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

Marjorie Jackson’s House

Context & Analysis

The subject, my mother, and I were getting coffee for breakfast and I asked her if she could tell me some stories about her childhood. The subject’s father (who has recently passed away) was a history professor in the Midwest. The family moved frequently because of this, which made it difficult for them to settle in a single area for too long. The subject stated that this was one of the most memorable urban legends, or ghost stories, that she knew of as a teenager living in Indiana. This legend is a classic example of the ‘neighborhood haunted house’ and also happened to be a traceable true story that was of large international interest. According to usatoday.com, Marjorie Jackson—an heiress to the Standard Grocery Chain—hid as much as $15 million in various places in her home—“in closets, toolboxes, garbage cans and vacuum cleaner bags” (usatoday.com). In 1977, Jackson was killed when two burglars broke into her home and shot her in the stomach. It is interesting that the subject did not point out the infamous nature of this story in her narrative, instead presenting it as an urban legend. While the “hole” aspect of the story seems to be more of an embellishment, the rest of her account aligns with the documented case of Jackson’s murder in 1977.

(Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/09/21/murdered-heiress-mystery/72590690/)

Main Piece

“When I was in high school there was this house that a lady was murdered in; her name was Marjorie Jackson, um, and the house…so people went in—supposedly she hid money in her walls and under her mattresses and stuff and she didn’t have any money in the bank so she hid it all over her house, so supposedly people [burglars] came in and after they heard those rumors and they killed her and there were holes all over the walls. So, like, me and my friends sometimes [laughs] would go to the house because nobody wanted to buy it so we would sneak in there and there really were holes all over and it was probably not safe to go in there cuz it was kind of [laughs] condemned. That was Marjorie Jackson’s house.”

Legends

Legend: The Shadow

I discovered this legend when researching unique legends online. The following is the quoted legend from online.

“The Shadow”

“I didn’t know that’s what it was called until much later. I was living in a house in Laguna Beach that had been there since the 1920s. In it’s history, it had been a speakeasy, a brothel and a house for smuggling illegal immigrants.

One day, my new wife and I were having an argument. I can’t even recall what it was about. She walked down the block to get a cup of coffee and cool off, and I was alone in the house. The way the place was built was incredibly haphazard. There was a bedroom and living room on one side, then a bathroom with two entrances. On the other side of the bathroom was a hallway that had windows in one side and two bedrooms on the other. From my bedroom, I could look across the hall into the bathroom, then through the bathroom and down the other hall. I was standing at my dresser, and I just noticed movement out the corner of my eye, and looked down there. There was… and honest to god, this gives me goose bumps just typing it, 17 years later, a black figure. It was maybe three feet tall, and it was only vaguely humanoid. It looked like black scribbles, like someone had scribbled a human shape, but the scribbles moved, like electricity arcing, that’s the best way to describe it.

There was no sound that I could remember. I distinctly remember when I saw it I wasn’t afraid, just like, WTF? Then it noticed me looking at it. I can’t say it turned around, it just, focused on me I guess. THEN I was scared. I didn’t move, didn’t scream, nothing, I was just frozen, because it just fucking came at me, it RUSHED down the hall towards me. I have no idea what it intended, but as soon as it entered the bathroom, the door closest to me just SLAMMED shut on it. I screamed. I yelled for my wife. She wasn’t home. I went the fuck outside, into the daylight, and didn’t go back in until she got home about 10 minutes later.

I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe I saw something supernatural, but I know I saw something. I don’t know what it was.”

Analysis:

I found this legend especially interesting because I am from Laguna Beach and found personal interest in the ghost story taking place in my hometown. There is a similar styled home in my neighbor that is also rumored to be haunted. It is one of the oldest homes in Laguna Beach and has its own lighthouse and saltwater swimming pool that is embedded in the actual rocks. I visited this home once and immediately felt it had an eerie atmosphere. To this day, whenever I pass the home I still continually feel that strange, supernatural element to it. I therefore found this legend extremely relatable and am curious of its origins. It would be interesting to know if perhaps the teller of the legend lived in the same home I saw or a different one.

Website Citation: For other similar ghost legends, visit the following URL where this legend was originally published:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/Mandatory/ghost-stories_b_8296528.html

Tales /märchen

El Siblon: A Latin Tale

I discovered this tale while researching and reading about interesting Latin legends, myths, and tales. This one is titled “El Siblon,” which translates to “The Whistler.” Below is quoted material from the website, explaining the story and its few variations.

