USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘ghost’

Apple Pie Hill

Item (direct transcription):

There’s a hiking trail [in New Jersey] that I went on a couple times with a group of friends. It was about eight of us. And there’s a place called Apple Pie Hill. And it’s along the Appalachian Mountains. Like, the very beginning of it. And the trail that’s like the biggest trail that’s most popular and closest to where we live… when you go up it—it’s a couple of miles—um, when you go up on it, at the very, very top—at the top of Apple Pie Hill—there’s like a tower. And, uh, it’s abandoned. But there’s like a bunch of writing on it. People visit it all the time. They would leave like locks on it, or whatever, like “I love you” locks and stuff. People write on it a lot. I wrote down “USC Fight on! Class of 2019” on it.

There’s a story, though, behind that tower. That tower, you can go up on it—you can spiral up. Um, it’s like, it’s like a metal tower, but then there’s like a little box—like a room—on the very top. And the only way that you can get in is up a ladder there’s a little latch. Kinda like how you would get into an attic. But it’s locked. And there’s a story on why. And it’s because that tower, that place, that certain area is haunted. Because that tower is a… back in the old days—you know, when they didn’t have satellites and just didn’t have the technology that we have today—the way, uh, they would, uh, look out for wildfires was there was literally a guy watching from a tower like that. It’s a really old tower. Like, it looked really unsteady.

But, um, there’s a legend saying that the place is haunted by this one guy, ’cause he was a park ranger and there was a forest fire going on. But he was sleeping on that tower. So by the time he saw the fire and he wanted to, like, alert people, uh, the fire was, like, engulfing the mountain around him. He died there. He was burnt to death in those mountains. So they think his ghost still wanders around those mountains to this day.

Background Information:

The informant was told the story by his friend’s mother. He suspects that she was embellishing the story.

He’s not sure whether it’s true that a park ranger died on Apple Pie Hill, but he thinks it’s possible. He says he would be scared to visit the tower at night.

Contextual Information:

The informant treats this story as a cherished memory. Evidently, his visit to the tower and the story associated with it had a significant impact on him, as he was eager to share photos of him and his friends at the tower.


This legend seems to match common American stories about haunted locations. It has the usual motif of someone dying in an unusual way, then becoming a ghost and haunting the site of their death.



Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (CS) and I (ZM).

ZM: Do you believe in ghosts?

CS: Aha! Bitch. Ha! I believe in ghosts hella! Do you? Look at that scratch. Look at that scratch. Look at those DOTS! (Shows me several marks on her arm) Where did these come from?

ZM: Your nails. (She has long nails)

CS: What nails make four dots that look like that?

ZM: That is weird. I don’t know. You should look at astrology, like…

CS: I’m haunted. Um, there’s like a Filipino ghost that I’m like lowkey scared of.

ZM: What do you mean?

CS: His name is Asuang. It’s fucking scary. So, um, what I was told was that, he eats children that stay up late, but it’s like a real thing.

ZM: Asuang? Does it mean anything or is that just a name?

CS: No, it’s just like they named it that. And, (lowers voice) Asian people really like, like scary movies and I’m just really fucked up about this. But, um, so, it’s like a, like a shapeshifting monster that like if you’re out past your bedtime, like if you disobey your parents, they’ll like leave you out in the cold and he’ll… He like has… Like what I was told, is that he has like a giant tongue and that he’ll like creep up on you. You’re not supposed to… He’ll like knock on your door, you’re not supposed to answer it. If you answer it, he’ll like… sort of like an anaconda, just like… get you. What is…? Not anaconda.

ZM: Oh, it’s like… um constrictor. Boa constrictor.

CS: Yeah! Like a boa constrictor with his tongue. And he like appears as like different things cause he’s a shapeshifter. So if you do anything bad, or like you disobey anybody, or like you’re just like sinning, he’ll like, he’ll befriend you in normal life. And then he’ll HAUNT you AT NIGHT. Cause he’s a SHAPESHIFTER! And it’s literally, so scary. Ugh! It’s so scary. (Pulls up a picture) LOOK! LOOK AT THAT TONGUE BITCH!

