Tag Archives: ghost

Ghosts and Murderers on a Bus

Background: The interviewer and the informant recall a ghost story that circulated in their primary school in Qingdao, China. 

Interviewer: Can you retell that Beijing bus story?

Informant: Yep. There’s umm there’s a guy, and he went on a bus. umm and then the bus got to a station, and then several people came onto the bus, and then suddenly there’s an old grandma walking towards him. And she sort of forced him to get off the bus. He said, this isn’t my station yet. That grandma didn’t give a damn and was like, pulling him off of the bus. And then after they got off, she said to him, those guys that just got on, they were ghosts, you see, they don’t have feet……and then the next day he picked up a newspaper, he found that the bus rushed into a mountain valley, and everyone on that bus died. He felt like he passed the gate of hell ‘cause that grandma literally saved his life.

Interview: Ohh I remember those guys wore Qing Dynasty robes too, like the ones Qing zombies wore on TV!

Informant: Yep yep yep, and oh yeah then the next day when the police found the bus, they opened the gas tank and it was filled with blood…

Interviewer: whooo I still get chills listening to this story…

Informant: Yeah and I heard it was adapted from a true crime story. 

Interviewer: Oh really? I think xxx told me that story the first time, but then two years later I saw something very similar on Baidu Tieba [note: a popular blog site, the Chinese equivalence of Reddit]. 

Informant: Yeah yeah I saw the post too. It really blew up everywhere hahaha. I forgot where I heard about the true crime version, but it was actually a murder case. I think it was a guy, he also was taking a bus ride, and then a few other guys went onto the bus too, and then it was still an old woman who pulled him off of that bus. It was like she saw blood on those guys, and they probably just killed somebody, and they were trying to ditch the body or something like that. Anyways the next day the bus rushed into a valley too. Basically they controlled the bus driver and hijacked the bus, but it lost control and fell down the road.

Analysis: This was a very popular story among fourth and fifth graders in this primary school. I think the reason its horror works particularly well for this demographics is because that bus was the most common form of transportation for students at that age. It serves as a metaphorical cautionary tale to alert the young students of the danger with riding the bus alone. 

This is also interesting, because the ghost story is created on the basis of an urban legend. The two versions are essentially the same story, but with slightly different elements. This shows that folk tales are very prone to variation and multiplicity.

New Orleans Haunted House

Context: The informant is my father (DM) who grew up in California. He told me about how his father, my grandfather, grew up in a haunted house when he was young. The house is located in New Orleans and was supposedly home to the pirate Jean Lafitte, who now haunts the house. The following excerpt is from a passage written about the house that my dad showed me.

Main Text: “Legends are many of this old Pirate House. One has it that a secret tunnel runs from a sub-cellar into the Gulf, and through this tunnel, pirates transferred their booty from ships to their strongholds beneath the house.”

“This old house at one time sheltered Jean Lafitte. It was more than a century ago that Lafitte, during the historic days of private terror along the Gulf Coast, captured and scuttled ships form almost every country.”

Analysis: This haunted house in New Orleans that my grandfather lived in interests me because a “pirate ghost” seems like a blend of two outdated beings. Pirates are a thing of the past and the belief that the ghost of Jean Lafitte still haunts this house in New Orleans pays homage to his historical significance and notoriety. My grandfather also supposedly searched for the tunnel underneath the house but was unable to find it. It is still important to note the presence of Jean Lafitte and his legacy in this location regardless of the factuality of him haunting the house.

Haunted Winnie the Pooh Ride at Disneyland

KS is a cast member at Disneyland.

KS: Allegedly, in the New Orleans square/ Critter Country group of attractions the most haunted one is Winne the Pooh. You’ll hear little kids running. Winnie the Pooh, the whole building itself is super haunted because someone actually died in it. A cast member did. She was like crushed between two panels. (Upon my reaction) Yeah, it’s gross. So we hear like little kids running around. You’ll hear like laughter and shit. Sometime you’ll feel things like tugging on your clothing when it’s pitch black. Specifically in the Tigger scene, which I think is super ironic ‘cause he scares me in the daytime. Winnie the Pooh is the haunted building in that area.

Me: Do you have any experience with the hauntings in Winnie the Pooh. 

KS: One of my good friends was closing, and when you close a ride you have to do a walk through the ride. She was by herself for that part, and she felt something pull on her shirt. The shirts are billowy but not enough to even come close to getting caught on anything. So she looked over her shoulder and there was no one there, and then she heard laughter up ahead. The whole ride is completely powered off at this point. Only the lights are on so someone can walk the ride. There’s no reason or way she could’ve heard laughter, but she heard it. Then she ran out of the ride like a bat out of hell. She came back out and everyone was like “where the hell did you go?”, and she was like “there’s demons in there”.

