USC Digital Folklore Archives / Digital
Digital
Legends

Creepy LA Hotel Death (Elisa Lam)

Context:

The subject is an Asian woman, born in China, who has lived in Los Angeles for most of her life. I asked about Los Angeles urban legends and she told me this story. I’ve seen this story online and only online before, so much of the story is in the video which appears on several websites. This is a good example of online folklore.

 

Piece:

“Remember there’s that happened a couple years ago. There’s this girl, asian girl who disappeared in a hotel in LA. And then like weeks later they found her body in like the boiler room in like a big can of water where like people shower from. People were either saying that she was possessed and like kill herself, cause like theres footage of her, I need to look this up, it’s very recent, couple years. She went inside the elevator and she was like talking to like invisible man inside the elevator and she was like kinda wandering around. And then like she walked out and no one see her ever again after like that elevator. They found her dead. So no one really figured out how she got from point A to point B. I read it online when it just came out. Yeah, the internet. It wasn’t official, like LA times, but it was some sort of news website, I would like to say Buzzfeed. Really creepy videos online. It turned into this whole mythical, like she was possessed.”

 

Here’s a Buzzfeed video of the incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48jBi86ih5Q

Digital
Legends

3:00 AM Challenge

Instructor: Can you guys think of any legends or ghost stories that you learned at home or from friends?

(There were multiple responses from varying students, however this post focuses on a single student’s response)

 

Daisy*: “Does the 3 AM challenge count?”

Instructor: “well, that depends. What is the 3 AM challenge?”

Daisy*:  “It’s a youtube challenge. You have to stay up all night long, until three in the morning. And then you do normal things and they get weird, like, the lights turn off, or you get chills. Lots of people do it and make a youtube video of it”

Instructor: “Have you done the 3 AM challenge?”

Daisy*: “I did it with my cousin. It was hard to stay awake, but at 3 AM we went to make food, and my cousin went and cracked the eggs and he came back and told me that one of the eggs turned black when he cracked it, and at 3:01 it was back to normal.”

Instructor: “Why do you have to do it at 3 AM?”

Daisy*: “I think it’s because that’s when the devil comes out at night. So he is the one that makes all of the bad things happen.”

ANALYSIS:

This challenge is one of many that have cropped up among young youtube users and on other social media platforms over the past 5-10 years. However, this one is unique because it’s focused on a paranormal occurrence, rather than some sort of physical challenge (ie; the cinnamon challenge). All of the students in the class were seemingly aware of what this was, and many of them had varying accounts of either participating in the challenge or knowing someone who did. A quick youtube search under “3 AM Challenge” yielded an astounding 144,000,000 results, the most popular of which were centered about themes of demonic possession, and paranormal sightings at 3 AM. While the reasoning behind the precise time of the activity remains unclear, it is evident that many believe that it has a demonic of dark influence. There is no evidence that 3 AM has any significance in the bible or any other major religious text, however this seems to be a more recent adaptation of the concept of “the witching hour” which has historically taken place at midnight. What is most interesting is that even though this challenge seems rather frightening, none of the students seemed afraid of it, and most were boasting about how it “Wasn’t that scary”.

 

* The informant is a minor and was a participant in the JEP Program at USC. Daisy* is an alias to protect the student’s privacy.

Digital
general

Abandoned Subway Entrance

Context:

The subject is a white gender non-conforming individual from Brooklyn, New York. This legend is interesting because it begins online but then enters the real world.

 

Piece:

“There was an abandoned entry to the subway that was like near my house, it looks like all the other brownstones because it’s like.. But it’s boarded up, like all the windows are boarded up. And if you go in you can go — you can go from that building right into the train station which is wild because if you walk by it, you’re like “oh it’s another brownstone”, like you won’t even notice. I think I googled it, I think I was on the internet and was like New York City secrets and some sketchy website and I was like wow that’s right near where I live.

 

Digital
Game
Legends

Herobrine

Collected privately in an empty hallway while his friends played a horror game in the other room, which he returned to after the interview. I began by simply asking, “What do you know about Herobrine?”

The informant first heard about Herobrine from a Youtube video in middle school, around the time when Minecraft was getting very popular.

