USC Digital Folklore Archives / Game
Life cycle
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.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

12th night

Subject: 12th Night


 Liz was born in a traditional English household but grew up traveling around Southern England and the middle east because her father was in the Royal Air force. Her mother was a Nurse and her father a serving officer. She had two siblings a brother and a sister. Her family was not religious but consider themselves members of the Church of England.

Original script: “On the 6th of January a cake is bake usually a fruit cake and inside the cake a bean was hidden, and the person who received the bean in their cake became the lord of misrule for the night. It was a general practice in Britain at the time. My father always got the bean and we were always disappointed because we were so looking forward to being in charge. I don’t know where they learned it from, just tradition.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Preformed on January sixth or the last day of Christmas in the Church of England and usually coincided with taking Christmas decorations down.

Context of the Performance: Preformed on the sixth of January.





Cicada 3301


 Zack was born in Boston Massachusetts and grew up in a house in rural Norwell Massachusetts in a secular family. His father is a musician and his mother a homemaker. Zack is a photographer who works with musicians and has traveled extensively both in his childhood following his father on tour and in his current occupation.

Original Script: “I learned about it on a web form from being posted to a form I was on. When they post a puzzle they basically come out and say solve this puzzle it will lead to the next riddle and so on and so forth. A lot of highly skilled cryptographers would sort of docu-blog on there progress as they were trying to figure out. The more they progress the more serious it began to seem, people where literarily flying places to solve clues, it was very Dan Brown. Most people who get close to solving disappear. Some people think they have succeeded and ended up requited into an intelligence organization. While it could be a hoax the difficulty of the challenges is genuine. It’s a total Mr. Robot”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Cicada 3301 is an Internet puzzles that appear mysteriously on various online chat forms annually. That focus on data security cryptography and steganography.

Context of the Performance: Annual online puzzle.

Thoughts about the piece: It seems to me that the Cicada 3301 is similar to the newer folkloric tales and myths that develop and are spread on the Internet. At the heart of this is the mistrust for the Internet and the mystery that comes with the anonymity one can find on the Internet. The informant is a member of multiple conspiracy theory forms that analyze myths, stories and other mysterious happenings so he is connected to forms that share stories like Cicada 3301.


Throw the handkerchief

My informant is a 48 year-old woman who has lived her whole life in China by now.

"This a game we have all played in kindergarten. Several people sit in a circle. 
except for one stands outside of the circle; they are in charge of throwing a 
handkerchief. After running around the circle, the person will drop the 
handkerchief behind someone’s back. That person must now get up quickly and chase
the person who dropped the handkerchief. If the chaser catches the person, 
then they are winner. If not, they are the loser and will have to pay a penalty. 
The game is played until each person has had a chance to throw the handkerchief. "

Throw the handkerchief
Throw the handkerchief
Put it back of our friends quietly
We all do not tell her
Quikely,quikely catch her
Quikely,quikely catch her

She thinks kids are taught to play this game along with singing this song at 
kindergarten is a good outdoor activity for them to interact and get along well 
with each other.

I've also played that game in my childhood, I think it's really much more fun to 
play with each other face to face back to those times, comparing to nowadays kids
just each holding an iPad alone.

Play house game

My informant is a 48 year-old woman who has lived her whole life in China by now.

“Girls always like to play the ‘play house game’ in a group of two or more when they’re little. We usually play it at home. Hold a doll in arms like our baby, and we also have role playing, like mom and dad. And we even have teacher, doctor or nurse sometimes. It’s funny that we feed food to those babies, take them to ‘doctors’, and tell stories to them. All like the scenario of taking care of kids, pretending that we were adults.”

“I think we just learnt this from girls older than us, saw them playing and we imitated. I think this shall be the game that almost every girl all over the world has played before haha.”

I find it really interesting that people always want to grow up faster when they’re kids, whereas many adults feel nostalgic to their childhood when they were much happier with less stress. Actually, I’m wondering is there really a clear line between kid and adult? Maybe people won’t really become adult until they have kids.


Rituals, festivals, holidays

Kicking the lamppost on gameday

DK is a junior at the University of Southern California, and is originally from Denver, CO.

