USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘ghost’
Legends
Magic

Kiamuki House and the Kasha

The following urban legend was told by a Hawaiian native that she learned from her auntie:

“Theres this creepy looking haunted house on the corner of 8th and Harding that they just tore down last summer but they’re trying to rebuild….they shouldn’t. It’s home to a kasha.  A kasha is a demon that feeds on human corpses and there’s one probably still living on that plot of land.  The kasha first started inhabiting the house after a man killed his wife, son and daughter in his house and buried their bodies on the property.  The bodies of the wife and the son have been found but the daughter’s body is still missing…because she’s now the kasha that haunts the Kiamuki house.  She tried to claim her first victim in 1942.  The police received a desperate phone call from the woman who lived in the house in 1942 claiming that her children were being strangled by a ghost.  The police responded to this call and were terrified at what they saw at the house.  According to police reports, they witnessed the two children being thrown around and strangled by an unseen entity.  After about an hour and a half the policemen were finally able to save the children from the kasha and evacuate the family from the house never to return…but that did not stop different people from moving in. After the family moved out, three women moved into the house and one night the kasha violently grabbed one of the women’s arms.  They quickly called the police and they responded and offered to escort the women to another house for the night.  On their drive, the kasha reappeared and started choking one of the women.  The car pulled over and  the two other women struggled to get the kasha off of their friend.  The policeman also pulled over and tried to help the women but was restrained by what he describes as a ‘large calloused hand.’ Finally he was able to break free and get the kasha off of the woman.  He offered to drive the women to the house but when they got into his car it wouldn’t start so the women returned to their car and all of a sudden both cars worked again.  As they drove down the road the policeman recalls seeing the car door get ripped off of the car and thrown into the road by an unseen entity which then continued to drag one of the women out of the car and strangle her to death while her friends and the policeman watched helplessly”

Analysis: This terrifying ghost story might be more than an urban legend with detailed police reports that are still unexplainable, after all how do you explain someone being choked to death by thin air?  The informant sounded utterly terrified of this house and claimed she will always take a longer driving route if it means avoiding that neighborhood.  The common ghost story motifs are all present in this chilling story because the kasha is a young girl who was tragically murdered who’s purpose is now to inflict harm to others.  However, this goes further than a common ghost story because there are detailed police accounts and multiple accounts of attacks on the property.  This story has been passed down to generations of Hawaiians as a tale of caution to always avoid the Kaimuki House.

 

Legends

El Paso Trans-mountain Road

Main Piece:

The Participant is marked as BH. I am marked as LJ.

LJ: Can you tell me some history about El Paso?

BH: Oh, so…in El Paso there are a stretch of mountains called the Franklin Mountains. And these happen to be the end of the Rocky Mountains which stretch all through the united states. And what is interesting about these mountains it is said that you’re not supposed drive on this road on the Trans-mountain road–which literally cuts through the mountains. So you’re not supposed to drive on this road after midnight. One because there are a lot of accidents and two there is folklore of ghosts on the road. Either hitching for rides or a monk that walks around with a donkey–well he’s a friar, with a donkey haha. And he’s in search of the treasure that supposedly exists in the mountains.

Context:

I had visited the participant and her family in El Paso, Texas in March. This was recorded after.

Background:

The participant is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. She is a firm believer in religion and likes “scary stories,” including television shows and hearing about hauntings. She grew up primarily in El Paso, Texas with her mom and two sisters.

Analysis:

This shows part of the great history that El Paso has. There is so much from Native American groups to the Mexican-American war to the waves of immigration that it sees coming in from Cuidad Juarez. It was obvious that there were more stories to these mountains, but I stuck with this one.

The monk/friar in search for treasure is actually a little funny. The ideals of a monk, as I understand them, are to denounce worldly possessions, so for the monk to be looking for treasure so long after his death is almost incredulous. However, perhaps this began as him looking for something else, or it could have been a result of period when the church was not trusted by the peoples of El Paso.

These stories open paths that need further exploration to make full sense of them.

Folk Beliefs
general
Magic

The Haunted City of Pleasanton, California

“I’m one of the believers that my hometown of Pleasanton, California is haunted by ghosts.  There are certain buildings around the city that are rumored to be haunted by ghosts, and most people that live in Pleasanton know exactly which buildings I’m talking about, regardless of if they believe in the ghosts or not.  So whenever you enter one of these buildings you have to not freak out or anything, because that’ll make the ghost want to haunt you.  If you just stay calm and act normal, the ghost will be friendly with you, and you’ll be okay.”

ANALYSIS:

I find it interesting that in this ghost story, whether the ghost is amicable or not to you is completely up to the person interacting with the ghost.  This results in a ghost story that directly opposes the traditional ghost story narrative of the evil ghost trying to haunt everyone it comes across.  Additionally, I found it very interesting that there was such a clear divide between who believes in the ghost stories and who doesn’t, because the way the informant described it made it seem like the believers and non-believers were in direct opposition to each other.

