MR is a student at the University of Southern California, originally from Ames, IA.
MR shared a harrowing story that she’d heard from a friend in San Diego:
“My friend told me that in high school, there were kids who would sometimes cross the border into Tijuana to go out and party, and then they’d just post up on a hotel before driving back the next day…one year some kids went after finals and were out at a bar, and one of their girl friends was hanging out with a guy behind the bar. She told them she was going to stay and hang out with him, and that she’d call them when she was on her way back to their hotel…by morning no one had heard from her yet, and her phone calls would go straight to voicemail. They went back to the bar from last night and tried to show the owner a picture of the man that they’d taken last night, but the owner said he’d never seen him before. They drove around everywhere trying to find signs of their friend, but at some point they knew they had to get back to San Diego and would have to talk to the police then, after talking to the border patrol. So they started driving back and they were waiting in line to be search by border patrol, while they were talking to them also freaking out about their missing friend.
All of a sudden in another line they see something going on, and the cops are talking to this guy who has a sleeping girl wearing sunglasses in the passenger seat. The cops tell the guy he can’t cross the border unless he can wake the girl up, and he’s putting up a lot of resistance. Finally they take off the girl’s sunglasses and realize she’s dead – at the base of her spine there’s an incision, and her spine has been padded by bags of cocaine.”
While this story initially freaked me out, MR offered her reservations about the whole thing. It seems like there are a lot of these nightmarish stories about cartels using dead bodies to smuggle drugs over the border, but there are almost no records of such a crime actually taking place. MR thinks these stories are used near the Mexican border to scare kids like her friend from going across to get away with drinking or partying, or at least encourage them to be extra-vigilant. It also makes those in the drug business as monstrous, inhuman entities, maybe making it easier to discriminate against people like them (ie. Mexicans in general). Legends like this seem pretty common in border communities, but luckily it doesn’t sound like they’re true.
For more information on stories like this, see:
Mikkelson, David. “Drugs Smuggled In Dead Baby.” Snopes 23 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.snopes.com/horrors/drugs/deadbaby.asp
“There’s this house in my hometown of Castro Valley, California called the Proctor House and it’s near Proctor Elementary School and it’s also near my house. It’s empty now, like no one lives in there, and it’s mostly populated by homeless people or drug addicts. But, basically like teenagers are dared to go in there and there’s this room that you go in and there are all these dolls lined up on the mantle. And the story goes that there was this couple that used to live there together and they um they’re foster parents, like they would bring in kids every so often, and one by one these foster kids would kinda just disappear from the foster system and no one knew why. And it was discovered that this couple had just kinda murdering their foster kids and they murdered like four kids. I heard this story when I was in the 7th grade from my friends when I went in the Proctor house. But I heard it throughout my teenage years. The dolls, like, had the spirits of the kids inside of them, or something.”
This story would mostly be performed by children around the playground or in social situations near his school and the house. As our informant mentioned, he learned this story first from his friends. He would later also tell me that all the parents knew about this story and wouldn’t let their kids go near the house. He said while this was probably because of the aforementioned homeless and drug addicted populations, many kids like the informant would interpret this as an affirmation of the mystic dangers of this house.
The dynamic between the children that recount this story and their parents are what I find to be most intriguing. The children believe the tall tale of the haunted house and the clichéd dolls-as-murdered-children horror story, most likely as its grandiose details are continuously reinforced in those kids’ social circles and media. The parents, however, know the house’s true nature, and that it is potentially very dangerous and filled with drug addicts and squatters. These harsh realities of life might be too much for a kid to hear, and so they simply say “Don’t go into the Proctor House.” Somewhat unintentionally, this furthers the legend of The Proctor House as being haunted. In my research, I couldn’t find any authored material on the Proctor House; this would suggest that this legend is relatively local and new. Perhaps the house became abandoned and overrun when the participant was young, spurring the rumors. When I asked the participant about the story’s origin, he said that he wasn’t sure.
Also interesting is the house’s role as a legend quest. When the kids are old enough to brave a trip into the Proctor House, it’s viewed as somewhat of a rite of passage, affirming their role as a “big kid”, or young adult. Ironically, though, it is their discovery of truth about the house, either firsthand or from their parents, and the loss of the childlike innocence about the house’s true state, that affirms their role as an adult.