 

Informant: “Uhh I know that it was, umm uh, a popular myth surrounding the game Minecraft. Uh, the idea it that it was, uh, an entity hidden in the code that would sort of on a random case-by-case basis do things to your game. Um I also know it’s not true. Uh, you can go through the codes of all, of every single version of Minecraft and see that there’s nothing. Um, but the creators had fun with people and would constantly tease about it, and all of their change logs ever since the old myth came up, they would put, like, ‘Herobrine removed,’ ‘Herobrine removed,’ like ‘he’s finally removed.’ And, um, yeah but it was really popular and it’s a common thing that people who play video games like to do. It’s the same concept as creepypastas of just writing haunted versions of games, especially because they think people are interested in exploring ghost stories as they relate to modern media and modern technology, um, as opposed to the old jaded, like, haunted house that no one’s scared of anymore because we’ve rehashed it in so many works of fiction. But something as ubiquitous as a software that can be downloaded that can be haunted is more interesting.”

Interviewer: “Do you know his origin?”

Informant: “Uhh, something about… the creator, Notch’s, brother passing away? Something like that? Which isn’t true… in the slightest. Other than that, not too well-versed.”

Interviewer: “Do you know anyone who claims to have seen Herobrine, or know someone else who claims to have seen Herobrine?”

Informant: “Umm… I knew a, I knew a lot of uhh… a lot of kids in uhh… uh middle school that would claim it. Uhh… and who no one would ever believe.”

Interviewer: “What does Herobrine supposedly do? If he appears in a game.”

Informant: “Umm, I’ve heard various accounts because, obviously, it doesn’t actually happen, so people’s stories like to vary and people like to one-up each other. Um, but it very, it can be something as just suddenly killing you, suddenly appearing and disappearing, things moving around, um, a lot of things you’ll find in a lot of other ghost story literature.”

Herobrine

This informant does not believe in Herobrine, and provides very logical explanations for why he was such a phenomenon. He is in the age group of people who would be playing Minecraft at its peak of popularity, and being interested in game design, he is well versed in gaming culture.

Digital
Game
Legends

Herobrine

Collected privately in an empty hallway while his friends played a horror game in the other room, which he returned to after the interview. I began by simply asking, “What do you know about Herobrine?”

The informant heard about Herobrine in middle school, primarily through videos and chat rooms online, around the time when Minecraft was getting very popular.
Informant: “So the Herobrine, at least that I know of, is a character within the Minecraft game that is your player? Basically, he’s the Steve [the name of the Minecraft player character] pro-, like, character pro-protagonist but, but he doesn’t have pupils. And the game developers keep trying to delete him, but every update he finds his way kinda back into the game. And what, most players never really see him, but yet there still seem to be leaks and rumors about him kinda k-existing in the game and doing weird stuff. And that’s all I’ve got.”

Interviewer: “What kind of weird stuff does he do?”

Informant: “Like glitches and some people like, who you ask later are like, ‘Oh my goood, he came out of my computer,’ and I don’t know if that’s all that true, but people get really into it.”

Interviewer: “He what their computer?”

Informant: “Came out of their computer.”

Interviewer: “Oooh okay…”

Informant: “Yeah that’s one I read. It was, I mean — And again, a lot of this is just like in. like, online boards and stuff where people are like talking about him. So I don’t know how much of it you take as… really happening, but it’s worth noting that people seem to take him very seriously.”

Interviewer: “Do you know anyone who claims to have seen him, or know someone else who claims to have seen Herobrine?”

Informant: “Personally, no. I’ve yet to meet anybody that’s actually seen him, but I – I do see posts like online about him, and there’s like Game Theory videos and…”

Interviewer: “Do you know his origin?”

Informant: “Umm, the most I know is that it was part of the g-, like they put him in the game at one point and then they were like, ‘Nah we’re gonna scrap him.’ And they kept kinda deleting it, but every update he seemed to find his way back into the Minecraft updates and… that’s that.”

Interviewer: “So is he real?”

Informant: “Uhh, I mean… [informant looks like he is about to speak, but takes a few moments] I guess? He’s not supposed to be there, anyways. So they’re like, ‘Ah g- let’s delete him?’ I mean now I kinda wonder whether they’re leaving him in there because people are making such a big deal out of it, but… real enough.”

Interviewer: “Okay! Um, anything else to add?”

Informant: “Mmm… I like the idea that there is this kinda like… computer ghost in a way? Like the idea that people are being haunted by a computer ghost is quite funny to me, the fact that he keeps trying to get deleted, and he’s not deleted is hilarious. Like I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but I appreciate it.”