Legends
Myths
Narrative

La Leyenda de la Llorona

Informant: Carlota Rodriguez-Benito. 20 years old. Spanish Heritage, born in Miami, lived in Mexico. USC student.

Informant: “There is this very famous legend in Mexico called ‘La Leyenda de la Llorona.’ From what I can recall it goes like this. There was once this very beautiful woman. The most handsome guy fell in love with her and they had three beautiful children. Their life was perfect until one day he stopped coming home. He would only return at times to visit the children and paid no attention to her. One day, while the children were sleeping, she went to town to look for him. There, she saw him with another woman. She followed them for a long time and then… they kissed. She ran back home, woke up the children, and took them out on a picnic near a river. She got in the water and told the children to follow. She carried the children in her arms and told them everything would be alright. She held them strongly and sang them a lullaby. With tears in her eyes, she suddenly sank them in the water. The children screamed..…MAMÁ AYUDA (MOM HELP!)…..but she wouldn’t let go. The children stopped moving and she carried them out. It was that moment when she realized what she had done. She started crying and screamed…AYYY MIIISSS HIJOOOOSSS(OH MY CHILDREN)…. and tried to bring them back to life. She couldn’t live with what she had done and killed herself. Since then, she roams around at night crying for her children. If a child is awake and hears her cry, she steals him or her thinking it is her own. After taking the child and realizing it is not hers, she drowns him or her with grief!”

Collector: “When did you first hear this legend?”

Informant: “So I moved to Mexico in 10th grade. I don’t know exactly how I learned about the legend but if I can recall, it was around Halloween time. I was talking to a classmate and she asked me what I was gonna be. I told her I wanted to dress up as ‘La Katrina.’ She then told me she planned on being ‘La Llorona.’ “Excuse Me?” I asked her.  “What is La Llorona??” It was then that I learned the story and was immediately captivated. As I stayed in Mexico longer, I eventually learned that La Llorona is a legend that everyone knows. It is really part of the Mexican culture.

Thoughts: La Leyenda de la Llorona is really famous in Mexico. Interestingly, there are so many variations of the story. One version is that the woman killed the children because the husband paid more attention to them than to her. She hated the children and hoped that after killing them she would have him all to herself. Something that really surprised me is the intermix between La Llorona and La Malinche. Somehow, I had only heard about la Llorona and did not know about its correlation to la Malinche until I took this class. This story would spook me as a child and it would keep me from walking by myself at night. I think this is maybe because her story is everywhere in Mexico. The media also portrays la Llorona and there was even a ride that told her story at six flags called “La Mansion de la Llorona” – “The Weeping Woman’s Mansion.”

Interesting history of the legend: “http://www.lallorona.com/1legend.html”

For another version please see:  http://www.literacynet.org/lp/hperspectives/llorona.html

Legends
Narrative

Casa del Prado Cinderella

Informant: Joshua is a 24-year-old student living in Southern California. He formerly lived in San Diego before moving to Los Angeles. He used to work at the Casa del Prado, a prominent theater in San Diego. Notably, the Casa del Prado is attached to a tall clock tower.

Main Piece:
Josh: “Supposedly, at the Casa del Prado, they were putting on a performance of Cinderella. The lead actress went missing one night and they were looking all around for her. Apparently, over by the clock tower, when the clock hit 7, people saw her body fall from the tower and hit the ground.”

Interviewer: How did she fall?

Josh: “Well, nobody knows, but according to some people, it looked like she was pushed out by somebody.”

Interviewer: And there was no sign of who pushed her?

Josh: “That’s just it. The doors to the clock tower were all locked. She shouldn’t have even been able to get up there. Nobody came out of the tower after, but some people said that occasionally you could see her ghost backstage.”

Background Information about the Performance: The informant was told this story as a teenager while working as an actor at the Casa del Prado. It was his first show and the piece was performed to him by the stage manager.

Context of Performance: The piece was performed backstage in the dark.

Thoughts: This story almost seems to be part of a hazing experience. The informant was young at the time and just started acting at the Casa del Prado. The stage manager could have intended to scare him as part of his induction into the group of people working at the theater.

general
Narrative

The Brooks Mansion Ghost

The interviewer’s comments are denoted through initials JK, while the interviewee’s responses are denoted through initials MJ.

 

JK:  Got any stories weird stories from your past growing up in the suburbs around Boston?

