USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘ghost story’

A Ghost in Grass Valley

Informant JM is 58 years old and recounted the story of a paranormal encounter she experienced ~10 years ago:

Have you ever experienced anything that you would consider to be of supernatural origins?

“Only once. Never before and never since but I will always remember that night”

So what happened?

“Well I was in my room getting ready for bed. All of a sudden I felt the room grow eerily cold. I thought it was a bit odd but continued to undress and sat on the bed to take off my socks. Upon doing so I felt the cold presence to my immediate right and upon turning saw, *shivers* wow this gives me chills just thinking about it. I saw a depression in the bed next to me as if someone were sitting next to me. Not knowing the intentions of this spirit I yelled at the top of my lungs ‘Go! Get out! Be gone with you!!’ and closed my eyes. After a moment or two I felt the cold dissipate and upon opening my eyes saw the depression was no longer there.”

Did your opinion regarding the existence of the paranormal changed after this experience?

“Well prior to this encounter I’d say I believed that ghosts existed sure, but having never experienced an encounter first hand and not knowing any immediate family or friends that had, I was certainly a bit skeptical. After that experience, I know now without a shred of doubt that ghosts or some form of spirit form definite exist. I cannot think of a single other rational explanation for what I experienced that night.”

What context would you share your experience in?

“At first, I shared it with literally anyone that would listen. I was equal parts excited and terrified by what I had experienced. In the years since though I only tend to bring it up when someone asks about my ghost encounter or the conversation shifts towards the talk of ghosts. ”

How did people react to your experience?  

“People tend to get pretty freaked out by it. They sometimes ask whether I thought it was going to harm he. Now I am not sure what the intentions of this spirit were, but be they benign or malignant the coldness of its presence definitely gave me an uneasy feeling leading to my prompt response of telling it to leave”


Analysis: This story possesses a couple motifs common to ghost stories. One such example is that it occurs at night. Another aspect of this story common to several stories I’ve read or been told is the association of the presence of a ghost with coldness. A unique aspect of this story is that the ghost in no way made itself directly heard or seen; it was only because of the drop in temperature and the depression it left in the bed that JM was even aware of its presence. The ghost itself was not visible or audible. While neither JM or anyone else would be able to determine the intentions of the ghost, be they simple curiosity or something more malicious, the fact that it reacted to her yells for it to leave is another interesting component of this particular encounter.


Two Mirrors

The informant, NVS,is a junior at the University of Southern California majoring in social sciences and psychology. She is from Los Angeles, California, and is of Croatian and Italian descent. This is her memorate regarding a family ghost:


“So my family and I- I was raised as a Catholic and my entire family is Catholic. We are not super strict, but we do go to church and we do follow most beliefs within Catholicism. However, when we experienced- I guess you could call it a supernatural experience- within our house, it changed certain beliefs of ours. Of course we’re still Catholic today but we know have more of an open mind when it comes to certain things.

A little bit of background on our house: our house was the original house that my parents moved into before my siblings and I were born. There was a prior owner to the house. My parents kept the original format of the house until they remodeled it 8-10 years ago.

So one day, my mom was working around the house and she kept hearing these noises around the house. She didn’t think it was a big deal. She thought maybe that it was our dad doing things around the house but then she would realize “oh wait, I’m home alone!”

So she would hear footsteps and knocks, but she’s not the kind of person who gets scared easily. She didn’t think much of it until the situation started to…progress. Not in a bad way, it just became more intense. It wasn’t to the point where she couldn’t stand it, it was more like “okay, there’s something here but I can’t quite understand what it is.” She would always get the sense that someone was watching her, not in a negative way, just the feeling that something was with her and that she was not alone in the house. My mom would experience these things even when we were babies. I’d say it started when they first moved in- it started a long, long time ago. Once she had us it started to get more intense. When my parents remodeled the house, more stuff started happening even more frequently and I think it had to do with the renovation of the house because the original parts of the house were altered.

So one day…it’s kind of funny because my dad doesn’t believe in any kind of supernatural phenomena or ghosts or anything. He’s more science based, like “prove it to me scientifically, and then I’ll believe it”. He’s very close minded to THAT kind of stuff. My mom was not bothered by it, she accepted it. My sister and I-when we were little kids- we noticed things too, but my mother never talked to us about it. We approached her, actually, with the same things she experienced and that’s when she confirmed with us that she was hearing these things too. One of the big things was that we would always here, like, someone always calling our names? Ever so slightly. When I was little, I would always here my name being called out- it was actually my nickname that only my family uses! One day, it sounded like my dad calling me, but my dad wasn’t home. This actually happened many times, always when my dad was out of the house. So I think we established that it was this male energy in our house- not a bad energy, but we could sense that it was a male presence. You can just feel it.

