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

Abandoned Nunnery in Oklahoma

Text:

KM: “Apparently there’s this like abandoned nunnery out somewhere in Tulsa, and I had a couple of my friends who got there, obviously trespassing to this place. But it was like, I don’t know, but there were rumors that there were like tapes that were still there even though the place was like abandoned that like showed like really bad things I think that happened there. So they go out there at like night, and they say – there were like 6 of them I think, 4 or 6 or them, and they were like okay we’re going to split up and we’re going to search for these tapes. And so, the person who told me this, he and this other guy, they went up like upstairs, and they were like searching for stuff. But um, my other friend, he went in the basement and they actually found the tape. And when they like picked it up, the like lights flickered in the building. And so, they had to like get out of there and apparently the tape is supposed to be like super creepy and stuff and my friend was just like keeping it in his car for the longest time.”

MS: “Did you ever play the tape, to see what was on it?”

KM: “No I don’t think so – it was a VHS tape so I don’t know. I never really followed up. I’m pretty sure the tape is just in my friend’s car still.”

KM: “But for the longest time, I felt like I was haunted by the nuns after hearing this story because like weird stuff would happen with like my phone and I was like “the nuns are haunting me” so I was convinced… My Twitter AV, this is like stupid, but my Twitter AV, which is like your profile picture on Twitter, I would upload it and it would always just turn to black, just like a black picture and I could never like change it back, and I was like I’m really being haunted by these nuns for listening to this story. Because I think part of the legend was that once you hear the story, or once you know about the tapes, they would target you too so I just remember feeling distinctly uncomfortable knowing this.”

 

Context:

The informant is a Chinese-American college student from Tulsa, Oklahoma. This conversation was part of a discussion among a group of similarly aged people about their high school experiences growing up in various parts of America. The content has been lightly edited, and the removed content is indicated by ellipses.

 

Interpretation:

Even though this is not a first-person account of visiting this apparently haunted nunnery, it still provides us with information because this is how legends typically spread – the informant believes she was haunted by the nuns even though she never took a part in directing interacting with the legend herself. She may have experienced the same “haunting” things even if she hadn’t heard the legend but having heard it, she automatically used its mysterious nature as a way to justify inexplicable things in her life. Also interesting is how the mysterious nature of the tapes gives them their value and so even though they were taken from the original site, they were never actually played to verify the legend one way or the other. This may be an instance of the fear of the “other”. For the modern generation, VHS tapes are not something familiar and have this spooky quality because of that.

 

 

Legends
Narrative

Deceased Shaker Babies

Background

Location: New Lebanon, NY

Informant: J.R. - 23 year old male, originally from New York State, attended the same high school as the collector

Context

This legend has been told to me many times from many different sources, specific to a boarding school in the remote mountains of the New York Berkshires.

The boarding school mentioned was founded on land that once functioned as a Shaker settlement. The Shakers were a religious minority that sought out to create a utopian, self-sufficient society centered on God. Many of their principles required the separation of man and woman, absolute abstinence was expected. As a result, should a woman become pregnant while she was a member of the settlement, she would be cast out of the community. I have paraphrased the core legend as told by J.R. below.

Main Piece

It was told to me that, though the old Shakers that inhabited our dormitory buildings were required to be abstinent, there were times where a woman would become pregnant and attempt to hide her symptoms until the child was born. If she carried to term, she would deliver the baby and either leave the community or, much more nefariously, kill the child and hide the remains. This story over time was transformed into the legend that the remains of the dead babies would be placed in the walls of the buildings they were constructing as a way to give them a “burial.”

Thoughts

While the the folklore is based in historical accuracy , the belief in the dead babies represents a superstition specific to the school that added mystique and served to entertain (or frighten) the students, The urban legend would be shared or performed to freshman as somewhat of an initiation in to the culture of the school. Variations or abbreviations of the story would reappear in conversation, for example, “be careful, don’t get captured by the Shaker babies!” Due to the age of the settlement the school was established on, and the previous history of the land, ghost stories were commonplace in the conversation and folklore of the school and provided a link between the past and the present of a place that remained for the most part, physically unchanged.