Herobrine
While the informant has not seen Herobrine, or knows anyone who has, he does believe in him. He also believes that Herobrine was put in the game purposefully, and was then deleted. Because of this, his version of Herobrine’s origins does not originate from the Internet, but rather from a story involving the game’s creator’s brother. Interestingly, he has heard that Herobrine can be separate from Minecraft, coming out of the computer and haunting people instead of just the game. While the informant is not a game designer, many of his friends are, so he is fairly knowledgeable about gamer culture.

Digital
Game
Legends

Herobrine

Collected privately in an empty hallway while his friends played a horror game in the other room, which he returned to after the interview. I began by simply asking, “What do you know about Herobrine?”

The informant has not played Minecraft in recent years, but used to when it was first popular. He heard about Herobrine through the Internet, around middle school and early high school, when it was very popular.
Informant: “Herobrine is constantly being removed from Minecraft even though it was never there. Like I don’t know the exa- I don’t know what form Herobrine’s supposed to take, but it is some… NPC, before there were NPC’s in the game, who was supposed to appear and be spooky. And basically people used to think it was removed, and then, I think, Notch started adding in the patch notes that it was removed every time, and then it – now it’s in every single patch note; They just have a thing saying it’s removed.”

Interviewer: “Do you know his origin?”

Informant: “I don’t know the origin. I assume it started somewhere on the forums, but…”

Interviewer: “Do you know what he does in the game?”

Informant: “I don’t know what he does. I was playing the Alpha of Minecraft, a friend of mine gave me the Alpha when it had just come out, so I played it for years, but I’ve sort of forgotten.”

Interviewer: “Do you know anyone who claims to have seen Herobrine?”

Informant: “I don’t. I didn’t have any friends who were like, ‘If you look under the truck in Pokemon, in, in Pokemon Red, then you can get a hundred master balls.”

Herobrine
The informant does not believe Herobrine ever existed, and was created by fans. Although he has played Minecraft, he is not very immersed in gaming culture, and does not know much about Herobrine.

Digital
Game
Legends

Herobrine

Collected in a college apartment while the informant was preparing to cook lunch.

The informant played Minecraft in middle school, and, being a game designer, is well-versed in gamer culture. She, unlike many others, first heard about Herobrine from a friend rather than from the Internet.
Informant: “To my understanding – Sorry, I’m going to be a little noisy. [informant rustles plastic wrapping, preparing to cook] Okay. Herobrine, from my understanding, is, yeah, it’s like the Minecraft uhh… the Minecraft ghost? He’s got, like, white eyes and people claim that… I don’t know, that he behaves kind of similarly to Slenderman? Like he’ll just kinda show up. Um, I don’t remember if he does anything bad to you? I don’t think he does? But, there’s just like screenshots that are, like, very obviously edited [laughs]. Um, but those got a lot of traction, and then mods came out that had an actual Herobrine, but I’m pretty sure that it was just, like, another mod skinned to be looking like Herobrine… But I remember being kinda freaked out about it, like every time I’d play at night I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, what if I wake up in the middle of the night [in Minecraft] and instead of, like, a zombie… being over my bed in Minecraft it’s Herobrine’ and I’d be like, ‘OH SHIT, IT LOOKS JUST LIKE ME! [laughs] Except it has white eyes!’ And that was about the extent of, like, how deep the lore was for me [laughs]. And I kinda loved it, I don’t know.”

Interviewer: “When do you remember hearing about Herobrine, and through what?”

Informant: “Oh god, [chuckles] that was, like, middle school? One of my friends was like, ‘… [In a mocking, purposefully deep voice] Have you heard of Herobrine?’ And I was like, ‘ [In a mocking, purposefully high, airy voice] NO?! What’s Herobrine?!’ And he was telling me all about it, but it was like total fucking bullshit, like he told me the same thing three times, except each time was a little bit different about, like, the first time he’d seen it. So I was like, ‘Ian, you’re a jackass [laughs] .’ But… yeah then I, then I started digging into it on my own… because it was way more fun than listening to fucking [in a mocking voice] Ian talk about it. And then I told my other friends… and they all looked into it, except I was a much better storyteller than Ian was [laughs]. Do you have any other Herobrine questions?”

Interviewer: “Do you know what he does? So he appears in the game, right?”

Informant: “Theoretically.”

Interviewer: “Do you know what he does?”