My mom, my sister and I, the three of us- it’s kind of funny, just the girls in the family would experience these things. But my dad never experienced them, maybe because he was so close-minded or maybe even because he was male. Up until he finally saw it for himself.

I want to say this happened recently, a year or two ago. My dad was walking through the living room. The only original part of the house that we never changed was the living room. There were, at both ends of the room, two mirrors facing each other. We never thought too much of it until these things started to happen. It’s said that two mirrors facing each other is not the greatest idea…I’ve heard that it can open up a portal to somewhere else, some kind of dimension. I don’t know how I feel about that, but it’s something I’ve always heard. My dad was going about his business through the house that day when he saw, no joke, an apparition- not even an apparition, a full person! A solid person, literally to the point where he could describe to us later what he looked like. He had brown, curly hair, a green polo shirt, pants and everything- but the one thing he said that was odd was that this figure didn’t have feet! Whatever my dad saw, was clearly an apparition of some kind, not a real person.

But- no joke! He saw someone, or something. And my dad is not the type of person to make anything like this up. I have never seen him so scared and so in shock in my life- he didn’t talk to anyone for like a couple of days! That’s how shocked he was. And then he came to us saying, “This is what happened, this is what I saw.” And my mom just accepted it, like, “we know already!” It’s interesting how the women in the family experienced similar things and then my dad, who was completely closed off to belief in the supernatural, had the most extreme encounter out of all of us.

Small things continue to happen in our house. In terms of talking back to them, I never get a response. If I go throughout the house looking for the source of the voice, no one is ever there. We took one mirror down after what happened to my dad. This didn’t completely get rid of the sounds we hear around the house, but we definitely notice a difference in the level of how much it occurs- it’s not as intense.

Later we found out- and this is really interesting- that my dad’s description of the man fit the previous owner of the house’s appearance to a T. He died, I don’t know if it was in the house, but her died of natural causes…we asked our neighbors about the house. They have lived there forever, even before anyone else, and they knew more about our house’s history than we did. When my dad described what happened to him, they pulled out a picture of the man who had lived there before us and he was identical to my dad’s vision. We assume that what he saw was the ghost of the original owner of the house, and he was still attached to the house. The renovations we did seemed to spark something- I don’t think they made him angry. I think he just wanted to let us know that he was there with us, kind of watching out for us.

What does this story/experience mean to you?

This experience, for all four of us, made us more open-minded to encounters with the unknown or the unfamiliar. We now truly feel that there are things out there that we can’t fully understand that may be greater than us. They’re not necessarily bad things- they can also be there to protect us, or simply coexist alongside us. Knowing exactly who it is- the previous owner of the home- makes us more comfortable with the situation.

What kind of people have you shared this story with? Is it more of a private family story?

Honestly, I share it with both believers and non-believers. I’m open about it and willing to share it with everyone to see if they connect with it. I think it may be helpful for others who may be skeptical to get that perspective. It’s not something I hide, or that I’m scared of sharing.”


My thoughts: I think this legend is really fascinating because it engages directly with the idea of belief, including religious belief, belief in the supernatural, and skepticism. It illustrates how religious families can have specific beliefs that don’t necessarily exist within organized religion, or how skeptics may end up believing in legends after personal experiences. This memorate also illustrates how places with a lot of history- such as old homes- often have legends such as ghosts stories attached to them.


The Sorority Ghost

  1. Original Text: “I’m pretty sure there’s a ghost, not pretty sure. We’ve mentioned her a few times on (sorority Facebook page). The door swings open and shut for no reason. It’ll open and close. There’s a Bluetooth speaker that you have to flip a switch on and it makes the noise, and sometimes it’ll make the noise even without it. So sometimes I turn on music for her because I think that she likes music. Like to make her happy. I had a dream that the lights went off and someone whispered “she never left”. She’s here, doesn’t bother anyone. Don’t think she died here, probably died tragically after college but (sorority) was her happiest days so she came back. And she doesn’t want to leave. Nobody else is convinced but I’m convinced. She’s very low maintenance. People have always been talking about it. Maybe talk to other people? Only people who have lived in this room actually believe in her. And people who were friends with people who lived here”
  • She knows it because she lives with this supposed ghost and has tried to interact with her.
  • She didn’t really learn it from anybody because, as she mentioned before, it’s something she’s personally experienced. However, upon further investigation by herself with girls who have also lived with this ghost she’s discovered that a lot of others believe in her as well (they all assume the ghost is a she).
  • Context of performance: we were on the topic of ghost stories one day when we were hanging out.
  • I find it really interesting how those who have had to live with said ghost work to make sure she’s happy and that they’re catering to her needs. It’s also difficult for me, however, to accept ghost stories as such because I personally don’t believe in ghosts and I have yet to experience this ghost’s abilities. At the same time though, I really respect the person from whom I got this piece, so I don’t doubt that she’s actually seen the aforementioned spooky, and the only way to really explain those happenings would be through the idea of a ghostly presence which can be confirmed by other girls in the sorority.