 

For more information on the Shaker community and its ties to folklore, see:

Wolford, John B. “Shaker Studies and Folklore: An Overview.” Folklore Forum, 1989, pp. 78–107., doi:10.1.1.491.9188.

Folk Beliefs

GamGam: A Ghost Story

It’s not exactly a ghost story. I mean, I didn’t really see a ghost exactly. When we moved into GamGam and PopPop’s house after they passed, I remember just feeling GamGam’s presence.  I can’t explain it exactly. I’d just feel like she was there keeping me company. 

One day, I was in the kitchen and no windows were open. There was a stillness in the house. Then I noticed that a note that was magnetted to the refrigerator was moving – and for quite a while. It never happened again, but I always felt like GamGam was there and wanted me to know.  It was very nice.

While the Informant’s story may not directly involve a ghost, it definitely involves paranormal activity. When I asked if she believed in ghosts, she replied an instant “absolutely!” She then equated ghosts and souls. She believes in old souls and new souls, relating natural wisdom to the age of a person’s soul. A ghost is an unsettled soul, with unfinished business, waiting for a new body. Essentially, ghosts are souls in transit.

This story means a lot to the Informant. She told me that one of the first things that GamGam, slang for grandmother, said to the Informant was that she was an “old soul.” A physical object being manipulated is a common motif in ghost stories, with the Informant’s involving the magnet.

I enjoyed the story. It’s a strange form of a ghost/spirit story. Instead of the intent to frighten, like in typical ghost story fashion, this one seemingly had a happy ending. GamGam just wanted to show the Informant that she was there, have her presence recognized.

Folk Beliefs

Garden Grove Ghost

In March 1933 there was a huge earthquake and Garden Grove High School collapsed. There was a little girl, a Freshman, named Elizabeth and she was the killed when the wall caved in. She was trapped under the rubble in the Hall of Fame in Heritage Hall for hours begging for help, but no one came to save her.

 Nowadays, students say they can still hear her ghost pleading for help.

The Informant was born in the US and grew up in Garden Grove, a city in Orange County. Her parents are both from Vietnam. She is an Economics and Mathematics major at UCLA. The Informant, my girlfriend, told me this story as I distracted her from her own schoolwork on 4/22 at around 2am.

It seems like whenever there is a disaster or tragic event, up pops a ghost story. Ghost stories also appear to be a youthful storytelling technique. So, it’s not surprising that a ghost story exists about the tragic death of one of the areas high schoolers.

The informant grew up in the area, with many friends and family attending the school in question. Unsurprisingly, this ghost story spread via word of mouth from classmates. The story spread from across schools and across classes. The informant says she would never step foot into Heritage Hall because, even though she’s skeptical about the existence of ghosts, in the off chance that they do exist, she doesn’t imagine them as being friendly. Whereas the typical viewpoint sees ghosts as the wandering spirits doing the scaring, she views ghosts as the scared ones. They’re stuck, scared, and angry.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but my belief system on souls is more complex. I don’t question the tragedy that occurred, but if I take a step back and think about it, I question the idea of the “haunting.” For the sake of argument, if I were to accept there are ghosts, why would they haunt their place of deaths? If I were a spirit in the afterlife, I would want to stray far from my tragic place of death and be in the surroundings of my happiest moments.

Tales /märchen

Little Boy at Little Rock

In Little Rock, Arkansas, there is a ghost story about a young boy who wanders very early in the morning through the streets and enters any home that he finds open. They say that the little boy is lost and looking for family members to be with. This story comes as a result of “ghost” encounters and “poltergeist” events happening at homes.You can get rid of the little boy “ghost” by placing small toys outside of your BACK door so the “ghost” is tricked into leaving the home.