Informant: “I don’t remember off the top of my head, no. Does he steal your shit? What does he do?”

Interviewer: “I don’t know, that’s for you to tell me.”

Informant: “[Laughs] I’m pretty – From my memory, he just was, like, jumpscare-man. Like he would just pop up, like all of the screenshots he wasn’t doing anything; He literally was just there. Uhh… like when people turn around they were like, ‘[In a mocking voice] And then Herobrine was right there!’ Or they’d be in, like, the desert, where you have a lot of visibility, and they’d see in the distance, like, the shape of, of Minecraft, you know, the Minecraft avatar, um, except they would have, like, glowing white eyes and they’d be, like, ‘[In a mocking voice] That’s not me.’ Uhh [laughs] yes. And that is my understanding of what Herobrine does.”

Interviewer: “Do you know Herobrine’s origin?”

Informant: “Umm, I’m pretty sure someone just, like… I feel like I, I saw, like, a 4chan screenshot? There was, it was literally just, like, the, the, the base avatar from Minecraft except with, like, Photoshopped white eyes. Umm, and then someone was telling this story about, like, their creepy interaction with Herobrine and how, like, Herobrine watched them. That’s, like, my most distinctive, and it feels like the most original [laughs].”

Herobrine
The informant is clearly amused by the notion of Herobrine, and by what, to her, is the sheer silliness of the character and her memories from middle school. She does not believe in Herobrine. Interestingly, while most others associate Herobrine with the statement, “Removed Herobrine” in every patch note, the informant had not heard of this ever being done.

Digital
Game
Legends

Pokemon Truck

Collected privately in an empty hallway while his friends played a horror game in the other room, which he returned to after the interview. The informant mentioned this myth while I was interviewing him about another video game myth.

The informant, as a child around 7 to 9, had unlimited Internet access, and spent much of his time on forums looking for cheat codes. He was the one who introduced his peers to Pokemon, as well as the supposed “cheat codes” within it.
Informant: “Yeah so I know the 99 master ball thing under the, um, under the truck. So the idea was that… like, you know this was back in, like, the age when everyone had all the cheat code websites and, you know, people were talking on the playground and sharing, like, ‘Oh if you do this then you get this, you can unlock, you know, Sonic in… in, you know, you know, Super Smash Bros Melee if you beat the game 500 times and don’t die’ and so on. So like, you know, I can see how they spread. But yeah, like, there was this rumor spread that you could, you could unlock, you could get 100 master balls in which – There was only one in the game; you couldn’t find them any other way unless you won. I don’t know if they had the, the ticket thing, like the lottery, um, if you – I forget what you exactly have to do, I think you use, like, Strength on the truck in a certain circumstance or something. And then you unlock, you know, you get the master balls.”

Interviewer: “Was it real?”

Informant: “Not, it’s not real.”

Interviewer: “Who’d you hear that from?”

Informant: “I… I think… I don’t know where, I think it was, like, I read it on Cheat Code Central when I was looking through the cheat list. And of course Pokemon doesn’t have any cheats, so there’s nothing on the list. Though obviously someone had put that in there, cause they were like, ‘Oh yeah you can do it.’ I was like, I think if you got all three red G’s and you went to this special spot, then you would unlock something in, like, Pokemon Ruby, I forgot what it was.”

Interviewer: “How old were you?”

Informant: “My first Pokemon game was Pokemon Ruby, and that came out in, like, 2006? I don’t know when it came out. No, it was 2003, I think. So I got it around then, so I would’ve been… I was born in ‘96, so that would’ve been, I would’ve been, like, 7, 8? 9?”

Interviewer: “Anything else to add?”

Informant: “I mean, I re- I remember, um, trying a bunch of those. I think, [sighs], I think it was the red G’s. I’m not sure if I’m confusing it with the actual method to unlock them, cause that was weird enough as it was; It was, like, you had to read, like, the braille and then you had to, like, go through all these stages and find these specific Pokemon and stuff. And I remember, I think there was something in those cheat codes I actually did try, cause I was a kid. And it didn’t work, so me and my sister were very disappointed, cause we played it together.”
This informant has some beliefs that differ from other accounts of the truck in Pokemon. First of all, he claims that the truck has to do with master balls, not Mew. Secondly, he does not name Pokemon Red, but only describes a different secret in Pokemon Ruby.

