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

Little People’s Village

Context:

The informant – my dad, RS – is a white man in his early 50s, born and raised in Cheshire, Connecticut, but living in South Florida now. He was raised Catholic on a farm with two siblings. He’s skeptical of the supernatural for the most part, but is pretty familiar with a lot of the Connecticut’s many ghost stories. The following conversation took place in person during a larger conversation in which he told me a number of his favorite Connecticut ghost stories. It was, for the most, part a classic storytelling situation, but at times felt more like a sharing of childhood memories than the dramatic performance of a ghost story.

Piece:

RS: There are a lot of places famously considered haunted in Connecticut, but one that was always really interesting and really stood out to me is the Little People’s Village. If you hike out into this wooded area off the road in Middlebury, you’ll find all these crumbling concrete structures. There’s the foundation of what looks like a small house… there’s these structures built into a hill, one of them sort of looks like a throne, but mainly there are all of these little concrete dollhouse sized houses, scattered all around the area, maybe six or seven of them.

The story I always heard growing up was that there was a couple – a husband and wife I guess – who lived in this little house in the woods. One day, the wife started hearing voices. She claimed that little people – fairies, demons, whatever – were talking to her. She started going crazy and made her husband build all these little houses for the fairies.

She grew more and more obsessed with the little people – they were telling her that she was their queen, so she made her husband build her a throne so that she could properly… rule over the little people I suppose? (laughter). The little people began to feel threatened by the husband, so one day they told the wife to kill him. She did – I can’t remember how the story goes from there. I think she goes crazy and eventually kills herself. But the old legend is that if you go to Little People’s Village and sit in her throne, you’ll die in seven years

Me: Did you ever pay Little People’s Village a visit?

RS: Oh yeah, me and my buddies would go there a few times when we were teenagers. It’s a bit creepy, especially at night. No sign of any little people though. I wonder if any of it’s there anymore.

Me: Did you sit in the throne?

RS: Yeah I did… I’m still alive though!

Analysis:

Upon doing some research, I discovered that the structures behind the story of Little People’s Village were part of an amusement park that featured a trolley line that went out of business in the early 20th century. The “house” was likely a gift shop and the concrete dollhouses were part of a display. Ghost stories are very common in Connecticut, since much of the state isn’t in constant renovation like many other parts of the country, and old buildings and structures are often left to decay, making for both many creepy sights and a more direct connection to the past.

Given the appearance of the structures that inspired the story of Little People’s Village, it’s fairly obvious how the legend developed, since the strange structures out of context beg a more unique and specific explanation than an ordinary old house. I find it interesting that the story features specifically a woman going insane and murdering her husband, since the story could have easily gone a number of other ways while still featuring the little people. However, developing likely in the 1960s, it’s not surprising that stories would lean towards including this somewhat sexist stereotype/archetype of the hysterical woman.

 

 

Legends
Narrative

Melon Heads of Connecticut

Context:

The informant – my dad, RS – is a white man in his early 50s, born and raised in Cheshire, Connecticut, but living in South Florida now. He was raised Catholic on a farm with two siblings. He’s skeptical of the supernatural for the most part, but is pretty familiar with a lot of the Connecticut’s many ghost stories. The following conversation took place in person during a larger conversation in which he told me a number of his favorite Connecticut ghost stories. It was, for the most, part a classic storytelling situation, but at times felt more like a sharing of childhood memories than the dramatic performance of a ghost story.

Me: Are there any other Connecticut legends that you can recall?

 

RS: Ummm… well, everyone always used to talk about the Melon Heads. There were a few roads we called the Melon Head Roads where they supposedly lived. I think people used to say that they were escaped mental patients who inbred with each other for generations, so now they have these big heads, too big for their bodies. Or maybe they were just mountain people who inbred, and the mental patients were from another story. I don’t know, there were a few stories about who they were, but they were all supposed to have these big melon heads and were supposed to violent, crazy cannibals.

Me: Do you remember who you heard this story from?

RS: Oh I’m not sure, everyone knew about the Melon Heads. It was probably my brother.

Me: What do you make of the story? Why did it stick with you?

RS: It didn’t stick with me that much. But when talking about Connecticut ghost stories, that’s one of the first ones that comes to mind. I don’t think much of the story… I’m sure it’s just something kids made up to spook each other out.

