USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘devil’
general
Legends
Narrative
Protection
Signs

Moment with the Devil

The following is a somewhat of a ghost story, but also a demonic encounter.  The informant is represented by L and I am represented by K.

Piece:

K: Tell me about your story.

L: Okay… I heard this from my mom, and my mom told it to me when I was younger, that… back when she was living in Mexico, when she was coming home from school with her- with my aunt… and that… the girl who lives next to them… she was like, very bratty and just very mean to her mom, didn’t want to go to work with her, didn’t go help her out to like get money and get food, and she was just… not a nice person at all.  And my mom said when she was coming home from school, she just heard like… a shrilling scream… and her- the girl comes out and she was just sobbing and crying and my mom, it took her- it took my mom a while to calm her down and.. uhm… and she said that.. that the Devil… that the Devil came for her because she was just being so- she was being a bitch, and that… what only she saw was like the black and long and like scary hands with like the fur and stuff. And then my mom stayed with her- my mom and my aunt stayed with her until… her mom got home and then her mom took her to a priest to go… to go bless her, but uhm… I guess what it means to me is just, it kept me in line as a kid ’cause like I can’t be disrespectful to my mom because I don’t want that to happen to me.

Context:

The informant was sitting at a dining room table.  There was a group of 5 of us and we had all just celebrated Easter together.  We were sitting at the dining room table sharing folklore and she had a lot of Mexican folklore that she wanted to share with us.

My Thoughts:

I thought this piece of folklore was interesting because it’s kind of a ghost story, but also kind of just a demonic encounter. I think it was really interesting because this could totally be a real experience or it could be a story that was made up in an effort to keep children in check.  I, personally, think it’s a real story and was told as a way for the informant’s mother to make her behave well when she was younger, but I definitely think it’s real. I also think it’s interesting because, it’s somewhat of a variation of a ghost story, but in this context, the ghost happens to be the Devil.  I think it’s super interesting because people who aren’t religious, but believe in ghosts would probably say it was just a ghost, but people who don’t believe in ghosts, but are religious, might say it’s really just the Devil.

Folk Beliefs

The Devil in your bed

Main Text:

“My Aunt always told me that if one of us in the house did not make our beds then the Devil would come and play in them. The only way to protect ourselves from the Devil was to make our beds before we left the house.”

 Context:

I collected this piece from a hispanic male whose family is Catholic. When I asked him why he remembered this piece and why he thinks he learned it from his family he told me that he remembers it because he used to have meltdowns when he would leave the house after forgetting to make his bed and that he also thinks that his Aunt only told them this as a way to get them to clean their rooms.

Analysis:

I agree with the informant’s explanation that the reason that his family was told to make their beds was not because the Devil would actually appear in an unmade bed but as a way for the children in the family to get in the habit of cleaning their rooms and making their beds. I think that one of the reasons this is passed down is as a way to teach children their manners as well as discipline and it is done in a folkloric way so that the kids will remember and abide by it.

Another explanation for why this folk belief has been told and continues to be shared by that family has to do with religion. Many western people’s religions all agree that there is a Devil and that the Devil is someone you meet in hell if you sin and do not repent for your sins. I think that this has a very strong affect on children who are just learning about religion and beginning to attend church because it equates their uncleanliness to sin and something that they have to repent for in order to protect themselves from finding the devil in your bed. Naturally, when a child gets in trouble for doing something that they are not supposed to be doing they try to apologize and find some way to not be punished. In this case, the punishment is coming face to face with the devil and the only way to avoid this is to make one’s bed- which is a pretty dark but effective way to make children more disciplined and clean.

I would also like to analyze this folk belief by seeing the choice of diction and how this would affect kids specifically and allow them to remember it. This folk belief  does not just say that the devil will appear in your bed but that the devil will play in your bed if you leave it unmade. The word choice here is directly targeted towards children to whom the notion and action of playing was natural ever since birth and that is what they are used to doing. When they hear the word play, I feel like they connect to it in a different way than an adult would because that is what they spend most of their childhood doing so it resonated with them in a different way.

Folk Beliefs
Myths
Narrative

Devil Sightings on Horse at Night – Mexico

KF: People have tales of like because uh Mexico is like predominantly like Catholic um…people say that like they’ve seen the devil on like their horse- on his horse…like just like galloping like if you stay up really really late at night, you’ll see him like come through like the town or something.

 

Background:

Location of story – predominantly Mexico, according to informant

Location of Performance – Interviewer’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. KF approached me two days prior to this interview, but schedules did not allow for a recording until she came to ask a homework and remembered. I am good friends with KF. This story followed one of KF’s previously about La Llorona.

