USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘haunted’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic

Henrietta’s Pacing

I’ve always thought of this friend as an interesting guy, but we’ve only ever joked and traded some silly stories from high school. He’s hinted at coming from a large and established family in Texas, although I’ve never really gotten much more than that. This project was a great opportunity for me to find out a bit more, as I, too, share ancestral lineage from the South, and have always been interested in unique little stories of haunted houses and ancient apparitions.

The following was transcribed from a recording taken in class and shared among three or four other classmates. Though the background buzzed with chatter from other students, the spooky nature of this story made me feel very still inside.

“I come from a big ranching family, and we go back – our family history dates back to like 1853 in Texas. So from the early, early days of the state. And our family is still in-tact and everything, very close together, and the ranch is still there. So um, there’s a lot of history to it in South Texas. So with that there comes a lot of ghost stories and whatnot. Um, so there’s a lot of reports of people seeing ghosts in the main house and stuff like that. The house itself is as old as the ranch, so very, very old. It’s a hundred an- we just celebrated it’s a hundred-and-sixty-fifth anniversary. Well actually, excuse myself. The ranch is a hundred-and-sixty-five years old, and the house just turned a hundred. So, yes. Very, very old. I’m a sixth generation out of seven, in terms of family members, so there’s been that many people that have gone through the house. Four generations lived in the house their entire lives, um. So naturally, the ghosts aren’t always the same. The ghost that I saw is… Let’s see. The ghost that I saw or rather heard or believe I heard at least is – I was going to bed in my room which is on the first floor, and uh, the floors are made of wood on the second floor. So my room is right under this room we call Henrietta’s room which is the room of the matriarch of the original generation, the first generation. So in Henrietta’s room – it’s the biggest one in the house. It’s basically like the original one. And it’s also where most of the ghost sightings and experiences are seen is up, up in hers. So my room is right below. And I haven’t had any encounters like visually. But the one I have had is I was going to sleep one night, and I was trying to go to bed. I was the only one in the house, and um, the thing is the house is very, very big, and it’s kind of a rarity to be the only one in the house. Normally there’s at least 2 or 3 other people staying there. And I was the only one there that night, kind of taking care of the house before I left the next day. I was going to bed and I heard this creaking above me, as if someone was walking around on the wood. Um, on the second floor. AKA, Henrietta’s room. And I didn’t think much of it before I realized I was the only one in the house. And I thought, ‘oh, is there an intruder?’. And I got really, really scared, um, cause those things can happen. But there’s also a lot of security. So then again, nothing so much. But I listened really closely, and the footsteps were going in a circle, as if they were just plodding around the room. And they were just going in an endless circle, and the steps were very, very slow too. Like, a very slow walking pace, basically. And I was listening to these footsteps going in an endless circle. I think eventually I fell asleep, but it was interesting that being my first ghost experience. And basically having to accept the fact that there’s a ghost walking around above me. And I just went to sleep comfortable, knowing that it was a ghost and not an intruder. So that was nice for me.”

It is rare for a ghost to be preferred over another human being. However, if the ghost is a loving relative in a lineage that values family and tradition, then it makes sense to prefer its presence to a possibly violent intruder. This piece breaks the American stereotype of all ghosts being malevolent beings hell-bent on revenge and retribution. Instead, it offers a different outlook on the world of the supernatural – that ghosts come out when they think no one is home and simply go about their business. Perhaps Henrietta craves the nostalgia of her old room, and comes back to enjoy the sights and scents whenever she can. Little did she know her great-great-great-great-great grandson slept soundly below.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

The House Across the Street

My informant, an Irish-American male, grew up immersed in Irish culture. He was excited to share his stories with me — especially because sharing stories is an important part of Irish social culture. I collected this story (which he learned from his father) from him while we sat on his couch:

 

