USC Digital Folklore Archives / Legends
Legends
Narrative

C-47s

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In the film industry, ordinary wooden clothespins are used to attach colored plastic gels to lights and they’re called C-47s.

A prominent visual effects artist told me an origin story of the phrase:

Back in the early days of Hollywood, studio heads would do audits and they’d see that the lighting departments were spending a ton of money on clothespins. And they said “we’re spending all this money on clothespins. This is ridiculous!” And they shut it down you know,  not understanding that the clothespin is a very important tool for lighting that we use everyday. So the lighting guys started calling them ‘C-47s’ so that when the big-wigs saw so-and-so hundred dollars for C-47s and they said, “Oh sure, ‘C-47’ that sounds important, no problem.”

As a film student, I’ve heard several contradictory stories about the phrase C-47. Some of the other prominent origin tales are that they were names after a WWII fighter plane by returning soldiers turned filmmakers, or that C-47 is the patent number.

All of these stories are equally unverified. In practice, the lingo ‘C-47’ mainly serves as a test of membership on film sets. If you’re a newcomer on a set and a grip asks you to fetch a C-47, you have no idea what they mean and are forced to ask someone. It’s embarrassing to realize that a C-47 is just a simple clothes pin. The lingo functions as an inside joke, and an initiation that everyone on a film set must undergo.

general
Legends
Magic

El Familiar

The following Argentinian urban legend was told by my old high school history teacher:

“There are many urban legends in Argentina, my favorite being El Familiar.  According to the legend originating in the sugar plantation in Salta, Tuchman, and Jujuy, the Argentinian government was struggling economically which meant the sugar industry would take a big hit. However, the titans of the sugar industry found a way around their economic misfortune, by partnering with the Devil.  The Devil promised to protect the sugar industry from the failing economy in return for a yearly human sacrifice.  The sacrifice would be selected by the sugar industry and then dragged to the Devil in Hell by a decapitated black, rabid dog dragging a chain around its neck.  Legend has it, the dog still rabidly wander the sugar plantations searching for its next victim”

Analysis:  Although this is only a legend, it has increased religious practices of protection in the northern areas of Argentina.  The eminent threat of the Devil leads Argentinians to use rosaries or blessed crucifixes for protection.  This is one of my favorite pieces of folklore because I am very interested in urban legends.  Although they are never true, they have a great impact on the communities and culture around them.  In this case, the old urban legend has decreased unwanted activity in sugar plantations and increased religious faith in northern Argentina.

Legends
Magic

Kiamuki House and the Kasha

The following urban legend was told by a Hawaiian native that she learned from her auntie:

“Theres this creepy looking haunted house on the corner of 8th and Harding that they just tore down last summer but they’re trying to rebuild….they shouldn’t. It’s home to a kasha.  A kasha is a demon that feeds on human corpses and there’s one probably still living on that plot of land.  The kasha first started inhabiting the house after a man killed his wife, son and daughter in his house and buried their bodies on the property.  The bodies of the wife and the son have been found but the daughter’s body is still missing…because she’s now the kasha that haunts the Kiamuki house.  She tried to claim her first victim in 1942.  The police received a desperate phone call from the woman who lived in the house in 1942 claiming that her children were being strangled by a ghost.  The police responded to this call and were terrified at what they saw at the house.  According to police reports, they witnessed the two children being thrown around and strangled by an unseen entity.  After about an hour and a half the policemen were finally able to save the children from the kasha and evacuate the family from the house never to return…but that did not stop different people from moving in. After the family moved out, three women moved into the house and one night the kasha violently grabbed one of the women’s arms.  They quickly called the police and they responded and offered to escort the women to another house for the night.  On their drive, the kasha reappeared and started choking one of the women.  The car pulled over and  the two other women struggled to get the kasha off of their friend.  The policeman also pulled over and tried to help the women but was restrained by what he describes as a ‘large calloused hand.’ Finally he was able to break free and get the kasha off of the woman.  He offered to drive the women to the house but when they got into his car it wouldn’t start so the women returned to their car and all of a sudden both cars worked again.  As they drove down the road the policeman recalls seeing the car door get ripped off of the car and thrown into the road by an unseen entity which then continued to drag one of the women out of the car and strangle her to death while her friends and the policeman watched helplessly”