 

Analysis:

While I think that it’s likely that the story was made up for kids to scare each other, I find it interesting that this legend revolves around escaped mental patients and inbreeding. There are a number of large asylums in Connecticut, so it makes sense that the story would involve escaped mental patients. Further, it’s likely that this story originated around a time where these asylums were being shut down and mental illness was in its early stages of moderate de-stigmatization, resulting in rumors of escaped inbreeding mental patients among curious and scared children.

 

Legends
Narrative

Dudleytown, Connecticut

Context:

The informant – my dad, RS – is a white man in his early 50s, born and raised in Cheshire, Connecticut, but living in South Florida now. He was raised Catholic on a farm with two siblings. He’s skeptical of the supernatural for the most part, but is pretty familiar with a lot of the Connecticut’s many ghost stories. The following conversation took place in person during a larger conversation in which he told me a number of his favorite Connecticut ghost stories. It was, for the most, part a classic storytelling situation, but at times felt more like a sharing of childhood memories than the dramatic performance of a ghost story.

Piece:

RS: Supposedly the most haunted place in all of Connecticut is Dudleytown in Cornwall. Dudleytown used to be a small town in early colonial times, founded by the Dudley family. There are many versions of the story, but the one I remember is that, I believe, a long time ago, one man in Dudleytown went insane and murdered everybody in the small town. Decades later, they built a new town where Dudleytown used to be, but the town was cursed with horrible misfortune. People either died from disease, or went insane, the population dwindling to nothing overtime, once again. Now, Dudleytown is just ruins, I few miles hike into the woods in Cornwall. Your mother dragged me out there once when we first met to go camping – it’s a big destination for lovers of the paranormal like your mother. Though I don’t believe this, she claims that she took photos of the ruins, and that when she looked at the photos later, strange markings and writing were on the rocks and rubble that weren’t there before.

 

Me: Who told you about Dudleytown?

RS: I believe it was your mother, though I may have heard about it from my friends back when I was a kid.

Me: What do you make of the story?

RS: I’m not sure… I don’t really believe that one man went crazy and murdered an entire town, but I guess I’d have to look into the history of it.

Analysis:

I think the legend of Dudleytown was most likely invented to provide a spooky reasoning for the town being abandoned. Unlike other places in America that are in constant renovation, Connecticut is filled with decaying old buildings, resulting in both a number of creepy sights that beg for spooky stories to explain them and a direct connection with the past. Insanity seems to often come up in Connecticut ghost stories, likely due to the large number of abandoned asylums in the state.

 

Folk Beliefs
general
Narrative

Great Grandmother’s Murder House

Storyteller: “So my mom’s entire family is from New Orleans, which is essentially the most haunted city in the world…like there is so much tragedy and everyone…like if you grew up there you kind of believe in ghosts? Like you pretend you don’t but you do. No city can have that much tragedy and death and not have stuff wandering around. So my great grandmother had this really nice house. And I remember like being…sort of with it enough as a kid to be like ‘we are not rich, how did she afford this really nice house.’ And it was because it used to be a brothel and there was a murder there and so my family got it really cheap. So it was a murder house right? So the story was that one of the women that worked int he brothel was married. And her husband came in and dragged her up to the attic and they had a huge fight and he killed her. And there were these dark stains on the floor up there that everyone said was blood stains…that would not come out. Whether they were or not I don’t know, but that’s what I know this story was. So, basically they would always tell us that ‘Herald’, essentially, used to live in the attic because it’s where he killed his wife. And we were like ‘yeah whatever. Ha ha. Very funny.’ So my cousins and I are upstairs one day and we are playing in the attic and all of this weird crap starts happening. Like a door slams and a window that like…things like open and not a problem open and like weird weird stuff. And so we were like ‘oh you know what it is. It’s uncle M, he’s trying to scare us…because my uncle was notorious for scaring the kids all of the time. So we were like, ‘it’s just him.’ And then we were like ignoring it and then I looked out the window and my uncle M was downstairs. And we literally screamed and ran downstairs as fast as we could [laughs]. And to this day…NO explanation for what was happening in that attic. We were like ‘maybe it was like the uncle? or whatever…’ but could never prove that it was another human in our family.” [seeing my disturbed face she adds] “Yeah…it’s very upsetting! [laughs] I did not enjoy that! But yeah, that is the story of my great grandmother’s murder house.”

 

Background: The storyteller is from the south (specifically New Orleans) and she got to spend a lot of time growing up there. As a result, she not only has a lot of knowledge on the stories people told about the city, but she also had her own personal experience with a ghost in her great grandmother’s murder house.

