Tag Archives: ghost story

Ghost Story in Primary School

Background: The interviewer and the informant went to the same primary school together in Qingdao, China. Interview asks the informant to retell a horror story that was very popular in their primary school. 

Informant: So next to the gate there was this statue of a woman, she’s playing a harp. And a long time ago there was this girl who stayed in school for longer than usual, cuz you know, she was on duty to clean the common areas in the hall. She was about to leave and she’s the only one left, and when she passed by that statue, she saw the statue woman blink. Then all of a sudden she really wanted to pee, so she went back into the building, to pee of course. Ok she didn’t go into the building, she went to that small restroom near the playground, you know where that is. She got in there, saw a janitor, and that person was wearing a hat and cleaning the floor. She didn’t bother and went in to pee. Then when she’s finished, she couldn’t get out! There was an air wall that blocked her way. Then… she never got out.

Context: This story was really popular in this particular primary school. Almost every student who went there has heard of the story. The interviewer and the informant first heard of the story when they were in second or third grade. Some people heard it from their classmates, and a few heard it from the older fifth and sixth graders. 

Analysis: The statue mentioned in the story was situated near the school gate and near a small school garden. There is a very shallow pool in the garden, and first and second graders are usually prohibited from going into the garden. I think this story serves as a cautionary tale masked with a mysterious, horror element. The physical location of the statue is at a liminal point—beyond the statue is prohibited and possibly dangerous. The girl in the story is in danger when she sees the statue, and when the impact of this terror is translated into real life, young school kids may be deterred by the statue and areas around it. This explains why the story was popular especially among younger kids. For the fifth and sixth graders, the garden and the school gate are no longer dangerous to them. The mystery and threats in the garden lose their attractions, and subsequently the tale is no longer scary. 

Ghosts and Murderers on a Bus

Background: The interviewer and the informant recall a ghost story that circulated in their primary school in Qingdao, China. 

Interviewer: Can you retell that Beijing bus story?

Informant: Yep. There’s umm there’s a guy, and he went on a bus. umm and then the bus got to a station, and then several people came onto the bus, and then suddenly there’s an old grandma walking towards him. And she sort of forced him to get off the bus. He said, this isn’t my station yet. That grandma didn’t give a damn and was like, pulling him off of the bus. And then after they got off, she said to him, those guys that just got on, they were ghosts, you see, they don’t have feet……and then the next day he picked up a newspaper, he found that the bus rushed into a mountain valley, and everyone on that bus died. He felt like he passed the gate of hell ‘cause that grandma literally saved his life.

Interview: Ohh I remember those guys wore Qing Dynasty robes too, like the ones Qing zombies wore on TV!

Informant: Yep yep yep, and oh yeah then the next day when the police found the bus, they opened the gas tank and it was filled with blood…

Interviewer: whooo I still get chills listening to this story…

Informant: Yeah and I heard it was adapted from a true crime story. 

Interviewer: Oh really? I think xxx told me that story the first time, but then two years later I saw something very similar on Baidu Tieba [note: a popular blog site, the Chinese equivalence of Reddit]. 

Informant: Yeah yeah I saw the post too. It really blew up everywhere hahaha. I forgot where I heard about the true crime version, but it was actually a murder case. I think it was a guy, he also was taking a bus ride, and then a few other guys went onto the bus too, and then it was still an old woman who pulled him off of that bus. It was like she saw blood on those guys, and they probably just killed somebody, and they were trying to ditch the body or something like that. Anyways the next day the bus rushed into a valley too. Basically they controlled the bus driver and hijacked the bus, but it lost control and fell down the road.

Analysis: This was a very popular story among fourth and fifth graders in this primary school. I think the reason its horror works particularly well for this demographics is because that bus was the most common form of transportation for students at that age. It serves as a metaphorical cautionary tale to alert the young students of the danger with riding the bus alone. 

This is also interesting, because the ghost story is created on the basis of an urban legend. The two versions are essentially the same story, but with slightly different elements. This shows that folk tales are very prone to variation and multiplicity.

An American Ghost Story

“There was a man who lived in a house in the middle of the woods. There weren’t any neighbors. I don’t remember where it was. It was like the middle of America. So he was getting construction done, they wanted to build like another house for their wife and the construction workers were having problems because there was always this girl like who kept showing up. And they would be like “Hey you know you need to leave. You need to get out of here. You need to leave.” 