Analysis: This terrifying ghost story might be more than an urban legend with detailed police reports that are still unexplainable, after all how do you explain someone being choked to death by thin air?  The informant sounded utterly terrified of this house and claimed she will always take a longer driving route if it means avoiding that neighborhood.  The common ghost story motifs are all present in this chilling story because the kasha is a young girl who was tragically murdered who’s purpose is now to inflict harm to others.  However, this goes further than a common ghost story because there are detailed police accounts and multiple accounts of attacks on the property.  This story has been passed down to generations of Hawaiians as a tale of caution to always avoid the Kaimuki House.

 

Legends

El Paso–Thunderbird

Main Piece:

The Participant is marked as BH. I am marked as LJ.

LJ: Can you tell me some history about El Paso?

BH: Oh, so…in El Paso there is this…legend that if you look up into the mountains as the sun is setting, you can see the shadow of a Thunderbird. And…one of the..as a result of the shadow that you can see in the mountains, one of the school’s in the city…their mascots is called the Thunderbirds. That’s pretty much all I know. I’ve never seen the Thunderbird myself, but it exists on the mountains…its has a really big wingspan.

LJ: Who did you hear it from?

BH: I had heard it from my boyfriend, but previously I had also heard it from other people. Some other El Paso-ans. They were old–like in their fifties.

Context:

I had visited the participant and her family in El Paso, Texas in March. This was recorded after.

Background:

The participant is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. She is a firm believer in religion and likes “scary stories,” including television shows and hearing about hauntings. She grew up primarily in El Paso, Texas with her mom and two sisters.

Analysis:

So much history and lore in El Paso! The Thunderbird, according to the Wikipedia page (most refutable source that I could find on it), is a creature from North American beliefs. The other three accounts from El Paso (find them on my account) include a more recent ghost history in El Paso High and a perhaps older ghost story about a monk traveling along the mountain. This story ties not into the Western culture that came into Western Texas during the 1700s, but about the rich cultures that we almost wiped out.

They have transferred over  into the general pool of El Paso-an stories/legends. It might be a way to continue remebering the peoples that inhabited that land before Americans or even “mestizos” from Mexico.

Wikipedia Page:

Thunderbird (mythology). Retrieved 4/25/17. Web. wikipedia.com

Legends

El Paso High Ghost-Moratorium

Main Piece:

The Participant is marked as BH. I am marked as LJ.

LJ: Can you tell me about El Paso High School.

BH: So El Paso High is known as the oldest high school in El Paso, but beyond that, its also the most haunted high school in the city. It used to be um, the moratorium for world war 11 soldiers who had died in combat, but had no family members reclaim their bodies. So all these bodies were just left there…so as a result, it has been said that there are many ghosts that wander the halls of all of these veterans who have not been able to find peace.

LJ: How did you learn about the ghosts?

BH: I would hear them all the time when I was growing up. Um…I think I heard them more around middle school. There were kids who would go out to the school at night. So sometimes they would hear things..

 

Context:

I had visited the participant and her family in El Paso in March. This was recorded after.

Background:

The participant is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. She is a firm believer in religion and likes “scary stories,” including television shows and hearing about hauntings. She grew up primarily in El Paso, Texas with her mom and two sisters.

Analysis:

This is an example of how ghost stories are passed from one person to the next, immortalizing the event and history of the place. In this case, El Paso High, being the oldest has a lot of history. Not all of the stories may be true, but they are believed by a large amount of the population in El Paso. Being there, I also learned that since El Paso is so close knit, many of the stories and beliefs are shared by the community. Every place I went on my visit had some sort of history to it. There were plaques along the walls and in the pavement, but a lot of what I learned came from listening to native El Paso-ans speak about their city.

 

Legends

El Paso Trans-mountain Road

Main Piece:

The Participant is marked as BH. I am marked as LJ.

LJ: Can you tell me some history about El Paso?