“Back in Ireland, there’s this house across the street with an old man — and he’s a rat bastard — he’s a piece of s***. He used to be an IRA [Irish Republican Army]. He would beat his wife — his kids… and one day he was arrested and sent to prison. The day he got out, his whole family celebrated (as they do) with lots and lots of alcohol. So everyone’s drinking and he pulls out a Ouija board and someone in the room is like, “witchcraft it’s evil.” [the informant backtracks] Oh, and the guys name is Patty. [Back to the original story] He said, “no, no, no. It’s fun we used it in prison and it’s just a nice, fun game. Let’s try to see if we can contact our grandmother.” And so they they use it on on the table and they contacted his grandmother, whatever — and the grandmother was was also just a huge b***h when she was alive. Also abusive and terrible. And then someone across the room holding a beer says, “alright, well it’s been nice talking to you we got to go now. We’re praying for you.” But then he follows it with: “I don’t need your prayers where I am.” And everyone in the room s***s their pants. They scream they run. And after that, Patty was a much more secluded guy. He never really talked to anyone. One of his sons (that was never in) was there that night he went crazy. And they lived in the house next door because they’re connected houses over there. The son got up to go to the bathroom one night. And as he was going over to the bathroom he saw this ghostly white figure come across the hallway and he was a little disturbed… but, like, it’s Ireland so you kind of don’t really pay attention that much to that. And then his wife was in the room and she goes, “honey, who’s there? I just saw someone walk across the doorway.” And the husband says, “oh my God! I just saw someone walk across the hall. That’s really creepy.” And so they sort of, like, bless themselves, and go to bed. And this was in the house directly next to it [the Ouija board event] — because the houses are connected. the figure would come out of the wall that that they shared with the other house. And, you know, ever since since that day when when they used the Ouija board legitimately the sun doesn’t shine on on that house on the street. Like I said: hardly ever.”

 

My informant added that his dad told him this story first, and then he went to see the house from the story. He says it’s true that the sun doesn’t shine on the house. Even on days where the sun is fully illuminating the houses around it, this house is still shrouded in shadow.

 

Analysis:

Because my informant did not share his belief in the dark magical curse the Ouija board left on the house, he probably sees it as a legend attached to the house. His story takes place in the real world, but the events may or may not actually be true. I personally find it to be a fun story to tell at a social gathering. I can picture my informant being told the story by an active bearer (his father), and becoming a passive bearer until he shared the story with me when I interviewed him.

 

Folk Beliefs
general

Haunted Dorm/Former Morgue

Context:

Will Lord is my brother. I visited him at his University recently. He attends the University of the South, also known as Sewanee. Given its regal name, one would assume that the school is rich in tradition and folklore. One would be correct. The school was established in 1857. Given its small student body, many feel compelled to join fraternities and societies which each have their own collection of folklore. The school itself is full of legends. While walking around campus, I recorded him talking about famous locations, legends, etc.

Transcript:

Will: This one here, this is where I lived freshman year. It was a morgue way back in the day. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t have any ghost stories from there but a ton of people say they’ve heard things or seen ghosts or just had sleep paralysis.

Interpretation:

This is another example of a vague hauntedness. Will could not point to exactly what goes on within the space, but assured me it was haunted. Like so many folk stories about haunted spaces, it once dealt with death. We often hear of a haunted space once being a burial ground, a morgue, a hospital etc.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Haunted Dorm at USC

Context:

Isabella Estrada is studying history at the University of Southern California. She is graduating this year and is in the process of applying to/hearing back from law schools. This was clearly on her mind as the first piece of folklore she gave me dealt with law school applications. She was born and raised in Torrance, California.

Transcript:

Isabella: Okay, so freshman year, I lived on campus in Pardee Tower and there was an old ghost story that the seventh floor was haunted because some girl…I think two years prior to when I lived there, she died in her room, and her roommate was gone for the weekend, her roommate didn’t find her body until she came back the following Monday. And she was just dead.

Interpretation:

This piece is interesting because the event was historical–thus not fitting into the categories of legend, myth or tale. What is folklore is the belief that the floor of the building is now haunted. Bella could give no specifics on the haunting–for instance, she could not even say for certain if the deceased student wanders the halls or something to that effect. I have often noticed people mentioning that a building, a room, etc. is haunted but they know no more information beyond that.