Tale:

“The story always starts with a son killing his father. One version states that this son returning home one day found his father abusing his beautiful young wife. This so angered him he killed is father. Another, more disconcerting version states this son was a “spoiled brat” whose every wish was catered to by his parents. One afternoon he demands his father hunt for a deer—his favorite meat. But when the father does not find a deer and returns empty handed his son kills him and cuts out his heart and liver. He then has his mother cook them for dinner. The mother finding this meat is tough starts to suspect something amiss. She discovers these organs are her own husband’s innards and curses her son for eternity. At this point most versions of this story become similar. The mother fetches a male relative—in most versions the grandfather—and he ties the son to a tree—he then whips him—he finishes by rubbing lemon or hot peppers into the son’s wounds. The grandfather then unleashes a vicious dog and orders it to go after the grandson. This dog pursues the son relentlessly. His mother’s curse transforms the son into a ghost. He is condemned to wander the plains carrying a sack of bones on his back. Some versions state these are the bones of his father, other state these are the bones of his victims. His ghost is described as being disproportionally skinny and extremely tall. He towers over treetops with his bag of bones slung over his back. The vicious dog chases him constantly nipping at his heels. He wears a tattered white suit and a wide brimmed hat. It is said that few people who have seen him have lived to tell about it. His ghost is known as The Whistler because of a tune he is heard whistling—the basic seven notes, do, re, me, fa, so la, ti. He whistles these notes slowly and draws each one out. A warning given is his whistle is deceptive. It is said that when people hear his tune up close they are actually safe for this means he is far away but if they hear him from afar they best beware for he is actually close by. It is often mentioned his ghost hunts down cruel men who cheat on their wives. His ghost also attacks drunks when they are fast asleep. A gruesome detail shared states his ghost uncovers their belly buttons and then sucks until the alcohol comes out of them.”

Analysis:

This tale stood out to me because it was fascinating reading of the slight variations of the story, without knowing how or why these variations came to be. It is purely a folk tale because of this multiplicity and variation, ranging from both the most specific to the broadest change in the narrative. I think it is especially important with tales, myths, and legends, to understand and take note of these variations, seeing how the story has evolved over time and hypothesizing how it came to vary and multiply.

Website Citation: For a more thorough analysis of this specific tale, go to the URL: https://seeksghosts.blogspot.com/2014/06/el-silbon-whistler.html

 

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.

general
Legends

The Mean Ghost

The following informant is a stay at home mom from Upland. Here she is describing interactions her good friend had with a mean ghost in their home. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as KA and I am identified as K:

KA: Okay so my girlfriend is telling me about this ghost story that she lived in this house in Fontana and there was this ghost and he was like a mean ghost because he would like… it would be scary, you know, things would break and weird noises and stuff. and i think it was an old man that had died there, so she said that they got used to him, but it was not a nice ghost. and i think it was either in the garage or house, but he was there, and so they just lived with it

K: did they ever try to move or do anything about it?

KA: no they never tried nothing

K: do they think it was the previous owner?

KA: I think so, I think it was someone that probably lived there and died and he did not want to pass on to the other life so he stayed there . And she told me that and I was like what, no, but she said no we have a ghost. and I’m like okay

K: so did you believe her story?

KA: oh yeah, I believed her, I believe in ghosts, yeah most definitely they are out there. there are good ghosts and there are the ones that don’t want you in their… they feel like it’s their house, their ownership and you’re in their house so yeah

Context: The informant told me this story while we were sitting on her couch having a conversation at night, and as she was telling me the lights in her house actually started to flicker and make that buzzing noise.

Thoughts:

I’ll be honest, I did not have much to say about this piece, frankly because I was little scared. She was telling this story at night and like her, I don’t necessarily believe wholeheartedly in ghosts, but as she tells me, the lights flickered and made noise, and I genuinely thought she brought that ghost into her house. It was a very strange experience, but it reminded me of the idea that you don’t have to fully believe in something to know something is not right. Like not believing a house is haunted but still not wanting to walk through it.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Magnolia Elementary School – Haunted House

The following informant is a 20 year old college student from Upland. Here she is describing a haunted house that is behind her elementary school, Magnolia Elementary School. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as GA and I am identified as K:

GA: There is this haunted house at my school, um… by the playground, and some kids would be like talking about how there was someone who like died, who lived there, and like when it was like night at the school, it would be like haunted and stuff like that. You could hear weird noises and things would fall or move, things like that.

K: Did you ever go and explore the house?

GA: No I was too scared, but some of my friends went, we were in like 5th grade, and they heard and saw things. It was mostly kids in my grade wanting to explore and they told me about it because it was located right behind us/

K: Did anything happen to them?

GA: No, nothing bad, they just got really freaked out, maybe they did encounter the spirit of the guy that lived there

K: Did you believe what they told you about the house?

GA: Yes and no, I am always a little skeptical when it comes to ghost stories, but it did frighten me enough not to go to the house.

Context: She told me this while we were sitting at her dining room table one evening.

Thoughts:

I too am similar to GA, in the sense that I can be a little skeptical of ghost stories and haunted houses, however I think it is important to point out that regardless of the fact that she did not fully believe the house was haunted she still avoided it, almost like better safe than sorry. She did not have to accept the supernatural to understand that something weird was going on.

general
Legends

Creepy Closet

The following informant is a manager at a large electric utility company in Southern California. Here he is describing a legend about ghost that inhabited a closet in a bedroom he shared as a child with his brother. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as T and I am identified as K:

T: When I was a child, maybe 8 or 9 years-old, my sister who was a little older told me and my brother about someone who had died in the house and that he lived in the attic above our bedroom. Because there was an opening in our closet to the attic, we always thought this ghost was trying to get in or out of the closet.

