USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘cars’
Legends
Narrative

Rest Stop Stalker

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one year old USC student; she’s studying human biology and is currently applying to medical school. She was born in Macedonia, and immigrated to the Long Beach, CA with her mother and stepfather at the age of five. Her father still lives and works as a doctor in Macedonia, and my informant visits each summer. She speaks the language fluently.

Performance:

“So my boyfriend spends a lot of time on Reddit, and sometimes he’ll send me the weird shit he finds; like memes, videos, etc. One of his favorite things to do when he’s bored is read, like, ghost stories and scary stories and that kind of thing. He sent me this really scary one a few months back that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. I don’t remember it, like, word for word, but I’ll send you the link. It’s — it’ll bug you out.”

(I ask her to tell me what she remembers of the story)

“Okay, so it’s about this guy who works in the city but lives like, hours and hours away in another state so he drives home every weekend and stays in the city for work. So one time, he was driving back into the city and had to stop and pee. So he’s in the bathroom and he sees, um, this like drawing thing, a super profane drawing with a note that said something like ‘I want to fuck you’ or ‘I want your cock’ or something, and it was in super neat handwriting and well-spelled — basically, like, not your typical graffiti in a rest-stop bathroom. It was also dated so the guy knew that whoever did the drawing had done it like, that day a few hours before. The guy leaves and gets in the car, which had a University of Michigan sticker on it, or something. So he keeps driving and has to pee again and stops at another rest stop. He’s peeing and he sees another piece of graffiti but this time it’s a super intense picture of someone who’s literally been ripped apart…like, um, guts everywhere and stuff…and the notes in the same handwriting as the last one said like ‘I want to eat your intestines’ and like ‘I want to fuck your corpse’ and really gruesome shit. The date/time on the wall were only from an hour or so ago. The guy’s freaked the fuck out, so he gets in the car but when he passes the next rest stop he’s curious so he gets out and goes into the bathroom and finds a huge message written in shit on the wall that says like ‘almost there, Michigan! You’re so close!’ like whoever wrote it knew that the guy would stop and knew exactly who he was and was taunting him…so the guy runs out of the bathroom and to his car and he hears like muffled laughter coming from in the bushes. On the last stretch of the trip he sees a car pulled over on the side of the road and a guy standing in front of it with brown stains all over him…as the guy passes the guy on the side of the road yells ‘FUCK YOU MICHIGAN!’ and starts laughing hysterically….there was something wrong with his face, like his eyes were wrong or he had too many teeth…something about him that just wasn’t quite…human, maybe? So like whatever it was that was like stalking him the whole time was just trying to torment him for no real reason…just because he could. Or it could, I guess (laughter).”

Thoughts:

Neither me nor my informant could find the link to the original story on reddit, but did find the story on another website: (http://adequateman.deadspin.com/a-rest-stop-stalker-and-more-of-your-real-life-horror-1738356933). While looking through Reddit, however, I was stunned by the sheer volume of collected folklore on the site. There are thousands and thousands of ghost stories and legends that are shared and discussed between users. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that, when bored, someone would go through and look for engaging piece of folklore on Reddit. This story is terrifying because it’s incredibly contemporary; it features rest stops, road trips, and time-stamped stalking. The story is geographically non-specific. This is a world we’ve seen and could recognize; we can imagine his terror and picture ourselves as victims of the same stalker. And most importantly, we can believe that this may have really happened to someone at some time in some area of the country. It’s a terrifying Urban Legend.

general

Whippoorwill Road

I collected this folklore from my friend who grew up in New Jersey, in Monmouth County. She told a story about a road near her county (she believed the road was either in Middletown or Navesink)

“In my town in New Jersey, well not my town, but my county essentially, there’s a street that we call Whippoorwill, I believe on a map it would come up as Cooper Road, but it’s called Whippoorwill. And it’s a dirt road behind a lot of farm type areas, a lot of small horse farms and stuff, but it’s also off a major highway which is kind of strange…

So, teenagers have a tradition of driving down Whippoorwill at night and the rumor is that weird things always happen when you drive there. People will drive down it, and it’s narrow enough that it’s almost a one-way, so a really common thing that people say happens is that you’ll park, just to look around or to scare the crap out of whoever’s in the car with you, and you’ll sit there and people say that cars will come and facing you will turn on and off their lights and do creepy things and then turn around and disappear.

Other people have said that the reason people used to get creeped out by the road is because through the woods that surround you on Whippoorwill, if you walked through you would end up at a house that used to be a Ku Klux Klan meeting house. Don’t know if that’s actually true…but people would claim they saw scary things or people in hoods or scary looking people or maybe like a fire in a distance and it was assumed that you were possibly stumbling upon a KKK meeting, which is obviously a very frightening thing to stumble upon.

I’ve driven down it multiple times with multiple different people and it’s usually that whoever’s driving the car is usually the one in control and they park, shut off their lights to scare whoever else is in the car, I’ve seen people get out and run through the woods to scare the people in the car and things like that.”

Q: How do you decide to go down that road?

“It’s kind of one of those things where you know, you’re like 17, 18, you just got your license and you want to drive but you don’t have anywhere to go, so it’s like nighttime and there’s no parties or anything, so you say, oh let’s drive down Whippoorwill. So someone in the car is obviously going to protest and say please, no, don’t take me there and then you have to take them there to scare them”

There a few different types of folklore happening in this piece. First, the behavior of the teenages driving down the road seems like a folk ritual or folk game, since there are certain kinds of things that are supposed to happen on the road, and those things are passed between the different teenagers who take each other there. The belief about the KKK meeting house is a kind of legend, since it might be true, but it would be difficult to verify or prove it.