 

Analysis: It is interesting to note that the devil only appears late at night. In Catholic tradition, one is always at risk to sin and the Devil, but for some reason, these monsters only seem to reveal themselves at night. In Mathias Clasen’s article “Monsters Evolve: A Biocultural Approach to Horror Stories,” Paul Shepard is quoted as saying, “our fear of monsters in the night probably has its origins far back in the evolution of our primate ancestors, whose tribes were pruned by horrors whose shadows continue to elicit our monkey screams in dark theaters” (Clasen 1). In other words, tradition has conditioned us to believe that the night brings about supernatural activity. This phenomenon can possibly be explained by a communal need to feel protected from evils, such as the Devil, by having times dedicated to explore and be free and then times dedicated to retreat and hide.

 

Additional Reading:

Clasen, Mathias. “Monsters Evolve: A Biocultural Approach to Horror Stories.” Review of General Psychology, vol. 16, no. 2, June 2012, pp. 222–229, doi:10.1037/a0027918.

Shepard, Paul. The others: How animals made us human. Island Press, 1997.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Signs

Denver Airport Is the Portal to Hell

SB: Um, the Denver airport…is notorious for being at the very least the basis of a conspiracy theory and at the most the actual portal to hell (laughs) so, the- Denver generally with its airports have been very problematic. The first one was the Stapleton airport. Stapleton was a member of the KKK, and they named the airport after him, but then they decided to turn that into a neighborhood, so they moved the airport out into the boonies. It’s like an hour after from the city, it’s huge, there’s these like iconic white tents, and the myth is that underground, there are tunnels that are used for the government, for their nefarious activities, and um…some crazy people – to be perfectly honest – believe that within those tunnels and somewhere in the Denver airport is an actual, um, portal to Hell…where Satan himself resides. What’s also kinda scary about the airport is there’s a giant blue horse sculpture with glowing red eyes that you drive past as you are on your way to catch a flight. And when the sculpture was putting it up, the horse fell over and killed him…and then his son, or daughter i’m not sure, his child- finished the sculpture and now it stands, but it’s haunted because the sculpture actually killed someone and at night, it’s eyes glow bright red and it’s terrifying and everything about the airport terrifies me.

 

Background:

Location of story – Denver, CO

Location of Performance – SB’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance was done just between SB and I in response to me asking if she had any urban legends, riddles, or holiday traditions. I am very close friends with SB.

 

Analysis: At the base of this conspiracy theory, there is an association between very real hate and evil with more metaphysical, faith oriented evil. It is almost a way to be able to digest the history of the Denver airport: the only explanation for that level of bias and hate is that it is prompted by the devil’s proximity. It is also interesting to note how that association affects all other aspects of the airport that would have otherwise stood as an independent legend – i.e. the horse. I myself have heard about the conspiracy theory that the Denver airport has some nefarious activity, but I have never heard that it is an actual portal to hell. Prior to this performance, my knowledge of the conspiracy theory primary focused on the suspicious design of the physical space itself. For example, there are photos of the aerial view of the airport, resembling a swastika, the barbed wire faces in and not out, and in the background of all the idyllic, pastoral murals, there are depictions of war and violence among other disturbing images. The significance of the design of this airport is related to the presence of many celebrities’ and powerful individuals homes around the airport: they do not live there but they have bought property there. When I was told all the details by my friend, she explained that ultimately, all this meant that it must be some sort of refuge for the rich, famous, and/or powerful if the apocalypse were to eventually happen. 

Legends
Narrative

Robert Johnson: Deal with the Devil

Main Piece
You know the story of Robert Johnson, right? He traded his soul to the devil to play guitar. So the idea is that the devil never holds his side of the bargain, so this is why you never make a deal with the devil. So this is like the most famous rock and roll lore, so basically this was back in the 1920’s, and he was a struggling African American guitarist, and he wanted to be famous, so the story goes he met the devil at the crossroads, and told the devil “I wanna be famous, I wanna be a famous musician, I wanna be successful”, or whatever. So the devil told him, “If you give me your soul, I will make you famous for 10 years and you will live as a celebrity and be successful, so he accepted the deal, and then recorded one album, there was just one album, and then what is spooky is the album has guitar progressions that people don’t know how to replicate even today, but the devil doesn’t hold up his side of the deal, so he died like 8 months after the recording of the album. So he released this song, its called “Hellhound on my Trail”, and its this very spooky, scary song about someone who thinks they are being hunted down by this supernatural malevolent force. Super interesting song, highly recommend you check it out, but the idea is there that the devil will not hold up its side of the deal, and will kill you, destroy you, and make you suffer forever if you make a deal with him. So basically, its telling you, don’t ever make a deal with the devil because he will destroy you.

Background
The informant played in a worship band as a kid, and is therefore informed on both guitar-player lore as well as Christian lore. The tale seems to be a combination of both, but the informant was not sure where exactly he learned the tale.

