USC Digital Folklore Archives / Folk Beliefs
Folk Beliefs

Merton College Library Ghost


“In my second year at Oxford University, I visited the Merton College Library. Walking through the library so late at night, I remembered the famous story about the Merton College library ghost. That night I didn’t see the ghost, but I still left the library with a spooky feeling inside of me.

So anyway, late in the evening, I went to borrow a book in this library. This was a different library than the one I would normally go to. I went to Lincoln College so normally I would go to that library, but they didn’t have the book. The philosophy department didn’t have it either so I had to go to this library late at night because I really needed to write an essay.

Merton College is nearly 800 years old, so it’s a very spooky old place to go to just because it’s so ancient and eerie. There is so much history in all the old buildings.

Basically the legend says there’s a ghost who haunts the library. He has been seen by a number of people and he walks the halls of the library late at night. Many years ago, they raised the floor of the library by 10-12 inches, nearly a foot… um, so as a result the ghost walks at the level of the original floor. So the ghost is 10 inches shorter than he should be. It’s kind of funny actually because people see a really short ghost if they end up seeing him. Some think he’s walking on his knees or kneeling on the ground, but he’s actually walking at the original height of the building. He’s apparently locked in time and space, so he walks at the level of the old library floor.

The funny part is that below the library there is the grand dining hall. It’s kind of like the dining halls in Harry Potter, just to paint a picture, so it’s really large and grand. Anyway, they say that if you’re in the dining hall and you look up, you might see the ghost’s feet walking through the ceiling. It’s honestly kind of funny if you think about it.

I’m not sure if it’s an evil ghost or a friendly ghost, but I don’t think he does any harm.

He’s supposed to be the ghost of a man named Francis Windebank, a royalist soldier who was executed a long time ago on the college grounds. I don’t know that much about him, but I do know that this was a very famous ghost on campus.

I do sometimes believe in ghosts. I think it’s an interesting story because the ghost is locked in time and trapped on a specific level. He’s not really in our world yet is at the same time.

He’s in our world because we can see him, but he’s not in our world because he’s dead. He’s in the other world because he’s walking on the level of the ceiling of when he died so he’s really interesting because he’s in a different time and space. I find this the most interesting part of this story.

I don’t know if I believe in the ghost, but I still think it’s an intriguing story and an important part of Oxford University history. There are lot of different ghost stories and famous ghosts on the Oxford Campus because it’s such an old place.

I think that libraries are often haunted because people go there late at night and alone. People are tired and there’s not many people there so they might see things. Libraries are old and lonely places, maybe explaining why there are so many instances with ghosts in libraries and people seeing ghosts in libraries.”

Collector’s thoughts:

I think this story is a really unique and different from other ghost stories because of how the ghost is locked in time and space. I wonder why the ghost walks on the old level of the library and if most ghosts are locked in the specific time and location of where they died. It would also be really interesting to trace this particular ghost story and others from the Oxford University campus.

I think libraries, again, are very liminal, creepy places and that is why they tend to be so haunted. I think this story is interesting because there is also an element of humor to the ghost: seeing the feet on the ceiling is something that the students at Oxford find funny. I think these different ghost traditions on campuses bring a community closer together and help people connect in certain ways. I am sure there are numerous famous ghosts and ghost stories that only Oxford students know and that plays a role in being part of their community.

Overall, this ghost story seems like more than an urban legend because you can research Francis Windebank and find out his story, possibly tracing it back to this ghost story. This ghost story just seems more plausible than others because there is a name for the ghost and a history; rather than just a vague story about a person.

