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

Supernatual event at Lu Xun Middle School

Context
The informant grows up in Beijing. The story happened in a middle school in Beijing. We were talking about ghost stories when she brought up this legend.

Content
Informant: In our city, there is a school called Lu Xun Middle School. Because it is Lu Xun Middle School, it has a statue of Lu Xun. I don’t know in what position, but the statue is pointing at a direction, I think it’s left. Then, a student for some reason goes into the school at midnight. He says that when he goes in the school, the statue looks as if it’s pointing to the right, but the statue is still facing the same direction. Then, he goes into the building to fetch his things. After that, his hand was dirty, so he washes his hand. When he comes out, the Lu Xun statue is still pointing to the right. So he goes home. But the next day, he is told that someone is killed. He goes back to see the statue. It’s still pointing to the left. He finds out that the sink where he washed his hands the night before is filled with the blood of the victim.

Analysis
I did some research online. It turns out that the Lu Xun Middle School is furnished in a traditional style. It was built in 1901 and 2 of its alumni were killed in the March 18 Massacre. The violence was taken by Bei Yang Governments, who tried to suppress a demonstration that asked the government to stop signing inequal treaties to western countries. The famous writer Lu Xun called it “the darkest day in the history of the Republic of China”.
The school was named after the influential Chinese writer Lu Xun, who was honored for attacking conservative forces relentlessly by his writings at that time.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Life cycle
Magic
Narrative
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Haunted Babies

The informant was telling me of a belief that there are different kinds of babies. She explains how some babies are possessed by spirits when they are born below:

There is one kind of baby that only cries at night and it cries really loud. We have a specific phrase for them yia cu long which means those babies are haunted by some kind of ghosts, because like when a baby is first born they seem very vulnerable to ghosts, so they can easily see ghosts since they’re just born. If a baby is always crying at night it means yi cu long, meaning they are kind of haunted by ghosts, and so that’s why the baby is terrified and he always cry during the night. So in some of the culture what they will do is they will actually have like a person to do some ceremony in order to get the ghost out of their body or stop them from haunting the baby, so it’s like a witch but not really, and then after that the babies are not supposed to cry anymore during the night.

 

So like one of my mom’s friends, his grandson actually all of a sudden started crying at night everyday and he finds someone to produce the ceremony or whatever, and the baby actually stopped crying.

 

Context:

One day when we were talking she told me she had some interesting pieces of her culture that she could share with me, so a few weeks later we met a little café on campus at USC. We sat outdoors while she shared this tradition with me.

Background:

My informant was raised in China until middle school. When she was sixteen years old she moved to the US where she attended a boarding school in Maryland for high school. My informant transferred to USC for her sophomore year of college.  She was telling me about a superstition in Chinese culture that is practiced when babies are crying. A family friend of her mother had a grandson who was crying and ‘haunted’ by a spirit, and when this ritual was performed, the baby stopped crying at night, meaning the spirit was gone.

Analysis:

I found it intriguing that babies can be ‘possessed’ by spirits because they are weaker and new to the world. Even more so, I think it’s incredibly that my informants family friend’s grandson stopped crying after the ritual was performed, which gives the ritual more credibility.

Legends
Myths
Tales /märchen

The Lady in White at La Quinta Resort

Context:

The informant is a 45-year-old man and of Mexican ethnicity. The informant is my uncle on my mother’s side. On a trip to Palm Springs, my parents, uncle and aunt, who is referred to as YV in this piece, stayed at the La Quinta Resort for a weekend. On arrival, my uncle experienced something unusual.

Main Piece:

Okay, so we arrived at La Quinta resort at night. We parked curbside about 30 feet from our cottage. Your mum and dad were already inside. YV and I were unloading our bags from the car and I grabbed my things and was walking slowly towards the cottage looking down to the walkway. When I looked forward, I noticed an image of a woman standing near a tree about 40 ft away. She was wearing all white and she had long, black hair. I looked back to see if YV was looking in the same direction, but she was still getting her things from the car.  I quickly turned to where I had seen this woman, but she had disappeared. A shiver ran down my spine. I didn’t immediately tell YV of what I had just seen because I had a feeling she’d freak out.  Unbeknownst to me, YV later showed me a coffee mug she bought from hotel as a souvenir.  The woman on the mug is the woman I saw that night. Again, I felt that same shiver run down my back.

