USC Digital Folklore Archives / Legends
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Protection

Najar: The Evil Eye

“We were probably like – I was probably like 11, and [my sister] was probably 9-ish so it was kinda long ago, but I remember we were at my grandma’s house [in India], and she had three different stories. No one goes on the second story; it’s just like boarded up. And then the third story is a terrace. So, we go to the third story, and we’re just talking and my sister said something like ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ or something, like literally those words. And so I was like, ‘Oh my God, dad’s gonna get so mad at you, you said a bad word, blah blah blah.’ Usually she would be like, ‘ok stop, you’re not being funny,’ but like legitimately she was like, ‘oh my god, you’re so right,’ and she just starts bawling. She’s crying, she’s losing it, she’s like freaking out, like legitimately I thought she was going crazy. She was like ‘I have to tell dad I said it!’ and she’s like running everywhere and she’s like ‘when’s dad coming home, when’s dad coming home? I have to tell him, I have to tell him, he’s gonna be so mad at me.’ And like, she’s nine years old, so she’s old enough to where it’s like ‘ok you’re being weird.’ And so, like no one thought much of it, and then my dad comes home, and she’s like ‘dad, I said “dumb”’ or whatever the word was. And he was like, you know, like, ‘don’t say that word again’ and whatever, and she was like ‘I know, I’m SO sorry.’ She just starts crying and crying. And she was doing weird stuff like that for three or four days, and we were like ‘ok what’s going on?’

“[It started] since she was on the terrace, I guess – because – we had gone somewhere, we had like taken the train somewhere and it’s super common knowledge that the train stations are like  the most haunted places in India because people commit suicide and stuff; they jump off while the train is coming. And so, they think that she got some “bad air” – so like a ghost, like, spirit thing. Because they don’t – it’s not like a ghost possessed you, but it’s just like you picked up on some bad aura or like a bad spirit from the train station and it kinda like made her go crazy. So like, I was freaking out. I was like, ‘Get her away from me. I don’t want her in the same room. She can sleep outside!’

“But yeah, so we took her to the pandit, which is a priest, and he like, did all this like, fire smoke stuff, and like put it around her and stuff. And he like gave her this bracelet and was like ‘okay, after doing that, this bracelet will collect the bad spirit inside of her, and then you take off this bracelet and you like dispose of it.’ If you were in India, you would throw it in one of the holy rivers, but we were going back home [to the United States], so he was just like ‘just put it in a river anywhere.’ I honestly think we took it to the Trinity River, I’m being so serious. It sat in our garage for a while. But yeah, he put that bracelet on her, and a couple days later, she was like fine, like it immediately went away. So I don’t know if it worked or like she was doing it to herself, like a placebo-type thing. I don’t know, but she was just acting super weird for a couple of days, like freaking out about things that didn’t matter. She was like losing her mind over stuff, like she couldn’t get over it. So yeah, I think that she picked up on some…some sort of bad air.”

 

When I was researching Indian ghost belief, I came across the belief of “najar” which roughly translates to “evil eye.” I asked my Indian friend that I knew from Texas if she knew of or ever had an experience with “najar,” and this is the story that she gave me. I find it interesting that her sister never caught this evil eye while in the United States, but it was only a trip to India that spurred this occurrence. I asked her to elaborate more on “najar,” and she told me a bit more about how people typically act when they have new (cute) babies.

 

“If you have a child – and some babies are ugly, but some are super cute. So if you have a baby and everyone’s like, ‘Aw, your baby is so cute, blah, blah, blah,’ – my mom would like freak out. She hated that, she would not let people like – you know how sometimes you like see a cute baby at Walmart and you’re just like staring at it like ‘aw that baby is so cute!” and you just look at it? – she would not like that at all. She would like turn her kids, us, around. She always said that if people were staring over you, like gawking over you, they’re gonna get jealous because you have this cute baby. And that jealousy is like evil, you know? And so your child is going to catch that evil eye.”

 

My informant also told me a bit about the steps that mothers would take to protect their babies against the evil eye, other than just staying away from potentially jealous people.

 

“Babies will sometimes have black dots on their foreheads to protect them from the evil eye. I guess it’s just symbolic of evil, like evil is black. You [also] always have this silver bracelet with black beads; I’m pretty sure my mom still has all three of ours. Because like, you wear it for a long time, until you’re older. Because I guess as an infant, you’re more vulnerable to the evil eye because you’re younger.”