“Uh, so the Beatles… This was around 1964 I believe. John Lennon and Paul had discovered a Bob Dylan record in 63 when they were in Paris, they thought it was amazing, and they really wanted to, well John in particular, really wanted to meet Bob. And they came to the US, John decided he wasn’t ready to meet Bob Dylan because he thought he had to be as ego equal. John Lennon didn’t think he was like up to bar to meet Bob Dylan. Finally, the Beatles had a little bit of success in 1964, if you know anything about the Beatles history, probably the biggest band in the world. Finally, they decide to meet Bob Dylan at this hotel, I forget the name, in New York City. And The Beatles are in there waiting with their posse. There were several rooms that Bob had to get through, like media and things, but he finally gets through and The Beatles had some wine, like some really nice wine, and they offer it to Bob and he says ‘Uh… No. Do you have any cheap wine? I’m not into super nice wine’ and they were like ‘No, so what should we do then?’ They were trying to figure it out, and Bob says ‘Well I know you guys like to smoke, so like, do you wanna, do you wanna get high?’ and they were like ‘Oh shoot, we’re not… we’re not gonna do that. That’s like, we’ve never done that, we’re not really sure about that.’ Bob actually thought they sang about smoking in one of their songs, saying ‘We get high,’ or something, when really it was something else. Um, so anyways, Bob lights up and hands it to John and Paul who are both way too scared to try it, so Ringo tries it and they all just start laughing. Hot-boxing in this room with Bob Dylan. And that’s what inspired them later when, anytime the Beatles wanted to smoke, they’d say ‘Let’s have a laugh’. Um, but yeah they all got super high with Bob Dylan and that led into the really self-concious period of The Beatles for Revolver and Rubber Soul, which I would argue are some of their best music.”
This was told to the participant in his two unit class on The Beatles. The professor told him this story, but he claimed to not know if it was true or not. Considering that The Beatles and Bob Dylan are both rock and roll legends, he said he would not be surprised if the story was embellished over the years. He likes the story because of what impact it could have potentially had on The Beatles career and is a fun way to explain the difference in sounds between The Beatles’ records.
The informant says that the story would most likely be told in a format that people were talking about music and/or The Beatles. He doesn’t think it would be a story that he would tell his family, unless they had brought up an interest in the band or a conversation about it.
Legendary Figures can span from athletes, like Babe Ruth, to politicians, like Abe Lincoln, to musicians, like Marilyn Monroe, and everyone in between. What is unique about the legendary figure is that we know, for a fact, that these people existed. It is both their actions and the way in which they are talked about that becomes folklorized.
What helps transform these somewhat ordinary celebrities into the status of legend is often what they do beyond just their physical work. If all we had in a vacuum of knowledge was The Beatles’ CDs, we might think they’re pretty good, but would not understand the iconic image they represented for decades. To familiarize and identify ourselves with these legends, we’ll often tell folk stories that we feel are representative of their character. In this story, The Beatles make the transition from proper European rockers to far out psychedelic rockers. While the genre shift is evident in their music, this story helps explain why it may have happened, which, when combined with the personality of Bob Dylan, is what makes it so entertaining.
“So in Norway, when we graduate high school, we have this tradition that the two weeks leading up to our, um, independence day, um, we essentially do college in two weeks. And by that we, uh, everyone essentially has like a startup company where they fund, they get money and they work and they buy a bus. And this bus is to represent a group of people that have together to party on this bus for these two coming weeks. You build this bus to represent you as a group. So you paint it, you have your own song. They usually spend about twenty to forty thousand dollars on these buses. And they pay a couple to three thousand dollars per song or more. People live off this shit. They graduate high school and they just make music for these crazy graduating students. And they have a pretty decent life. Umm, so what you do is you do this and then you buy a suit, you buy like overalls that are completely red and covered in the Norwegian flag, and it’s got different colors. That’s the only time that you’ll ever see these colors in Norway which is why I find it so baffling that people in America keep wearing and wearing their flag everywhere. I guess it’s like weird, it’s like nationalism, which is bad, but for these two weeks in Norway: totally cool. So everyone gets drunk, everyone has sex with each other, there’s a bunch of STD things going on and like a lot of people take precautions so there’s just condoms everywhere in the capital for those two weeks, literally just so that teenagers can just grab them passing by. They’ll be in like metro stations, bus stops, random places there’ll just be like a little cup of condoms because people are just like doing things all the time. So there’s a lot of drugs, a lot of drinking, and you kinda like, you do all of those, you get all your immaturity out. That’s the whole point of it. So by the time you have your independence day, everyone’s so fucking exhausted that when you actually celebrate the day that you celebrate Independence Day and that you celebrate your graduation, then finals happen. Afterwards. So it’s a big thing in Norway where people have been trying to get the finals to happen before these two weeks. Because what happens is a lot of, like, not a lot, but maybe one out of twenty people failed their finals because of this tradition. Every year. So they’re trying to change that now. I think it’s going to change this year, but the fact that the government, that all entire Norway works around this insane tradition: just get fucked up and have sex for two weeks? It’s fucking fantastic.”