ZM: Ohhh no.

CS: LOOK AT THAT TONGUE BITCH! They love children, Hoe. They love children.

ZM: Asuang?

CS: No, yeah, so my ass stayed in the house. Past ten o’clock? I didn’t leave. I didn’t even go downstairs. I stayed in my room. I was literally. fucking. petrified. And like, my dad would like joke around with me, like he would literally like, we’d be upstairs in our room in the Philippines, cause like they (Asuang) don’t come to America. They’re only in the Philippines.

ZM: Asuang?

CS: Yeah. Like, it’s only there. They only haunt the Philippines. So when I was… I used to go a lot. Umm, my dad would play. He would be like… I would be upstairs in my room. Cause I have a room there. Cause I was there a lot. And I’d be in my room, chillin, in bed, 9:45, I’m out, like I’m not going downstairs. I’m not going in the dark. You got me fucked up if you think I’m gonna go downstairs and fuck with that demon. And my dad went, “Go get me ice cream, from the kitchen.” I’d say, “No. No no no. You can go get yourself ice cream.” And then he’d leave, close the door, and he’ll leave and start banging on it. Or he’d like make really loud footsteps, or he’d go like this (rapidly scratches table) He would really fuck with me. He really like… He didn’t like me. (laughs) He tried to kill me. Like I swear to god. I was like shivering.

ZM: So is it only kids? Like could he (the dad) go down and like totally be fine?

CS: No, yeah. He only, he only eats kids. Once you hit like, teens, you’re good. So I’m not scared anymore. But, they’re real.

ZM: No longer scared of Asuang (laughs)

CS: THEY’RE. REAL. No, cause like the thing is, I used to have nightmares about this. Like, I imagined Asuang as like…giant white tongue, and like sort of like Slender Man, like black everything like super like nondescript figure except very distinct white tongue that would just come and then like wrap around you and take you away and eat you. And like thing about it is like, they eat your heart first. They go for the heart. And then they just leave you to die in the forest.

ZM: Dang. I’m scared of Asuang.

CS: But yeah, that’s the shit that I was scared of. Asuang fucking murdered my whole childhood. No, like I would legit… Like if I was in the Philippines I would have like nightmares because I wasn’t the greatest kid. Like, I’m not kidding you, my grandparents, if we would go shopping and there was glass around. Like if we were in like the food section, I was the only child who was mandated to walk like this (folds both arms behind her back) I wasn’t allowed to touch shit. Like, and I was… Me and my brother were the only ones. We had to…If there was anything breakable, we’d have to walk in the store like this. So, I wasn’t a great kid. So they said, “Asuang’s gonna get you.”

ZM: They told you all the Asuang stories.

CS: They told me all the time! They were…Every night, they were like, “Oh you better behave. Go up, go to bed by your bedtime tonight. Do you want to die?” And, yeah. So, that’s how my childhood was ruined by my grandparents, and my parents, and my older cousins, and everyone who wanted to fuck with me. Cause I believed that shit. And I still believe that shit. But, I’m too old now. They can’t get me. I’m 20. I’m 20 bitch. I’m invincible now. (laughs)

ZM: (laughs) Asuang comes and gets you…

CS: (laughs) Don’t. play. I’m not a kid anymore! The thing is, the younger they are (children) the more they (Asuang) like them. So like, they’re more pure. So like, fetuses… That shit’s good. They like fetuses.

ZM: But they’re innocent tho… So, isn’t that like kinda counterintuitive?

CS: I think, I think it’s also part of the reason like why like miscarriages, like it was… Sort of like…

ZM: Like Asuang came and got their…

CS: Like the parent did something. So like if you’re a parent whose caring for a child and you fuck up… You’re kinda fucked. But, they can’t punish you. So, they punish your kids. Fuck that, right? I’m not having kids. Cause my kids…Aha! Dead. I won’t get through one pregnancy, Hoe. (laughs) But, yeah. So, the younger they are… So I was like five. Prime time Asuang hunting season. I was between the ages of like three and six. They love that age. Soooo…. Clllkk. I was almost dead. I swear to you, I almost died. Fuck, Filipino culture’s kinda wild.