Digital
Game
Legends

Pokemon Truck

Collected in my empty apartment. I began by simply asking, “What do you know about the truck from Pokemon?”

The informant is a big fan of the Pokemon franchise, and is very immersed in gaming culture. He has played many Pokemon games of different varieties, and loves the first generation of Pokemon (which includes the game he is referencing), though it’s not his favorite.
Informant: “There is a truck in Pokemon Red, I believe, either Red or – well, the first generation of games. So Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, all that good stuff. Umm, and apparently if you go to that truck and look under it, you can get Mew.

Interviewer: “What do you mean ‘Look under it?’”

Informant: “Like, y- you, if you, I guess if you just interact with the truck, you can battle and catch Mew.”

Interviewer: “Do you know what city it’s in?”

Informant: “It’s, ooh, I wanna say it’s one of the port cities so…. [inhales] I wanna say it’s one of the cities where you board the S.S. Anne, making it either… the city with Lieutenant Serge, which I cannot remember for the life of me.

Interviewer: “Vermillion?”

Informant: “Ver… million… Possibly, that’s probably it.”

Interviewer: “Um, where did you hear about this, and when?”

Informant: “Oh I have no idea when I heard this. I guess it was just, like, when I was still playing Pokemon Red, it was just a rumor that always went around.”

Interviewer: “Through word of mouth?”

Informant: “Mm, yeah, well or on the Internet.

Interviewer: “So you saw it on the Internet?”

Informant: “Yeah.”

Interviewer: “How old were you?”

Informant: “I don’t know. Probably a kid.”

Interviewer: “Is it real?”

Informant: “No… Well, no. First off, you can’t access the truck in the game by yourself. You have to, like, glitch over to it. Which is probably how… it kept people thinking it was real, cause they couldn’t test it out themselves. Um, yeah, but no, even if you glitch over to it and press A, it doesn’t do anything. However, uh, you can glitch the game and get Mew, just not through the truck.”

Interviewer: “For real? You can get Mew?”

Informant: “M-hm. I did it. I was 100 percenting all the games and I got all 151 Pokemon in the first game.”

Interviewer: “How?”

Informant: “Um, that is a question… I do not know the answer to. Uhh, it’s really complicated, so I forgot it, but I know it involves entering and exiting buildings and flying… to certain places. Yeah.”

Interviewer: “But it has nothing to do with the truck?”

Informant: “No. [Sudden realization] OHH!! I do remember! Okay so… above Cerulean City, there was, like, this path on the way to Bill’s house, and there was a bunch of trainers. And when you get to one of the trainers, it’ll, like, you know, exclamation point above their head when they see you. When you do that, you press Start, and then fly somewhere else. And then a bunch of other stuff. And that’s how you unlock Mew.”
This version of the truck myth has to do with finding Mew. The informant does not believe the truck has any real significance, though he is aware of the rumors. He does, however, know a real way to get Mew, proving that it is possible to get Mew in the game, even if it’s not through the truck. Like other versions, the truck is in Pokemon Red.

Digital
Game
Legends

Pokemon Truck

Collected privately in an empty hallway while his friends played a horror game in the other room, which he returned to after the interview. I began by simply asking, “Do you know any word-of-mouth secrets for video games?” Then I specified, “What do you know about the truck from Pokemon?”

The informant is well-versed in gaming culture, and knows a lot about Pokemon, but has never played some of the older games.
Informant: “So, uhh, rumor used to have it that you could get Mew in the first gen Pokemon games Red and Blue by walking up to a truck next to the, umm, next to the boat in Vermillion City. And I think y- you needed to get over a fence, and, like, press A on it, like, a hundred times, and then Mew would fight you. I think there’s also a version of it where you use Teleport at a Pokemon Center on a bike, and it teleports you to the truck, and Mew is there. There are a few different versions I’ve heard, but those are the two I remember.”

Interviewer: “Did you try any of them?”

Informant: “I never played Pokemon Red.”

Interviewer: “Do you know people who tried any of them?”

Informant: “Uhh, yeah.”

Interviewer: “But it didn’t work?”

Informant: “Didn’t work [laughs].”

Interviewer: “So it’s not real?”

Informant: “Not as far as I know? Maybe they were doing it wrong.”
This version of the truck myth has to do with finding Mew. The informant does not really believe the myth, but has no proof denying it. Like other versions, the truck is in Pokemon Red, but the informant includes all generation 1 Pokemon games.

[geolocation]