To a Sweet Performance
Informant: Every time before a performance, our band teacher will pass out licorice or some form of candy, usually licorice, then raises up the licorice and says, “this goes to a sweet performance”. Then we all raise up our licorice and then we eat it.
Interviewer: And why does he do it?
Informant: Because that’s what his college band director did.
Interviewer: and what college did he go to?
Informant: I’m not sure if it was his high school or college, but I’m pretty sure its his college . . . U Mass? It’s U Mass.
Interviewer: Typically what setting does this take place in?
Informant: It happens before a performance so usually in the band room or on a bus in the parking lot.
The eating of food, has come to be a sort of protection ritual for the performance of the band. As a folk metaphor, the actual “sweet” of the candy can be transferred to a metaphorically “sweet” performance, possibly as a type of contagious magic. Additionally, the proliferation of the ritual is evident as it moves from Massachusetts to Southern California, with the band director who has chosen to share this particular tradition with the kids.
Informant: So there was a traffic accident and a girl died on Main Street between like Atlantic and 2nd street. I heard it from my two friends who heard from a couple of people at an event.
So yeah, there was a traffic accident and she died and now her spirit haunts that portion of Main Street. Like if you’re driving on Main Street late at night and you see like a figure, a girl, hanging out on the side of the street, you have to pick her up or else you will get into a traffic accident. Or like you will die from traffic related accident.
Okay, so, my friend’s, friend’s cousin is the one who told the story. He said that he was driving late one night and that he saw the figure. He didn’t think about it at first but then he remembers “ooooh wait, what about that story”. So he drives around just to see if she’s still there. He pulls over and then she hops into the car, into the back seat. He doesn’t know what to do so he’s kind of like, just driving around, driving in circles. She’s not saying anything, but he looks through the rear-view mirror and she’s still there. Then, he isn’t looking, but he feels like a sense of relief. The he looks back and she’s gone. That’s the hitchhiking ghost story.
I consider this story to be an oicotype because variations of this story can be found throughout the world. Indeed, vague details, which may take place anywhere indicate the story is not unique to the setting. Additionally, the “hitchhiking” aspect of the story may be precipitated by the fact, that Los Angeles has a large car culture. A common story such as this one, would be even more easily transplanted in a community so fixated on motor vehicles.
The informant (K) is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Alhambra, California, which is about half an hour away from Los Angeles. She told me the legend behind the Pyrenees Castle in Alhambra. It is currently owned by Phil Spector (a record producer), but he is serving a prison sentence for killing an actress in the entryway of the castle. K said that Spector’s wife is currently living there all by herself. She gave me the reported history of the building, as told to her by her grandfather. She tells the story to friends when other similarly creepy houses are brought up. Below is a paraphrased version of the story she told me.
“In Alhambra, there is a big old house called the Pyrenees Castles. It is built like a French Chateau in the early 1900’s and is absolutely huge. Legend has it that the house used to be the clubhouse for a country club for rich people. Apparently, George IV (I think) played polo there once. There was an Italian or Irish person that wanted to join the club but was turned away because his nationality was looked down upon. This upset the man, and years later he got rich. He then returned to the Pyrenees Castle and bought it outright. There was a golf course there too, so a lot of the streets around the castle are named after golfers.”
K is not sure if it is true, but it does seem like it could be true.
One of the reasons that this story is still passed around is because it is truly the American dream. The poor worked hard and came back to buy what was denied him earlier. Americans tend to like to believe that poor people can work hard and eventually become rich people, which is exemplified in this story. There also seems to be some resentment towards the rich who denied the at-the-time-poor immigrant that wanted to be a part of their club. It must have been embarrassing for them to reject the immigrant and then sell the house to him. Additionally, the story is probably kept alive because of how famous the house is due to Phil Spector having killed someone in the house. Having a king visit there also probably keeps the story afloat because it just adds to the glamour and reputation of the house itself.