And one day they like went up to him and they were like, “Hey sir, you need to tell your daughter to like stay in the house.” Like and he’s like, “Oh that’s not our daughter she visits from time to time.” And they were like, “Oh, what the frick?” Because there’s no houses around there or anything you know. 

Anyways, so the guy’s grandson goes to stay at their house, um after like everything is done. And he’s like sleeping in the living room kitchen area, all the lights are off. And at like five in the morning he hears like the light turn on and someone’s in the kitchen and he’s like, “Oh that’s weird, Imma go check it out.” Um cuz it’s like the same kind of room. And like he goes in the kitchen and the light turns off and he sees somebody walking in a white dress. And so he thinks it’s his grandmother… or grandfather, he can’t really see them and so he goes back to bed. And then wakes up in the morning and is like, “Grandfather why were up so late like what… like what were you doing?” and he was like, “Oh that wasn’t me like, that was like”… I don’t know what he named her like Tiffany or something and he’s like, “Who’s Tiffany?” and he’s like, “Oh she’s a ghost who visits from time to time.” 

Like what the?”

Context: The piece was collected during a casual at-home interview. I knew the informant loves horror films and ghost stories so I asked her to tell me her favorite ghost story. 

Background: The informant is my twenty-two year old sister. She learned this piece from someone she used to date. She and the person who originally told her the story live in San Diego, California. She is an avid metal and alternative music fan with a love of body modifications including tattoos and piercings as well as horror films. She claims the story functions for her as evidence for the existence of ghosts.

Analysis: I find this ghost story to be especially ominous because so many components (for example, the girl’s back story, how the grandfather knows her and why he isn’t afraid) are unexplained. Although the transcript may not reflect this, the story was told in a very similar manner as you might expect to hear gossip from a close friend or sister. Surprisingly, the tale is not cautionary. The little girl doesn’t really do anything grossly disruptive nor does she demand vengeance for past events, but rather simply asserts her presence. Instead of justifying the ghost’s existence or its purpose, the story merely asserts that supernatural forces exist whether you choose to view them as such. The characters’ reactions are contrasted with the grandfather’s seemingly calm demeanor, suggesting that the more common reaction is fear of the supernatural. Since the initial assumption of the construction crew and grandson were that the ghost was not supernatural but rather was a real person, the audience’s potential skepticism is addressed. All of these elements are heightened by the storyteller’s fervent belief in the veracity of the story which serves to reproduce the belief.   

The Ensworth Ghost

Main Piece:

Informant: Ok, so like this woman’s children’s birthday, she had twin girls. A day before their birthday, she had gone missing. And there was no word from her, no anything. And this was right around the time my school was building our theatre. They were just putting the foundation down and everything. And a few weeks later they had traces that led them believing her body remains were in the foundation of our theater hall. And they later convicted her husband of murdering her and burying her remains in the foundation of the school. And so they say that her spirit still walks the halls. And so, sometimes, when teachers are there all alone, or on Saturdays, or even janitors, they’ll hear the elevator rise and open, even when nobody is in. And they’ll hear someone will go from their office to the elevator, and they’ll have to rise the elevator again, even though it was already risen before. And so, it’s little things like that, like doors slamming.

And so one time in my science class, the door was open and all of a sudden the door slammed shut. And this kid goes, “Oh that’s our friendly ghost.” But he didn’t know there actually was a ghost there.” And the teacher was like, “how do you know about her?” Kinda like joking around. And he was like, “Oh, yea. Me and Janet are best friends.” And then my teacher looked at him and said, “how do you know her name?” And he was like, “what do you mean?” Because at first he was kidding around and made up the name Janet. And it turns out, that was the ghost’s name.

Interviewers has to come in : No way.

Informant: And so, without even knowing there was an actual ghost there, he had named her her exact name. And the rest of the science class was weirded out by that. But that’s when my teacher began to tell us about all the different little things that would happen, like doors opening and shutting, elevators going up and down, or wood creaking on the stairs when nobody is there, or lights shutting on and off. And so that is the story of our friendly ghost.

Background:

The informant is a fourteen-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in eighth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. We were in the garage when I asked if she knew any interesting stories or legends. She told me about a ghost that is said to haunt her middle school.