The source definitely looked upon this tradition with a lot of happiness. It seemed to be one of his favorite parts of high school. He said it’s not a very long-standing tradition, but that it’s definitely been around as long as he’s been alive. He says it’s a way for them to release all the pent up stress from the year. It allows them to let loose and do crazy things that, under other circumstances, wouldn’t be allowed.
This tradition seems to come with its own sort of hall pass. It sounds like the kind of thing that these kids would never get away with if only there weren’t so many of them participating in it. That’s probably how it came about in the first place. Some group of kids wanted to let loose, but they knew they’d get in trouble, so they got a whole bunch of people together and went nuts. It probably didn’t fly as much back when it started, but now that it’s mainstream, the whole country probably knows to expect this debauchery and just lets it slide.
What also makes it interesting is that it involves a lot of responsibility. It’s almost like a rite of passage, really, because these kids have to work and save up money in order to be able to afford this massive, two-week rager. They also need to plan and organize it all themselves. Basically, they’re doing very adult things in order to be able to do some very not adult things. Quite the contrast.
The informant was told this scary story on a camping trip with other USC students. The student who told him the story said he heard it from his friend who was actually among the students in the story. This gives the story more validity, though of course it’s completely likely that the story is absolutely false.
INFORMANT: “Okay, so apparently this guy had a friend who decided to go down to Mexico for spring break with a group of his friends, pretty standard. The guy was totally psyched, and so were all his friends, because they’d never been to Mexico, but one of them was a little nervous because he had a huge exam the night they were supposed to get back. But they repeatedly assured him they’d be back on time and he shouldn’t worry, so even he loosened up and got really pumped for the trip. So they went to Mexico, they had an amazing time, it was a crazy week full of alcohol and debauchery or whatever goes on when college kids go to Mexico. And finally, before they knew it it was their last night, and they decided to celebrate their awesome week by going out to a club and dancing the night away. So they went to this club, mingled with the other club-goers, danced and drank, you know. And one of this guy’s friends started flirting with this handsome muscly Mexican guy, and they were really hitting it off. She spent the whole night talking to him and dancing with him, and when the time came for the group to head back to the hotel, she told them she was going to spend the night with the guy and that she’d text them where to pick her up the next morning. Everyone was drunk and trusted her judgment, especially since they assumed she’d gotten to know the guy decently well because they’d been together all night. So the group shrugged it off and went home to the hotel. In the morning, they packed all their stuff into the car and waited for a text from the girl. And waited, and waited, and waited. They called her several times, but she didn’t pick up. They left her dozens of texts and voicemails, but nothing. They were annoyed – they assumed she was still passed out with that guy somewhere, hungover or whatever. And the guy with the test was starting to get really nervous again, because he had to get back. So eventually, after something like 3 hours, they were just like ‘Screw it, she’ll have to fly or take a bus or something. And they finished packing the car and they set out back for USC. When they reached the border, they were waiting in the big line of cars and a border patrolman came up to see their passports and ask all the usual questions. The kids thought this would be a good opportunity to bring up their friend – ‘We have this friend who stayed overnight with a guy here and she didn’t respond to us so she’s still around, but we’ve got to get back. What do we do?’ As the patrolman was about to answer, one of the guy’s friends shouted ‘DUDE! There she is!’ They all looked over, and believe it or not, there was their friend, asleep in the passenger seat of some random guy’s car. The patrolman went over and had the driver roll down his window. He glanced at the girl, who was out cold, dark sunglasses on and head flopping down and everything. ‘Sir, can you wake her up please? We need her to reenter the States in the same group she came with.’ The driver was like, ‘No, it’s okay, let her sleep. She’s sleeping. It’s okay.’ But the patrolman insisted, and the driver was like ‘No, it’s fine.’ So this went on for a while, and finally the patrolman just went around to the passenger side of the car and opened the door. To his shock and horror, the girl fell limp out of her seat and onto the dusty ground. The sunglasses fell off, and the patrolman saw that the girl’s eyes had been SEWN SHUT. She was dead. Naturally, the driver was apprehended, and the USC kids all had to be taken in for questioning, so that one guy definitely missed his test. As it turns out, the girl had been cut open, all her organs had been removed, and she’d been stuffed with drugs and sewn back up. They were going to use her to smuggle drugs across the border and then dump her body somewhere! How awful is that?”