Background:

This is a personal experience that my uncle witnessed firsthand. Prior to this experience, he had no knowledge of hauntings or stories surrounding the Resort.

Notes:

There are similar stories told by other guests who have stayed at the resort regarding ghosts and hearing ghostly voices. A security guard working one night claimed to have seen a ghostly woman walking across the tennis courts at the hotel. Many stories describe experiences within the hotel rooms and bungalows. My aunt YV, experienced something in her room the same night my uncle saw the ghost woman. YV’s description matches the descriptions that other guests have had as well.

 

For more accounts of ghostly experiences at the La Quinta Resort, check this out:

https://www.hauntedplaces.org/item/la-quinta-resort-and-club/

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Protection
Signs

Ghost Lights (Theater)

AC: “Ghost lights are really common in theater. So a bunch of theaters have ghost lights, which is like a light that’s always left on at night, in the middle of the stage, it’s usually just a lightbulb on a pole that’s exposed, so they always plug it in and turn it on after every show and at night when the theater’s abandoned. And it’s said to be, like, so the ghosts won’t come out at night if you leave the light on, and it’s the only light on in the theater, but really it’s a safety thing, for like when you come into the theater at night. But it’s like common knowledge that it’s the ghost light, because, like, it keeps the ghosts away.”

Does every theater company or venue you’ve been with do that?

AC: “Do a ghost light? … Bovard [auditorium] has one, the ballroom has one, both theaters that I worked at at home had one, we had one for my high school. So yeah, so far all of them had ghost lights, from what I’ve seen.”

“Well, I learned about them in like middle school, at the Little Theatre of Alexandria. And the Little Theatre of Alexandria is in like a part of my town where, it’s like old town, so it’s considered haunted, and it’s the oldest part of town so it’s like creepy or whatever, it’s historical. So I think that’s- they had such an emphasis on the ghost thing there, which was really weird, I guess it was the house manager who told me that when I first went to take classes there. And I was like, oh that’s cool. And I didn’t think it was a thing at all the theaters, but then at every place I’ve gone there’s been a ghost light. And now I learned it’s mainly for safety obviously. But back then I was like, wow, it’s for the ghosts! And theaters have different perspectives on it. Like I’ve heard from some people that, it’s like, it’s so the ghosts can come out at night, and go into the theater, and play on the stage, but others are like, it’s so the ghosts will stay away.”

How much do people actually believe in the ghostly part of it?

AC: “I mean, obviously we all know it’s, like, not real, and it’s more for safety, but it’s fun. And we always refer to a solo light that’s on as a ghost light.”

Background:

AC has been involved in theater programs for much of her life. She learned it from the Little Theatre of Alexandria, Virginia, and this tradition has occurred in every theater community she has been part of, although there is significant variation in the story surrounding it. It is part of a more general set of theatrical folk knowledge, and in addition to its practical purpose signifies community membership.

Interpretation:

The ghost light folklore is a set of superstitions which surround a feature of theaters which exists for safety’s sake. For practical purposes, the light is simple enough; it is a single exposed bulb, usually an energy-efficient LED or CFL these days, in the center of the stage, in order to provide just enough light that anyone walking around the stage can avoid running into the set or falling off stage. Because most of these theater rooms are blacked out, with no way for outside light to get in, some form of lighting is necessary at all times, at least to help the first person in the room reach a light switch.

As for why the ghost beliefs sprung up around the safety light, there could be multiple explanations.  One is simply that theater communities have generally superstitious tendencies, and such traditions come about easily. Another is the mysterious nature of the light itself. Pitch darkness and loneliness tend to be intimidating due to their uncertainty, and this single bulb in a deserted theater is the one thing preventing the stage from being completely black.

