USC Digital Folklore Archives / Game
Contagious
Game
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Legends
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Baby Blue

Context: I was teaching a class of sixth graders for the Joint Education Project (JEP) in a middle school near USC.

Discussion

Instructor: So, after learning the differences between myths, tales and legends, can anyone give me an example of a legend that they have heard of? (A number of different students interjected to corroborate to the first student’s story, they have been given aliases to protect their identities)

Angel: Baby Blue! (Announced loudly)

Instructor: What or who is Baby Blue?

Angel: It’s like uhm you go into the bathroom and look into the mirror and uh fold your arms, and if you feel a weight in your arms its Baby Blue and you gotta drop it!

Maria (interjecting): No no no, you gotta go into the bathroom by yourself and turn the lights off and cradle your arms like you’re holding a baby and say ‘Baby Blue’ in the mirror three times. If you feel a weight in your arms like you were holding a baby, you gotta pretend to drop it in the toilet and flush it before it gets too heavy.

Instructor: Or else what happens?

Maria: The baby will haunt your family.

Daisy (interjecting): No if you don’t flush the baby, her mom will turn up behind you and scream at you to give it back and kill you if you don’t. (Other students nodded along or exclaimed ‘yeh’ as if her version was the most well-known)

Instructor: So, who is baby blue?

Maria: Its like a evil baby that will haunt you if you don’t get rid of it I think.

Instructor: And who is the women?

Daisy: Some kinda evil spirit I guess.

Instructor: Have any of you done this?

Daisy: I tried it once with my big sister.

Instructor: And did the woman show up?

Daisy: No but I felt a weight in my arms and through it in the toilet so maybe I did it before the baby grew too big.

Instructor: Was it a scary experience.

Daisy: Yeh I guess, me and my sister ran outta the bathroom straight after flushing the toilet.

Analysis

This is a very interesting legend. It is very much like Bloody Mary accept with a baby involved. After some research I discovered that some people think that the mother who appears is Bloody Mary and that Baby Blue is her child that she murdered. The legend seemed fairly well-known throughout the classroom of thirty students but some new it better than others. It is clear that Angel was more of a passive barer of the legend and had not participated in the legend quest. Those that did had a better knowledge of the backstory to the legend, which was usually learned from older relatives. The students did not seem to be overly scared of this legend and approached it as more of a game. They were adamant that there was a right way and a wrong way to do this pseudo-ritual.

There are theories that the Bloody Mary legend is related to young girls’ oncoming period cycle. The legend is most common with girls aged 8 to 14 and takes place alone in a bathroom where you see a bloody woman appear behind you. This could be some kind of folk ritual, beyond the knowledge of the participants, to prepare girls for the oncoming changes to their bodies’ which takes place near this age range and usually alone in a bathroom. This intense bodily change might be more easy cope with when compared with the extreme of seeing a creepy woman covered in blood behind you. I think that the Baby Blue legend is a continuation of this theory. It is in someway ingratiating girls to the idea that if you feel a baby growing heavy in your arms (which are cradled at your stomach) that you should somehow get rid of it, or else it might haunt you for the rest of your life. This seems to be suggesting to the girls that take part in this pseudo-ritual, on a deeply subconscious level, that if you get pregnant at a young age (as pregnancy tests usually take place in the bathroom alone) that you should somehow get rid of the baby before it stays with you forever. If this is the case, this legend has an extremely dark aspect to it. Obviously because of the fact that this deeper meaning operates on a subconscious level, boys take part in the legend too. This is for the surface reason that it is scary and thrilling which is probably why the girls do it too but it may be communicating a deeper message to them specifically.

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.

 

Game

Hitting the Roof of the Car When Running Reds and Stripping

Context:

The subject is a white, gender non-binary individual who is a native Angeleno. They have been driving since they were 15. I brought up people hitting the roof of their car when running red lights as an example of the folklore I was trying to collect when they offered me this. I’d never heard of this stripping game style and it totally divorces the custom from the superstition it is usually associated with.

 

Piece:

“It’s a stupid high school game where if you through a, through a light when it’s turning red, like when its yellow. Pretty much, everyone has to hit the roof and whoever doesn’t hit the roof has to take off a piece of clothing. I’ve never done it, but I’ve heard of it.”

 

Childhood
Festival
Foodways
Game
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Greek Easter

Main Piece

The informant told me about Greek Easter and its associated traditions as practiced in Northern California. Greek Easter occurs one week after regular easter, and the celebrations the informant attends are at a local park. Classical Greek dances are performed, as well as an egg cracking game. Eggs are hard boiled and dyed red before they are used for the game. Two people each take an egg, and then the two people hit the eggs together until one egg cracks. The first person to have their egg crack is the loser. Nothing is won or lost. There is also a traditional easter egg hunt for “little kids,” as the informant called them.

Background

Informant Details

Nationality: Greek–American

Location: Outside San Diego

Language: English

The informant’s grandmother is “very Greek” and the informant always visits for Greek Easter. The informant commented that Northern California has no Greeks, but even so, about 100 people would come each year. Presumably, Greek Easter is a very important holiday for community building.

Context

The traditions included in Greek Easter are performed only at the specified time of year, one week after the traditional Christian Easter, and only among other Greeks.

