USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘family ghosts’
Folk Beliefs
Narrative
Signs

Family Ghost Story After Relative’s Sudden Death

Context: The informant, a 20-year-old female college student, was describing stories and rituals, related to both her family and her passion for theatre, that she believes help define different facets of her identity. The following is an excerpt from our conversation, in which she describes a highly personal family ghost story relating to the sudden death of her uncle in the San Francisco marathon when she was young.

Text:

Informant: Okay, so… my uncle passed away in the San Francisco marathon. It was very sudden because he died while he was running, and he was extremely physically fit and no one could have ever predicted that this would happen. But, on that day, we were up in Tilden Park, as a family. And I was hiding in the bushes with a stick and poking the stick around. And I’m like young. I’m like six or seven. So, I’m poking around with a stick and my mom is like, “Where’s L—?” And then she looks around, and she sees what I’m doing, and she’s like, “What’s going on? What are you up to in the bush?” And I tell her that I hear a voice… and I have no recollection of doing this! My mom actually told me about this when I was doing an interview with her for a project, so it was really an emotional thing to find out. But basically I was with the stick, hearing a voice that was saying, “Long live my sisters.” And so it was really really shocking to hear when she told me this. It was almost like my whole body froze. I didn’t know that my uncle had passed away, but I told her I heard a voice that sounded like my uncle, saying, “Long live my sisters.” And so that was really wild and it had a huge effect on my mom because she knew that he had passed away. It was super weird that I was having this voice in my head, but she said that I told her that is was my uncle’s voice, coming from San Francisco — it sounded far away. I said it was in San Francisco, but that I could hear that it was leaving. So, it was like a goodbye from him. My mom talked a lot about it with the adults in my family. Especially since I was so young, it’s just a really strange thing to have a feeling about. She didn’t tell me until I was much older, but she talked about it with her sister a lot. And I think it was crazy and I think it was something that really helped throughout his passing because my mom is a very spiritual person. We don’t really believe in God or anything, but we believe in spirits. And we found a lot of comfort in the fact that one of us received a message that our uncle was okay, and that he was leaving with a message about bringing power to his sisters. That’s kind of how my mom took it.

Informant’s relationship to this item: The informant was visibly touched and emotional as she recalled the events of her uncle’s passing, as well as the interaction her mother claims that she had with him from beyond the grave. The story clearly holds significant weight for the informant, who only learned of it in very recent years. The story was also very impactful for the informant’s mother and aunt, as they firmly believe that their brother’s ghost was sending them a comforting message with the goal of easing their grieving processes and helping them progress after his death.

Interpretation: I completely understand how this occurrence would be both surreal and comforting to the informant and her family after the sudden loss of her uncle. The informant’s young age, the specific details she used when describing her uncle’s voice, in addition to the fact that she was unaware of her uncle’s passing at the time all make the interaction particularly inexplicable. The story definitely falls under the category of friendly ghost stories, which typically feature deceased family members communicating with their relatives with the supposed goal reassuring and comforting them after tragic losses. Additionally, the nature of the informant’s uncle’s voice, which she described as sounding “far away” and slowly drifting further, emphasizes the widespread belief that ghosts exist in liminal spaces, in which they are not fully alive or dead.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Ghost in Grandmother’s House

Main Piece:

Particpant/interviewee marked as AM below. Interviewer (me) marked with LJ.

AM: So, it was, like a story of…there was a story about a little girl in my grandma’s house. So all of them…so my Tia Brenda, she went to school with a girl that passed away, like the girl was weird, she didn’t talk to anybody. And she didn’t have friends, they bullied her a lot. For some reason, my aunt talked to her. Um so like when she died, by aunt was we my grandma telling her “she’s here. Like she wants to talk to me.” My grandma was like “you’re crazy, what are you talking about?” And then, um, one of my aunts saw the girl. One of my other aunts. She told my grandma “oh no Ma, Brenda’s not lying, I saw the little girl too. She wants to tell Brenda something, but she doesn’t listen.”

