USC Digital Folklore Archives / Legends
general
Legends
Narrative

Sweet Hollow Road

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.

Adulthood
Legends
Narrative

A Ghost in Grass Valley

Informant JM is 58 years old and recounted the story of a paranormal encounter she experienced ~10 years ago:

Have you ever experienced anything that you would consider to be of supernatural origins?

“Only once. Never before and never since but I will always remember that night”

So what happened?

“Well I was in my room getting ready for bed. All of a sudden I felt the room grow eerily cold. I thought it was a bit odd but continued to undress and sat on the bed to take off my socks. Upon doing so I felt the cold presence to my immediate right and upon turning saw, *shivers* wow this gives me chills just thinking about it. I saw a depression in the bed next to me as if someone were sitting next to me. Not knowing the intentions of this spirit I yelled at the top of my lungs ‘Go! Get out! Be gone with you!!’ and closed my eyes. After a moment or two I felt the cold dissipate and upon opening my eyes saw the depression was no longer there.”

Did your opinion regarding the existence of the paranormal changed after this experience?

“Well prior to this encounter I’d say I believed that ghosts existed sure, but having never experienced an encounter first hand and not knowing any immediate family or friends that had, I was certainly a bit skeptical. After that experience, I know now without a shred of doubt that ghosts or some form of spirit form definite exist. I cannot think of a single other rational explanation for what I experienced that night.”

What context would you share your experience in?

“At first, I shared it with literally anyone that would listen. I was equal parts excited and terrified by what I had experienced. In the years since though I only tend to bring it up when someone asks about my ghost encounter or the conversation shifts towards the talk of ghosts. ”

How did people react to your experience?  

“People tend to get pretty freaked out by it. They sometimes ask whether I thought it was going to harm he. Now I am not sure what the intentions of this spirit were, but be they benign or malignant the coldness of its presence definitely gave me an uneasy feeling leading to my prompt response of telling it to leave”

 

Analysis: This story possesses a couple motifs common to ghost stories. One such example is that it occurs at night. Another aspect of this story common to several stories I’ve read or been told is the association of the presence of a ghost with coldness. A unique aspect of this story is that the ghost in no way made itself directly heard or seen; it was only because of the drop in temperature and the depression it left in the bed that JM was even aware of its presence. The ghost itself was not visible or audible. While neither JM or anyone else would be able to determine the intentions of the ghost, be they simple curiosity or something more malicious, the fact that it reacted to her yells for it to leave is another interesting component of this particular encounter.

Legends
Narrative

Bay Area Ghost Story

Informant EB is 52 years old and recounted the story of a paranormal encounter he experienced last fall:

Have you ever experienced anything that you would consider to be of supernatural origins?

“As a matter of fact, I have. First some backstory. When my wife and I were purchasing our home we were told by the realtor that the prior owner, a contractor who had built the house himself,  had committed suicide along the side of the house due to financial difficulties and his wife leaving him. Early last November, a day or two after Halloween, I was walking my aging dog whose hips are starting to fail around the walkway surrounding our property in order to avoid her straining herself by climbing up the stairs inside. Upon rounding a corner, which due to tree cover and a lack of windows on that side of the house was submerged in near complete darkness,  I saw, for only a split-second, what could only be described as a face come rushing at me before passing right through sending a curdling chill down my spine. My dog started barking incessantly and I, obviously shake, continued on into the light of the front of the house and inside.”

Did your opinion regarding the existence of the paranormal changed after this experience?

“Yeah I’d say so. I wouldn’t say I didn’t believe in the paranormal prior to this experience but having never had any personal encounters I definitely had my fair share of doubts. I’definitely say this experience has solidified my belief in the existence of the supernatural to some extent.”

What context would you share your experience in?

“I have told several people in the month since. Whenever talk of ghosts has come up in conversation I’ve brought it up.”

How did people react to your experience?  

“A mixture of fear and skepticism. I would be skeptical too had I not been the one to experience it. ”

 

Analysis: The story took place “a day or two after Halloween” meaning it quite likely could have fallen on November 2nd, which is also All Souls Day. All Souls Day is a day on which the Catholic Church remembers those dead that are now in Purgatory being cleansed of their venial sins and carrying out the temporal punishments for their mortal sins. November 1st or 2nd is also a part of the three days of Day of the Dead festivities popular in Hispanic cultures during which the souls of ancestors are remembered and are believed to return from the dead to visit their living relatives. As such the soul of a man who had died via the mortal sin of suicide would, according to the catholic doctrine and Hispanic customs be more likely to appear during this time frame. A motif common to many ghost stories and which also appears in this story is its occurrence in a liminal location, the property line between the former homeowner’s property and that of his neighbors.

general
Legends
Narrative

Lani

Informant Information:
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.

——–

Story:
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.”

——–

Thoughts:
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.

general
Legends

Children in the Library

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.
general
Legends
Narrative

The Dark Pool

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.

 

general
Legends
Narrative

Mt. Clef: The Haunted Dorm

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.”

Customs
Legends

Camp Basement

K is a freshman majoring in psychology who attended the same camp almost every summer before college. The campers were told this story in the basement where the events occurred at nighttime to explain why one wall is newer than the rest.