K: Did you believe your sister when she told you this story?

T: Heck yea, and from then on, we could never sleep with the closet door open.

K: Did you think closing the door would protect you?

T: Probably not, but it was better than leaving it open and waking up in the middle of the night to see a ghost in the closet.

K: What was the opening in your closet to the attic?

T: There was an opening in the ceiling of the attic that was closed with a lid. You could open the lid and gain access to the attic. One day, my brother and I gathered enough courage to climb up there and open the lid. Because I was older, I ended up opening the lid and looking but I didn’t see anything.

K: Did you ever actually see a ghost?

T: Never, but it didn’t matter. The thought of seeing a ghost was enough to instill fear for a long time. We did once have someone attempt to break into our house through our bedroom window at night and at first, I thought it was the ghost making noise. The robber got spooked and ran away. After that, I really couldn’t sleep thinking about a ghost in the closet and a robber at the window. I had some rough nights sleeping as a child.

K: Do you believe there is a ghost up there?

T: Definitely not, and I even recently went up there to take a look with a powerful flashlight. There was nothing up there except an attic. I did have my doubts as a child, but I always convinced myself that it wasn’t real. Regardless, I would always close the closet door.

Context: The informant told me this tale while we were sitting on his couch talking about scary stories as a child. He recalled this story and indicated he had forgotten all about the closet ghost until telling it now.

Thoughts:

Similar to the informant, I don’t believe in ghosts, but it is important to note that he changed his behavior as a result of the folklore. Although he was adamant he did not believe in ghosts, he still closed the closet door. This precautionary action likely made him feel better and probably allowed him to sleep easier. It was interesting how a robber was initially mistaken for the ghost, and he used the term “spooked” to describe why the robber ran away. It felt like in an unusual way, this fictitious ghost may have provided protection in his mind and possibly create a benevolent aspect to the ghost.

Childhood
Legends
Narrative

Asuang

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.

 

 

 

 

Childhood
Legends
Narrative

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.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

La Llorona

Main Piece:

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

ZM: Any legends? Is there like a New Mexican legend that you…?

KM: Oh! Yes. Indeed. So, there’s this legend. I can’t pronounce it for the life of me.

ZM: Could you spell it?

KM: Yes. So, it’s “la,” like la and then space, “ll.” Actually…it’s on my phone. (laughs) lemme… Okay, so it’s “la,” space, “llorona,” like La Lallorona or something like that. They roll their r’s or something that I can’t do. So, basically there’s this um, legend that this woman, um, took her kids (chuckles) This is scary. So, uh she took her kids like from her house and like drowned them in the river. Yeah. So, and that like… her kids and were like screaming the whole night and like… OH NO NO no. I think it’s… Her kids were screaming so much that she like took them to the river and drowned them. So, the legend is when you… like um… The winds in New Mexico, in the spring, are like really bad, like they’re like fifty miles an hour. Like crazy. And so the legend is, when you hear the like really fast wind. Like the scream from the wind, it’s the scream of her kids. And um, stay away from rivers. So, like the whole thing is like if you’re near an arroyo, which is what we call a ditch…

ZM: (obviously lost)

KM: You know those ditches that like…

ZM: On the side of roads?

KM: Not really. They’re kind of like… um… They’re like where rain water goes, but they’re like pretty deep.

ZM: But they’re not on the side of roads?

KM: Sometimes they are, but not necessarily.

ZM: Are you talking about like natural ones?

KM: Yeah. Like natural ones.

ZM: I’m sorry. Florida doesn’t have much… variation in… (laughs)

KM: So, I have one behind my house and it’s basically like… it’s lower in elevation so all the water goes there and then it goes under the road. So, I guess it’s kind of near the road. And it like drains to like a river.

ZM: whaaaa. hunh

KM: So, it’s kind of like a stream, but it’s only when rain…

ZM: I feel like this is a language barrier. It’s like a land barrier. Like, I’m not exposed to these land forms.

KM: But anyway, so when you go to like an arroyo and you hear the wind scream. It’s like La Lallorona is coming for you and you have to like go in your house or she’s gonna kill you.

ZM: Is that just kids or is that everyone?

KM: It’s mostly just kids. Like, parents tell their kids these stories so they won’t be near the arroyo at night.

 

Context: This is from a conversation with KM about her New Mexican culture.

 

Background: KM is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. KM was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Analysis: I thought it was interesting that this version still contained the classic “Stay away from rivers” message, but also more specifically to stay away from arroyos at night. This is a geographic marker because arroyos are only found in arid and semi-arid climates.

 

[geolocation]