Folk Beliefs


Ghost Story #2: Cropsey

Name: SR

Place/Location: New York, Upstate- took place at camp

Age: 8/9 years old, 19 years old now

Language: English

Occupation: Student

The story told: New York Ghost story

So, when I was 8 we had a campfire for my age group at the sleep away camp I went to and one of the girls was going to tell scary stories. This girl decided she was going to tell the story of “Cropsey”. Um, and everyone knew the story or had heard something about it but I did not know it yet. It is famous in New York state and people thought it was extra scary because it was so close to home. So, the story of Cropsey has a bunch of different versions but this is the one I was told. Um, on a highway in upstate New York there was a man driving alone. Something hit the man’s car, some being or dear, jumped in front of his car and he ended up in a car wreck because of that unknown object or person. And he ended up being severely disfigured in the car wreck and nobody ended up coming to help him because his car was the only car on the road in a rural area. So, he dragged himself out of the car and into the woods to try and like I guess heal and instead he kind of just didn’t die but remained severely disfigured. He then ventured amongst the woods and remained severely hurt living amongst the creates of the woods, and ended looking like somewhat of a “demon”. And he would just wander around the woods and then “THIS PART IS TRUE.” Small rural towns in upstate New York, started to notice that children were disappearing into the woods. The children would either be found dead or if they were found alive, they said they were lured into the woods by a man named Cropsey. And the children that were found dead or the children that would come back would be disfigured in some type of way. A lot of the children, to begin with, were born with some sort/type of disability. Throughout time it has become an urban legend or myth that in a lot of disappearing children’s cases, the name Cropsey continues to be used or brought up. The state isn’t sure if there ever was a man named Cropsey or if over time there has been different serial killers or criminals/murders that hide or play into this legend and story. I think that I would imagine that he looked or acted like some sort of zombie. Do you know the horror movie, Mama? Okay, I don’t know, I think it just plays into some sort of a witch like or zombie figure that should have died, but didn’t but is kind of dead roaming around in the woods. I do not know how he went from a regular man in a car wreck to desiring flesh or children so something had to happen. I think this is a ghost story but I would use the word zombie to try and describe him. I feel like um it’s like the way I heard it was around the campfire telling ghost stories and it qualifies and feels like “being undead is being a ghost” and he definitely qualifies as undead. I believe that there have been disappearances attributed to someone named Cropsey but I don’t believe necessarily the whole bit of the man becoming Cropsey. I don’t believe in ghosts like in the way that um, like I don’t know if you can really see them but I feel like like I want to believe in ghosts because that’s a way I think you can be in contact with the dead. Like when you hear those crazy stories about when someone they love passed away and you hear something or see something that reminds you of them, they will hear a song or randomly find a photo of that person where it shouldn’t be and they would like to think that the person who died, their ghost or spirit planted it there for them. I believe in that. If there are scary ghosts though I would hope they stay the hell away from me. I feel like in my life I have traveled to places like Anne Frank’s house, slave cabins, native American burial grounds and I feel like you can just feel a certain weight in the air because of what happened there and how many people died there. The death and what happened there is very tangible. I did not tell this story in a very scary way because I struggled to remember it, but when I was just told this it was told in a very creepy way. I was out in the woods at camp and the situation made it so crazy for me at the moment, I am a baby when it comes to stuff like that.


I think this story was super cool because I had never heard of a state ghost story before that so many people know about that has been around for ages. I asked my friend if she had a ghost story that she knows or something that impacted her life and she told me this one. After listening to this story and how she phrased all of it, I felt as though I could be put in her 8-year old selfs shoes and be super scared at camp hearing this around the fire. I think it was interesting that she said this was a ghost story yet continued to tell me that he wasn’t a ghost, but she thinks he was some sort of zombie or demon-like creature that roamed around. The reason why it was a ghost story to her was the setting. The setting was around the campfire at night, passing around flashlights in the woods while being scared to death by the information said.  I would have been so scared if I heard this story while I was at camp, surrounded by the woods in the dark of night because of how the story dealt with missing children being taken into the woods never to be found again. She told me this in a very calm fashion, but then was reminiscing on the way it was told to her, she told me it was said in a very creepy/eery tone furthering the scary undertone. SR said she believes in ghosts but does not think you can see them, she believes in a sort of essence or energy presented by those who have died. When she said she went to places where mass murder or death has occurred, she felt as though she could feel like cool or dark energy and heaviness of the space throughout her body. SR said she does not want to believe in the bad types of ghosts but thinks that if they are real she does not want them anywhere close to her, which was very funny. The car crash, the disheveled figure and the missing kids all combined into this scary story that is now told from generation to generation. Do I think this is a ghost story? I am not sure, but it is up to interpretation.