 

In conclusion this interview, my informant expressed uncertainty as to whether her sister was affected by a spirit or simply rattled from leaving home for a prolonged period of time.


“I don’t know if it was actually a ghost or if she was just like being weird, but she was acting really weird and spooked me out too. There’s so many things; it could’ve been like we’re home now and she’s calmer; we had been gone a while. Or it could’ve been like the ghost left her on the plane or something. But yeah, she was back to normal when we got back home.”

Childhood
Game
general
Legends
Life cycle
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Bloody Mary (All-Boys School in the Philippines)

Informant: Enrique is a 19-year-old boy, born and raised in Manila, Philippines who now attends college in California. South Ridge (the school in his story) is a Catholic all-boys school in Manila which he attended from kindergarten through until 7th grade.

 

Original script:

Informant: So when I went to South Ridge, [all boys school in Manila, Philippines] there was a super scary bathroom on the top floor of the school. No one ever used this bathroom because there was a rumor that someone had died inside the bathroom years ago. On special occasions, our classes would have sleep overs at school and during one of these sleep overs, one of the older batches went up to that bathroom in the middle of the night. The rumor goes that if you say Bloody Mary in front of the mirror in that bathroom four times, Bloody Mary actually shows up. So when one of the guys that decided to go into that bathroom did the ritual, she actually appeared and when he left the bathroom, he was covered in cuts and scratches.

 

Interviewer: Do you know what Bloody Mary has to do with the guy that had died in the bathroom?

 

Informant: She was apparently the one who killed him.

 

Thoughts about the piece: It is extremely interesting that the Bloody Mary ritual would occur at a local all-boys school in the Philippines. Especially considering the context that we discussed it in during class wherein we saw that the ritual is most popular among pre-pubescent girls usually in Western countries. We took this to be part of girls growing up as womanhood is bloody, thus, girls are basically looking into their future (by spinning and looking into the mirror) and trying to understand it by performing the ritual. I too attended school in the Philippines however it was an international school with many American and European students- here too I noticed that only girls would take part in the Bloody Mary ritual. Thus, it is intriguing that this would be such a big sensation (seeing as how no one wanted to use the bathroom because they all know what had happened there) at a local, Catholic all-boys school.

Something else that it interesting about this version of the story is that Bloody Mary actually physically harms the people that perform the ritual whereas usually, you are said to simply see an image of her in the mirror.

Digital
Legends
Narrative

Cyber Ghost: Toads & Texts

Informant: Michael Davis is a sophomore at Cal Poly SLO and is currently majoring Business. He does not really believe in ghosts and thinks that going on ghost hunts with his friends is exciting. His story takes place in an abandoned home that may have been an asylum in San Jose.

MD: “Back at home, my friends and I went to check out this abandoned home, or maybe it used to be an asylum. There were four of us, and we pulled up in the driveway of the abandoned house. When we got out of the car, we saw in the distance that there was another car with its headlights on. We also saw a toad in the middle of the driveway and it started croaking. We walked up to the house and saw that it was blocked off by a “Do Not Enter” sign. We went inside anyways and saw that there were chains on the floor of the house. As we went into one of the rooms, we found another toad that started croaking. We just hung out in there, because it was kinds like a competition of who could stay in the longest. We went on exploring the place but suddenly heard chains rattling, but the chains we saw were still on the floor and there were none hanging anywhere. After a few more minutes inside the house, one of my friend’s phone starting buzzing and going crazy and then he started to get these text messages on his phone. It said something like “Why are you here”. We freaked out all walked out of the house. Right after we got out, my friend was like “I swear I heard some quiet, old, scary voice telling us to get out.” Then right outside, before getting into our car again, we saw another croaking toad. On the drive back to out house, my friend’s phone kept getting text messages saying stuff like “why were you in the house”, “I know what you did in there”, “I know what happened in the house”. We tried calling the number, but every time there would be the automated voice saying that “this number does not exist”, but it was clearly texting my friend! And what was even more freaky was that after a couple of months of visiting that house, the same number texted again and asked “why they were in that house”.

Impact: “This is not the first time I’d gone into a haunted place looking for ghosts. I like ghost hunting because of the adrenaline and thrill of it. But this experience was one of my more extreme ones, because usually there are some creaking doors or maybe shadows. It was scary ‘cause my friend got the same text even after the whole incident. I also went home that day and researched about the toads we kept on seeing in and around the house. Turns out, according to some websites, seeing a toad three times or something is representative of a ghost presence.”

