USC Digital Folklore Archives / Narrative
Legends

The Molepeople of New York

 

Context:

The subject is a white gender non-conforming individual from Brooklyn, New York. This story shows New Yorkers fascination with the variety of worlds beneath their feet from subways to sewers. It also touches upon the homeless population which they interact it without much thought.

 

Piece:

“Oh there’s the molepeople. The molepeople are people who supposedly live in the subway tunnels, or under the subway tunnels? And they make a life for themselves down there, some people hype it up were they’re like “there’s a whole city down there”, but there probably not. There was actually, factually, people living in the Amtrak tunnel between 72nd and 125th?, no… I think so, on Riverside. There were people living in the tunnel there. They did sorta build a community, they had like, because there was construction happening there that got abandoned, so there were like tene-tenements? ish kinda were like construction workers were living, so there was community down there of 100 something people, people were in tents and stuff. And people were like “oh there’s a whole city underneath the subway”, probably isn’t true. It’s just a thing people say like “oh you know the molepeople, the city of people who live under the subwa

 

Customs
Game
Legends

Killer, a High School Folk Game, and Legends About It

Context:

The subject is a white gender non-conforming individual from Brooklyn, New York.  They attended Hunter College High School, a specialized high school. Basically, it’s a public school and thus free, but one must test to get in. I also attended this school for sometime and also know the game. I have always been fascinated where the game comes from and have played similar, although less violent, versions elsewhere.

 

Piece:

“Killer is..uh.. So its like everyone’s on a team, I don’t know if this is how it started, but it’s how it ended, everyone is on a team. There’s like freshman girls, freshman boys, sophomore girls, sophomore boys. And you have to like assassinate — it keeps going beyond sophomore, its all. It’s not really separated by gender either, you can have sophomore mixed too, it’s whatever, there’s teams. I think that just happened because people do it in friend groups, so it’s like if your friend group is girls, if your friend group is boys, if your friend group is mixed. Um… There also were two junior girls teams, so yeah, I dunno, they end up with titles too. Like, uh, one year every team was named after a different album. So anyway Killer is uh, you have to kill — whichever team has a person still alive at the end of the game is the winner, so you have kill people on the other teams. And you do that with tracer guns, which have little plastic tracers inside them so pew pew [they mime finger guns]. Um, you shoot other people and if they get hit by the tracer then they’re dead. Um.. you kill a whole team, they’re out of the running. Whoever wins, wins the whole pot, which is usually like a thousand bucks. And there were like legends that like someone in the past had slept on the roof to avoid being killed because if you were like in the block of the school you can’t get killed. So he slept there the entire time and people brought him food and stuff. Uum, just slept on the roof. And there was another story were um, so this one kid was like “I know how I’m going to get this other person is I’m going to dress up as a homeless person, I’m going to disguise myself as a homeless person. I’m going to paint m-my tracer gun black. I’m gonna sit in the subway station, wait for him to show up”. So this guys stands up, pulls out his GUN and the police ALSO do that. And I dunno how it ended, he lived, everyone lived. I don’t think the police even shot, probably because the guy was whi… Nothing happened but like jesus christ, could you be stupider? I remember those were two big stories that got passed down from year to year. The administration were not a fan of it at all. They sent out emails every year being like “DON’T PLAY KILLER”, but it had not affect.

 

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.

Legends

Orb Watching Over Baby After Grandmother’s Death

Context:

The subject is a white gender non-conforming individual from Brooklyn, New York. Before this, the subject and I discussed ghost stories for sometime and I asked them if they had ever had a ghostly experience. It was very hard for me to collect much that we think of traditional folklore, ghost stories or myths, but this piece stands in such stark contrast to that.

 

Piece:

“Oh, my mom. Alright, my mom used to say that one night she say like a giant light floating above my bed after my grandmother died. She thought it was my grandmother in orb form. Uuum, personal experience I don’t think I’ve ever had any, but my mom used to say that all the time. Cause it was right after my grandma died.”