There are two main ghost beliefs which AC mentioned here. The one she mentioned first is that the bulb keeps the ghosts away. Theaters, particularly older ones such as the Little Theatre of Alexandria in her hometown, are prime grounds to be inhabited by ghosts, who might seek to cause harm to the theater company. The second ghost belief around these lights is a sort of inversion of the first. Rather than keeping the ghosts away, the light is meant to allow the ghosts to play. Perhaps the ghosts are those who were actors in life, and to allow them to play onstage is to appease them and keep them happy. Both beliefs share the idea that unhappy ghosts around the theater will harm theatrical productions, causing things to go wrong.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Haunted Driveway of Valencia

TEXT:  This is a short transcription of my conversation with someone who knows the story of the Haunted Driveway of Valencia. My informant will be seen as and I will be B. 

A: There was this one time where my friends and I drive through there at like 2 am just to see what it was like. And then we played a game of rock paper scissors and the loser had to get outside and touch a tree that was barely visible. It was almost pitch black because there were no lights or anything. No one lived there or anything. I ended up losing, of course, and I ran out to go touch the tree but my friends were slowly driving off. I was so scared. I chased after them but I swear, it felt like someone was behind me.

B: Why was this place scary? Like did it have a reputation?

A: Yeah, so Valencia is not that old but even still, for however long Valencia has been around, there has been no construction on this road at all. Everywhere around it, there are houses and stores and stuff but the city hasn’t even bothered putting lights here. And it’s a dead end if you drive far enough. And there was this girl in my school that did something similar to what I did and she came back traumatized or something. Apparently, when she got back in her friend’s car, she was bawling cause she said she saw a ghost or something.

B: Was she the only one that experienced this?

A: I think so. The driveway always had a scary reputation, even before her, but she kind of just solidified it.

B: Do people believe her?

A: People were talking about it and going up to her at school asking if she was okay for a few days or so. Personally, I don’t really believe her. I think it was probably her own head that tricked her. You know how when your foot is dangling off your bed at night, you feel like someone is going to grab it? I think it was something like that.

B: What are your views of the driveway now?

A: I mean, I don’t really believe in ghosts. But I do have to admit, it was pretty scary to be in the middle of darkness. I really do feel like someone was chasing me but I know in my head that there was no one. But it was still one of the scariest experiences of my life.

 

INFORMANT: My informant has lived in Valencia since he was in 3rd grade. Ever since he moved there, that road has had cones around the entrance. Even though there has not been any construction, cones blocked the entrance. He is not a believer in terms of ghosts or supernatural events. He loves to watch scary movies because he likes the thrill but never gets affected by the movies afterward.

CONTEXT: The informant and I were grabbing a meal on a weekday because we were catching up after a while of not seeing each other. I asked him if I can talk to him about the Haunted Driveway in Valencia for my project and he obliged. It was very casual and he did not tell the story with any scary or fearful intonations. This was primarily because of the fact that he did not believe in paranormal things or haunted areas.

MY INTERPRETATION: I was actually raised in Valencia as well so I had heard about this Haunted Driveway before. However, I did not know too much about it because I did not live as close to the driveway and because my friends did not like scary things so we never tested this myth. I also heard about the girl that was traumatized from her experience on this driveway but I heard a far more exaggerated version. I heard that she had to go to the hospital because she had fainted and when she woke up, she had not been the same for a few days. It was interesting to hear from someone that actually went to the same school as her. I couldn’t help but think about the idea of multiplicity and variation as the story gets performed by different people over time. This story probably started off as the story that my informant said and slowly deviated into a more horror-like story as it got to other people in the city. This supports the idea that as every time a story is performed, there is a little variation in the story. If there is enough of this variation, eventually, the story will be very different from the original.