Context:Over the weekend I visited CS at her home and noticed gold coins laying around on various coffee tables and such. A few days later I asked her about them and this continuation of the conversation was recorded then.


Background: The performer is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. She is first generation American and her parents came from the Philippines. They are Roman Catholic.


Analysis: The story of Asuang was pretty terrifying. I can’t imagine being told this as a child. From the use described by CS it was mostly used by parents to keep their children in line. I was fascinated by how even though CS acknowledges that it was a story of manipulation used by parents and that she is now too old to be eaten by Asuang, she is still very afraid of him. Unlike other horror stories that kids usually grow out of later and realize that they’re made up stories, she still firmly believes in Asuang. His mythical characteristics do not shake her belief, it only makes her more afraid of his capabilities.






La Llorona

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KA) and I (ZM).

KA: Oh, and we have La Llorona.

ZM: Oh! Wait, wait wait, what?

KA: La Llorona?

ZM: What is that?

KA: So, La Llorona is… well just word wise, it’s like someone that cries, a woman that cries a lot. Like “llorar” is cry. La Llorona is, um… It’s this lady… There’s different versions of it, but the version that um I was told is that there’s this lady who was married and she…She and her husband… It was like first love, love at first sight, he saw her and he wanted to marry her. Um, they got married within like a short amount of time after they met, they had kids and she, she kinda like let, quote on quote “let herself go.” Like she wasn’t taking good care of herself because she was like focused on the kids and the kids were like driving her crazy. And one day…She had like two or three kids. Umm, one day, she like completely lost it and ended up like drowning her kids and um, I think killing her husband? For sure, she killed her kids. And then it’s said that she like runs, er walks around like the town crying “Mis hijos! Mis hijos!” Like “My kids! My kids!” Cause after she like snapped out of… like the craziness or whatever, she realized what she had done and she was like upset that her kids were dead. So, she goes around like crying “Mis hijos. Mis hijos.” Crying for her kids. Even though she killed them.

ZM: Do you know who told you that story?

KA: Uh, I think my cousin.


Context: I was talking to KA about their childhood when this conversation was recorded.


Background: KA was born in El Salvador but raised in South Central Los Angeles. She is a junior at the University of Southern California.


Analysis:I got really excited to hear this particular story because we discussed it in class, but before that I had never heard of it. I was interested to hear the version of KA who heard the story more organically than how I was exposed. This version included the woman “letting herself go” which I hadn’t heard before. The reference to women caring less about their own appearance after bearing children was an interesting twist.

Folk Beliefs
Life cycle

Cemetery Etiquette

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (HH) and I (ZM).

HH: When we go to the cemetery to visit our dead relatives. You, you can… well I feel like this is American too. You can never step on the tombstone of another person. And I did that once and my dad…

ZM: Uh oh.

HH: No, no I didn’t stepped on her tombstone, my hat flew on her tombstone and my dad threw away my hat and he made me apologize to the dead person.

ZM: Just your hat?

HH: Yeah. And he literally threw it away. Like, you touched dead, you touched someone’s… like a dead person’s tombstone.

ZM: But like, if it was like your relative that you’re visiting and you like touched it like in an endearing way…Is it still bad to touch the tombstone?

HH: I don’t think so… No, like if it’s an endearing way then not. Like it was just like me, like it was a stranger like…It was me sort of like disrespecting the dead and I literally had to… He literally had to um make me apologize to her like… He was saying like, “She’s just a little kiiiid. Don’t haunt us.” Like that kind of thing. Like, when you go to cemetery you don’t want the dead to follow you back.


Context: This is from a conversation I started with HH about her Chinese culture.


Background: HH was born in China and raised in Oakland, CA. Both of her parents are Chinese, and they speak limited English. She is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California.