Context:

Context:

I asked a friend who currently works at Disneyland if the Haunted Mansion was actually haunted, and this is what they had to say instead. 

Thoughts:

I find it very interesting that the “Haunted” Mansion, despite having a well known ghost attached to, is not regarded as the most haunted attraction. I’ve heard of the Haunted Mansion ghost, but never of the Winnie the Pooh haunting.

Livermore’s Rockboy

Main Piece: There’s a place near where I live called Livermore. There’s an old highway which is closed now. Apparently there was a boy who sat on the overpass of the tunnel of the highway. He sat there and threw rocks at cars but one day some guy got mad at the kid and murdered him. Now his ghost haunts that overpass called Rockboy. It takes a lot to go to that place. You have to go through many alleys and stuff to get through and to hear Rockboy. What you have to do to see him you have to first go and turn off all electronic devices like your phone, car and anything like that, normally people go with a group cause it’s pretty scary. So once everything is off, everyone who is there has to be connected in some way and then someone has to say something along the lines of “Rockboy we come in peace.” when my friends and I did that I swear that I heard rocks being thrown.

Context: The informant moved to San Ramon in 2007 and heard about the myth from upperclassmen at his highschool. When learning about this ritual, he and a group of friends decided to try it.

Thoughts: This legend seems to be one that reflects the fear and eeriness of the overpass that’s abandoned. With abandoned sites like this, there seems to be a story behind it for why it was abandoned in the first place so that people can have a sense of thrill and excitement in a completely normal place, whether it is real or not.

The Haunted Epperson House in UMKC

Main piece:

“So this house used to be owned by a rich family that, I think, made their money in organs like the instrument and it was the Epperson family. They had a bit of tragic life, there’s a million tales of their trials and tribulations and I honestly don’t remember all of them but I know there are a couple of legends that- one that there did actually use to be a swimming pool in the basement of this big mansion and at some point it got cemented over unexpectedly around the time someone went missing and there was a theory that one of the Epperson lovers is buried in concrete in the pool. There also was a daughter of the family who, I don’t remember if it was from a broken love affair or what it was, they had a big beautiful ballroom with an organ loft and she hanged herself from the organ loft which is a bit of a statement because since they made their money in organs. So anyway, this house has a long, long history in Kansas City of being associated with hauntings and ghost stories, people see lights and movements inside the house even though its been locked up and not used for years and years and years”

Background:

My informant is a 49 year old woman living in Kansas City, Missouri. While originally from Joplin, Missouri, she moved to Kansas City about 18 years ago. The Epperson House is located on the campus grounds of the University of Kansas City, Missouri which is near her home. The house has a series of legends tied to it, with one of the most common practices involving teens interacting with the house for seances and the sort. The informant has friends who grew up in Kansas City and have participated in this tradition. While the house is generally closed to the public, a security guard offered her a tour which led to her fascination with the house and it’s legends. 

Context:

This piece was brought to my attention through research into legends from Missouri which I used to approach my informant. She has told me about this phenomenon several times but this specific conversation occurred in the living room of her house in Kansas City when I asked her about using the story for the archives.

Thoughts:

The Epperson House is a classic haunted house legend. Much like previous iterations, the house represents several different things for the surrounding community. First, the house serves the function of uniting the community with a common legend. Kansas City is a relatively big city, so while the whole city might not have nearly as much folklore about this structure, knowledge of the legend places one within the know of a community. This is also present for the teen culture of Kansas City, who use the structure as a right of passage in order to be considered part of the group. Another interesting aspect of the legend is the indirect tie between wealth and tragedy. Despite having near endless wealth, the Epperson family could not avoid their tragic fate, almost making the legend a cautionary tale of sorts against the massive accumulation of wealth. This is especially interesting because the house is adjacent to a relatively wealthy neighborhood, making the moral of the story also a reminder for the nearby families. Another way of interpreting this legend is that the Epperson House represents old money. The house is ancient, and by making it seem scary and tragic, the overall perspective of the community is placed on the future. In this interpretation, money is not bad per say, but one should not worry about the past but look to the future, because all that remains of the past are ghosts and abandoned structures. 

The Haunted Tilly Willy Bridge in Arkansas

Main Piece:

“Right outside of Fayetteville, there’s a famous bridge known as the Tilly Willy Bridge and it’s a very old bridge and it’s torn down now but it still has a lot of legends about it. Mostly, there’s this legend of a lady dressed entirely in white who fell off the bridge into the nearby creek and died so now her spirit haunts the area including a nearby field. It’s a common attraction for people to go to the bridge to try to see something scary.”