Context
The informant is a 25-year-old man, born and raised in Southern California. The information was provided to me outside his family home in Palm Springs, California, on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I found this tale to remind of me other proscriptive tales, especially in terms of the “deal with the devil” aspect. I totally remember being told other stories as a child relating to the reasoning behind why you never make a deal with the devil, but had never heard this exact story. I do like how part of the story is based in fact, with the song being able to be looked up, but research shows me that the informant is slightly incorrect with his telling of the tale, although that is common in folklore, due to the nature of multiplicity and variation. I learned that the song actually hails from 1937, and does actually exist. It is interesting to me that the informant claims this to be one of the biggest pieces of rock and roll lore, yet I had never heard it before!

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Familial Legends: Dreaming of the Devil

Every family member on J.R.’s father’s side has experienced the same DREAM.

J.R. – “Every single person in my family on my dad’s side, as far back as, like, 4 generations, has had this terrible sleep paralysis at least once in their lives, and during this nightmare they see a manifestation which they believe to be the devil.”

Can you describe the dream?

“So essentially, uh, they – well, really, it’s not a dream, it’s that; when they come to, they’re completely frozen, and usually there’s a window or a door for some reason, and by the foot of the bed.  So what my father saw was a foot-tall figure, usually completely shadowed, has appeared on their bed and walked towards them with blood red eyes.”

“As soon as it gets really close to them, it goes black, and they wake up.”

“My grandmother’s was slightly different than my father’s: she was passed out on her bed, a similar situation to my father, and it appeared.  And the staple of this figure is definitely it’s blood red eyes.”

When you think about the possibility of that happening to you as well, what crosses your mind?

“I’m intrigued, especially because of my father’s family’s interesting relationship with religion.  My dad was a mormon at one point, but now he’s not even religious . . . my grandmother had some issues which kinda drove her away from religion . . . in my eyes, I wouldn’t put it past anything – just for me, I’m not super religious.  I don’t necessarily believe in that stuff, but I don’t think my dad ever has ever, and so I’m intrigued to say the least.”

 

This is fascinating to me.  The person who told me this story is a close friend of mine, and I would have known by now if he was in any way overtly religious.  I’ve known, in fact, that he isn’t particularly religious at all, and neither is his family.  So, it shocked me to hear this from him of all people, because I would never have imagined something so spiritual, so saint-like, could have happened to that family in particular.  Subjectively, I think think that this is a prime example of spiritual fluidity, going through all members of one family.  It’s also interesting to hear what this person, who had not yet had this nightmare, has to say about the possibility of it’s occurrence.  I’d be terrified, as I often am, although he seemed so cool about it.

 

Legends

devil’s gate dam – portal to hell

Text:

“So when we were younger would go to this place called the Devil’s Gate Dam where there was a large drain tunnel running through the middle of it and people would go and see how far they could go in before someone would chicken out. Personally none of use ever got to the end because we were all too scared because of the story surrounding it. The tunnel is said to have been created in the mid-20th century and was said to be a gateway to Hell by a group of cultists. There are articles online that say there’s absolutely nothing at the end other than a wall but we still believe there might be something in there because we’ve never made it all the way through. Honestly there probably is nothing but we like to believe in the mystery of it.”

Genre: urban legend

Background: The interviewee, NM is a young American man in his early twenties. He mentioned that this mysterious portal to Hell was common knowledge between all of the younger teens in his area, although no one knew its exact origins or its credibility. NM explained that he and his group of friends growing up had ventured to the dam’s tunnel several times carrying flashlights to light up the way. The flashlights illuminated the walls lined with graffiti which featured odd text, symbols, and creepy images of faces. This made the venture seemingly impossible to complete. The group of teens never made it even halfway. The tunnel is located underneath the 210 Freeway in Hahamongna Park (123 OAK GROVE DR, PASADENA, CA 91011). The dam itself was built in the 1920s and claimed its name because of its “Satan-resembling” rocks that surround it. The tunnel’s name attracted a group of cultists who followed L. Ron Hubbard and Aleister Crowley. The tunnel is said to be a huge paranormal hot spot with countless “reports of missing children in the area and bouts of manic laughter coming from the tunnel” (California Curiosities).