Analysis: I thought this practice was kind of extreme. I understand not wanting to disrespect the dead by stepping on their graves, but just a hat hitting the tombstone doesn’t seem like enough to cause harm in my opinion.






Halcyon House (Washington D.C.) History

Transcription: “I don’t know how substantial this actually is but there is a haunted house with 13 different spirits. The house is called Halcyon, and it was built in the late 1700s by a Revolutionary War veteran. He died in debt and is seen looking out over the Potomac River with a telescope waiting for his good fortunes to come up the river.”

My informant is a tour guide in Washington, D.C. One stop on his tour is an old house rumored to be haunted. The building is a residential property, therefore, my informant has never been inside the property himself, only heard the stories required as part of the city tour. The residential property is known as Halcyon House and it is intrinsically connected to American history. The property was built close to the Potomac River in 1787 by a Revolutionary War veteran. Instead of fulfilling the newly established “American dream,” the owner died in debt. Since the ghost stories take place in a real world setting and involve a historical figure, they fall under the category of legend.

Most major cities are built near water to provide access to trade. The Potomac River opens up Washington D.C. to trade with other cities, thus the river was reasonably associated with wealth and trade. The ghost of the Revolutionary War veteran is said to be seen looking out over the Potomac River with a telescope in the hopes that he will see wealth on the horizon.

A common theme in ghosts stories is that the ghosts remain trapped in the physical world because of unresolved regrets. The ghost story of the Revolutionary War veteran fits into this theme, possibly to provide an explanation for the spirit sighting or to romanticize the tragic failures of a man who fought for our country’s independence.

I was surprised when I learned that the house remains a residential property. As a historical landmark and spiritual haven for ghosts, the owners are living out a legend in more than one way.



Roosevelt Hotel Ghost Story

Transcription: “I once was attacked by a ghost…I was staying at a haunted hotel with my girlfriend. I was asleep and something grabbed my arm. I think it was the Roosevelt in L.A. around midnight.”

This collection is a ghost story, which falls under the category of a legend since the story takes place in a real world setting. When I asked my informant if he had any folk stories to share, he quickly responded that he “was attacked by a ghost.” The setting is important to this story since my informant and his girlfriend chose to spend the night in a supposedly haunted hotel. The Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California is known for its ghost sightings.

The time that the event took place is also a key part of the story. Most people, I would argue, feel less comfortable at night than during the day time. Moreover, the night is supposed to be the time most ghost activity takes place. The timing of my informants “ghost attack” at midnight follows with the traditional ghost legend.

My informant started his story dramatically by saying he was “attacked by a ghost.” His wording was intended to intrigue the listener and pique their curiosity in the story. Ironically, the meaning behind “attacked” was really “grabbed.” He likely exaggerated the violence of the situation to communicate the surprise he felt at the time.

The Roosevelt Hotel’s reputation as a haunted hotel could have contributed to my informant creating a preconceived idea of what would happen during his visit. Since he knew of the hotel’s history, he could have interpreted any unexpected movement or sound as a ghost. For example, his girlfriend could have bumped his arm while he was sleeping, but his fear could have translated the movement into a ghost sighting.


Tales /märchen

Haunted House Tale

Nicolette’s parents are fascinated by ghosts and purposefully bought a house that is haunted by the ghost of a previous owner who hung herself in it. They say that they regularly experience “chills” or the feeling of a spirit passing through their bodies at the same time when they are in the same room.


Haunted Photo Development

Informant Info: The informant is a 26-year-old female who was born in raised in Hickory, North Carolina. For the past 3 years, she has lived in Orlando, Florida and has worked for Walt Disney World as a Status Coordinator.


Interview Transcript:


Interviewer: Have you ever had anything strange happen to you, like stuff you can’t really explain?


Interviewee: We actually did have a “ghost” in the dark room in photography class in high school. they called it the boohag! (Laughter) Anytime something would go wrong with a print in the wash stage of developing, they blamed it on the ghost — Because you literally just let your print sit in the water and nothing should ever happen to it in that stage.