Context: I asked her if I could interview her for this project. I knew that she was from the south and after collecting a couple stories from people who grew up in the south, I was fascinated with them and wanted to hear more. She gave me three stories…one of them included this first person narrative of her experience with what she still to this day believes was a ghost. I met up with her and another storyteller for coffee to go over the details.

Thoughts: Like the storyteller already pointed out, New Orleans is famous for being one of the most haunted places in the world. There really is so much tragedy that has occurred in that city throughout the years that it is not hard to believe that there are many ghost stories and legends that derive from it. It is scary to hear and see things out of the ordinary especially when we cannot figure out the realistic cause of it. Many people refuse to believe in such things as ghosts and live in denial with the fact that they may be real. Some things that cannot be explained frighten us.

general

The Legend of Chateau Marmont

Context: A friend visiting Los Angeles was staying in the Chateau Marmont hotel. While sitting in the hotel room, a mutual friend brought up the rumor that the hotel was haunted.

 

Background: My informant is a fellow student and was born and raised in Los Angeles. While I hadn’t heard about this legend before, I’ve come to learn that the hotel being haunted is a notorious myth known throughout all of Hollywood.

 

Main Piece: “I’m not one hundred percent sure as to what exactly went down. But a bunch of famous people have died here and there are rumors that some people that stayed here had some crazy death soon after they checked out. Like some people have said they’ve seen ghosts roaming the halls or hear weird noises in their rooms. I don’t know, but you can just feel the eeriest vibes here. Just looking in from the outside you can tell something’s not right, you know?”

 

Analysis: This legend is a deeply rooted ghost story embedded in the history of Hollywood. While it doesn’t pertain to a specific culture or tradition, it’s embodied by the community of Los Angelenos.

 

general
Life cycle
Narrative

A Friendly Ghost

Context: While sitting with my family for our weekly Shabbat dinner, I decided to ask my family members if they’d ever had experiences with the supernatural. My mother shared a rather lovable encounter that had stuck with her for the last 29 years.

 

Background: The story takes place in 1989, about one year after my sister – her first child – was born. Her younger brother had suddenly passed away in 1985, one year before her wedding.

 

Main Piece: “She was almost 2 I think. Dad was always leaving really early in the morning and would work until late at night, so it was always just the two of us alone together in our old apartment. I was always so nervous around that time, I was scared to be alone with the baby because I had no idea what I was doing. That night I finally got her to go to bed after she was crying and crying for hours. Right after I put her down I was sitting in the rocking chair in her room and I was just thinking about [her brother], and I just thought to myself, I wonder what it would be like if he was here, I wonder if he would think I was a good mom. I kept thinking of what it would have been like if he had met her and seen me as a mommy. I remember I started dozing off and started imagining him standing with me and holding her in his arms, and at that exact moment, [my sister] started saying ‘agha, agha’, which is man in Farsi, and started pointing to the corner of the room. She only knew how to say a few words at the time, and I just remember I had goosebumps all over my body. It was as if she and I saw the same picture that I was imagining in my head. Or maybe he came to visit the both of us. I can’t tell you what happened that night, all I know is that there was no one else in that room, but it didn’t feel like it was just the two of us.”

 

Analysis: While this was not a typical “ghost story”, it definitely qualifies as some supernatural encounter. My mother has always been a very spiritual person, but always tried not to talk about death or the afterlife, and usually deflects when talking about her brother who had passed. It’s interesting to hear that individuals can still feel a supernatural presence. 

Childhood
Holidays
Legends
Narrative

The Witch’s House

Context: A friend and I were taking a walk through the residential area Beverly Hills. We passed by a landmark often referred to as “The Witch’s House”. We then began discussing the history of this house to the surrounding community, one that my friend was born and raised in. In the piece, my informant is identified as D.P., and I am identified as D.S.

 

Background: The Witch’s House sits in the middle of the Beverly Hills flats on Walden Drive. It looks as if it were straight out of a storybook. It was originally built in 1920 and was intended for a studio film, never for a resident. It’s stood on the corner of the street, untouched since then. However, the house has a different history for the surrounding community.

 

Main Piece:

DP: “This is honestly a defining characteristic of Beverly Hills for me. I love it. The first house I lived in was 2 houses down from it”

DS: “Were you not scared to go around it? It looks so spooky, I’d be so scared as a little kid”

DP: “It was definitely very spooky, but it’s just the greatest. Every Halloween night all the kids from the neighborhood would just know to meet on Walden by the Witch’s House at like 8. Everyone would bring shaving cream and all the kids would have a huge shaving cream fight on the street. All the parents would come out and hose off the kids afterwards because we were all covered.”