As any good scary story should, this story has the potential to be true. It hits especially close to home that the people involved are described as USC students, and the fact that the story came from a friend makes it seem like it must have really happened. The story definitely relies on stereotypes and qualifies as blason populaire – it plays on people’s fears of Mexico as a dangerous place riddled with drug crimes and violence. The informant voiced that the story is effective because it horrified him so much that the only way he can feel better about it is if he spreads the story so other people will be equally horrified. Scary stories spread rapidly in this way, with people wanting others to share in their fear and shock.
Me: “Did you ever go to the house in person?”
Informant: “It was on the bus route which was somewhat long, so it wouldn’t have made sense to. But I don’t think anyone would have wanted to anyway…”
A house on the informant’s elementary school bus route in southwest Ohio had a very eerie exterior. The owner had built extra things on to it — weird overhands, banisters, small porches — which led to a unique structure. All the additions were poorly put together, so as a whole, it looked like a bit of a wreck. Kids would always look at it as they passed. Over time things were added to it or changed, but they never saw the owner or someone working on the house. It never looked like anyone was home. The story behind the house among the children was that a drug dealer lived there. If someone stepped on to the lawn, he would shoot them for trespassing.
The informant assumed that there wasn’t a reason behind the story of the man who was there. He had heard it from fellow classmates, who heard it from siblings, but as far as he knew there was not a specific reason that led to that explanation. He still remembered how weird the house looked and that the structure alone was cause for curiosity and a little uneasiness. In us talking about it, he posited that if anything, the arbitrary construction was sort of unnerving as to the mental stability of the owner. I asked if he stopped by the house on foot at any point, but because it was just one location along a bus route, there wasn’t an opportunity to. Nor would he have, he said, since there was just a general fear of it among the kids.
Around the age of 12 when the informant had this experience, kids are starting to get exposed to anti-drug education from schools and parents. There wasn’t any basis for the “drug dealer” bit, but perhaps it was created to associate a fear of the unknown with the growing awareness of a negative thing like drugs. It seems most school stories like this have no clear generation or grade where they started, but are simply an evolution that caters to the active issue around that age range. In this case, drug awareness is connected to a mysterious but haunting looking house.
Me: “Wait you seriously don’t take Advil or Motrin or anything?”
Informant: “No not that I know of haha. I drink really bad tasting herbal concoctions instead.”
The informant grew up with her parents telling her the story of Shennong, who was once a ruler of China. He extremely influential in Chinese agriculture, and even more so in herbal drug creation. He apparently held many closely guarded secrets in this regard. She received a book as a gift that was an illustrated version of a story based out of the Shennong legend. The book detailed the importance of herbal medicine, but at the end, the main character consumes yellow flowers at the top of a mountain and dies. The yellow flowers represented herbs not to be used, and were associated with Western Medicine to stress the importance of genuine Chinese herbal medication and drugs.
Painting Western Medicine in a negative light was something the informant says her parents did / do a lot, especially when she was young. Things like telling a story that subtly puts non-herbal medicine at a lower tier is something that many Chinese-born parents do, according to the informant. And while she recognizes the necessity of a lot of modern medicine for severe things, she still completely avoids smaller things like ibuprofen or allergy medication. It’s not for any reason other than she says that’s just how she was raised.