 

MJ:  Yea I’m from a town called Winchester about ten minutes north of the city.  I live across the street from these woods called the Brooks Parkhurst Forest.  So, there’s an old mansion called the “Brooks Mansion” in the middle of the forest close to this pond.  Apparently it was built at some point in the late 1800s.  The town tried to restore it and turn it into this kind of landmark at some point over the last 20 years, but people didn’t keep it in good shape and… so it kinda fell into ruin.  Anyway, me and some of my buddies had always heard it was haunted by the ghost of the lady that owned the house and died there sometime in the early 1900s.  Now, being normal people, ya know, we all thought this was bullshit….  We did not believe in ghosts.  In the past, I’d walked by the house with my dad.. but I’d never gone inside.  I’d heard stories about other kids going there to drink, but that was pretty much it.

 

JK:  Was there specific kind of story that you had heard about this ghost?

 

MJ:  Yea, a couple kids who were a few grades ahead of us told us they went in the house one night in the early fall.. had heard a bunch of weird noises, got freaked out, and left.  They mentioned they had heard the front door slam while they were upstairs in the mansion, and that made them freak and run out one of the back doors.  I told them it was probably the wind, but they all said it was a super calm night with no breeze at all.  So anyway, like a year later, me and two of my friends are smoking a spliff out in the woods and we start talking about the mansion and how some people think it has a ghost.  We all decide to take the 10-15 minute walk through the woods to get to it.  It was a mid September night, probably around 60 degrees– and get this– no wind.  Like none.  It was a wicked nice night, that’s why we were out there smoking in the first place.  So basically, we get to the mansion, open the front door and roll inside.  At this point we were definitely all a little high, but no one was stoned.  The inside was pretty run down.  The floors creaked, the walls were a mess.  A lot of windows broken, some graffiti on the walls.  It was all typical abandoned house stuff.  So we walk around taking it all in and head up stairs.  As soon as we get to the top we hear this noise that sounds exactly like wind blowing through an empty house…. But there’s no wind at all.  The night is dead still.  We look outside and none of the trees are blowing around.  This starts to get us scared.  Maybe we were higher than we thought.  After like 15 seconds of this, we hear the door slam, like loudly slam, beneath us.  We all let out a couple swears and bolt down the stairs and out one of the back doors.  Freaky stuff.  I’ve never gone back in the house.

 

Conclusion:

This sounded like a classic old haunted house story:  old lady dies in her mansion and then her spirit stands guard over it for the rest of time.  When I asked the kid if he now believes in ghosts, he said, “Uh well before I didn’t but now I don’t really know what to think.  Maybe I was higher than I thought, but that door definitely slammed and there was no wind– or other people around– to do it.  Definitely makes you think.”  From this response, it is clear the interviewee is still unsure about the existence of the supernatural, but– if I had to bet– I would say he is slightly leaning towards believing in ghosts.  

Narrative

The Motel’s Hat

“A spooky story, we were away, Sue and I and another couple, and we were in this old really rundown motel, kinda– bed and breakfast.  We were skiing and uh, so we go check in in the lobby waiting room thing, ya know, where you go to get your room keys, and the lady behind the desk was kinda weird, little odd.  There was this big old picture behind the counter, it was portrait of this old guy.  Long skinny face.  White hair pokin’ out at the ears and he had this hat on.  It was like a hat you’d see guys wear back in the 1920s, 30s, great depression era kinda thing, not one you’d see out today.  Anyway, the picture caught my eye, cause they guy looked spooky, just very gaunt.  In writing at the bottom it said “Founder” and then the guy’s name that I don’t remember.  And then the dates of his life.  He had died like 15 years ago or something.  Anyway we get the keys, and go to the room and I found my way makin’ it down this creepy hallway and there was this door at the end that didn’t really seem to go anywhere, so I opened the door… and I was reaching for the light switch and I stepped into the room and fell like two feet into the room, so the door was like two feet higher than the floor of the room.  So now I’m gettin’ just a little bit of light from the hallway comin’ into the room and somebody reaches in and finds the lightswitch and there’s just a hat….  on the floor, and that was the only thing in the room, it was barren, just the hat.  Looked just like the one the guy was wearing in the picture.  So now I’m pretty spooked.  And I picked up the hat and looked at it and it said:  “I am the hat, touch me not.”  And we just looked at each other, dropped it, and ran out of the room.  It was the creepiest night I’ve ever had.  We thought the guy was comin’ back to haunt us or something. We were scared to death.  Ran down the hall like little kids.”

