USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Haunted House’
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.”

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.

Customs
general
Holidays
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Halloween at Stanford Campus

Background information:

The Stanford area in Silicon Valley located in California is beautiful in a myriad of different ways. It is close to nature, has beautiful architecture, and is an extremely environmentally conscious and friendly location. I grew up in the Palo Alto area which neighbors Stanford and would frequently visit Stanford Campus as my friends lived there because their parents are professors at the University. As such, a memorable tradition in my childhood, along with many others’ in my neighborhood, is celebrating Halloween walking around Stanford Campus at night.

 

Main piece:

Since I moved to Silicon Valley when I was almost six years old, my friends and I would always celebrate Halloween by dressing up and trick or treating around the houses located on Stanford’s outer residential campus. Where I am from, Stanford’s campus was known to be a fantastic place to trick or treat, as many people went all out with their Halloween decorations and truly created a Halloween wonderland for both children and adults to enjoy. As my friends and I frequented Stanford’s campus every Halloween, we became familiar with the various decorations around the campus, noting around five different haunted houses and several different pumpkin carving exhibits. This might only be a locally known event, but it truly shaped my Halloween experience when I was growing up, with its great Halloween spirit, creative decorations, and extreme vibrancy.

 

 

Personal thoughts:

I cannot imagine spending Halloween in a different location when I was growing up because each Halloween had such a memorable impact to me. Not only was I able to spend time with friends, but I also had the opportunity to engage in classic Halloween traditions such as haunted houses, pumpkin carvings, and extravagantly decorating the houses around Stanford campus. Thus, I am profusely grateful that I was able to have such pleasant Halloween experiences as a child that I will be sure to share with others.

general

Haunted House in the Philippines

The 21-year-old informant was born in the Philippines, but moved to the U.S. (Hawaii) at the age of 9. As ghosts and other mythical creatures play a large role in Filipino culture, the informant recounts personal stories and myths that she encountered during her time in the Philippines.

Informant: “When I was little, I was with my brother and we were at my grandma’s house, and we had a babysitter with us, so it was just the 3 of us. I was like, 3 or 4 years old maybe? I think it was a 5-story house– it was a pretty big house, which people were saying it was so big that it wasn’t as inhabited as it should be, so then like, ghosts started coming in and like, taking over the space or whatever.

But um, we’re just playing and then we heard like, chains on the stairs, just like (*makes a few thumping noises with her hand*). It kept stepping on the stairs and we heard chains just clanking on the floor, and as a child I was just like, ‘Fuck is that?’ And there’s a foot on the stairs, and it was all bloody. It was literally just a foot, and it had chains around it– all bloody. And it just kept stepping, not really going anywhere.

And then, I talked to my brother, and up ’til this day, he’s like, ‘No, I swear I saw it,’ and he was 7 years old then? Maybe I was 4… I was 3 or 4.”

Collector: “Was it like, a solid foot?”

Informant: “Ya, it was just one foot. I forgot what that house used to be… like, what used to be there before the house was built… but I know there was some mystery there.

And there was another one… like, the house was pretty haunted. I heard stories that–well, when we weren’t there–my other cousins lived right across that house, and her grandma would say that she would see like, a white lady just walking across the rooftop, and no one was there ’cause everyone was like, in Hawaii or like, the mainland or whatever… So that was another one of the stories.”

Folk Beliefs

The Legalized Haunted House in New York

“They had this family who lived there and they caught on pretty quick that it was a haunted house, so they got along fine with the ghost. They claimed it was kinda like a friendly ghost. They said it like, did little chores for them and stuff, like folded laundry and stuff when they weren’t expecting. Like kinda weird things, but also like, not necessarily annoying things, so they put up with it. So, eventually they decided that they needed to sell the house because they wanted to move or they needed the money or something, so they found a buyer for the house and they signed up all the paperwork and the buyer moved in. Then, after a few weeks I want to say, a couple of months maybe, they slowly picked up on the fact that the house was haunted or they suspected it was. So, they called up the original owners and they said ‘hey, so, did you guys ever think the house was haunted?’ and they were like, ‘oh yeah, that’s like, so and so the ghost,’ like ‘we know all about it,’ like, ‘ isn’t he the greatest?’ and they were like, ‘no, we don’t want a haunted house.’ So, they brought them to court claiming that they had sold the house under false pretenses. And first off, the judge was like, ‘this is an absurd case. There is no way I am ruling in favor of this. You can’t just claim the house is haunted and then, you know, try and get a refund for it.’ And they were like ‘fine, fine, fine.’ So, the attorney for the people who had bought the house went ‘okay judge’… in the most classic horror movie plot ever… they were like ‘okay, if you can spend the night in the house and come out and say with 100% certainty that the house is not haunted, we will drop the case.’ The judge couldn’t do it or refused to do it, and so agreed to rule the house is legally haunted and yeah, they got their money back for the house. And now, it is New York state law that if your house is haunted or you suspect it to be haunted, you have to disclose it in any sales of real estate.”