In my personal opinion, I have a very similar perspective to my informant. I do not think that the driveway is haunted by any spirits or anything. I completely agreed with the small side story that my informant had said about the foot that is dangling off the side of the bed. It’s true that often times, people get scared that something will grab their foot. This is similar to when some people have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Often times, people don’t like to do it because they are scared of the dark. Especially because this driveway has no lights at all, being in complete darkness probably perpetuates fear in people who do not like the dark. I have driven on that road with my friends during the day and it seems awfully normal. There are just a lot of trees and mountains encircling this very narrow plot of land which also makes it hard for the moonlight to help illuminate this area during the evening.

Childhood
Digital
Folk Beliefs
Game
Legends
Magic

Urban legend: Momo

Main Piece:

Informant: Oh my god Momo, can we please not talk about Momo oh god. Momo is this like, texting game that some of my friends play at school. You know what WhatsApp is? Yeah, so like, my friends will text this number and whoever is behind it will respond and ask them to do weird stuff. Like watch a scary movie with the lights off. Apparently the number once asked some girl to kill herself. I’ve never texted it so I’m not too sure. Yeah also the photo is this absurd picture of the ugliest doll you’ve ever seen.

Interviewer: Where did you hear about Momo?

Informant: At my high school.

Interviewer: What do you make of it?

Informant: The doll is terrifying. I try to not think about it that much.

Background: The informant is a freshman in high school here in Los Angeles. He just recently moved from Woodstock, NY, so I asked him if he’s learned about anything new since he started at a new school. This interview was recorded and I got his father to sign his release form.

Context: I had previously heard of the internet phenomena that is Momo and wanted to get the interpretation of someone within the its target audience. After doing some research on my own I was able to learn about the backstory regarding this piece of cyberlore. Allegedly, the Momo came about from a Spanish speaking Facebook group and evolved into the mainstream when it was introduced to the US in the summer of 2018. The WhatsApp number that children text asks them to complete a series of bizarre and dangerous tasks. Momo reached a tipping point when a 12 year-old girl was found dead shortly after messaging the number. Momo is represented by the same doll every time, which I have attached below. Interestingly enough, the Momo doll wasn’t created with the intention of its current function. The Momo sculpture was created by a Japanese company that makes props for horror movies. However, the sculpture is supposedly based off of the ubume, which is supposedly the spirit of women who die in childbirth.

Analysis: As digital technology has progressed, we are now coming face to face with an entirely new subsection of folklore. These pieces of cyberlore are incredibly viral and mainly target children on the internet. Slenderman was the first of its kind and Momo is an extension upon the principles which gave Slenderman its cult following. These pieces of cyberlore speak to the effectiveness of global communication in spreading folklore. Now we are able to communicate across the globe in a manner of seconds. This kind of cyberlore, contrasted with memes, serve to shock the consumer and play on the gullible nature of younger individuals.

 

momo

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Signs

Kilachand Hall is Haunted

Content:
Informant – “Kilachand Hall is supposedly haunted. That’s where the honor students live. It used to be a hotel. The most famous resident was a playwright named Eugene O’Neill. There was also another famous writer there who won a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer or something. I don’t know. But anyways, O’Neill died in this hotel. And BU bought the building and turned it into a dormitory. Strange things have been going on on the fourth floor ever since, cause that’s where he lived. Apparently he died there. Lights inexplicably dim. Elevators stop working and open on the fourth floor for no reason. There are knocks on the door when no one is outside.”

Context:
Informant – “I heard it on my college tour. It makes me not what to live there haha.”

Analysis:
Eugene O’Neill did in fact die in Kilachand Hall (formerly known as Shelton Hall). I think this legend is popular because it is a reminder that a famous person died in the building. It adds panache to the idiosyncrasies of an old building.

Legends
Narrative

La Llorona in Venezuela

Informant: Are you allowed to use ghost stories for your project?

 

Interviewer: Yeah actually, I thought more people would tell me ghost stories but it’s only been like one.

 

Informant: Because back in Venezuela a really well known one is the legend of La Llorona.

 

Interviewer: What? That’s a thing in Venezuela too? I thought it was a Mexican thing.

 

Informant: Well, everyone I knew there knew La Llorona, so I’m guessing it’s a South America thing.