BH: Oh, so…in El Paso there are a stretch of mountains called the Franklin Mountains. And these happen to be the end of the Rocky Mountains which stretch all through the united states. And what is interesting about these mountains it is said that you’re not supposed drive on this road on the Trans-mountain road–which literally cuts through the mountains. So you’re not supposed to drive on this road after midnight. One because there are a lot of accidents and two there is folklore of ghosts on the road. Either hitching for rides or a monk that walks around with a donkey–well he’s a friar, with a donkey haha. And he’s in search of the treasure that supposedly exists in the mountains.

Context:

I had visited the participant and her family in El Paso, Texas in March. This was recorded after.

Background:

The participant is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. She is a firm believer in religion and likes “scary stories,” including television shows and hearing about hauntings. She grew up primarily in El Paso, Texas with her mom and two sisters.

Analysis:

This shows part of the great history that El Paso has. There is so much from Native American groups to the Mexican-American war to the waves of immigration that it sees coming in from Cuidad Juarez. It was obvious that there were more stories to these mountains, but I stuck with this one.

The monk/friar in search for treasure is actually a little funny. The ideals of a monk, as I understand them, are to denounce worldly possessions, so for the monk to be looking for treasure so long after his death is almost incredulous. However, perhaps this began as him looking for something else, or it could have been a result of period when the church was not trusted by the peoples of El Paso.

These stories open paths that need further exploration to make full sense of them.

Legends

California Poppy

I was probably like six years old, and out in front of our house in Campbell, at the base of the light post by the sidewalk, there was a clump of poppies. I saw it, and I grabbed one to pull it up, and my friend Joe Bloom who was a little older than me, probably 8, said “you can’t pick those, it’s against the law and you’ll go to jail”. Clearly that moment stuck with me. From that moment with forward, and I probably shared it with everyone that I came into contact with. Fast forward to when my daughter is the same age, she heard the same thing from her friends.

This is something I definitely heard too when I was younger, from my friends while I was in elementary school. In reality however, the law is that you aren’t allowed to pick any flowers on state property, so it’s interesting that this legend has persisted.

Legends
Narrative

Bloody Mary

I was probably in fifth grade, and my friends were describing how you would go into the bathroom, and turning off the lights – and this was on the playground at my elementary school – that you’d close your eyes, turn around three times and say “Blood Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” and when you open your eyes you’re supposed to see Blood Mary in the mirror. And the lore was someone’s cousin did it, and Bloody Mary came out of the mirror and killed him. My brother had nightmares for years around that stuff, because he heard the same stuff.

I heard this growing up as well, around third grade from a friend. I remember it very distinctly as well, because it was so scary at the time. I never wanted to be in a bathroom with the lights off, fearing Bloody Mary would appear even if I didn’t do the ritual.

Legends
Narrative

Mirror Shoes

When I was at Campbell Junior High in the 70s, there was this teacher that had been infamous for wearing mirrors on shoes. His name was Mr. B. He was rumored to use them to look up girl’s skirts and got in trouble with the school district the previous year. When I became a seventh grader, I heard that rumor. I was four years ahead of my brother, and I had never mentioned it to him. Fast forward four years, one of the first things my brother came home and said was that Mr. B had gotten in trouble for wearing mirrors on his shoes last year—the same story I heard when I was in school. I remember laughing so much because I had heard the same thing years ago.

This is a really interesting legend, as it was not only the content that persisted, but the time frame of the event happening “last year” that persisted as well. The informant likes this because it’s a bit of folklore he shares with many people who went to the same school as him.

Legends
Narrative

Bigfoot

He’s just a furry guy that walks around the Santa Cruz Mountains. All I can picture is Chewbacca in my mind because they kind of resemble each other a bit. It’s something I remember from my childhood as being a big story, and they even have a museum in the Santa Cruz mountains. We used to go backpacking all the time when I was a kid, and it used to be a big thing, back in the 70s. It seemed like people were actively searching for him.

The legend of bigfoot is very popular and widespread, but I hadn’t heard the variation that he lives in the Santa Cruz mountains. I usually only heard that he lived in the Pacific Northwest, like Oregon or Washington.

 

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