leads me to think that maybe the spirit world is not that far away, like the Celtics believed. In many movies and books spirits return to people through dreams, and maybe that happened to the informant.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
My mother’s college roommate and best friend was living in Michigan working at a library in a small town. She would frequently call her and tell her of the eery happenings her coworker, Darlene experienced. Below are the experiences my mother’s friend held on to most.
“Closer to home, part of our library building in Wyandotte was a large historic home which housed offices and special collections and storage while most of the library activities took place in a big brick box that was added to the back of the home in the 60’s. Darlene experienced interactions with ghosts while in the house. Mostly she saw a young girl and boy dressed from around the turn of the last century. Sometimes she just heard them running about above on a floor above here. She never got any bad or scary feelings from them, they were slightly mischievous but not intent on any harm. But one evening, she was in the main library by herself late at night. She was our tech person and there were a number of computer updates that needed to be done while the library was closed, so this was not uncommon for her. This one particular night she was sitting at a bank of computers when suddenly she felt her chair lift off the ground and she was dumped, quite jarringly, on to the floor. That certainly woke her up!
I didn’t have the ghostly interactions she did, but the house was definitely spooky to be in by yourself. The only weird experience I ever had there was one night when we were leaving and locking up the back door, we could see there had been a light left on in the basement. I went back in, turned off the alarm, and went down to the basement- but there were no lights on! When I got back outside again, the light was shining out the window once more – but I wasn’t going back in!”
This story is intriguing because it plays upon the mecurial nature of many ghosts in stories. It also ties into the gothic themes we find in many stories – a crumbling old mansion, old aristocracy, etc. We see these children dressed in Victorian clothing running around, much like Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Although this story is scary, it is very paradigmatic when it comes to ghost stories, which illustrates the tie that runs through all our stories.
The informant told me of an accident that occurred only a few years previous but still haunts his small, secluded neighborhood in St. Louis. A family friend of his threw a birthday party for their daughter. A pool party to be exact since the family recently re-did their pool. Their pool was deep, but he said when you tried to look at the bottom you couldn’t see anything because of how dark the pebbling was in the pool.
The parents told all the kids not to jump in until the lifeguard came, but some kids starting jumping in immediately. The informant’s friend starts swimming and sees a body at the bottom. She wasn’t sure if it was just her vision, but she dove deeper and grabbed the body of a girl. One of the kids at the party drowned when everyone dove in. The party ended immediately.
Now the family still hears sounds by the pool and experiences indescribable things – lights turning on inexplicably. The worst part is that family re-pebbled the bottom of the pool to a lighter color, yet around the time of the year when the accident occurred it begins to become ever so slightly darker.
This story is typical of ghost stories dealing with death. Supposedly, the girl’s spirit still haunts this pool and the family as if to constantly remind them and the town of this terrible time. Like many of our ghost stories, people who have died unexpectedly or too early continue to roam this world.
When asking my college roommate, an 18 year old girl, about any ghostly experiences that she has had, she told me the following story:
“This summer going into freshman year of high school my family and I took a trip to Lake Powell, which I had never been. If you could just imagine, I mean, no one for as far as the eye can see on the shore at night. It’s really dark on the shore. So we had a house boat and we pulled up on the beach, once again it’s just rock and sand and there is no one around. So it was kind of creepy but we got out and we made a campfire and we sat on the beach. We talked and had so much fun! I had brought my big, super nice camera out and were all talking and laughing, everything is going great, and I’m taking pictures of everyone. My mom tells me that we are going to get back on the boat and start heading out, so start following them in. I told her that I was going to stay back to take some more pictures. So I stayed back, took some pictures at the beach with the fire in it. All of a sudden, I got a little creeped out and skeeved that I was alone on the beach and there is no one here. So I got back on the boat and uploaded the pictures on my laptop because we all wanted to look at the fun pictures we took. So we sat there and finally got to the pictures that I took while I was alone on the beach. We are all sitting there and my mom goes, “Boy, what’s that?” I asked her what she meant and she said, “What’s that in the smoke of the fire?” I didn’t know what it was, it kind of looked like a monkey. She asked me to zoom in and then asked me to flip the picture over. In the smoke of the fire, there was a very distinctive face. There was no one on the beach with me and it was pointed toward the ocean. It was a very clear face with very distinctive picture with wrinkles, lines, and teeth.”