 

Interviewer: Yeah yeah, that’s cool. I think it’ll be interesting to see how it differs to the legend I’ve heard back home. Can you tell me how you remember it?

 

Informant: Basically, La Llorona, she was this young woman that fell in love with a soldier, and they have a child. Then the dude leaves, to war or something, and never comes back. The woman has no idea of how to take care of a baby by herself, and she gets so frustrated from the baby crying that she eventually kills him with her own hands. She becomes insane, and even starts kidnapping other people’s kids to kill them as well.

 

Interviewer: Yeah, that’s kinda different from the version I know. I remember her having 3 kids, and them.. Getting lost or drowning in a river, I think? She kills herself out of sadness, but doesn’t really pass on because of the regret. And when her spirit shows up, she screams “Ay, mis hijos!” (lit. “Oh, my children!”), which is why the spirit was named “La Llorona” (lit. “The Crying Woman.”)

 

Informant: Ah yes she also cries for her children in the version I know, I guess thats why the name is the same everywhere. But I think to us it was mostly a way to scare kids into behaving. My mom always said that if I wasn’t good the Llorona would kidnap me.

 

Different Versions

Most notably, the legend of La Llorona is being adapted into a modern horror film The Curse of La Llorona (2019). The legend has been adapted into film several times before, though. This particular film seems to be loosely based on the Mexican version of the folktale, according to the synopsis.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4913966/


A written version of the legend of La Llorona is featured in José Alvares’s Leyendas Mexicanas (1998).

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Blue Boy

Context

The informant and I both attended the same high school. I had the opportunity to visit him in San Francisco, and we talked a bit about our time in school. We remembered a couple of stories that were passed around about the dormitories and the school chapel.

 

Interviewer: I remember that there were rumors of a ghost that haunted Merritt House’s basement and bathrooms, but I think the most popular rumor was that of the chapel ghost.

 

Informant: Ah yeah yeah… you mean the blue boy right?

 

Interviewer: I think that’s what he was called. Do you remember how it went?

 

Informant: Somewhat, it’s been a couple of years since I graduated… But if I remember correctly it had something to do with the chapel’s underground passage. It’s haunted by a ghost of a blue boy, and it’ll appear if you go there during Winter by yourself. I think.

 

Interviewer: People said that sometimes the blue boy would show up in the lower levels of the school buildings as well. Never ran into him though.

 

Informant: Neither did I. None of my friends did either, I’m pretty sure it was just a stupid rumor.

 

Interviewer: Do you remember how it came to haunt the chapel? That’ll probably be good for the report.

 

Informant: Uhh… I think he’s called the blue boy because he was stuck outside during a snowstorm and froze to death. And, supposedly, they found his body in the chapel. And after that they started seeing his ghost in the chapel crypts.

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

The Ghosts of Alcatraz

Main Piece

Informant: “My class always talks about how Alcatraz is haunted.”

Collector: “Really? Are there any specific ghosts that people mention?”

Informant: “Yeah! Al Capone is one of the most common ones I hear, and then the people who tried escaping the island when they were prisoners. A lot of my classmates say that they are stuck at sea, and that on the boat ride over there that the ghosts try to get help from the passengers.”

Collector: “Do they know that Al Capone didn’t die on Alcatraz?”

Informant: “I think so…they say that the reason his ghost stays there is because that is where he suffered the most during his life.”

Collector: “Has your class been there together or have they just hear about it in the city?”

Informant: “We went on a field trip and people working there even mentioned it. They sell some stuff in the gift shop that has to do with it! I think they might give tours about the ghosts.” 

Analysis

Alcatraz offers a prime example of how folklore can be used in a marketable way with a great deal of the tourism to the spot inspired by famous ghost stories. Although the informant is younger and did not have any detailed examples of haunting stories on the island, she probably has a greater idea of it being a haunted spot than some older people she knows. The amount of time that has passed since the prison was actively in use and not just a National Park designated land has allowed it to become further associated with the past identities that it has held, with particular attention to the era in which it held its prison.

 

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