 

Legends

Gravity Hill

“In Chino Hills, there’s a ghost story sort of thing, um, where, uh, we have a lot of hills in Chino Hills and there’s one hill that, um, it’s almost as if it’s like two hills in a row. So there’s like a ‘U’ between the two hills. Um, and there used to be a road that goes up and over them, um, and you kind of go down and then back up, um, and supposedly there was a car accident, um, I don’t even know how long ago, um, where, like, 3 or 4 children ended up dying in the car accident in-between these two hills.  Um, and supposedly, now there’s no longer a road, um, but if there– supposedly if you go in-between with your car and you kind of go down into where the ‘U’ is at the bottom and you set it up so that your car is in neutral, kind of facing upward toward the second hill, um, so that you’re– as if you’re going to go up the second hill, um, and then you put it in neutral and kind of go up slightly, um, supposedly you’re going to go back down… Supposedly the kids’ ghosts, the children’s ghosts, come and push your car back the opposite direction so you go back up the hill backwards, um, and so tons of, like, teenagers try to do this with their cars all the time um and supposedly, I’ve actually had a couple friends that told me it works, um, and everyone flips out, um, because everyone thinks these children’s ghosts come and, like, push your car, um, but in actuality it’s probably just gravity.” Laughs

 

My informant is a former resident of Chino Hills, California. This is a popular legend spread amongst the youth in the area and my informant first heard it from friends her age when she was a young teenager. My informant doesn’t have much patience for ghost stories, but enjoyed sharing the tale anyway. This is a legend that seems to have been around for awhile in the area as the father of another informant I spoke to remembers this story from when he was a teen. This secondary informant refers to the site mentioned in the legend as ‘Gravity Hill’ and adds a new detail: supposedly, when the ghost children are pushing the car up the hill, handprints can be seen on the windshield.

The Gravity Hill story is not unique to Chino Hills. Reportedly, there are several haunted hills throughout Southern California and, likely, the rest of the country. It’s an urban legend that is adapted for whatever area in which the story is told.

Legends

Beware the Parking Garage

“Whenever your car has been parked and you haven’t been right next to it. Before you get closed to your car, you need to kneel down and look under the car to make sure there is no one underneath it.”

The informant interrupted herself saying:

“That does sound crazy doesn’t it. (laughs) But it isn’t crazy.  I really believe it.  I think its true”

The informant continued.

“You do this because there have been cases of people hiding under people’s cars, slashing their Achilles tendon with a knife and then robbing them or sometimes doing harm like raping them or grand theft auto. And you have to be especially careful as a woman.”

The informant learned this from a friend who had heard of real cases in Memphis, TN.  She asserted the truth of her friend because “she’s a real attorney.”  Her friend had told her that it happened in enclosed parking or high rise parking, not so much out in the open.  The informant said that she would tell this to my daughters and anyone really going into an underground parking structure with their car.  They really need to be careful.   “I always park in an open area because it’s harder to hide in an open area.  I don’t want anything to happen to anyone but especially my daughters.  I find women more vulnerable than men.”

I think the legend, regardless of how true it may be, arose from people’s fear of being trapped alone and defenseless in a parking structure.  Under the car is dark just like under a bed.  This fear of someone hiding under a car is the grown up version of fearing monsters under the bed.

Customs

Automobile Modifications

My informant’s grandfather worked in auto shops, and had a lot of friends who did the same. Between them, they passed around tricks for modifying cars.

One technique was to put a spark plug in the exhaust pipe so that when pulling on the choke, the fuel would come out partially unburnt, causing fire to emerge from the exhaust.

Another was to turn around the back seat of the car and put belts on the steering wheel, then driving the car in reverse by using the belts to steer.

Apparently these men are frustrated that cars are no longer manufactured according to methods they understand, which makes sense, especially considering they can no longer use their know-how to modify their cars in the ways they might want to, as if a community they were a part of has been partially erased by industrial and technological progress. All that they really have left are their memories of the way people used to treat their cars, and perhaps their own preserved vehicles. As time marches on, traditional mechanics will likely find themselves left by the wayside even more, only strengthening the folk bonds that remain between them.

Folk Beliefs
general
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Only Lesbians Drive Subarus

This piece of folklore falls under a general stereotype and is potentially offensive to some people. When I was talking with my informant, he informed me that he drove a Subaru Outback. He paused for a second, seemingly waiting for my response. When I said nothing, he told me that many people say that

Only Lesbians Drive Subarus”

When I asked my informant more about this, he began to tell me that he gets comments like that on a regular basis. People are always, jokingly, asking if he is a lesbian because he drives that car. My informant is from Washington and says that “even though there are a lot of outdoorsy women that drive Subarus, I still don’t fully understand how they got such a bad wrap”.

Subarus are a much more common car in the Pacific Northwest, but he says the he’s heard the stereotype everywhere. “It’s just a good all-purpose car. It can get me to the mountains, off-roading, and everywhere else adventurous that I want to go” he says. He said that it’s probably not a good thing for marketing the car, considering lesbians likely only make up a small percent of America’s total population. “Maybe they should do some new marketing or make a new name for it” to grow it’s market a little bit.

When I asked why he had the car in the first place, he said, “my dad said it was the only car I could get. I’m not mad about it, I still think it’s pretty cool”.

I think that the car may have gotten this stereotype because of advertisements, or because many pacific northwest women are more outdoor types, which is typically connected to a ‘lesbian personality’ in popular culture for some reason. I don’t think that there are more lesbians driving Subarus than any other brand of car out there, just that it tends to be more rugged women that drive them. It seems as though the stereotype has caught on, however, as I have heard people say that even living here in Los Angeles.

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