“The camp used to be a homestead, around 1812, and the family who lived there was part of the underground railroad. The escaped slaves were hidden in the basement of the house, and one night confederate soldiers showed up to confiscate the slaves and punish the family for helping. As soon as the father opened the door, he was shot in the face, and the soldiers continued to kill everyone else in the family. When they reached the basement, they decided not to kill the escaped slaves – a mother and child – but rather make them suffer. They barricaded the two in the basement behind a new wall. It’s said that at nighttime you can still hear the child scratching the wall.”

K’s story encompasses many ghost story motifs, such as the wrongful deaths of those involved and the liminal space of the basement. It is also a lesson to young campers, both not to go out at night and not to go in the basement, and helps them to feel more connected to camp through the knowledge of it’s history.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Negative Energy

Informant: Isabella Milkes was born in Colombia and moved to the U.S. before 6th grade. Her immediate family does not follow a religion but they do believe in spirits; however, her mother’s side is very devoted Christians. Her aunts on her mother’s side live in Colombian and are leaders of their Church. Her ghostly experience takes place in her own home, where she later found out that before her family had moved in, there were already negative energy inside the house.

IM: “So what happened was that before New Years my mom likes to clean the apartment like really well to like start the year “fresh and new”, and so my mom was doing that and then she read something that if you want to clean all the negative energy in your home, you should clean everything with saltwater. So my mom did that and every since that happened, like weird things were happening to our apartment. For example, my brother would wake up around like 3am and open his eyes, but his body wouldn’t be able to move, and he would see a black shadowy figure with the outline of a human, or sometimes his bed would shake randomly during the middle of the night. Another thing strange that happened was that there were burnt cigarette spots on our carpet and it was freaky ‘cause NONE of us smoke and the burnt spots smelled like flavored cigarette. I also had an experience, where I woke up in the middle of the night and saw like a shadowy hand coming near me. Also my mom started getting really sick. So over summer, my mom went back to Colombia to visit her family and in Colombia, she and her family went to a one of those spiritual mediums who can contact the ghostly world. She told her that there was a stable bad energy in our apartment before our family moved in, and once my mom did the cleaning with salt water, it kind of awakened that energy and that negative energy needed to be released. She did some rituals and prayers during the religious cleanse in order to safely release the energy. And when that was over, and my mom came back to America, all the haunted things that were happening went away. My mom told us that apparently when you do those sort of cleanses, you have to shield yourself with something, like a prayer, before you do the cleanse, so that the bad energy doesn’t affect the person who is performing the cleanse.”

How did this experience impact you?

“Well, it didn’t really impact me in anyway. I mean me and my family don’t believe in ghosts, because we think of these things as negative energy. We also don’t believe in Western medicine. So, for example, when I’m sick, I don’t eat Tylenol or Advil, instead I drink homemade remedies my mom makes. If something is bothering us, such as something worrying us, or we’re not happy or stressed, then we do medication or therapy through a holistic credited psychologist, because we need to release the energy that’s making our body energy unbalanced.”

My thoughts:

This story scared me on multiple levels. Firstly, it makes me wonder what’s the difference between cleaning the house with bleach and salt water? Another thing I found scary about this story was the intensity of the presence of the ghost. The ghost affected her brother, mother’s health, her house, and herself. The ghost reminds me of the Japanese Gaki that are hurtful to or are seeking revenge on the living. Another aspect I found interesting was that usually one would see, hear, of feel ghosts, but in her story, the ghost gave off a smell from the cigarette spots. I also found it pretty amazing in that the rituals they performed in Colombia affected their home in America.

Legends
Narrative

Ghost Girl

Informant: K S is a junior at UCSB who is majoring in Political Science. He was born and raised in Japan, and has recently moved to the U.S. in 2016. Him and his family do believe in ghosts. His story takes place near his apartment complex in Japan. His apartment complex is also situated near a temple.

KS: “Well when I used to live in Japan, like before coming here for college, I lived with my family in a complex with three other families. I lived with my mom, dad, and little sister. The three other families were an elderly couple, a young single man, and another married couple with no kids. So one day I was walking back home from school and I saw a little girl standing in front of my house and waving at me. I thought it was my sister so I waved back. I was going to catch up with the girl but she walked inside the complex before I could say another word. When I got into the house looking for whom I’d thought to be my sister, I couldn’t find her. I asked my mom, who was cooking, where my sister was and she said that she hasn’t come home yet. So the girl just came into my house and disappeared, because when I asked the other people who lived in the same complex, they said they had never seen or heard a girl walk in. I have no idea who the girl was, or where she went, or why she was there. ”

Impact on KS:

“I don’t know, I mean it was pretty whatever. I’d just assumed the ghost girl used to live in my complex before she died. Although this is my only ghostly experience, I didn’t find it scary or shocking or anything. I told my family about it and everyone was like really casual about it. It’s actually really interesting how my friends here think seeing a ghost is scary, I mean not all ghosts are harmful or scary ya know.”

My thoughts:

His story reminds me of the stories discussed in class about the ghostly visitations seen by middle-aged New England women, because his encounter was harmless. Also when he was telling the story, he told it very casually as if seeing ghosts wasn’t something that occurred once of twice. What I found interesting was that, as discussed in class, cultural backgrounds could impact one’s ghost belief. KS and his family members are examples of how Eastern cultures have a higher belief in ghosts than Western cultures. In relation to his story, I think that maybe the ghost girl had something to do with the temple because the temple represents a spiritual place where people would pray to their dead ancestors.

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