San Diego Hotel Presence

Okay so one time for a soccer tournament my mom and I were staying at a hotel in San Diego… we fell asleep easily one night, and then the next day after my soccer game, my mom wanted to go shopping but I was too tired, so I stayed in the hotel room. It was pretty dark out, like 7, 8 ish in the afternoon at night and …um… I kept feeling something around me, I couldn’t really explain what it was, but it was the same feeling I would get in my house with the lady, where I felt someone watching me constantly…so I went to the corner of the room and sat on the bed so I could see everything in front of me. As I was watching TV I kept thinking that I saw black shadows pop up in different places in the room, and I got sweaty, and my heart started racing, and I called my mom multiple times to ask when are you coming back and blah blah blah. Then my mom came back and I didn’t really tell her anything about it … I didn’t think it was a big deal so I didn’t really acknowledge it. Then, fifteen minutes after turning off the light to go to bed, um, I felt something hovering over my bed from the sides… it was as if someone was… like a witch was… sneering and um…crawling and pacing and creeping around, over and around me… going back and forth from the left side of my bed to the end and right and up. I quietly called for my mom because I obviously didn’t want to disturb this thing, but she didn’t wake up or answer so I snuggled deep into my bed put the covers over and fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night to light thinking, “Oh it must be time to get up and go.” I looked over at my mom and said, “Are we going?” She said, “No go back to sleep its only two in the morning.” And just throughout the night I kept waking up to the light that was on in the room. And eventually it was time to get up at 7. I asked my mom why the light was on the whole night and she said I felt something shove me on my leg. She said she started sweating, didn’t know what to do, so she had to turn on the light and stay awake. I was shocked, and I said to her, “Mom, oh my gosh…” and I told her the story from earlier the day before, from when she was shopping… we connected the dots and agreed to leave as fast as we could.


Background: I had heard this story a few times before here and there, but I had only retained a small amount of the story, so to hear it in depth and very detailed was very interesting for me. I conducted this interview live at my house with my sister, so the story was given to me in person. My sister really remembers this story because it was not just her who was affected – it was also my mother who had felt something weird happen that night, and I think it is all the scarier when someone else experiences the same thing because it makes it all the more realistic and the person knows they cannot be crazy when someone else is feeling the same things or feeling the same way. This is freaky for me, and I now understand why my mother and my sister both refuse to stay in hotel rooms alone…beforehand I was thinking it was nonsense that they couldn’t sleep by themselves in hotel rooms but now I am very aware of what they both went through. I think my mother and my sister will both remember this story for awhile because it is truly scary, especially for my mother, to have been physically shoved by a presence that was not visible. I truly believe them.

Folk Beliefs

La Llorona

There is a woman in a small town in Mexico and um she was very vain and prideful of her beauty and she would look at herself in the river in the town and she vowed she would only marry the most beautiful man in the world. And then she ended up marrying him and they had children but he left her and she drowned her children in the river and felt so bad about it and killed herself but the people in the town still see her crying and saying “mis niños” and “mis hijos” and they call her La Llorona because she cries all the time.


Background: I conducted this interview live, so this story was given to me in person. I had heard this legend before from another informant who had not been able to give me a report as detailed as this one. This is a story that the informant had been told many times since she was a young child. I thought this was interesting because it followed the lines of what we had learned in class or what we had read for the class, in the required readings. This was interesting to hear from someone who had not researched it but it was actually a part of the folklore passed around in her culture and from family members, something she had learned just through the environment she was in.


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.



Woburn Abbey Ghost Story

TK: Did you ever see a ghost?

LK: No but they moved all the bathroom doors and wardrobes open and everything.

TK: Wait explain.

LK: I went to see my friend he lives in Woburn Abbey in England (was a house to priests or monks or something) for the weekend. I left after one day, I couldn’t do it, it freaked me out. (stuttering) It’s a house a family owned, it was an abbey, now it’s a public inn; not sure what it is to see all the stuff. It is known to be haunted. My mom’s friend grew up there and always saw ghosts growing up as a child. Mind you, he only told my mom this much later.