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Eloisa is a Michoacan born lady who has lived in Arkansas since she has been a little girl. She used to be really religious, but after being opened up to human rights, and mostly women rights, she has taken a step back and tried to analyze everything to decide on what she can really identify as part of her.

Magic
Narrative
Signs

Ghost Viewing

I’ve never thought I had seen spirits but here was one occasion that had me thinking maybe I actually have seen spirits. The story is of our security guard of many years, even your mom knows him. Very friendly, always greets you at the door of the hospital. One morning he was not in his usual spot. He was sitting at a different, unusual spot facing the wall this morning, which to me was very odd. I didn’t say hello because it seemed as if he was very deep in thought and not alert or communicative with anybody. I got up to the department and that is when I realized he had passed that very evening before. He had been struck by a car and was killed. Did you freak out? Yes, because I didn’t know anything, and did not know this had happened. I spoke to another person who said they had seen him the very same spot that I had seen him. He was unaware of the surroundings which is very unusual for him because he usually greets everyone. Learning that he had passed hours before this … I realized that he was no longer living and this was his spirit probably coming to say good bye to his last place, and maybe his spirit was not aware it was time to leave or event hat he died.

 

Our neighbor, she was an elderly lady very friendly keeps to herself. Jo. She was a cordial, friendly lady and when we would see each other, we would wave and say hello but that’s all. This one time I saw her as I was driving up to my driveway, and I saw her going from her front door to her garage. Which is unusual because it was a reversal, she usually always walked from her garage to her front door, and it was a bit strange, but it’s not…but I waved and honked and she did not acknowledge me. I didn’t think much of it. But a day later we learned that she had passed in the house. She had died in her sleep and the other neighbors were questioning her whereabouts because they hadn’t seen her in many days. The coroner came and estimated she had died three days before, before I saw her. Were you freaked out again? Yes, I was freaked out. Those were the two incidents that I recall seeing “spirits” because I did not know of their passing until afterwards.

 

Background: These two stories really freak me out. I think my aunt will always remember these pieces for the rest of her life because it happened to her. She thought everything was normal in seeing this man and then the woman until later on she was informed they were both not alive and had already passed. I think these are two particularly important stories to my aunt as well because she really enjoyed this man’s persona and and his aura as a very friendly person, and she had also appreciated the woman who had lived next door. To know he and she both had passed, perhaps my aunt was one of the last people with whom they both wanted to communicate or perhaps my aunt was one of the only people who was open enough to be able to see them. She believes, as stated above, that perhaps the security guard’s soul was lost and unsure of where to go or maybe he was saying goodbye to the last place he found himself, which is sad. I believe these stories, because I know my aunt is not a crazy person, and I really get creeped out by such things. It is very interesting for me to hear.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Legends
Narrative

Grandma’s Ghost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game
Legends
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sespe Ouija Ghost

TO is a student at the University of Southern California, and current president of SC Outfitters, the student-run outdoors club.

TO shared an Ouija board encounter with me that took place on her first retreat:

“We were backpacking for our first guide retreat in the Sespe Wilderness near Ojai, and someone decided to bring an Ouija board. My friend Mac told us that a long time ago, exactly where we were camping, there was a troop of Boy Scouts that got caught in a flash flood and all drowned, so we decided to try and summon them with the Ouija board. We tried to get in contact with them, and the board spelled out “J X I,” which we were convinced meant “Jimmy.” We asked Jimmy if we could talk to him about the afterlife, and he said “no.” We attributed this to him being a young boy who wasn’t allowed to talk to strangers, so we let him go…I slept with a knife under my pillow that night, I was so scared.”

I asked TO if she had been back to that campsite since, and if she remembered hearing or seeing anything unusual.

“I’ve never been back to that specific campsite, no. We’ve done guide retreats in Sespe since but we seem to purposely avoid that campsite…new guides who weren’t there that first year want to go back and try and talk to Jimmy again, but I’m going to say no. I don’t remember seeing anything, but I was so on edge I thought every noise that night was the ghost of a Boy Scout or something.”