DS: “Does someone live in there?”

DP: “I’m pretty sure someone bought it at some point and remodeled the inside but made it a point to never touch the outside. I’m not sure if he actually lives out of the house but either way it’s the staple of this street for sure. It’s been in the background of so many movies too. I know it was in a scene of the movie Clueless”

DS: “Are there any scary stories or legends about it?”

DP: “As kids we all used to think that witches actually lived in there or that it was haunted, we were honestly scared to go around it, especially at night.”

 

Analysis: This point in Beverly Hills is one that brought a community together and remains the defining characteristic of the neighborhood and city as a whole. It’s a landmark that connects the locals to Hollywood while also ties together the surrounding neighborhood.

Legends

Ghost on MA-70

[The subject is PD. His words are bolded, mine are not.]

Context: PD is a college student from Massachusetts. He is Caucasian, of Irish-Catholic heritage, and has lived in the United States for his entire life. This story was told to a small group of people during a party, just after midnight, when the conversation had shifted to ghost stories.

PD: It was like… this is how I know it was definitely a ghost, because it was like 2 AM, like broad daylight, like I was driving from Clinton to Worcester, and like to get from Clinton to Worcester is like this ten mile stretch of like nothing but woods. Like no people, no houses, no nothin’… and I was like stuck behind this like 19-like 80s, 90s, like fuckin’, like a… it was like a Plymouth, like a car they don’t even like make anymore and shit. And the dude was going like 10 miles below the speed limit, and I was like fuckin’ pissed as shit. And like out of nowhere, the dude just like pulls over to the road, and like gets out of his car, and sprints and just like leaps over the fence and into the woods. And I’m like, ‘what the fuck was up with that?’ So ten seconds later I do a three point turn and turn around, dude’s gone, car is gone, I don’t know what in the fuck happened, but I asked my fuckin’ boss Emily, who’s like been in the parks department for like five hundred years, and she was like, “oh yeah, I’m pretty sure like a bunch of people died on route 70 back in the eighties before we started like improving it.” And I’m pretty sure I saw a ghost!

Thoughts: At the beginning of the story, I think PD meant to say it took place at 2 PM, since it was in broad daylight, and he was sure that this was a ghost because he could see it clearly. I noticed that this legend is very dependent on the modern time frame that it is set in, because the old style of car that the ghost was driving stood out to the storyteller, and connects to what Emily had said about the roads being unsafe in the eighties. I also found it interesting that the car the ghost was driving was said to be a Plymouth, since the story takes place in Massachusetts and Plymouth, Massachusetts is one of the oldest towns in the United States and is generally thought of as a place with lots of history and folklore, including ghost stories.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative
Signs

University of Texas’s Reappearing Ghost Face

Context:

My informant is a 18 year old student from the University of Southern California.This conversation took place at a cafe one evening. The informant and I were in an open space but sat alone. I know that my informant really loves horror movies and ghost stories but often says that she is unfazed by them, so I asked her if there were any ghost stories or urban legend back from home that she was familiar with or believed. In this account, she tells the story of a ghost that resides in the University of Texas, something that was told to her by her friends in middle school. My informant laughed a lot throughout our conversation, most likely due to the fact that she doesn’t believe in ghosts and thus found this story a bit ridiculous. In this transcription of out conversation, I am identified as K and she is identified as A.

 

Text:

A: So, I’m from Houston, and so obviously there’s the University of Texas, and there’s like this story about the Ewing Wing. So, um, the University of Texas, the property that they own now was once owned by a guy that would threaten to haunt his children when he died if they ever sold his property, but after he died his daughter sold the property anyway and it became Ewing Hall at UT, and so when it was finished, a face started to appear on, like, one of the floors and there are actually photos of it, and it kind of resembles the owners, and it’s real creepy and that’s that.

 

K: What do you think this story represents? Why do people continue to tell it?

 

A: Well, there is this part of the story I left out [laughs] where the wall… the face keeps showing up, like they kept repainting over it and sandblasting it, but the face kept coming back. Even when they removed that chunk of the wall to another floor, the face still came back… I think people keep telling this just because it’s creepy, you know? Creepy ghost persistence…

 

K: How did this affect the people around you?