Following the story, I asked her how she felt about the situation and Lake Powell after this experience. She reported as follows:
“It was one of the creepiest things I’ve ever experienced. I haven’t been back to Lake Powell since that trip and I am not sure that I really want to. Not that anything happened other than the creepy feelings and super scary photo, but it definitely didn’t make it so I wanted to go back.”
One of my very good high school friends now goes to Cal Lutheran University. When I asked him if his campus had any ghostly activity, he jumped at the opportunity to tell me the happenings at Mt. Clef. He reported:
“The Mt. Clef ghost is a ghost on the Cal Lutheran University campus in one of our freshman dorms, built in 1961. A little boy was here during the construction of the dorm and was killed during the construction. No one found his body and no one knew that he had died. When they were doing some renovations to the building, they found the body of this little boy under a certain section of the building. Before he was found, strange things had been happening. Even now, the rooms that are over where the body was found are the most active rooms. People say that doors violently slam and open, noises can be heard. The freakiest occurrence that I was told was a group of people were walking down the hallway at 3 in the morning. While they were walking, they heard someone sprinting up behind them, but when they turned around no one was there. Pounding footsteps, doors opening and closing, amongst other things happen in this dorm. I am definitely happy that I never had to live in that dorm.”
Following his telling of the story and recent happenings, I asked him how he felt about the resident ghost:
“I definitely believe that this ghost is real, not that I have ever experienced it. I’ve had several friends tell me about their experiences living with the ghost in Mt. Clef. There are too many occurrences for it not to have some truth to the story. While I am not scared of the ghost, I am definitely happy that I don’t have to live with it.”
Informant: A B was born in Sacramento, California and then raised in Seattle, Washington from ages 3 until 18. A B is a freshman undergraduate student at University of Southern California majoring in Business Administration. A was baptized christian and is also a confirmed christian.
Original Script: “When we moved from Sacramento to Mercer island, the mother of the family that lived in the home before we did, died from cancer. The family had 3 kids and a husband who lived in the house 6 months after the mom died until deciding they needed change and moved to Seattle. About a month after moving in, creepy things began happening at night. The first thing that happened, we have a sink in the kitchen and in the laundry room and both faucets turned on and began running all night. At first my parents thought it was a plumbing issue because the house was new, my parents weren’t scared but rather just confused since the house was built so recently. A couple nights later, our big panasonic speakers (like as big as a door) began playing ‘Its A Small World’ (yes, the disneyland song) super loud and these speakers are so loud they will blow your eardrums out. My mom went to the neighbors the next day to ask if they heard the loud music last night and the neighbors said they hadn’t heard anything. This is odd because the speakers are so loud, there’s no way the next door neighbors wouldn’t have heard this music. Nothing happened for about a week until there was a huge bang noise onto the window, and when my mom went downstairs to see what it was it looked like the someone threw a ball at the window from the inside. The window wasn’t shattered but clearly damaged. My mom went to the neighbors again and the neighbors then informed her that the mom of the family before was dead and that maybe all the activity in their home was because the spirit wanted to find her family. So they then decided to write the address of the new place that the spirit’s family had moved to in order to help the ghost find her family. My mom left the note out and nothing ever happened again.”
Background Information about the piece by the Informant: The story takes place right after the family moved from Sacramento, CA to Mercer Island, Washington which is directly between Seattle and Bellevue. The informants new home in Washington was located in a living community in a sort of figure 8, so two loops, and three lakes in each loop, so basically a very closed and private community. At first they thought the activity was someone breaking in but realized it couldn’t be because there is only one entrance and exit from the island meaning that it is nearly impossible for someone to get in or out without being caught.
Thoughts about the piece: This piece is interesting in that the informant made it clear that the ghost wasn’t particularly scary, just noisy in a sense to get the family’s attention. In many ghost stories, the ghost is often that of a recently deceased loved one trying to say goodbye one last time. This major theme can be seen in this story when the spirit came back to say goodbye to her family and her family was gone, she began to get loud and make disruptions to get the new family’s attention to hopefully redirect her to her real family’s home.