My thoughts: I got goosebumps while hearing MD’s story because personally, everything I hear my phone buzz from getting a text messages, I would wonder which one of my friends would contact me. But I would be really scared if I got a text message from “nobody” because texting involves physically typing, so I don’t know how the ghost’s message got translated electronically.

 

Digital
general
Legends
Narrative

Cyber Ghost Story: SnapChat Picture Disappearance

Informant: Leah Suh’s cyber ghost story takes place in the old theater of Greystone Mansion and involves the use of an app called Snapchat on her iPhone. Greystone Mansion is a beautiful estate in the hills of Beverly Hills; however, the place is haunted and there have been many recounts from people hearing and seeing ghosts.

LS: “Okay so I don’t really call this a “ghost story” because I don’t believe in ghosts, but I this experience definitely felt supernatural to me, and is was hella scary. So in high school, for an extra credit assignment for my APUSH class, we went on a field trip to Greystone Mansion. During the tour, the tour guide was talking about all the haunted experiences he has had, and how other people have also seen or heard things such as gunshots or been pushed by something in the hallways. I didn’t feel like the place was haunted or anything until we walked into the old theater, and as soon as I walked in. I took a picture on my phone, using flash ‘cause it was real dark in there, and uploaded that image to SnapChat. A few minutes into the tour guide’s lecture, the lights in the theater went out and there was complete darkness. It was super quiet because no one expected it, like they weren’t purposely tryna scare us. Then I felt my phone in my jacket pocket buzz, and then my phone died. The lights came on again after some seconds, and the tour guide said “okay, let’s go to the bowling ally and get out of here.” As we began to head for the door, my phone buzzed again and turned itself back on, and it was weird because this whole my phone was basically fully charged. Because when it died in my pocket, I’d just assume it ran out of batteries, but when it turned back on, it was full ‘cause I’d charged it that morning. Anyways, after leaving the theater, I checked my SnapChat and the image of the theater I had uploaded was gone. This was the moment when I was like “maybe this place is really haunted and that ghosts are real?” After the tour, I kept thinking about the events of the day, and I got this feeling or urge to delete most of the pictures I had taken of Greystone Mansion from SnapChat. I do remembering leaving a picture of the beautiful courtyard.”

Impact on LS: “I’m Christian so I’m not supposed to believe in ghosts. As you can imagine, this experience impacted me because I used to be a firm non-believer in ghosts because of the Bible and my religion. But now, it’s like, I don’t know if I actually believe in ghosts, but I am more open to the idea of a person’s soul staying on Earth, rather than going to either Heaven or Hell.”

My thoughts: I was actually with LS when this event happened, but it was interesting to hear it from her perspective. For example, I did not know that she eventually deleted the rest of the pictures from that day. I find it scary in that these supernatural powers are powerful enough to erase things from the web and social media. One lesson from this story is to not disrespect ghosts, haunted places, or even allegedly haunted places.

Digital
Legends

Cyber Ghost: Queen Mary Ghost Detector

Informant: During Brittany Pedrosa’s senior year of high school, she was ASB president and had to pick a location for her school’s prom night. One of her choses was the Queen Mary ship, and in order to get a better look at the layout, her and her fellow student representatives went on a tour with a tour guide on the Queen Mary. Before going to the ship, she and her friends had heard that the ship was haunted and decided to download a ghost-hunting app on their iPhones. She does not remember the exact name of the app because she deleted it right after the tour.

BP “It’s not that scary, but it scared me. I went with my friends to check out the Queen Mary for our possible prom night location, and before I went I downloaded this thing called Ghost Tracker. It would show dots if there was an entity and words would also pop up. The words would be related to the ghost, like if someone drowned, it would say something like “pool” or “cold” or “breathe”. We went with a tour guide around the Queen Mary and I just kept my phone tracker on, not really looking at it. But when we went up to one of the rooms, my phone turned super bright and I could see it illuminating from my pocket. So I picked up my phone and saw that it had a dot and said “fire” and “smoke”. When the tour guide came up to that room, he told us that sometimes people would smell smoke because there was a guy who died in there from a fire, and he used to smoke a lot. That scared me because the app was accurate in detecting the ghost and some things about it.”

Impact on BP: “Honestly, this experience freaked me out ‘cause, it’s like even if there aren’t any actual solid evidence that ghosts exist, there certainly are signs that indicate there is some kind of invisible ghostly energy still lingering in this world. Like for me now, I just kinda avoid topics related ghosts and the supernatural, because I don’t really want to know if they exists or not, so I would say I don’t believe in ghosts, but I also believe that there are things out there that are supernatural.”