Interviewer: Do you have any idea where the story of the boohag comes from? Is there any background to it?


Interviewee: Mrs. Gow, the photography teacher, started it to scare students into not taking her class for an easy elective. She only wanted students that were dedicated to photography and art.


Interviewer: So it was completely made up? Or did you ever have any experiences with it personally?


Interviewee: Well, it happened to me and a friend in the smaller darkroom one time when we were by ourselves and we purposely ruined our prints by opening the door before they were done because there were these creepy knocks on the wall going back and forth and then there was a dragging noise from one wall to the next and it was literally the most terrifying thing. We opened the door into an intro to art class of all freshman with the most horrified looks on our faces and no one knew what was going on. To this day, I think the boohag was actually a real ghost.



This story has all the motifs that a typical ghost usually contains. The story is set in a darkroom, which is a room with no light and is usually quiet and isolated. It can be argued that the dark room is a liminal space. I find it interesting that she mentions the teacher completely made up the ghost, but then that she later had an experience of “creepy knocks” and “dragging.” Since the ghost is made up, it could just be old pipes or a rodent in the walls that scared her… or maybe there really is a ghost! It is also worth noting that there are other stories of a “boohag” ghost, such as the one documented here:, but the stories are radically different and likely don’t share any connection other than the name.



Phantom Hiker in North Carolina

Informant Info: The informant is a 26-year-old female who was born in raised in Hickory, North Carolina. For the past 3 years, she has lived in Orlando, Florida and has worked for Walt Disney World as a Status Coordinator.


Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Do you remember your parents ever telling you any memorable folktales when you were growing up?


Interviewee: I vividly remember one – one weekend my father took my brother and I camping in the Appalachian’s, and at night he started to tell us stories around the fire… as you naturally do when camping! The story that I remember most was him telling us about when he came hiking as a boy with his father and running into a ghost. They were hiking considerably deep in the mountains, and the sun was starting to set so they had to speed up their pace so they would make it to camp before dusk. He then told us how then, like… from out of nowhere an old man caught up to them and started walking beside them without ever looking at them or saying anything… then he just sped up and kept going around a bend. When they caught up and turned the corner themselves, he was gone! I think my dad was just trying to creep us out and made it up but… it surely did work. Honestly, I’m still nervous about going hiking because I always think about it.



This story shares close resemblance with a similar story that I found: The phantom ghost of Grandfather mountain, which is a popular North Carolina park. In both cases, the ghost is a benign old man (often described as wearing old, rugged clothes with a leather pack, a white beard, and is using a wooden walking stick). Similarly, in both cases the ghost doesn’t speak, and eventually speeds up and vanishes. Hundreds of people have reported this ghost story, so it is likely that her father really did see the ghost for himself, or that he was just passing down the popular story to his kids, giving the context that they were camping and telling scary stories. The other collection can found here:






The Haunted Escanaba, MI Lighthouse

Informant, a screenwriting major, was talking about his screenplay for his class and mentioned it took place in Northern Michigan. The conversation is as follows, the informant is TP, I am PH:

PH: Of course it’s about Michigan [because the informant talks about his home state very often]

TP: If I knew of any other lakeside town with a haunted lighthouse, it’d take place there, but I only know of Escanaba

PH: A haunted lighthouse? Can I write this down for my folklore collection?

TP: Yes

PH: Okay, can you tell me about the haunted lighthouse?

TP: So there’s a famous lighthouse in Escanaba [in Northern Michigan] because people think it’s haunted because when Michigan was founded, the Menominee tribe used to have land in Northern Michigan but we slaughtered them so their official reservation is just in Wisconsin now but the land is still sacred spiritual ground and they built a lighthouse on this sacred ground… I think it was a burial ground

PH: Who is “they”?

TP: I think the Michigan people? The people who slaughtered the tribe… So people say the lighthouse is haunted by the tribal chief from the time and that, like, if you visit the lighthouse you’ll see his spirit and he’ll try to chase you out and that’s pretty much it