USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘car crash’
Legends

The Ghost Around the Bend

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one-year-old college student in Boston, Massachusetts. She is studying to be a nurse and has worked in the emergency room at both Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Performance:

“I heard this from my boyfriend at the time…I was seventeen and he was twenty-one. He was a volunteer fireman when he wasn’t doing construction. Cops and firemen know each other, like, pretty well in Essex County. Uh…I can’t remember if he said that he like heard this from someone or if he was there or what it was, but I remember the story wicked well…so I guess there’s this one road in Essex with a really sharp bend or curve in the road and people get in accidents there all the time…every time the police show up they just get really quiet when people tell them how it happened because they all have the same story about seeing a little kid chase a ball into the road and like flipping their cars trying to like, uh, get out of the way or something….anyway, I guess that some kid was hit by a car there in the 70’s or something. I guess it’s some, uh, like, big open secret, you know? Like all of the cops know about it but normal people don’t until they get in the very same accident.”

Thoughts:

This is a classic ghost story with a clear causal narrative. The child was hit by a car, and now car accidents that happen on that same road are attributed to the child’s death. The added details about it being an “open secret” amongst first responders adds a layer of legitimacy that may otherwise be missing; the police are meant to be inherently trustworthy, thus if they insist the story is true, we must also believe it.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Petting a wet dog = death by car accident

“I don’t understand this one at all: my grandmother always used to say that if you pet a wet dog, you’d get hit by a car. I genuinely do not understand where she got an idea that stupid. But she told it to my dad and all of her children.”

The informant’s grandmother, who received no formal education, was born, lived, and died in Irapuarto, Mexico. The informant is generally mistrusting of all things he has learned from his grandmother, as he refers to most folk belief as “batshit.” Such beliefs hold no weight to him and serve only to be laughed at.

general
Legends
Narrative

Ghost Story–Surrey, England

While the informant was studying abroad in London, he stayed with a host family who had family scattered across the area and other parts of England. While he was driving with his host family from London to Hampshire, they gave him an informal tour, telling stories of any landmarks they passed. Traveling on one winding stretch of road entering Surrey, he was told a story about a ghostly apparition that had happened there.

The legend goes that sometime in the early 2000’s, there was a report of a car seen swerving off the road and crashing. When the police responded to the report, they at first didn’t find anything. But they eventually found deep in ditch, covered in growth, an old car’s remains. It appeared to have been there for a while. This hypothesis was confirmed by a decomposed body found near the car. They determined that the body was five months old and identified it as the remains of a criminal who was on the run from the law. This has lead to much speculation as to what the people who called the police had witnessed days before, since there was no sign of a recent crash.

According to the informant’s host family, the ghost of the criminal is restless because his body was never found. They believe that what was seen on the highway was a ghostly reenactment of the incident meant to lead people towards his body. This seemed to be the consensus among the people of that area. There are also theories that the wreckage was disposed of by someone who wanted to cover it up. This legend comes from a need to explain what seems impossible. It captures interest and makes for a good story because  it naturally leads to speculation; whether you believe it be supernatural or otherwise, it is intriguing to think of possible explanations.

Notation:

This story was recently revisited in an online article by a Surrey news source because it was near the 10th anniversary of the crash. The article produces no conclusion and suggests that until one is reached, the story will continue to captivate travelers’ interests.

Bryant, Pete. “A3 ‘Ghost Crash’ Remembered 10 Years On.” GetSurrey. 14 12 2012: n. page. Print.  <http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2125720_a3_ghost_crash_remembered_10_years_on>.

Folk speech
Humor
Riddle

The Sexist Doctor Riddle

The following is a riddle my informant told to me:

A man and his son were driving down an icy road. When they took a corner, the car flipped. After a while, two ambulances came, one took the father to a hospital in the west, the other took the son to an hospital in the east. The nurses rushed the son into surgery, because he was losing a lot of blood. The doctor entered, and after looking at the boy exclaimed: ” I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son!” How can this be?

Answer: The doctor is the boy’s mother

My informant told me that he tells this riddle often at parties or to his kids’ friends. Half of the time people guess the answer right away, but the other half of the time it completely stumps them.

When I first heard this riddle from my informant I could not figure it out. I thought it had to do with the sun rising, or another meaning of the word: “son”. As it turns out, it just reflected how the term “doctor” is still associated more with men than with women. I believe that this riddle is important because it pokes fun at the sexism of American society.

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