DK had some more USC folklore to share with me:

“Football season is a huge production at USC, and probably the most obvious time when the whole school gets together…on gamedays, everyone usually tailgates on campus, setting up tents and hanging out together hours before the game even starts. Once kickoff is approaching, everyone sort of migrates away from campus to cross Exposition and head to the Coliseum…if you go with everyone else through the south entrance of campus, there are these huge light posts at the exit, and for some reason everyone has to kick the base before they keep heading to the Coliseum. Honestly, I have no idea why people do it, and no one I talk to seems to know either. But there’s always backup once you get there, because everyone’s standing around this lamppost waiting to kick it.”

I asked DK what her best guess was as to the origin of the ritual:

“Maybe we’re kicking at our opponents? I don’t know how threatening that is.”

My analysis:

Sports rituals are very common for college and professional teams, and are probably even more prevalent during home games. The entire process of gathering together on campus to tailgate, then migrating together to head to the game, and stopping to perform this ritual without even knowing the meaning demonstrates the strength of USC pride and how it indoctrinates us best on days like gamedays. When school spirit is running high we’re more willing to participate in the most random of activities, because all of it is bringing us together.


O Que É, O Que É?

Informant was a 45 year old female who was born in Brazil and currently lives in Brazil. I talked to her over Skype.

Informant: So this is a game of riddle. It’s like a riddle, but it’s also a game. It’s called “O que é o que é,” which is “What is it What is it.” You come up with the riddles at school with friends. It’s something that you need to make people think and have fun. It’s our popular culture. It’s very used with kids, kids play with that a lot. You give clues to what a thing is by describing it, and then the other people have to guess what it is.

Collector: Can you maybe give me an example?

Informant: Ok, for example

O que é o que é

It is deaf and mute but tells everything?

Collector: I don’t know.

Informant: A book. (Laughs)

O que é o que é

That is always broken when it’s spoken?

Collector: Promises?

Informant: Secrets, but close. Last one,

O que é o que é

Is extremely thin, has teeth, but never eats, and even without having money gives food to whoever is hungry?

Collector: What?

Informant: The fork. These are just some examples. I remember a lot of them because they were a really big part of my childhood.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: I like it because we used to have a lot of fun we used to play with it all the time, everyone used to have one of these riddles and we used to play all the time, it makes you think and it’s funny. Everytime we were with friends and we were talking or even with family we used to play, but mainly with friends, we used to read books about this to tell friends. It’s just a happy time, we used to play a lot and it was funny.

I remember hearing these riddles when I was a kid. Every time I would go on a road trip, my parents would say these riddles to me about things that would pass by our windows, and it was a fun way to pass the time. It’s really cool to learn that this was also a part of my mother’s childhood, and that she would often play this riddle game with her friends – something I never did. Although it’s mostly a children’s thing, any Brazilian will recognize the famous phrase “o que é o que é” as a riddle. A lot of the riddles are actually quite silly, such as the ones that my mother told me, but it is because they are so silly that they make people laugh.


London Bridge

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in England and currently lives in Los Angeles. She lives in my hall, and I interviewed her.

Informant: Do you know the London Bridge song?

Collector: Yes.

Informant: Ah, yes. Well, I guess it’s pretty popular over here too. But basically, it’s a song that goes like this:

London Bridge is falling down,

Falling down, falling down.

London Bridge is falling down,

My fair lady.

I think the actual song is longer than that, but that’s all that people really use. So what we do, it’s usually a kids game, but what we do is we get two people to stand together and hold their arms together like they’re making a bridge, and then people have to run under it, until the last line. And then the people drop their arms and trap whoever is under it, and like that person loses. It’s like a song, but it’s also a game, which is cool.

Collector: Do you have any idea where it might have come from?

Informant: I actually have no idea the history behind the song. I just know that it’s a really old game, and a lot of kids play it. It’s pretty popular. I don’t think the London Bridge has ever really fallen down. I hope it won’t.

I remember playing this game when I was a kid, and it’s interesting to hear that it’s popular all over the world too. Despite mentioning London in part of the lyrics, I didn’t actually know that this was a traditional English song. I thought that the Americans had made it up during the revolution to show patriotism and strength to beat the British. It’s funny to see that I was completely wrong my entire life, and that the song is nothing more than a mere game that people used to play in England, and passed on to the people in America and all over the world.