 

Legends
Narrative

The Haunted Escanaba, MI Lighthouse

Informant, a screenwriting major, was talking about his screenplay for his class and mentioned it took place in Northern Michigan. The conversation is as follows, the informant is TP, I am PH:

PH: Of course it’s about Michigan [because the informant talks about his home state very often]

TP: If I knew of any other lakeside town with a haunted lighthouse, it’d take place there, but I only know of Escanaba

PH: A haunted lighthouse? Can I write this down for my folklore collection?

TP: Yes

PH: Okay, can you tell me about the haunted lighthouse?

TP: So there’s a famous lighthouse in Escanaba [in Northern Michigan] because people think it’s haunted because when Michigan was founded, the Menominee tribe used to have land in Northern Michigan but we slaughtered them so their official reservation is just in Wisconsin now but the land is still sacred spiritual ground and they built a lighthouse on this sacred ground… I think it was a burial ground

PH: Who is “they”?

TP: I think the Michigan people? The people who slaughtered the tribe… So people say the lighthouse is haunted by the tribal chief from the time and that, like, if you visit the lighthouse you’ll see his spirit and he’ll try to chase you out and that’s pretty much it

general

Haunted High School Auditorium

The informant told a group of friends this story when recounting weird traditions and stories about their high school experience. The informant is from a rural town in Eastern Oregon.

“So, our auditorium at my high school is also haunted, and rumour has it that the drama/english teacher that later got fired because he apparently had sex with a student, um, basically he confirmed this, and was the director  of the theatre and stuff, but there was like this kid who was really into theater and everything, and he killed himself and we don’t know why or how, but he killed himself apparently, but the specific seat, J26, is supposed to be particularly haunted and that’s where he always sits, and my teacher would say how they would be putting on plays, and the light box you would see shadows or voices or scuttering about so, Yeah. That’s basically it.”

Analysis:

It is hard to see what the English/Drama teacher would gain by spreading the rumour of the ghost, but it has been widely accepted in the informants school as truthful.

general

Otok Daksa (Daksa island)

NK is my grandmother who was born and raised in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Being a local she knows a lot about the city and its folklore. She first told me this story in elementary school for a project on islands near Dubrovnik.

“Daksa is a small island near Dubrovnik. For years after World War 2 access to this island was forbidden. The island is haunted and even the owners of the island don’t live on it and have tried to sell it couple of times now. The island is haunted because there were 48 people accused of being Nazi sympathizers and were brutally executed in 1944. Locals say it’s haunted by their ghosts looking for justice.”

 

What’s the real story behind it?

 

“Yugoslav partisans celebrated their victory over the Nazis by rounding up anyone they thought corroborated with the enemy, including the village priest and mayor,

The ‘guilty’ were then rowed out to the island where they were gunned down in cold blood and left unburied. The locals were told that the same fate awaited them if they intervened, so the corpses remained uncovered for decades and it wasn’t until recent years that they were finally laid to rest. So the legend has it that spirits of the dead men haunt the island, demanding justice against those responsible.”

 

The ghost story obviously has some true facts. I’m guessing that because of the tragedy that occurred on the island, the locals had to cope with it some way and said the island was haunted.

Festival
general
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Stump Murderer

Folklore Piece

“So this is just an old ghost story from camp, in northern Wisconsin. But this guy who was an old janitor at the camp went out to the woods to start chopping trees to make room for this new court they wanted to build. So he started chopping down trees with an axe and he cut off his leg. So he only had one leg after that, and um, so he uh, filled that with a stump that he had found and used that as his leg. This scared the campers so much that the camp fired him and sent him away. But what ended up happening that next summer, a boy was taking a shower on his own at the shower house at night. And then he would hear footsteps and a log kind of dragging. The story is that each year he comes back once and takes one kid and buries them in the back.”