They eventually moved out of that house, when my aunt turned 15. They moved to San Bernandino. And then the girl would talk to her again, but like trying to tell her something about my grandma. But my grandma still didn’t believe it. And then they moved again, to like Tahoe. And one day my grandma was home alone at night–the whole night. She said that something woke her up, like something tapped her. Haha.  When she woke up, like nobody was there. And then she finally saw the little girl. And then, so, she believed the little girl was there, but they didn’t know why she was there. They didn’t know why she kept coming.

A couple of years ago, my little cousin, Alondra went to go visit them and the same girl woke her up. Haha. And then like she said “you need to tell your Tia Brenda to stop doing bad things. Like she needs to be a good mom. She’s a bad daughter.” She told my little cousin this. Once they told my mom, they believed her. They told my Tia and she finally believed it, but she didn’t change. I haven’t heard anything about her since then.

 

Context:

Asked if anyone knew any ghost stories. I recorded this then.

Background:

The participant is a first year student at the University of Southern California. She was raised in South Central, Los Angeles around the university in a Mexican household. She believes in the existence of ghosts and has heard this story from her family, but nothing has happened to her personally.

Analysis:

The participant called this entity a ghost throughout the entire story. However, ghosts, are typically associated with one location. As Professor Tok Thompson said during a lecture “ghosts help us remember horrific acts.” Perhaps it was not a ghost that was following the family or why would the little girl become attached to Tia Brenda and her family?

It is interesting that the little girl’s message told Tia Brenda to be a better person. It might have been the little cousin creating a story, inadvertently, having grown up hearing stories about her aunts and grandmother seeing the ghost of a little girl. It might commemorate the story of this little girl who was ignored and bullied because she was different and then died (cause of death unknown). The story may have evolved to reflect how the family felt about Tia Brenda.

Typically, it was children seeing this girl. When the grandma saw her, she had been sleeping. It could all be a story, or it could be real, but no proof exists.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Legends
Narrative

Grandma’s Ghost

Informant (A.G.) is an 18 year old student from Los Angeles.

A.G.: “My mom is really religious and my grandma is really religious. I was raised Catholic and I used to go to church and stuff”

While his “dad is Italian” and his “mom is Colombian,” they “both grew up in Columbia” to come here when they were “18 or 19.” Alex’s mom is a “stay at home mom,” and his dad does “construction” and owns some local “properties.” We grew up in the same area of Los Angeles, and started to hang out in high school. He was telling some ghost stories at a party one weekend, so I set up an interview for the following Saturday afternoon. I picked him up and brought him to our mutual friend’s house to conduct the collection.

A.G.: “In my apartment building, we used to live in one of the back apartment units.”

While the family still owns the apartment building, A.G. has since upgraded to a nearby house.

A.G.: “At the dinner table… my brother and sister used to talk about stuff that would happen to them because our house was super creepy.”

Here “our house” refers to the family’s apartment building.

A.G.’s family connects over the supernatural. For instance, while the non-religious A.G. is less concerned with Christianity than his pious mother, she is less concerned with the supernatural. However, they all contribute supernatural experiences to the dinner table discussion.

A.G.: “This happened to my mom. It was weird hearing it from her because she’s always like ‘oh that stuff’s bullshit.’ This happened in Florida when she was visiting my grandma in her last days. After a few days after she passed away, my mom said she was sleeping in the living room or something and then she said that she woke up at night and the TV was on and she saw a figure that reminded her of her mom.”

A.G’s mother’s experience of seeing a recently deceased family member is a regular part of the grieving process. Such memorates, referred to as crisis apparitions, make up a large part of the ghost story genre. While A.G.’s mother’s experience was attached to the deceased grandmother, A.G.’s siblings had their own supernatural experiences attached to the old apartment building. Whether it’s remembering the loss of a loved one, or a displeasurable living situation, I interpret the exchange of scary stories to be the family’s way of bonding over personal tribulations.

For more ghost stories about deceased loved ones, visit http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/23/living/crisis-apparitions/

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