TK: Who’s they?

LK: Robin, aka Lord Russell. We went for dinner and spent the night. Robin was in his room, I was in my room and who else went with us? I don’t know, a couple other friends? Robin told us stories about when he was a kid when he grew up it was haunted.

TK: What was?

LK: The house. It freaked me out and I couldn’t believe we were out there stuck, two hours away from everything, couldn’t get back, and had to spent the night there. It was a residence on the top floor. They gave me a room that had three wardrobes, one on this side, one on that side and one with the TV. The bathroom door was over here (gesturing). I left the bathroom door open and all the wardrobes were shut

TK: Were you in the room alone?

LK: Yeah, everyone was ALL THE WAY DOWN THE HALL. So I was watching television and the TV kept popping in and out like a switch (acting it out) Meanwhile his mom came in to give me a pill to calm me down because I couldn’t handle it. I guess I finally fell asleep with the TV on and woke up to find every single wardrobe door open and the bathroom door was shut and the door to the bedroom was locked.

TK: Then what?

LK: I freaked out a little bit. I got up, I closed the wardrobe drawers, went to the bathroom and unlocked the bedroom door (laughing, thinking, nodding head) um…all the stuff in the bathroom and the toiletries were on the floor, toothbrush, toothpaste, everything that I had used to shower and everything.

TK: So then what?

LK: Picked everything up. I would say that was about three in the morning-ish. I opened the bedroom door to see the hallway, you know, I was freaked out.

TK: How did you go back to sleep after that?

LK: I sort of laid there. I thought Robin was playing  a trick on me, you know, so I actually walked down the hall, now that I think about it and walked all the way down the hall to see if they were up and didn’t really know which room they were in for sure and decided not to go all the way (shaking head) I didn’t want to see anything I was petrified. So I went back to my room put the TV on and I guess eventually fell asleep again and that was it. I woke up in the morning.

TK: What happened in the morning?

LK: I asked them if they had played a joke on me and they said no, oh come on, laughing, they go not at all. It was freaky. We were having breakfast and I said that’s it we’re not staying here anymore and his parents were laughing.

TK: Who were you with?

LK: His parents live at the house and his younger brother and I went there with Robin. And that was it.

THE INFORMANT: The informant was my mom. She was family friends with the Russells who were occupying the estate, and this occurred in the late 80s. This was the only time she experienced a ghostly visitation and the way she describes it makes it clear that she was disturbed by the incident although the family did not take it very seriously, possibly because they had dealt with the ghost before.

ANALYSIS: Woburn Abbey has long been known as a place haunted by ghosts and spirits, much like other English estates with a long history and many previous occupants. According to the website Ghostly Rooms, which catalogues ghost sightings in homes, “It is also said…there is a spirit that haunts the private chambers of Woburn Abbey. This spirit manifests itself by walking through the lounge, without being seen. The door will open on one side and the sound of footsteps move across the floor as the spirit passes through. Once on the other side the other door would open and then slams shut as the spirit leaves. In the 1960s this ghostly activity became so frequent that the Ducal family had to move their television to another room so the could watch the television without the chance of being disturbed.” This seems eerily similar to the experience my mother had, in which she was in one of the private chambers and noticed doors opening without explanation as well as a disturbance of her possessions.



Informant: This one legitimately scared me because I always associate it too heavily with, also, also the other thing that’s scary is that you have to tell it from the second person perspective. So…

Collector: Wait, what?

ML: You have to tell it from the “you” perspective. So, in this case, you are in your house where you see that a maniac has escaped, and you obviously find this alarming, but it’s from pretty far away, so you fall asleep. You always fall asleep to your dog licking your hand. So that night you go to sleep and your dog comes to sit next to you, and your dog starts licking your hand, and you fall asleep. Part way through the night you wake up, and your dog is still licking your hand. And then he stops. You think you see something, so you get up and you go towards the kitchen where you see your roommate’s head in the refrigerator. Because it just escalates like that. Anyway, obviously you’re freaked out, but you see a trail of blood leading to the other room, and because you’re an idiot in a horror story, you follow it, and you see a ceiling fan, and from the ceiling fan is a rope with your dog’s head tied around it. And it just say on the wall in blood, “Maniacs can lick hands, too.”


Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying animation in the film school here. She is from New Orleans, Louisiana. I spoke to her while we were eating breakfast in EVK one morning. We were sitting together with her two other friends, Ashley and Madeleine. Much of what she told me was learned from her sister or her own experiences.