Nationality: Italian and American
Location: Pasadena, CA
Language: English

Interpretation: Immediately after hearing about this urban legend of a “portal to hell” a similar memory shot into my head. Back where I grew up in a neighboring city there was a similar drainage tunnel that individuals would attempt to explore named “Wonderland”. Like the Devil’s Gate Dam tunnel, this tunnel was lined with graffiti of disturbing images and the end was out of sight. This tunnel, however, split up into two different tracks halfway through, one a shorter yet much smaller tunnel, and one longer yet larger. Many locals in my area would put on clown masks and carry baseball bats in the tunnel to try to frighten unsuspecting kids who attempted to explore “Wonderland.” This led to some unfriendly encounters. The tunnel of “Wonderland” has no negative backstories other than mischievous teens, whereas the Devil’s Gate is seen as a portal to Hell that may lead to an encounter with the Devil himself. One of the key differences between this tunnel and the Devil’s Gate tunnel is what lies at the end. After running through the “Wonderland” tunnel you can make it to the other side with light greeting you at the end. All you have to do is shimmy out of a small exist and you are on the other side of the park; whereas with the Devil’s Gate tunnel, there is nothing at the end but a cement wall. This brings me to the question of “why is there a tunnel with nothing at the end?” This possibly could be explained by the fact that it actually was sealing a “Portal to Hell” as some may like to believe, or simply because it was used as an overflow.

“DEVIL’S GATE.” California Curiosities, 10 Jan. 2017, www.californiacuriosities.com/devils-gate/.

general
Tales /märchen

The Boy and the Devil

The following informant is a stay at home mom from Upland. Here she is telling a tale her grandmother used to tell her when she was a young girl. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as KA and I am identified as K:

KA: This is a story that I heard from my grandmother, it happened in Mexico and it was about a little boy, that he was out, like in the ranch area and he had… sorry, was walking and he came across this man on a horse! And the boy asked him hey can you give me a ride? and the man said yeah I’ll give you a ride! So he got on the horse, and he started riding on the horse, and then he is talking to the man, and the man starts telling him “oh” … I don’t exactly remember, it’s been a while, but he he just… actually he did not really talk to him too much, but he started noticing that his head was changing like a horse, and his feet were dragging and his legs, well… it was the devil, it was the devil. so, the boy just jumped off and ran. So, it was kind of like, you know, he came close to the devil.

K: how old where you when you heard this story?

KA : um, i must have been maybe like 10,

K: Do you know why she was telling you the story, was there a take away?

 

KA: Well its saying that because the devil comes in different forms, he could come as anything, he could come as a friend, he could come as like you know a human being, which in the story he was like a human being, and it turned out to be the devil, because the head started to enlarge like a horse and then that is when he noticed that he got all scared and took off. and also like you don’t go with strangers you know

Context: this informant told me this tale while I was at her house, she sat down on the couch and started to tell us a story

Thoughts:

I think this is meant to be a cautionary tale, as evidenced by what KA said about don’t go with strangers. I think it could possibly be an appropriate way to address these issues with young children, without introducing them to all of the harsh realities of the world.

general
Legends

The Unaired Night Stalker

The following informant is a stay at home mom from Upland. Here she is describing a legend about the Night Stalker, a serial killer who terrorized Los Angeles in the 80’s. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as KA and I am identified as K:

KA: So there was this family, older man and lady, and he had got into the house, and they did not put this out in the news, but it was um… he had taken their eyes out and with blood wrote on the walls, that is what he had did

K: Do you know what he wrote?

KA: um… some devil, like the star and like devil symbols, like the zodiac symbols you know, but it was the star one, that’s the devil and that was on the wall

K: And this was never broadcasted?

KA: No they never put it in the newspaper, nothing, they did not tell nobody

K: so how did you hear about it

KA: at the salon, where I worked, people talk all the time, and some lady heard it from other people

K: What year was this?

KA: Probably in the 80s cause that was when he was going around

K: Do you think he actually committed this crime?

KA: oh yeah, he terrorized people, it sounds like something he did

Context: She was telling me this as we were sitting on her couch talking about scary stories my mother told me when I was a kid and she remembered this one that she heard.

Thoughts:

I am not saying whether I think he did or did not commit this particular crime, however I will comment on the supposed writing of the devil zodiac sign. I think that is a particular interesting piece of information, especially because it sounds identical to the Zodiac Killer, which is a completely different case. And maybe the Night Stalker did commit this crime, but it is interesting to see how despite terrorize the community, he persona has become a topic of urban legends.

Myths
Narrative

Bridge Devil

Informant: Liz is a 24-year-old student born and raised in Southern California. Her mother is from a town near Guadalajara, Mexico.

Main Piece: “When I was maybe like…8 or 10, my mom, she shared with my sister and I, she shared that at the ranch where her grandmother lived, there was a bridge nearby. But sometimes at night, when you went to cross the bridge, the devil would appear. And he had the…head of a pig, legs of a rooster, and some other part of a goat. He would ask questions and try to hurt you. Now, she never saw the devil, but she had a friend who did. And the friend was lucky because she got away before the devil got to her.”

Background Information about the Performance: The informant was deeply affected by this piece as a child. She was afraid of leaving the house after dark, even though she did not live near the bridge in Guadalajara.

Context of Performance: This piece was performed by the informant’s mother when her children were acting irresponsibly.

Thoughts: I find it interesting how similar this piece is to stories about bridge trolls, especially given that the devil would ask questions.

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