My thoughts: I found it interesting in that BP’s ghostly experience actually made her not want to believe in ghosts; whereas, I would usually guess seeing or getting signs of ghosts would make one believe in ghosts more. BP’s belief in ghosts reminds me of the discussions in class about what is means to believe in a “ghost”, because the definition varies among people. For example, some people would consider unsettling ghostly energy or an unsettling feeling as signifying the presence of a ghost; however, BP would not say that there is a ghost, just some supernatural energy that is undefined and unexplainable. BP’s story also makes me wonder how the app, or any ghost hunting apps/electronics, actually measure and detect ghost presence.

Legends
Narrative

Hospital Visitation

For this collection, I will be using initials to denote the conversation between the interviewer and the interviewee.

AJ -> Interviewer

LA -> Interviewee

——-

AJ: Have you, or has anyone close to you, ever experienced something strange or unexplainable?

 

LA: Like spirits sorta-stuff?

 

AJ: Yes! Can you tell me about an experience?

 

LA: So one time, it was Christmas day, and “santa” (my parents) bought me and my sister a go-kart as our present. It didn’t have any roll bars and was pretty dangerous. At the time, my sister was 11 and went to ride it after me. She came flying around a curb way too fast and crashed. The go-kart did multiple barrel rolls,  flips, skidded across the road on its side, and then landed on the wheels again. My sister was very, very close to crushing her skull on the asphalt. Meanwhile, my grandfather was in the hospital, and had been in a coma 6 days. Later that afternoon, my mother went to visit him and he awoke for the first time. The first thing he said to her was “How is [the sister]? I heard she was hurt. My wife visited me and told me about the crash.” But, the thing is, our grandmother had pass away, so essentially he said an angel visited him.

 

AJ: How would you explain this? Would you say it was a ghostly visitation or luck, or do you think someone visited him before your mother and told him the story, or something else?

 

LA: Well, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do think there are spirits. I’m not sure how I might classify them differently. Maybe like an energy that flows around us constantly, and it can carry thoughts or ideas that the human mind can pick up on beyond our cognitive recognition.

———-

After thoughts:

This story has a lot of the classic motifs. For one, it takes place on Christmas day, which is a liminal period. In addition, similarities can be drawn to Gillian Bennett’s “Alas, Poor Ghost!” where many of the interviewees don’t believe in ghosts, but they believe in alternative definitions, such as “spirits,” “energy,” “angels,” and “visitations.” LA exhibits these same notions, further proving that lexicon choice is important when asking about experiences.

Legends
Narrative

The Orbs

For this collection, I will be using initials to denote the conversation between the interviewer and the interviewee.

AJ -> Interviewer

NH -> Interviewee

———

AJ: Have you, or has anyone close to you, ever experienced something strange or unexplainable, like ghostly encounters or anything of the sort?

NH: There was a time that I was in the sixth grade and had a weird morning. It was early in the morning, in like homeroom period after I had just gotten to school. I went to my assigned group section to sit until the first bell and I sat down. I put my head down for a second and spaced out because my friends weren’t there yet. I closed my eyes, and when I opened my eyes, it was as if the whole world was tinted blue, sort of like the blue fire that you see in cartoons or anime that represent your soul. In addition to the tint, there was a blue orb near the bodies of the people that were present. I was very confused and questioned what was going on. I tried to look closer at the orbs, but when I closed my eyes, everything was normal again. I just shook it off and continued about my day after that

(Brief pause)

NH: Oh and, there was also another instance too! One night I was sitting watching tv in the living room with my family, when all of a sudden our dog and two cats all looked up towards the corner of the room near the stairwell. The fur on the back of their necks began to stand up, and nothing could break their attention away from the corner. Out of curiosity, my brother began to snap a continuous line of pictures of the corner. When going through them later, all of the pictures were the same except for two; there were two pictures that had a weird white orb in the corner. Never could explain that one.

 

AJ: Do you think these events are connected in any sort of way? Is there a bigger picture, or general explanation you might be able to give?

 

NH: I honestly don’t think anything of it. For the school incident I think I was just way too tired. And for the orb in the pictures I think it was probably just like a flash from the tv or something. I don’t know. Maybe it was a ghost or a spiritual visitation, but I can’t be sure, and I’m leaning more towards my mind just playing games.