My analysis:

Campfire ghost stories are even scarier when they take place where you’re campfire is located, but people seem to enjoy telling these kinds of legends while out in the wilderness. Ouija boards are a fun folk object, but also a terrifying one, used to start and further new or existing ghost stories. TO says whether or not her friend made up the story of Jimmy and the Boy Scouts is uncertain, but her reluctance to return to the campground indicates she at least somewhat believes him. It also turns into a fun story for her to pass down to new generations of guides/members of the club, and possibly something they can one day go back and test, to begin creating their own sort of folklore for the club.

Magic
Narrative

Haunted House in Jakarta

Papa’s (my grandpa’s) friend and him were living in Jakarta and in the house they were staying in… a house which they rented… which was haunted because the wife sees all the spirits when the men are out working. There are always noises and sometimes she saw people in the kitchen… doing something in the kitchen, and the husband doesn’t believe her. He says, “I don’t believe. That is nonsense. I wish I could see the ghost. I wish he would show me.” One day he was sleeping, and he looked up and he had a calendar of two girls dancing. He looked at the calendar and it was moving and dancing. The girls pictured in the calendar were moving as if they were real. He was so scared. So from that time on he believed. They eventually figured out that under that house was a cemetery. The ghost followed them from this house to another house they lived in, I even heard stories about it later on. Since that time he was so scared and never mentioned it anymore.

Background: My grandpa was a civil engineer whose work required him to constantly move from place to place. This is interesting to hear secondhand from my aunt, as my grandfather passed away. He told this story to her many years ago. This really embodies the essence of folklore as this version of the story may have been different from the original that my grandfather would have told. I conducted this interview live at my uncle’s house, so this story was told to me in person. I really find this story to be very compelling as the belief of each person who lived in the house varied about the spirits — from the wife and husband, to my grandfather. This was very interesting for me to hear about some of the interesting places my grandfather lived and some of the amazing things he did all over the world.

Humor
Magic
Narrative
Signs

Lesson from the Spirits

Uncle Albert was insensitive. I had just gotten a real Tag Heuer. We had just gotten there and I lost my watch. And I asked him if he had seen my watch and he did not know. This was in Phuket resort island. And so I was rooming with my brother, and your mom and dad were rooming together. This was our vacation, our return to Thailand, seventeen years since we left Thailand to move to Los Angeles. We vacationed in Phuket. And I was enjoying this day very much… my brother Albert was my roommate, and at this time Albert was 15 years old. He was very insensitive about the fact that I had misplaced my watch. As I prepared myself for a morning jog, I was searching for my watch, my expensive Tag Heuer watch which I purchased recently. I couldn’t find it, I kind of just nudged Albert who was asleep at the time and asked if he had seen the watch and if he could help me look for it. And I went outside running anyways for my morning exercise ritual. As I was enjoying my jog along the beach I was still a little bit upset about my missing watch. And how insensitive my brother was. Let’s see. As I ran past the spirit house in the hotel I just had a thought that maybe my brother should be taught a lesson of humility, empathy, and sensitivity. And then I continued on with my jog, returned to my hotel room and found my brother Albert startled because he had just had a horrible experience. He had pressing of his chest and he could not move. He claims it was sleep paralysis but I believed the spirit was teaching him a lesson just as I had thought earlier as I passed the hotel’s spirit house.

 

Background: I conducted this interview in person, live at my uncle’s house. This story is something my aunt experienced herself when she went back to Thailand for the first time after moving to the United States 17 years earlier. She was angry about her brother’s lack of sensitivity and wished that he would be punished for such, and she really believed that she inflicted some sort of lesson upon him from the spirits. I think this piece is actually very humorous, as it sounds like something I would wish upon my brother or sister if they were being insensitive – I would do the same thing probably out of anger and not expect anything to come of it, just like my aunt. I thought this piece was really interesting and also creepy, which makes for a great story.

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