Folk Beliefs

Furby: The Friendly Ghost Story

Name: CG

Place/Location: Childhood home in Arizona

Age: 8-9 (1 year), 21 years old now

Language: English

Occupation: Student/Actress

The story told: Personal Experience

Basically, I moved into this new house and I had a huge room and a walk-in closet. I only lived there for a year because we move around a lot. That Christmas I got a Furby, which is a little pet toy that talks and their eyes blink, they move- they are lively stuffed animals, this toy was my favorite present. Um and then, do you know what a Furby is? Look at a picture, you will get a better idea of what I am talking about if you look it up. Anyway, I had a fear of having my doors open as a little kid so before I went to be every night I would have to close all of my doors, especially my closet. Um and when I woke up in the mornings, my closet door would always be open and the lights would be on, but I would close the door and turn the lights off before I would go to sleep. And Um, during the night, I would have super vivid dreams about an imaginary friend, not an imaginary friend, but I would have super vivid dreams that were reoccurring about the same person every night that I lived in this house, which I was only in for one year. I guess I kind of considered her an imaginary friend in some sorts. I started to notice it after a while but I was really young so I did not notice it right away. So, every night I would be closing my door and turning the lights off and would wake up with the opposite. And then in the middle of the night, the Furby on my dresser would always go off and would say “Furbyyyyy” waking me up, this happened nightly as well. I thought that was odd because the Furby was nowhere near my bed. I was not scared of it at all, it did not feel scared, I kind of felt comfortable? Yes comfortable. I felt as though someone was watching over me. I started to tell people I had a ghost in my room. The ghost was not the Furby, that was my favorite toy I got for Christmas it was something else. For this toy, you have to press a button to make it say the noise “Furby”, so the creepy part of it going off in the middle of the night is that it was not even near my bed, it was on my dresser on the other side of the room. Back to the person in my dream who is reoccurring. It was the same person in every dream but I do not remember what they looked like or who they were. I thought it was weird I had this same dream at the same time that I was having weird um things going on in my room every night while I was sleeping. None of these things occurred while I was not sleeping. I think that a spirit lived in that house. I do not like to use the word ghost, but somebody was in there occupying the space with energy. I think they were friendly because I was not scared of it, at that young of an age I would have felt bad energy but I was not uncomfortable, I was more comfortable than anything else but I am unsure why. Usually, these types of things scare younger girls but this wasn’t scary to me, it was different. I have not really thought about the relevance of all of these things coming together but I kind of believe it was a ghost or somewhat of a spirit. I have lived in 24 houses and not once has this happened to me- the reoccurring dream, the door opening and closing (the one specific closet in my room) and the lights turning on and off. Whenever people, um, are making small talk and ask if I believe in ghosts I say yes, I believe in spirits because of this.


I think this story was very interesting. Before my friend told me this story I asked her if she had a ghost story that has had an impact on her life and she said yes I had an imaginary friend when I was younger. After hearing this story, it was very interesting how she described this “imaginary friend” or spirit that lived in her house. Something that stuck out to me was that she did not like saying the word ghost, every time I would say that word or she would accidentally say it, it would make her uncomfortable. She felt much more comfortable saying the word spirit, to her that had a much more positive connotation than the word ghost. If I were 8 years old, I think I would have been terrified if these experiences were going on in my room and she seemed rather calm when telling the story and thought it was an interesting experience to have. Knowing CG, she is a very spiritual person, kind of “yoga lover or hippie” like, very centered. The part about how she talks about energy and space was interesting because, in some ghost stories, ghosts are described as light beams, balls of light or even an energy. This story was very cool to hear and learn other perspectives on if they do or do not believe in ghost. In this story, there are a lot of difference “weird” or “odd” experiences that all occurred at once that convinced her there was something in her house. The repeated noise coming from the talking stuffed animal that was not near her bed, the lights turning on and off and the doors opening and closing. All of these things allowed her to conclude something was going on in her house that was out of her control. Do I think this is a ghost story? It may be, but it is up to interpretation.

Life cycle

Ghost Mom and her Daughter: Car Guardians

Tim is a father of 3 children, and he currently lives in northern New Jersey. He went to Iona College in New York where he studied mathematics; after graduation, he worked for the family printing business before breaking off and starting his own. Now, he lives about 15 minutes from where he grew up, so many of the local legends he heard while growing up still apply. He told me this story while I was growing up.


Jack: “Dad, do you remember that road we used to drive down, the one that you said was haunted by a little girl and her mom?”

Tim: “Yeah, what about it?”

Jack: “Can you explain how that story goes again, and where you heard it?”

