Childhood
Festival
general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Girl in the Attic

Context: It was Halloween night at USC’s New Residence Hall, the perfect time and place to tell a ghost story. When I first asked my friend [the Informant], if he would be willing to share one of his numerous family ghost stories he was hesitant. After much coaxing, the Informant finally decided to open up and share with me a part of his haunted heritage. I quickly grabbed my camera and sat him down in a chair, as a small group of friends gathered around to listen in on the story. This was Halloween, and of course who could resist hearing a good ghost story? What follows is the story as it was presented to me:

Interview Verbatim:

Informant: “Okay, so this is not my ghost story, this is my family’s ghost story… uh I heard it from my dad, who heard it from his mother… uh, it has been passed down for a couple of generations. So, I guess that makes this my story as well. But my dad’s great Uncle John, okay so he bought this house on the kind of like wrong side of town, well back in that time it was still the good side of town, but you know how cities develop, now it’s in the bad part of town… uh this is Kansas City Missouri by the way. So he bought this house on the wrong side of town but, the nice side of town then…I’m sorry if I’m being confusing.”

Me: “It’s alright, continue. I get you.”

Informant: ”So it’s an old house… and uh, he moves in with his family and all of a sudden he starts complaining about like weird experiences there, but no one believes him because he kind of had a reputation for being crazy… uh, in fact… uh when his mother was dying in the hospital, because of some argument he had had, he refused to see her and she died before he could get there… uh to visit her and I don’t think he had any intention of visiting her… uh so she died and… uh a couple of weeks after she died, Uncle John started claiming that he had been visited by her spirit, and that she was tormenting him for uh… never saying goodbye uh… but he was crazy. The family actually had him committed and no one really thought much of it or of the house that he had purchased. And had complaints about occurrences inside of it…uh a family tradition of mine is that usually the house uh my family has this tradition of moving into other relatives homes once they are gone. So… uh, Uncle John’s son who was also named John, John II. My family also has a habit of passing on names along with houses, but now I’m going off topic, but uh…So John II moves into his dad’s home, after his dad’s been committed, and one day, this is a couple of weeks after they have moved in, uh he’s throwing a birthday party for his little girl…and…all the kids are up in the attic playing, and they all come down for cake and ice cream. And there’s this one kid in the group who’s really freaked out, and no one knows why, and so John (II) asks the kid, ‘Hey what’s up’ and the kids like, ‘Where’s that other kid?’ like there is someone missing from the party. And John II says, ‘No there isn’t’. So they do a head count of all the kids and they aren’t missing anyone, but this kid swears to God that there is another kid who is missing. And they ask this kid, ‘What did this other kid look like?’ and he explains that it was a little girl with ghostly pale skin…and since that…uh, John (II) and his family kept seeing this little girl in their house from time to time amongst other weird ghostly visitations. It was never malevolent in any way. It never did anything bad, it was just kind of there…so…”

Me: “I understand. Okay. Now when did this happen? Were you alive at this point in time?”

Informant: “No, this was far before I was born.”

Me: “So this pre-dates you?”

Informant: “Yeah, this pre-dates my dad. Because my home, the house that I live in which is also a relative’s home…that was built in the 1950s, and that was my dad’s other great uncle’s house…so I assume this happen around the 40s.”

Me: “Alright. Have you ever been to the house personally?”

Informant: “No, I’ve never. It passed out of family hands.”

Me: “Okay, I see. So it’s someone else’s problem now. Any ideas as to what you think it was?”

Informant: “My family is Irish Catholic, so… we were always kind of a superstitious bunch. And I would personally like to believe in the ghost story…uh…my family kind of treats it with this weird pride, so they can say, ‘We once owned a haunted house!’, so yeah…  

Analysis: This story, as it was presented to me, appears to have more validity then a typical FOAF (friend of a friend) story due mainly to the fact that this is a supposedly true story that continues to be passed down from generation to generation. The thing that really convinced me of this story’s potential credibility was, perhaps, not so much the story itself, but the way it was presented to me in context. While the Informant told us his story, he seemed distanced and quiet, very different from his typically energetic attitude. Whether he was simply setting the tone for his story or he was just expressing a deep amount of reverence towards his family’s home remains to be unknown. While I have heard this same type of story before, the playful child ghost appears to be a popular motif present throughout ghost belief, this should not be used to discredit the story in any way. In my opinion, the story is probably just a family tradition that continues to be told from person to person.

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