———-

After thoughts:
This is an interesting set of stories, because in both stories, he describes his strange sights as “orbs.” He also draws connections to the representation of the soul. In addition, these collections show the classic motif of traditions of disbelief; NH plays off the stories by blaming himself for being tired or by blaming the TV for adjusting the light, even though he mentioned to me later on that he does in fact believe in ghosts.

 

Legends
Narrative

A Ghostly Shove

“My dad, when he was younger, around the same age as us [18] was in his house, and it was an old house that they had. He was on the [third floor] terrace, just sitting or whatever, just looking over the top, just standing there. No one was up there; it wasn’t windy, nothing. Literally, he felt someone push him, like an actual shove, as he was looking over. All there is is just like a little border and then you fall. And so he felt someone push him. He fell over the thing, fell down, and like broke his arm. No one was upstairs, everyone was downstairs. And it was just him and his mom, like his brothers were gone. It was just him upstairs. So yeah, he broke his wrist or whatever. And so, like he, I mean, everyone thinks it was a ghost. I’m pretty sure, like…what else would it be? He didn’t just like, he didn’t trip, he was just standing there and he felt someone push him, and the next thing you know, he’s falling off of the third floor. So yeah, no one really went up there after that.”

 

A lot of the elements in this ghost story are common to many ghost narratives. For one, this occurrence happened during adolescence, which is a common time for ghostly activity to happen in one’s life. Additionally, the story is set in an “old house,” which is also common in ghost stories, a building with a long history. In this story, the ghost seems to be corporal, though the father does not see or hear the ghost; even still, he undeniably feels it. This story is interesting to me because the father doesn’t just claim he felt a soft touch or a poke; he experiences a hard push that results in him tumbling down three stories and breaking his wrist. It is difficult to imagine why, if his story is false, he would tumble over the edge of the terrace, especially in the absence of wind or other people to accidentally (or purposely) bump him. As my informant asked, “what else would it be?”

Legends
Narrative

Le Chuza

Informant:

Jackie grew up in Sonsonate El Salvador to a traditional catholic close knit family. She has 7 brothers and sisters and is close with all of them. She believes in the stories and relates them to me as stories that have happened to people she knows. Her Grandfather, Miguel is the person who she has heard most of the stories from.

Original script: “ My grandfather told me of a story from his friend in Mexico. His friend’s grandparents lived in a rural area in Mexico in a village. That night, everybody went to bed and his grandmother had a 6 month old baby. They were all sleeping and at midnight they heard a very loud noise and heard the baby crying, but they couldn’t move, their bodies were very heavy. The next day, they woke up and the baby was dead with birds mouths all over his body (bites). His family looked for help with people who does Magic Blanca (white magic). They told him his grandfathers ex-girlfriend was jealous that he married someone else and she sent this owl witch to the house to take her baby away. That’s why we call it Lechuza, a woman suspected of being a witch turn into a Lechuza.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jackie’s grandfather would tell them stories like this when usually when the conversations would turn to someone who had suffered a loss or a sickness. The whole family believes that these stories are 100% true and have happened to people they either know or come from the same village.

Context of the Performance: No real context.

Thoughts about the piece: This story has notes of stories such as La llorona and La Malinche, presenting both the mother (grandmother) and the Whore (the ex-girlfriend) paradigm. In most stories of this kind, the woman is the one who punishes and is punished. Although the grandfather in this story is affected, it is the grandmother who is the object of jealousy and in turn the person marked by the scorn of the ex-girlfriend.

We also see another character that makes appearances in different folklore throughout the world, the owl. The owl’s nocturnal nature makes it a mysterious character that is often seen as a bad omen or as a bringer of death or sickness in societies ranging from the Native American, Arab, and Romans. Here, the owl is a weapon used by the Witch to cause harm to the baby.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

La Descarnada

-La Descarnada (El Salvador)

Original script: “my grandfathers friend had a chilling experience with a beautiful and sensual woman who appeared in the desolate roads asking for a ride. When he asked where she was headed she said a few kilometers. Then she got in the car and began to touch and kiss him then something dreadful happened; the skin from her body fell off! He was found in a total state of confusion and a lot of people said La Descarnada is a bad spirit of a bad witch.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Her grandfather believes the woman to be the witch “La Descarnada”

Thoughts about the piece: A lot of the Myths and tales from this area of the world seem to center around women and the evil behind there seductive powers. Perhaps they serve as tales of caution not to mess around with lose women or maybe deep down they express a fear of women.

 

[geolocation]