This is an interesting ghost story because I have heard the exact same one before. I think this can’t have much variation because it’s so straightforward and short. The variation I could guess would be within the animal and how you find the head. I do recall perhaps the story ending with “you” only finding the head of the dog, and having to figure out that it was the maniac that was licking your hand. There wasn’t any blood on the wall. Many ghost stories like this seem to be short and not very in depth because they’re made for little kids. It also seems that these are passed through either friends or older siblings.



Collector: Ghost stories?

Informant: I have so many fricking scary stories. Um, let’s see… There’s one, where, I don’t want to go into super detail because it’s really annoying when it’s told that way, and it involves singing.

MR: No, do that.

ML: I fucking hate you. Okay, fine, fine, fine. So, um, there’s a little boy and one day his mother gives him some money and says, “Go buy some liver from the market.” And he takes the money and says okay and goes off to the market. When he gets to the market, he realizes that he doesn’t really want liver. He wants this toy water gun from the store. So he uses the money to buy the toy water gun from the store, and then he realizes he can’t go home empty handed, so for reasons unknown to me, I mean, known but disgusting reasons, he decides to find this liver by digging up a human corpse and taking his liver. Any way, he gets home; he takes the liver and gives it to his mother, who for some reason doesn’t notice any difference between human liver and, you know, like, the liver of an animal, and they cook it and they eat it. And that night, they, uh, this little boy is in his bed, and he hears a voice that says, I think the kid’s like, Johnny, [singing] “Johnny, I’m outside your house.” And then he’s like okay this is weird, but I’m just like hallucinating because he’s trying to sleep. And he hears again, “Johnny I’m inside your house.” And again, “Johnny, I’m inside your room.” And then, “Johnny, I’m in your bed.” And then lastly all he hears is, “Johnny, I want my liver back.” That’s it. That was told to me by my sister because she’s a jerk.


Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying animation in the film school here. She is from New Orleans, Louisiana. I spoke to her while we were eating breakfast in EVK one morning. We were sitting together with her two other friends, Ashley and Madeleine. Much of what she told me was learned from her sister or her own experiences.


It’s very interesting to see how many ghost stories people know and can recall from their childhood. Some might originate from books and some people made up to scare their younger siblings. This is interesting because it involves singing the voice as if you were the ghost, and involves quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. We can see that ghost stories often just boil everything down to this character did something just because we needed a reason for the story to continue. Often characters make dumb decisions we all know we wouldn’t make for the sake of the story continuing.


Balete Drive (Ghost Story/Legend from the Philippines)

S is a 21-year-old Filipino woman. She is currently majoring in Business Administration at the University of Southern California. She grew up in the Philippines and therefore identifies as Filipino, however, she also identifies as Chinese. S speaks English, Mandarin, Tagalog and Hokkien, the last being two of many languages specific to the Philippines.

S: There’s a lot of ghost stories from like the Philippines. Like there’s this one street in the Philippines, it’s called Balete Drive.

Me: Can you spell that?

S: B-a-l-e-t-e. Balete. It’s in Manila and ’cause I guess it got it’s name from like all the, ’cause it a kind of tree, so then there’s like a whole bunch of like tree in like that specific street, and no one ever wants to pass through there ’cause it’s just so fricken scary. And they say like in those trees, each specific tree, like there’s like this thing that lives up there and like it smokes and like…

Me: Is there like an actual story that goes with it, or is it just kind of a…

S: I can’t, I’m not exactly sure like what’s the origin, but I just know that there’s just a weird scary creature up there. Yeah, I don’t know, I mean, it’s pretty popular though.

Me: So you just don’t pass on that street?

S: Yeah, we just don’t go though that street. Because it’s too scary. I don’t know. But see that’s the thing, like we have so many ghost stories and just like ghost, like yeah, there’s like too many. There are many different kinds. But like I don’t think you should share that, or like search that, it might freak you out. Like once you start googling and see pictures of it, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Yeah, so maybe not.

S describes a street, Balete Drive, in Manila that is said to be haunted. She says that there are things that live in the Balete trees that are so prominent on the street and that they haunt Balete Drive and they smoke and are generally just scary to think about. It is obvious that she is still scared of this road and that she, even as an adult, will not go walk on that street for fear of the creatures of legend that are said to haunt it. She warns not to go on that street as well as not to even look it up because it would be scary. Even talking about it made her a bit uncomfortable, even though she does not know the origin and the story behind the legend, it still scares her and has a lot of influence on her.