Background:

The informant for this piece is a woman in her late 40s who lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She was born in Joplin, Missouri but moved south to Fayetteville and has lived there for almost 18 years by now. Fayetteville is a college town as it is adjacent to the University of Arkansas. Due to the proximity of the town to the Ozark mountains, the Ozark culture influences the town alongside the culture of those going there for college. 

Context:

The piece was shared with me via a phone call with the informant. This exact topic was brought up in response to my general question looking for local folklore of the Fayetteville area. 

Thoughts:

I think this bridge is used in a similar manner to other pieces of ghost folklore. The bridge is used by the town to establish a communal identity coming from knowledge of the story. Fayetteville is also the convergence of several cultures, as it is the college town for University of Arkansas, making the Tilly Willy Bridge possibly the result of several different cultures converging on the town. The use of ghosts in this story is also useful because it shows a lack of interest in the past and the non-urbanized world. As mentioned before, the town is somewhat close to the Ozark Mountain Range, which is known for its isolated communities. As such, inventing a story about a haunted area of the wilderness would incentivize staying within the boundaries of civilization, which makes complete sense. Making the abandoned bridge haunted also shows the classic bit of American folklore wherein the past is haunted as a means of putting one’s perspective towards the future. The final bit of folkloric importance in this bridge is how bridges are common places of superstition and liminality, as seen in other cultures. In that regard, the Tilly Willy Bridge fits into this tradition.

Old Woman Scratching the Tipi Walls

Main Piece:

Informant: We wouldn’t go to sleep and it was getting really, really late. And the younger kids were still awake. My older cousins and my older sisters would tell us that if we didn’t go to bed there is an old woman with really long nails that would scrape her nails along the outside of the tipi. She said that every time you talked or were loud, even laughed or anything, she would come closer and closer. And you knew she was about to take you when you start hearing her nails on the tipi, on the tipi canvas. It would start on the opposite side of the tipi and get closer and closer until it went passed you to the door. Then she would grab you and take you to the coulees. 

Background:

The informant is a fourteen-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in eighth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. Admittedly, I may or may not have told her this story long ago. We were cleaning the kitchen and I asked if she remembered any old stories she heard while growing up.

Thoughts:

There is a story about the lost children who get separated from their camp. Lost in the woods, they stumble across the home of an old woman. She takes them in and is later revealed conspiring to eat them. The villainous hag is a common trope in stories worldwide. In folklore, a crone is an old woman who may be disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in nature. She often has magical or supernatural abilities which can make her either helpful or obstructing. It is also a reversal of the nurturing and protective role a women traditionally plays in a child’s life, though historically, the most power person in a child’s life is the mother, so perhaps it is just a pendulum dynamic. The part shared above is a bit of a tag on, a tail end used to make sure children kept in line. It also shows the use of spirits as a disciplinary measure, serving as a warning when you edge too close to certain bounds.

The Ensworth Ghost

Main Piece:

Informant: Ok, so like this woman’s children’s birthday, she had twin girls. A day before their birthday, she had gone missing. And there was no word from her, no anything. And this was right around the time my school was building our theatre. They were just putting the foundation down and everything. And a few weeks later they had traces that led them believing her body remains were in the foundation of our theater hall. And they later convicted her husband of murdering her and burying her remains in the foundation of the school. And so they say that her spirit still walks the halls. And so, sometimes, when teachers are there all alone, or on Saturdays, or even janitors, they’ll hear the elevator rise and open, even when nobody is in. And they’ll hear someone will go from their office to the elevator, and they’ll have to rise the elevator again, even though it was already risen before. And so, it’s little things like that, like doors slamming.

And so one time in my science class, the door was open and all of a sudden the door slammed shut. And this kid goes, “Oh that’s our friendly ghost.” But he didn’t know there actually was a ghost there.” And the teacher was like, “how do you know about her?” Kinda like joking around. And he was like, “Oh, yea. Me and Janet are best friends.” And then my teacher looked at him and said, “how do you know her name?” And he was like, “what do you mean?” Because at first he was kidding around and made up the name Janet. And it turns out, that was the ghost’s name.

Interviewers has to come in : No way.

Informant: And so, without even knowing there was an actual ghost there, he had named her her exact name. And the rest of the science class was weirded out by that. But that’s when my teacher began to tell us about all the different little things that would happen, like doors opening and shutting, elevators going up and down, or wood creaking on the stairs when nobody is there, or lights shutting on and off. And so that is the story of our friendly ghost.

Background:

The informant is a fourteen-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in eighth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. We were in the garage when I asked if she knew any interesting stories or legends. She told me about a ghost that is said to haunt her middle school.