This was actually sort of surprising! I know the informant very well and finding out that someone doesn’t take any western medicine (again the exception being treatment for serious ailments or injuries) caught me off guard. To think that something rooted in someone from their culture, despite not being raised in the country from which that culture is born, would lead them to make a not-insignificant choice like that is very interesting. Also finding out that the parents deliberately used a legend to reinforce their ideology is fascinating. Proverbs seem like a very good platform for this, but at first thinking of a Chinese leader who specialized in herbs, I don’t immediately jump to marking that as a good potential education device.
Informant: “We have a Summer Solstice parade which is pretty wild too, but that doesn’t have anything to do with Fiesta. That’s a weird parade. I can’t even… It’s literally– the point of it is to be as weird as you physically, possibly can. There are people in, like, snow globes and they have, like, crazy make-up on. And they’re like, there’s, like, pregnant women doing, like, belly dancing.”
Lavelle: “So it’s like all the weird people come out–”
Informant: “Oh! It’s, like, people, it’s just, like, people who are like, ‘I’m usually a normal person, but I want my freak flag to fly.’ I don’t understand it but, Summer Solstice is the weirdest day in Santa Barbara. Like fiesta it’s, like, everyone’s drunk and blah lah lah… but that’s normal…”
Lavelle: “Where does summer solstice happen?:
Informant: “Uh, State Street. It all happens on State Street. It is the most bizarre parade and just… People make these floats that are, like, so strange and you’re just watching it and you’re like, ‘what drugs are you on?’ Like I imagine people would have a great time if they smoked some weed. It’s trippy, dude.
My informant is a native of Santa Barbara, California. He has never been very involved in the Summer Solstice celebration, but is aware of it’s existence. He seems wary of the population it draws into the town.
“Apparently there’s a friend of a friend of a friend—it’s always a friend of a friend—I heard from this guy whose friend’s friend heard this—blablabla. It’s about this guy who did so much acid that now he’s in a mental institute and thinks that he is a tall glass or orange juice and he’s afraid of tipping over and he just stands there with his hands out because he’s scared of tipping over because he doesn’t want to spill.”
This story that my informant told me was one that she heard back in high school. It’s the classic cautionary tale (or “scarelore”) against doing drugs. “Don’t do acid kids because… orange juice guy.”
This legend is particularly haunting because unlike anti-drug cautionary tales that flat out tell you that you are going to die if you so much as touch drugs, this talks about the permanent psychological damage an overdose can do. To some, this may be considered a fate worse than death.
She spoke about it as if there was SOMEONE who knew this kid–as if it did happen sometime during her high school years. Out of my own curiosity I looked up this particular piece of lore and to my surprise, this legend has been circulating since the 1960’s. It varied from a guy who thinks he is an orange and thus decides that he has to peel himself and as a result peels off all of his clothes, to the one she described in which he thinks he is a glass or orange juice and is scared someone will tip him over or drink him.
I tracked the references of the orange juice guy back to a 1966 Los Angeles Times article by George Reasons that talks about the views doctors and scientists had about what had become an incredibly popular drug at the time. “Serious scientists, on the other hand, are alarmed by the spread in popular use and fearful LSD could be another thaldomide with hidden side effects capable of deforming a generation.” Various examples were given of youths who had bad reactions to the drug, and the account of orange juice guy was amongst these.
“One involves a heavy user who is convinced he is an orange. He won’t allow anyone to touch him for fear he will turn into orange juice.”
However, no actual name is given to orange juice guy, nor does the author of this article state what hospital he is in (if any) or where he even got his information. Thus, as is the nature of most legends, we can not be sure if this story is actually true, or if it was just created to scare a generation out of doing LSD.
Reasons, George. Los Angeles Times “LSD Ties With Happiness Declared Hokum” July 12, 1966
(I didn’t hear this, but my friend did, so even though it was directed to me it was technically my friend serving as the informant:)
A guy approached me at a concert (I have dreadlocks) and said, “I hate to stereotype, but do you have a pipe?”
A lot of people stereotype someone with dreadlocked hair to be a dirty hippie stoner bum, which is not always the case, but why this guy prefaced his question with “I hate to stereotype”…