Background

“Yeah I like the story, It’s pretty morbid actually. I mean, like, here we have these pretty young campers, talking about someone chopping his leg off and stealing children, and yet, like, it’s totally OK, because it’s summer camp. How crazy is that, when you think about it, really? Like, ok, if I went up to some kid at a school, and I told the same story about a janitor working in the woodshop, like, I’d probably be arrested! It’s just funny to me. But, uh, yeah, I love telling this story”

Context:

“We’d usually do the whole campfire thing. You know, uh like we would get all the campers around at night and go around telling stories. We would tell this story one of, like, the first nights. It’s actually a pretty clever way to get them to, like, stick together”

 

Analysis: Upon first listen, I didn’t think much of this story. It seemed like a hodgepodge of a number of different classic folk-tales: the peg-legged pirate, the axe murderer, the former camper turned raging homicidal maniac, etc. However, I think there is something deeper to be found here. At the centerpiece of the story is this rivalry between the janitor and the camp. The camp’s work is what made him lose his leg, and yet the camp are the ones who banished him. Then, when he comes back, he takes retribution upon the camp in the form of taking kids that are alone. This serves two functions. First, it teaches the kids to respect the camp and its dangers, but more importantly, and implicitly, to never wander off alone. The informant mentioned later, once I prompted him with this question, that it is why they tell this story, for fun but also so that they don’t go wandering out at night alone.

As someone who did not grow up going to sleepaway camp, it was also intriguing to me that these nights of sharing scary stories around a campfire during summer camp actually happen. It sounds like a modern ritual to me if I’d ever heard one. The ambiance of the night time, the fire, and the stillness of the forest all provide the perfectly eerie ambiance for a scary ghost story, and now because of its association, one cannot come without the other.

 

general

The Generous Jesuit Ghost

“So I have this friend who goes to Fordham, and I live in the Northeast so I’ve visited plenty of times, and she told me this popular legend around the school. There’s a church on campus since it’s a Jesuit school, and one day some girl saw a priest in the church that she hadn’t seen before. She was looking for tutoring in the field of his expertise, so she befriended him. He tutored her for weeks until the end of the semester, but something wasn’t quite right. At the end of the semester, she went back to thank him for all of his help, but she couldn’t find him. So naturally, she looked up the name of the priest in the school’s records, and found the name and picture of the priest who had helped her. The funny thing is, he had apparently been dead for almost 90 years!”


I got this from one of my friends who is from Providence, RI. Her friend is a freshman at Fordham, and keeps in regular contact with her. According to my friend, the legend circulates among Fordham students, and it’s a local legend that that building is somewhat supernatural. Having gone to a Jesuit high school, I kind of have an insight to this legend. The Jesuit priests at my school loved stories like this, and they always told kind of tongue-in-cheek stories about Jesuits helping people, so I feel like this may have originated with the Jesuits themselves.

general

Gore Orphanage

“The Gore Orphanage is a building that was initially constructed as a Mansion around the turn of the 20th century just a few miles the from our house [in Amherst, Ohio], and it’s name just comes from the fact that it’s on Gore Road. Sometime around 1905, the owners of the mansion sold the house away, and an orphanage was opened shortly after. The Orphanage then allegedly caught fire in the year 1910, and the whole building burned down with everyone inside. Today, it’s said that if you go to the location where the orphanage used to stand, you can still hear the cries of the children at night, just very faint screams somehow captured from the moment they died.”

This story comes from my dad, who’s lived all of his life in Northern Ohio. This legend is pretty popular around the area where I grew up, and I actually learned of it from my dad, who in turn learned it from his father. I’ve actually looked into the Gore Orphanage before out of curiosity, but no historical documents show that there any casualties from the fire in 1910, and they actually show that the building did burn down in 1923 with no deaths. Additionally, the sounds heard at night a likely due to the sound of traffic on the nearby I-80 turnpike. Despite this, my family and I still like the idea of the story because it’s something interesting in an area noted for not being too interesting.

[geolocation]