Thoughts:

Not only did the ghost story arise during building construction, it is an urban legend that haunts a middle school, a transitional time for students. New teachers. New peers. New School. Legends have the ability to provide meaning in a chaotic social environment. The role of spirits play a large part in our culture, challenging our perceptions of linear time and dimension. Spirits have also been seen as a way of changing mentalities and conflicts that appear between theology and popular thought. They are a reflection of our own social insecurities and change that remains incomprehensible. Ultimately, legends and supernatural phenomena become a way of coping and interpreting the unknown and dealing with situations that remain beyond human control. 

Drowned Girl Haunts Classroom

Main Piece:

Informant: There were actually, like, 2 ghosts. I think one of them was a little girl, because where her school was built there used to be a community pool. I was told that there was a little girl who had passed away or drowned there. And then she haunted the foundation of the school. So in one of the classrooms, either the Science or English room, on the same day every year it floods kinda. And that’s the same day the little girl passed away. So, the teacher of the classroom always says the little girl is still there.

Background:

The informant is a twelve-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in sixth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my ‘sister IO’. I asked if she knew of any ghost stories or places that were haunted. Recently, one of our other siblings ‘sister NO’ started attending a new middle school. IO shared what NO had told her about her new school (which is detailed in another Main Piece). 

Thoughts:

It’s an urban legend that haunts a middle school, a transitional time for students. New teachers. New peers. New School. Legends have the ability to provide meaning in a chaotic social environment. The role of spirits play a large part in our culture, challenging our perceptions of linear time and dimension. Spirits have also been seen as a way of changing mentalities and conflicts that appear between theology and popular thought. They are a reflection of our own social insecurities and change that remains incomprehensible. Ultimately, legends and supernatural phenomena become a way of coping and interpreting the unknown and dealing with situations that remain beyond human control. 

Persian Fake Ghost Story

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (AM).

CB “So how do you know this story?”

AM “I know this story because growing up my grandma and I guess my mother used to tell it to me. I guess its a Persian folk story that has resonated among many Persian families, and I know because many of my Persian friends have also heard this story growing up. And so the story follows as such: a man is trying to convince this woman that there is a ghost at the bottom of this sewer. And so in the street there’s this manhole cover you move it, and you go down the stair and at that bottom there is a ghost, and so to the woman says ‘There is no ghost there, I do not believe in ghosts, you are lying to me’ and so the man says ‘if you go down there and you hammer this nail at the bottom of the sewer, or the floor when you get there, I will give you $100’ (or you know that’s the equivalent). So then she says ‘okay i will do this’ and what Persian women tend to wear is this very much like, pretty much a burka, like a very long hijab. And so this women goes all the way down she goes and hammers this nail to the floor, and it’s very very dark in the sewer, and so then she goes and tries to get out and she felt something pulling her and she started screaming, and she ran up the stairs, she took off her clothes and ran up the stairs after she felt something like grabbing her and pulling her and she says ‘oh I believe you’ and she does not end up getting the money and now actually believes that there are ghosts. But what actually ended up happening was that when she nailed the nail into the floor using the hammer, she nailed her burka to the floor using the nail, and so it was kinda like burka here and then nail through it to the floor. And so what was pulling her was actually happening. It was the nail she planted herself that was grabbing onto the burka and so what was the moral of the story? You should not base entire conclusions off of one experience because that one experience might be faulty and if she would have gone back and done it again chances are that she would not have nailed the burka and she would have gotten her $100 equivalent.”

Background:

My informant is a Persian-American, first generation American citizen. He lives with his mother, father, grandmother, and aunt who all spent a majority of their life in Iran, and all communicate mainly in Farsi. He heard this story many times growing up as an example of why his family isn’t religious. His family uses the belief in ghosts as a metaphor for the larger social situation in Iran. This story encourages the listener to really think about why they believe what they believe.

Context:

I know this informant fairly well, and we have often talked about his culture. When I was given this assignment, he was the first person I thought to ask. I interviewed him over Zoom, and we chatted a lot about the role of culture for immigrant Americans. We had a very comfortable conversation, as we had many times before.

Thoughts:

This example is a sort of amusing story that likely would have been told to children, however the moral and context reveals more about the culture. The story teaches you to be careful what you base your beliefs off of. It’s a warning against being too gullible, and also teaches you to be critical about who is benefiting from your beliefs. When the story is analyzed in the context provided by the background information, it is clear to see the connection to the socio-political situation in Iran. Because his parents used this story as an explanation for both why they left Iran and their atheism, it is clear to see that the story warns people to be critical of the information that the authority figures present. It teaches people to defy the masses, and decide information on their own, or else look like a fool.