 

A: I mean, my friends, or like people I know that do believe in ghosts think it’s kind of cool or they think it’s like creepy and they don’t want to go near the Ewing Wing.

 

Thoughts:

I ended up looking up this story and, as it turns out, this ghost is well known throughout Galveston, Texas. It resides at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) campus, and the story that I found is quite similar to what my informant told me. Legend says that the building is haunted by the ghost of the former land owner; while he was still alive, UTMB offered to purchase his property, but he refused. Before he died, he made his family promise to never sell the family land and to make sure the land is passed on for many generations. However, once he died, his family betrayed his dying wish and sold the property, which is what began the construction of Ewing Hall.

Ghost stories, and other various types of legends or folklore,  are told because it’s a way for people to provide an explanation for something that they cannot understand. Furthermore, the telling of a ghost story reinforces remembering the events of the past, reminding us of specific people and places. So, what is the explanation for the ghost’s face that keeps reappearing, in spite of the efforts to completely get rid of it? It’s to remind us of the man who owned the land and instill guilt in us, the family who sold the land, and even the people of UTMB because they betrayed the owner’s wish. His reappearing face is a literal reminder of his existence, and it also serves as a warning function. Often times, ghost stories are told to shoo people away because most people choose not to live or be in a place that has a reputation of being haunted. We can see this as being true, for my informant admits that though many of her friends that believed in ghosts thought that this story was cool, it still made them fearful and not want to go near the Ewing Wing where they thought they could encounter the ghost.

 

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

The Ghost of Andy’s Market Hill

Context:

My informant is a 18 year old student from the University of Southern California (USC). This conversation took place one night at Cafe 84, a place where many students at USC go to study at night. The informant and I sat alone at our own table, but were in an open space where there was a lot of background noise. In this account, she tells the story of a ghost from a market in her hometown of Apple Valley, Minnesota. She learned this story in middle school via work of mouth, and stated that everyone in her town knew about it because they had all been to the market before. In this transcription of her folklore, where she is identified as P.

 

Text:

P: Okay, so in my town of Apple Valley, Minnesota, there used to be this gas station that everyone called Andy’s Market, but in high school it turned into a Super America… it’s like a chain gas station in Minnesota… but when I was younger it was like a local gas station and then the little, uh, convenience store by it was called Andy’s Market. Right next to Andy’s Market, there was this huge hill. My town is extremely flat, so this was, like, the place that a lot of kids went to go sledding in winter time. But also on this hill were archery… targets?… Basically places to practices archery, where there were targets.

 

So, this was a story that I heard in middle school. Anyways, the story goes that one day, a little girl was sledding on the hill and someone was practicing archery at the same time. And just as [laughs], just as she slid down the hill, an arrow… Someone was pulling the arrow back… I don’t even know the proper terminology, and the arrow goes through her eyes. So anyways, she died, and the story goes that she haunts Andy’s Market Hill. So people say that the only kids sledding on the hill can hear her and see her, but she floats around with an arrow through her head and calls out for her mom… That’s my folklore! [laughs]

 

Thoughts:

I found it strange that among all the follow up questions I asked her, not a single one of her responses mentioned anything about people ghost-hunting for the girl, or people suddenly avoiding Andy’s Market Hill in attempt to stay away from this haunted area. In my conversation with the informant afterwards, I asked her what this story meant to her. She told me that the story stood out to her personally because it “just seems too perfect… like, just as she was sledding down a hill, at that exact moment she gets hit by an arrow.” But aside from being skeptical of just how realistic this story was, she told me that she believes people like it because Andy’s Market Hill is something that everyone in her town drives past or walks past everyday, so they feel personally connected to the story. She admitted that her feelings on the story may seem morbid to many people because, personally, it makes her happy that there’s a story that ties everyone together: “It makes our town seem smaller and more interconnected, which I love.”

So perhaps one function of ghost stories that we don’t consider is it’s power to connect people and solely to connect people. Ghost stories often are used to remind us of our past wrongdoings, perhaps to teach us a lesson, or even serve as warning, often deterring us from going to the “haunted” location. Yet, in this case, Andy’s Market Hill does none of these things. It seems to simply be a story that is passed on among young kids as chatter; it’s something that they can all relate to and understand. It’s a story that’s all inclusive, and inclusivity is vital for a young child to feel. Andy’s Market Hill is an example of how ghost stories can be used to help kids fit in with the crowd and make them a part of an “in-group” that is often not easy for younger kids to find.

 

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