 

general
Legends

Why Dahlia’s, a Bar in New York, got Shut Down for Underage Drinking

 

Context:

The subject is a white male and a lifelong New Yorker from Manhattan and Queens. He is my twin brother and we attended the boarding school Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. Before this we were discussing what New York had begun to mean to us when we moved out to school, how we always heard stories and how it became a party location that we returned to when school was let out. I love this idea of New York teen folk culture because we could not have a overculture because what we were doing was illegal. The knowledge itself was folklore because it was passed on through person to person and it changed based on who knew what and sometime they were wrong. And then there were stories about the places we went because there was so little formal knowledge about them.

 

Piece:

“Theres like certain places, that people like, like everyone knows the places that don’t card. You know what I mean? Its sorta the same thi-way a bunch of people know this thing. You learn from other people, from.. I think – I had friends who were older than me and its sorta passed down like that. So there’s this place called 212 Hisae, or just 212, on 2nd Avenue and 9th Street I wanna say but I could be inaccurate, you can google map it, uh. They don’t card, I’ve been there!…sometimes. There was this place called Dahlia’s, but I think they got shut down because they ended up serving middle schoolers ‘cause that’s how much they didn’t card. I assume what happened was that college kids were doing it, high schoolers found out and started doing it, and then middle schoolers found out and started drinking at Dahlia’s. I heard this, maybe senior yet of high school. I don’t remember who told me, I’m sorry, I think it’s just like a thing people were like saying, you know what I mean?

 

Legends

New York Sewer Alligator

Context:

The subject is a white male and a lifelong New Yorker from Manhattan and Queens. He is my twin brother. Before this we were talking about growing up in New York and the stories we were told as children. I’ve heard a lot about the white alligator but very little about where it came from which shows that New Yorkers are ok with the mystery of the sewer gator.

 

Piece:

“Oh yeah, there’s an alligator in the sewers of New York. Like 100%. I think it’s like blind and white now because there’s no sun down there. I think it was with a circus, no someone brought up a baby alligator from Florida because people are stupid and then when it got too big they put it in the sewer and now it rules the sewer with all its gator babies. I don’t know if its true, but I like to believe, there’s so much wildlife in New York, you know?”

 

Legends
Narrative

Foothill Road

Main Piece

“I live off of Foothill Road, and it’s a windy [curvy] street. In the early 80’s, a girl was walking home on Foothill Road and someone came out of a van and stabbed her to death. I know that this actually happened, since she went to my high school. People say that you have to drive slow around there because it’s a ‘cursed road.’”

Background

Informant

Nationality: Greek–American

Location: Northern California, Bay Area

Language: English

The road is curvy and very dangerous, in the informant’s life, at least 3 people have died in accidents on it. There has also been a police chase and a double homicide. The informant told me that she always takes especially great care when driving on this road. Teenagers in the area are often given warnings about the road.

Context

The informant is from an affluent area near San Francisco, and the road is in a very residential area.

Notes

While people were likely wary of the road before the murder in the 1980’s, the road now has an ominous presence. I find it very interesting that there are no legends about the road being haunted by a ghost; rather, people tell the story of the murder to demonstrate that it is indeed dangerous, likely in an attempt to prevent teenagers from driving dangerously on it.

 

Humor
Legends
Narrative

Police Officers and Guns in Minnesota

Main Piece

“So he… he was a…he was a cop. He was going into the bank, and there were always false alarms at the bank. He was running in the bank and he had a rifle in his hand, and the way he would always check if the safety was on was by pulling the trigger. One time, he was running and he went to check if the safety was on and the gun went off and he shot a statue outside in the ass.”

Background

Informant Details

Nationality: American

Location: Willmar, Minnesota

Language: English

The “cop” in the story is the informant’s Great Uncle Nick, but the stories were all originally told to the informant by the his Great Uncle’s brother, the informant’s Grandfather. The informant didn’t fully believe the stories until he attended Nick’s funeral. There, the informant heard the story told by other people, and now the informant completely believes the story.

The informant finds the story very funny, as did everyone else. Everyone who knew the story had a positive memory of both the informant’s Great Uncle and the story. Someone at the funeral commented to the informant the following: “The only thing that would surprise me about Nick [Great Uncle] is if any of those stories [referring to other stories about Nick and guns] weren’t true.”

