USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘curfew’
Folk Beliefs

Popular Belief in Ghosts in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico

Do you maybe have, like, a ghost story that you were taught?

 

“Actually, yeah, it’s uhh… they, they always said that there was, there were two nights every single year, don’t remember when or how, but there were certain specific time of the year, the, you were forbidden to leave your house between, after 11:00 p.m. on those two nights of the year, otherwise you would encounter, uhh… not really ancestors there, but some other people, especially those who wanted to do, like… like… you know, just, you know, bad stuff. And uhh… people who could not rest in peace, and they would come those specific nights. Of course nobody every left their houses, you know, during those two nights, ever, you know cuz you were so respectful of that tradition. And as far as I remember, nobody saw anything, although it’s maybe because nobody went out. [laughs]

 

Uhh, but, uhh, I dunno why, I don’t know why those things came, uhh… I don’t remember when that thing was like, like, followed, but uhh, there were two specific nights one right after the other, those two nights, you just were totally grounded.

 

Do you remember who told you that story? Or was it something that just everybody knew?

 

“Everybody in the community knew that one. Oh! Also related to that same thing is that they said that, uhh, you were lucky enough to, to, to be… uhh… outdoors between like 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., not after 11:00 p.m. because everybody else was so afraid of encountering something unnatural, they, ummm… they said between 10:00 and 11:00 was okay but you were lucky enough, you would see flames on the ground. Appearing like, just like, magic, and uh, you, uhh, you have to make sure, you have to make certain of where that flame was coming from, or where was the specific spot, because uhh, the next night, you wouldn’t come out, like I said, but on the third night, you were supposed to go there with some friends, dig, and supposedly you were going to find gold there.

 

I never knew anybody just, you know, striking rich by doing that, but that was part of the legend as well.
Where did it come from? It came from our grandparents, actually. And my dad tolds me that his dad swears that he saw some of those flames, but he was so afraid to go and dig because he would find something else instead of money, so… [laughs]

 

Not sure that was an old tale, you know, from some drunk people or something like that, very convincing, but, it became part of the community there, yeah.”

 

And what was the name of this community, again?

 

“This is Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico.”

 

Analysis: Like many ghost stories, the informant expresses disbelief in the ghost elements in the story in abstract, but seems to believe at least partially in the reality of the experience that he relates. The story seems to imply that there is a certain time of the year where social function is not permissible because people are remembering the dead who cannot rest. This motif of restless spirits is incredibly common in ghost stories around the world, despite the very Catholic culture of Mexico. What is unique to this story, however, is the promise of gold if one happens to find oneself outside and getting very close to the forbidden hour, which would suggest that a degree of risk-taking is honorable and respected in this rural Mexican culture.

Folk Beliefs
Tales /märchen

The Dog at the Gate

“It came to my mind, one of those legends, It was more, more like, kind of warning from our parents not to do something. But, uhh, in a way, the kind of worked out. The, the way they did it is the following.

 

They told us that curfew time for us was between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. every day. No exceptions. Uhh… When you were under 16 years old, that was an uhh, unwritten rule. So… uhh… They said that, uhh, instead of punishing us for not coming on time home from wherever we were, they came up with this little legend.

 

It was told to their parents, it was told to them by their parents also, so they scared the heck out of us. They said, when you were walking on these little trails next to the trees, next to the river, invariably you had to cross one of these stone fences. That’s the properties, that was always a little gate. Or sometimes it was just open there, the, the, the rocks were removed from that stone gate, that stone fence, and uhh… people had to walk through those, uhh, those openings no matter what.

 

They said, you were coming after 10:30, between 10:30 and 12:00, it was going to be really dangerous because there was going to be a big, ferocious black dog with red eyes guarding that, uhh, specific opening on the fence. And you wouldn’t be able to cross. And the only way would be to just go back to where you came from, you have to gather at least another 3 people to go with you, otherwise you would find the dog every single time there.

 

Of course we never saw the dog! [laughs] But we got home on time every single time! We were never late, because we never wanted to see that dog! [laughs]

 

So, that was a thing that scared the heck out of us for years and years. Now, when we became adults, you know, we knew it was just a little hoax, it was a little old saying, you know, but… but it worked!”

 

Analysis: Like many tales, this one seemed to be told with the purpose of instilling obedience in children. The informant made it clear that the telling of the story was so scary that it inspired him, even as a young adult, to never break curfew out of fear of consequences – not from his parents, but from the uncontrollable force of the guard dog. It should also be noted that the guard dog would not attack if the individual was in a large enough group, implying that social functions were acceptable late-night activities, but lonesome wandering (or, possibly, philandering) were not.

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