Notes

The game with the eggs is perhaps indicative of the importance of strength in Greek culture; you want your egg to be the strong one, the one that doesn’t crack. The influence of American easter “traditions” is also very interesting. The easter egg hunt was invented by corporations, and although it has influenced Greek Easter to a small extent, the participation is limited to “little kids,” which reflects the fact that as the children grow up they will perhaps ‘age into’ Greek cultural traditions.

 

Game
Humor

Pre–Show Improv Game

Main Piece

Before improv shows, the informant and her improv group play a game where the actors all yell “Give me back my son!” at each other, while trying not to laugh. While it is a game and in some sense a competition, the ultimate goal is to prepare to act emotional while maintaining composure.

Background

Informant Details

Nationality: Greek–American

Location: Northern California, Bay Area

Language: English

The informant found the game very bizarre, although she participated and still participates wholeheartedly.

Context

While amateur improv groups play this game, it is also played by professionals. The game is actually based on a scene from the Mel Gibson movie Ransom. The informant didn’t learn the origin of the game until long after she was taught how to play by members of her improv group, and she told me that she was very surprised when she learned where the game was actually from. She was also surprised when she found out that professional comedians play the game.

Notes

It is very interesting that the informant learned the game and the line “Give me back my son” from other improv actors rather than from the film. This interchange is an example of how authored media can become folkloric and have its meaning changed entirely.

 

Game
Humor
Musical

Overtly Sexual Theater Tradition at a Public School

Main Piece

“The guys would go into a room and praise a plunger, and during the show girls would try and steal the plunger. Also, there was a pre–show girl’s song about being a lady:

“We’ve got vaginas, (vaginas), the ovaries too, we’ve got the boobies (the boobies), a

higher IQ, we are women and we are better than men”

Next, after the show, a female cast member would sing about a boy in the cast:

“Oh, (name of the boy), please don’t touch me, please don’t touch me, as I slither…” This is all that the informant could remember of this particular song. “The song would end in orgasm noises,” according to the informant.

Background

Informant

Nationality: Greek–American

Location: Northern California, Bay Area

Language: English

The informant found the first song about being a lady to be funny, while she thought the song after the show to be quite strange. Neither song had any particular meaning to the informant, other than serving as a fun and engaging way to prepare the group for their show. The songs were all learned from older members of the theater group, who learned them from students who have since graduated.

Context

The informant attended a public school in an affluent area near San Francisco. This tradition has been carried out since at least the early 2000’s and is still going on.

Notes

“Theater kids” as they are called are often stereotyped as being hypersexual, and songs and practices like this are part of the reason why. I find it interesting that the same songs, although they may have changed a bit over time, are still being sung. One might think that over the course of more than a decade the way teenagers engage in sexually explicit conduct would evolve, but in this case the practices remain the same.

 

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.

 

Foodways
Game
Humor
Material

“Thumper”

Main Piece

The following game is called “Thumper.”

“You all get around a table, and you go like this…”

The informant then did a drumroll on her thigh before imitating a call and response using two distinct voices:

”What’s the name of the game?”

“Thumper!”

“Why do we play it!”

“To get fucked up!”

I asked the informant to explain the rules, and she said the following:

“You all have symbols, you do like a fight on or something, and you do the symbol while you’re drum rolling, and you do a symbol while looking at someone and they have to do another symbol and look at someone else, and if you do a symbol that doesn’t exist or you mess up, you have to take a shot.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: American

Location: Los Angeles

Language: English

Context

The informant learned the game at USC from other USC students.

Notes

I had never heard of this game before, but I find it interesting that there are so many diverse different drinking games with the same, ultimate goal: to get everyone extremely drunk.

 

Game
Humor
Initiations

Paranoia

Main Piece

“So Paranoia [the game] is when you get a bunch of friends and sit in a circle. You whisper in their ear a question, usually about someone in the room, you say your answer out loud [name of person] and then you flip a coin, if it lands heads up, you have to reveal the question.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: American

Location: Los Angeles

Language: English

The informant learned the game from the internet and other people who she played it with. The informant loves playing the game because through it, you can learn about your friends. The game can be, according to the informant, “wholesome or not wholesome,” in terms of the information discussed.

Context

The game can be played while drinking but is usually be played without drinking. It is not a drinking game.

Notes

I find the use of games as a form of group identity building to be incredibly interesting. People can either be honest and potentially risk an awkward moment or give a fake answer, but the two options have vastly different implications in terms of what the group might think of them and how the participant in the game chooses to present themself.

 

Game
Humor
Musical

Pre–Show Chant

Main Piece

The following is chanted: Ooh I feel so good, like I knew I would, ooh I feel so good, ooh (pause) I (pause) feel (pause) so good!”

According to the informant, each person in the circle would do the chant once in their normal voice, and then everyone would do it as an impression of someone else, often a teacher or famous act. Finally, everyone would get into a tightly knit mob and say the following: “Little bit softer now, just whisper, mouth the words [with “mouth the words” being mouthed, not spoken], little bit louder now, shout it out!”

Background

Informant

Nationality: American

Location: Washington D.C.

Language: English

The informant clearly enjoyed the tradition, as she laughed a lot while telling the story and performing the chant. They learned the chant from other members of their theater group, and it now reminds them of the fun they had while in the group.

Context

The chant was done before the informant’s theater performances in high school.

Notes

When I have previously heard this chant, it has always been performed by high school football teams. I find it very interesting that such vastly different groups can use the same chant to get excited before a performance or a game.

 

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