Tim: “Of course! So my dad actually told me and my siblings this growing up. The legend goes that this mom and her daughter were driving down that same road when suddenly their brakes gave out, but the problem was that the mom didn’t realize that until it was too late. When she got to the bottom of the hill and tried to brake, nothing happened, so they kept rolling into the middle of the road. Since it was early, there were some trucks going onto and off the highway, and one of them didn’t see the car so it smashed into it. The mom and daughter both died.”

Jack: “So how does the haunting come into play.”

Tim: “Oh, yeah. So the rumor goes that if you roll down that same hill, the mom and daughter will stop your car and hit the brakes for you, and if your brakes don’t work, they’ll just hold your car back. They’re basically trying to protect people from the same thing that happened to them. So these aren’t really your typical ghosts, I guess, because, you know, they’re nice. I guess ‘haunting’ is the wrong word. They’re more, like, lurking there and protecting the area or guarding the people that go there.”

Jack: “Can you see them?”

Tim: “I’m not sure about that. I haven’t seen them, but that doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t.”

Jack: “So you said that they’re guarding the area and the people there. Do you still think that they’re ghosts, or do you think that they might be something else?”

Tim: “You know, I’m not sure. They could be ghosts, but they also might be guardian angels. But then again, they’re both just spirits, so how different could they be?”


This was one of the first stories I had ever heard about a ghost possessing or controlling some sort of machinery. Since I was young when I first heard this, it’s possible that my dad made the entire thing up just to scare me or give me something to believe in, but the fact that he mentioned his dad telling him the same story gives it a bit more truth/realism. Also, my dad and his father are both very religious, so I doubt they would lie and I also doubt they would make something up about ghosts until he really thought it was true. The parallel between ghosts and angels, however, was very interesting. It is true that they are both entities, and I guess both could be characterized as spirits, but it’s strange that they could both be categorized as this considering they both carry such different connotations. Angels have a positive and friendly connotation while ghosts have a malevolent and scary connotation, but as my dad said, not all ghosts are bad.


Folk Dance
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias Monucipilanas

Every city, every town, has a yearly party, feria monucipilanas, and each have their own saint in which they cherish and praise during the festival. The people of the city make a big tower that you light at the bottom of the tower so then the fireworks make really colorful designs upon explosion. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. These fairs seem like the walks that Catholics due in Los Angeles during Easter to acknowledge a saint.

Folk Beliefs


When you greet each other, combination of being catholic in Columbia, you ask or give a bendicion(blessing). It is a common thing to do every time when you greet each other or you are saying good-bye. It is asking for a blessing basically from the other on the one as a sign of belief and good fortune after dismissing the other one from the phone. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people

Folk Beliefs

Protection with Holy Water

This is a tradition in which the user drops a little bit of blessed water from a Church around the entrances of their homes in order to keep bad spirits away. This tradition comes from Veracruz, Mexico. The water is supposed to basically cast a protective spell over your home, especially during times of hardship.


Ruby is a young Mexican-American woman who truly connects to her Catholic roots and leads her way of life through that method. She is also a single mom who works at a Non-Profit feeding the homeless of Los Angeles

Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays


You are supposed to light up a candle, so that the spirit of a recently passed family member or loved one can be guided to heaven. The candle is supposed to keep away the bad demons and evil itself from guiding the spirit away from the path to heaven. If the candle gets blown out, you need to restart the process and pray so that the spirit can also use your voice as a guide to “the light.”


Ruby is a young Mexican-American woman who truly connects to her Catholic roots and leads her way of life through that method. She is also a single mom who works at a Non-Profit feeding the homeless of Los Angeles

Folk Beliefs

Padre Nuestro- Blessings

Every single time when you pass by a church, or any holy site, you give yourself a blessing. Doing so, it shows respect to the Saint of the church as well as providing you protection from the sacred site as you continue in your journey.


Ruby is a young Mexican-American woman who truly connects to her Catholic roots and leads her way of life through that method. She is also a single mom who works at a Non-Profit feeding the homeless of Los Angeles.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Broncollin Remedy

Broncolin is a all natural herbs and honey folk remedy that is used to treat colds and congestion in its folk method, but it’s actually a diet supplement. You apply the honey under your tongue and after that you give a small massage around the Adam’s apple area and you are supposed to wake up healed.


Juan is a Mexican-American from Mexico city. He works demolition, but is super into his religion of being a Jehovah Witness. He has been passing down his traditions to his kids, just how they were passed down to him by his dad and grandpa