Toilet Tag (Game)

My informant is Jackson, a 19-year-old male student at USC. Jackson is white and of Danish and Irish descent and grew up in a suburb outside of Los Angeles called Palos Verdes.


Jackson weren’t you telling me about a game you used to play?

Jackson: “Oh yeah toilet tag! We used to play that when we were younger.”

What is toilet tag?

Jackson: “It’s like…freeze tag, but basically it’s like regular tag and when someone on the other team tags you you have to sit down and stick your finger out like a toilet flusher. Then you can’t get back in the game until someone on your team flushes you by hitting your finger and then you’re back in”

Is there only one person that’s tagging everyone?

Jackson: “Oh no everyone on the other team is tagging”

So how do you win?

Jackson: “Well I guess the only way someone wins is if the tagging team tags everyone so they are all toilets and no one can flush them and the toilets win by staying in the game before recess ends”

When did you first play this?

Jackson: “Elementary school”

Do you know who started this game?

Jackson: “No I have no idea, probably the kids above us though”

Do you still see kids playing toilet tag?

Jackson: “Yeah definitely it’s popular”

Is there any meaning to you behind this game?

Jackson: “I mean no, it’s just a game but it reminds me of my childhood and elementary school but its not special to me”


When hearing about this game, I realized that I myself had played the other version of toilet tag that Jackson mentioned, freeze tag. These games are very similar the only difference being to unfreeze your teammate that has been tagged you do not flush him but crawl through his legs which lifts the freezing power of the tagger. I grew up in California as well and it seemed that Jackson was familiar with freeze tag, whereas I was unfamiliar with toilet tag. This makes me believe that freeze tag was the original and toilet tag is a variation of the game that children from Southern California either created or learned.


Red Rover (Game)

My informant is Betsy, a 5’3, white female. Betsy is 26 years old and grew up in Los Angeles her whole life. She is of Irish and Eastern European descent.

Betsy describes a game she used to play as a kid.

Betsy: “Did you ever play Red Rover?”

No, what’s that?

Betsy: “Ok it’s a game I used to play when I was younger during recess. There are two teams and each team forms a big line and you all hold hands with the people on your team and you face the other team who is also holding hands. Then when it’s your teams turn you chant.. “Red Rover, Red Rover, send us…” and you pick someone from their team. So if the other team chose me they would say “Red Rover, Red Rover, send us Betsy!” and then I would leave my team and try and break the other teams chain.”

What do you mean break their chain? How would you do that?

Betsy: “Well you would have to run at them as fast as you can and try and bust through their arms when they’re holding each others hands”

What happens when you break it?

Betsy: “Well if you break the chain then the person who broke is now on your team so whoever breaks the line has to go to the other team”

What if you don’t break it?

Betsy: “Umm..I’m pretty sure if you don’t break it then you just have to join the other team”

So how do you win?

Betsy: “I guess it’s whoever has the most players, the game always ended when recess did so whatever team has the most people at the end wins”

When did you start playing this game and how did you first learn about it?

Betsy: “I would say I started playing a lot around second grade and definitely never played after fifth. As to who started it…I don’t know it was just a game that we all know everyone played it we probably learned it from the kids above us. I remember seeing it in a movie called “Now and Then” and I was obsessed with it so maybe that’s where.

What does this game mean to you, is there any significance?

Betsy: “I wouldn’t say that this game means anything to me… I don’t know it just reminds me of my childhood and brings back memories of when we all used to play Red Rover but I wouldn’t say it holds a special meaning it was just a game.


This is a really good example of folklore as a game because it was something Betsy played when she was younger and through the action of playing the game spread the folklore to anyone who saw or partook. Going to school, children fill their recess with fun games to pass the time not realizing it is a form of folklore. I, myself, had never heard or played this game and it was interesting to listen to someone look back on such a small part of their life and have it apply to my project. This game could have been ingrained into the school where all students who went to that same school eventually played Red Rover or in Betsy’s case she may have brought it to her school unknowingly just by watching the movie. However, the fact that it was in the movie