 

Conclusion:

 

This story was told to me by my Uncle Steve.  He said this happened when he and my Aunt Susan were in their late twenties, early thirties.  I find any ghost stories that spook legitimate adults to be pretty funny.  When he tells the story now, Uncle Steve seems to think it was just a crazy coincidence that the hat he stumbled upon looked exactly like the hat worn by the creepy looking founder of the hotel in the portrait.  Either way however, I think a small part of my Uncle could still believe in the supernatural based off of this one experience.

general
Legends

The Woman in Black

“Ok, so this is a story of Georges Island, an island out in Boston Harbor.  During the Civil War, they built a fort out there called Fort Warren.  And that’s where they held prisoners of the Civil War, so Confederate soldiers were held out there.  Um, so there was a soldier out there who wrote a letter to his wife that he was being held out there and she got the letter, she was from Georgia.  So she comes up and she wants to break him out of jail.  So she ends up staying in Hull, right, which is a town right on the water and one stormy night, she rows out there, dressed in men’s clothing, and she had cut her hair, so she looked like a prisoner.  So she broke into the prison and she was doing everything she could to break her husband out of jail.  And as she was doing it, she was captured, along with her husband, and as they were about to take her, she went to take the pistol of one of the guards, and as she was grabbing at the pistol from the the guard, the gun went off, and it killed her husband.  And then she was tried for trying to break him out of prison, and she was convicted, and she was gonna be put to death.  And they said, “So you have one request.  What is your request?”  And she said, “I don’t wanna die in men’s clothing.”  They said, “Ok, that’s reasonable.”  So the guards at the fort went around, but there were no women on this island, so all they could find was like this black material and black robes.  So they put her in the lack robes and then they executed.  And from that day on, when you go out to that island… people swear that there is the “Lady in Black” that everyone sees walking around by herself.  And the legend is that that’s this woman.”

 

Conclusion:

 

This story was told to me by my dad’s buddy, Stephen.  As a Boston native, I found the story to be very interesting.  Apparently it was based on true events.  It’s funny, as Stephen was reciting the tale, I recalled a short news clip from a Boston station that I’d seen several years ago.  The clip showed a shadowy figure donning black robes standing in heavy winds on an island in Boston harbor.  When Stephen, got to the end of the story, I put two and two together.  This was one of my favorite pieces of folklore that I collected.

 

Legends
Narrative

The Weeping River Lady

Informant was told of the legend by her mother, who was born in Laos, whose parents had passed it down to her when she was a young child. Informant’s grandparents were a poor family living in the capitol of Laos (Pakse).

Okay, tell me what you remember.

“I think I was like a freshman in high school when I heard this one. My mom told it to me and my sisters when we were camping once. She, uh, spoke of a very small village in Laos that all of the farmers had to pass through in order to reach the market to sell their crops. According to the story, if anyone tries through the village between midnight to 3 AM, a crying woman wearing rags will walk out of a nearby river and stand to block the path. The woman chants something… like gibberish or some random language maybe?  If the person passing through doesn’t run away and still tries to pass, they become possessed and lose consciousness, and once they wake up, they find themselves in a spirit realm, and are gone from the real world forever. My mom said this is why people said never to pass through the village at this time.”

How did you react to the story?

“I was really scared. I think my mom was just telling it to us to scare us, but I had a really hard time sleeping afterward. So my sisters and I just stayed up together.”

Conclusion of Collector:

Laos, a country in Southeast Asia, is primarily a rural economy, and many rice farmers live and work in the countryside. This legend was passed mostly through the farming communities, explaining why it is related to the market path. This story seems very similar to legends such as La Llorona, which also involve crying, ghostly women, which makes me wonder if the tales are related, or if they formed through polygenesis. However, the legend also seems like a warning to those who would try to make the journey at night, perhaps to prevent people from getting robbed or passing through the village so late. One could say that this legend might even have been used to warn children from staying out too late or leaving the house at night.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures

Ghost light (Theatre)

Allegra:  I think this might be pretty common folklore, but every theater has a ghost. Sometimes, in particularly old theaters, a ghost can cause disruptions if not appeased.

Me: Have you ever experienced a theater ghost?

Allegra: Yes. Many times. Our high school theatre had a ghost who would take the bra from a quick change pile and move it to the opposite side of backstage. Well, perhaps that wasn’t a ghost. Probably just a bad techie. Anyway, yes the ghost light is kept on in empty theaters (theaters which are not in rehearsal or performance) to appease the ghost, and I suppose for safety reasons as well. People do not want to be fumbling around in a dark theatre when they enter.

Me: What do they look like?

Allegra: Well it’s a lightbulb on top of a metal stand, and there is usually a cage around the light. Whoever leaves the theatre last is supposed to plug it in so that the next person can see.

Analysis: A ghost light goes along with many superstitions in theatre. (Never say Macbeth, a bad final dress rehearsal means a good opening night and vice versa) The ghost light superstition seems ridiculous but it is a serious practice among Thespians. As artists, actors are prone to letting the supernatural have more sway. Perhaps this is because their imaginations are more active than dryer fields of work, or because their work is so subjective and a bad show can be the result of events outside of their control. In either case, a ghost light is one of many theatre superstitions well alive today. 220px-Ghost_Light_on_Stage

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