Although the informant was not born at the time of these events, he fully believes in them and the fact that his Great Uncle Nick was a great, if sometimes irresponsible, handler of guns. The story means a great deal to the informant, and is one of the main memories he has of Nick, who has since passed away.

Context

The informant’s Great Uncle was a police officer from the 1950’s to the 1980’s in West Central Minnesota, and the story occurred somewhere in this time period.

Notes

The story and people’s positive reaction to it are demonstrative of America’s somewhat irresponsible history with guns, which is where much of modern gun culture presumably comes from. It is also interesting that people’s belief in Nick’s escapades is unshakeable. He has become something of a ‘legendary’ local figure.

 

Humor
Legends
Narrative

Police Officers and Guns in Minnesota, Piece #2

Main Piece

“One time they were, ah shit, I think they were at the range, and next to the range was a locker room. He was looking at a gun, and he asked if it was loaded, and someone said they didn’t know, so he pointed the gun at the wall and pulled the trigger. The safety was off, and the bullet went right through the locker and went through someone’s police jacket, and the owner never found out where the hole was from and never got a new one. Oh, and one time he blew a hole in the roof of a squad car while testing a shotgun.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: American

Location: Willmar, Minnesota

Language: English

The “cop” in the story is the informant’s great uncle Nick, but the stories were all originally told to the informant by the his great uncle’s brother, the informant’s Grandfather. The informant didn’t fully believe the stories until he attended Nick’s funeral. There, the informant heard the story told by other people, and now the informant completely believes the story.

The informant finds the story very funny, as did everyone else. Everyone who knew the story had a positive memory of both the informant’s great uncle and the story. Someone at the funeral commented to the informant the following: “The only thing that would surprise me about Nick is if any of those stories weren’t true.”

Although the informant was not born at the time of these events, he fully believes in them and the fact that his great uncle Nick was a great, if sometimes irresponsible, handler of guns. The story means a great deal to the informant, and is one of the main memories he has of Nick, who has since passed away.

Context

The informant’s great uncle was a police officer from the 1950’s to the 1980’s in West Central Minnesota, and the story occurred somewhere in this time period.

Notes

The story and people’s positive reaction to it are demonstrative of America’s somewhat irresponsible history with guns, which is where much of modern gun culture presumably comes from. It is also interesting that people’s belief in Nick’s escapades is unshakeable. He has become something of a ‘legendary’ local figure.

 

Game
Legends
Narrative

Quickdraw Contest

Main Piece

“There was a quickdraw contest every year in West Central Minnesota. Mind you, this is mostly rural areas so these fuckers know how to use guns. Not safely, but efficiently. [The gun] is fully loaded, you pull it out of your holster, take six shots, you reload, and take six more shots. He [Nick] won…the first year he was in it. He won a .357, a Smith and Wesson. The next year, he won again and they gave him another revolver. The year after, he won again but they gave the gun to the second place winner.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: American

Location: Willmar, Minnesota

Language: English

The “cop” in the story is the informant’s great uncle Nick, but this and other stories were all originally told to the informant by the his great uncle’s brother, the informant’s Grandfather. The informant didn’t fully believe the stories until he attended Nick’s funeral. There, the informant heard the story told by other people, and now the informant completely believes the story.

The informant finds the story very funny, as did everyone else. Everyone who knew the story had a positive memory of both the informant’s great uncle and the story. Someone at the funeral commented to the informant the following: “The only thing that would surprise me about Nick is if any of those stories weren’t true.”

Although the informant was not born at the time of these events, he fully believes in them and the fact that his great uncle Nick was a great, if sometimes irresponsible, handler of guns. The story means a great deal to the informant, and is one of the main memories he has of Nick, who has since passed away.

Context

The informant’s great uncle was a police officer from the 1950’s to the 1980’s in West Central Minnesota, and the story occurred somewhere in this time period.

Notes

Nick’s prowess with guns and its influence on his identity speaks to the importance of guns in America as a defining characteristic of many people’s lives. I find this concept to be very interesting, especially as it is part of the reason why many people do not want to enact any kind of gun control.

 

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