Thoughts:

Not only did the ghost story arise during building construction, it is an urban legend that haunts a middle school, a transitional time for students. New teachers. New peers. New School. Legends have the ability to provide meaning in a chaotic social environment. The role of spirits play a large part in our culture, challenging our perceptions of linear time and dimension. Spirits have also been seen as a way of changing mentalities and conflicts that appear between theology and popular thought. They are a reflection of our own social insecurities and change that remains incomprehensible. Ultimately, legends and supernatural phenomena become a way of coping and interpreting the unknown and dealing with situations that remain beyond human control. 

Haunted Tunnel in Japan

Context:

The informant is a 23 year old Japanese male. He was born in Nagoya, Japan where he spent the first half of his life. When he was 13, he came to the United States to attend high school and has been living in California ever since. The informant currently resides in Inglewood, CA and works in animation.

There is a certain tunnel in Japan, I forget where it is, but it goes through a mountain and it’s haunted. There is a story that gets told a lot of a man driving his car and on his way to the tunnel. And he know about the tunnel, he knows that people say that it’s haunted. He’s not someone who really believes in ghost stories and therefore he proceeds. He’s halfway in and nothing has happened. 

So he thinks to himself:

Of course, all those ghost stories were fake. There’s no such thing as spirits.

And as soon as he thinks that, he hears a lot of banging on the side of his car! And he’s terrified. And his car stops. The thumping stops as well. He tries to start his car and turn it around for about 10 minutes, and there is nothing. He is absolutely terrified. But after 10 minutes, his car starts again and he is able to keep going. Later on, he goes to a gas station, and in Japan, gas station attendants fill up your car. The gas station attendant is wiping down the body of the car (they also clean your car), and he tells the man: 

Sir, you have a lot of handprints on your car.

The guy gets out himself and he notices that there are millions of handprints all around his car, and is shaken. The attendant is cleaning, and wants to make sure that it’s spotless, says to the man.

You have one handprint that I cannot get to, because it is inside your car…

And that’s the end of the story.

Analysis:

This is your typical ghost story; they can be found in nearly every culture. Some of them revolve around a certain person, specific time, and/or place. This ghost story is very location specific. They can be based on real life events, for example the informant said that they think that the tunnel was once surrounded by a city, but the citizens may have died in some tragic way, though they weren’t sure themselves. It is difficult to find the root of truth in a ghost story, because they are so eagerly shared, be that around campfires, sleepovers, power outages, etc., that people change the story every time they tell it to make it even scarier. The informant did not remember where exactly this tunnel is located, possibly because over time, that detail was omitted so that the story would be applied to multiple tunnels, therefore more easily frightening the listeners.

Campfire story-The Ghost With One Black Eye

Background: My informant grew up in a small town in Michigan in the 70s. Growing up, her friends would often sit around bonfires and tell stories. She tells me this is one of her favorite campfire jokes because you think it’s going to be a scary story, but it actually turns out to be a joke, which usually makes it funnier because people are expecting to be scared.  She tells me the joke is told at the campfire as if it’s something that happened to you at a different campfire. We sit in her living room as she tells me the story.

Main text:

“So we were all sitting around the fire, just like this”

She motions to the campfire we were pretending was in between us 

“And suddenly we all heard ‘I am the ghost with one. Black. Eye’”

She uses a deep ghostly voice for the part of the ghost

“Everyone looked around in shock like ‘what?! What was that?!’”

She says this part in a hushed tone

“Then we heard it again ‘I am the ghost with one. Black. Eye’ only this time it was louder”

She continues to speak in a hushed tone except when she does the ghost’s voice

“And then it gets closer, ‘I am the ghost with one. Black. Eye!’  by now everyone is shivering”

She makes a shivering sound

“Closer and closer, louder and louder, we kept hearing it. ‘I am the ghost with one. black . eye! I AM THE GHOST WITH ONE. BLACK. EYE’”

She gets louder

“And all of a sudden it’s right behind us  ‘I AM THE GHOST WITH ONE. BLACK. EYE!’ and I stood up and I shouted ‘IF YOU DON’T SHUT UP YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE GHOST WITH TWO BLACK EYES!’”

She starts laughing 

Analysis: As she was telling me this joke, I could tell it was important to her. She would smile to herself in the middle of sentences as if she was reliving her childhood sitting around campfires. While I did find the joke to be funny, I agree with her that part of the reason the punchline is so impactful is that you get caught up in the fear of there being a ghost that you aren’t expecting it to turn out to be a big joke. Sitting around a fire at night would have made it more impactful than sitting in her living room, but nonetheless the voices she used for the characters and the intensity in telling the story made it a very successful joke.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.