The informant’s story is based in his hometown in New York, with the “haunted house” being down the street from him. According to the informant, the town is partially know for the big, Victorian mansion down by the Hudson River that became the first legally haunted house in the world. This house is also still residential, with people living in it currently who clearly have no problem with it being haunted. While the house was already expensive because it was an old, Victorian mansion on the Hudson River, the fact that it is “haunted” has drawn many people to it, ultimately increasing the asking price when it has been for sale.

At the time that this happened, many people began to believe that ghosts were real because even the government was supporting their existence. However, the informant cannot say for sure if he believes it to be haunted because he has never been inside, but he does like to frequent the house on Halloween with his friends.

Also, the informant’s brother has a friend whose parents are trying to decide if they really do need to disclose that their house may be haunted because they merely suspect it themselves. Even though the law states that they have to, they are afraid it will make the house lose its value potentially and are considering not doing it.

The informant relayed this to me while sitting at a table outside one of the school buildings on the USC campus. The two of us have been friends for over a year.

Having never been to the house or to New York in general, I cannot say whether it was the first legalized haunted house or if it is even haunted. However, in regards to having to disclose if your house is haunted or not, I have heard that this is not the only case of this happening and is a much more frequent case than people would think.

In regards to the family deciding whether to comply with the law or not, they are a good example of what beliefs in folklore can effect. For instance, for those who do not want to believe, the house will immediately be taken out of consideration. For those who are extremely afraid of ghosts, the same will happen for them. That being said, that narrows the range of buyers down, which might have a strong change on being able to sell the house quickly or not, even though the current homeowners are not positive if it is haunted or not in the first place.

Legends
Narrative

Haunted House

The informant told me of his haunted house in Eastern Oregon.

“So, my house is haunted, um, I guess I’ll describe a specific spooky encounter that happened one night, probably like two years ago, first of all this is just a side note, I talk and scream in my sleep a lot and I think it’s because I’m possessed, and my sisters are always scared whenever we’re all in the house because I scream, but anyways this one time one night I was sleeping and then it’s like 3 o’clock in the morning and my door opens and it’s my dad in his underwear and holding a shotgun and he’s like “Are you okay?” and I was like “yeah what’s going on?” and he’s like “nothing, just making sure you’re safe.” And then the next morning he tells me what was going on, which was he and my mom were in their upstairs room and they heard this knocking on our front door, and they were curious about that, and they heard footsteps right below them, so my dad got a shotgun and he started combing the house looking for something and they heard voices and this supernatural shit, um, and then the next morning, when I woke up, my mom was also there, making sure i was safe and then she pointed out to me this guest room that we have which is down the hall from me, and the doors were wide open, like this door chair was overturned and there were these pillows out with an impression of body like laying there, um, yeah. So that’s what happened. Yeah.”

Do you know why the house is haunted?

There were some renovations once so maybe that disturbed some spirits. I don’t know.”

Analysis:

The real life experience that the informant and his parents had confirm his belief in the supernatural and especially ghosts. What was interesting was that the haunting of the house was accepted as a way of life, and something that the family has not done anything to change.

Initiations
Legends

The Proctor House

Folklore Piece

“There’s this house in my hometown of Castro Valley, California called the Proctor House and it’s near Proctor Elementary School and it’s also near my house. It’s empty now, like no one lives in there, and it’s mostly populated by homeless people or drug addicts. But, basically like teenagers are dared to go in there and there’s this room that you go in and there are all these dolls lined up on the mantle. And the story goes that there was this couple that used to live there together and they um they’re foster parents, like they would bring in kids every so often, and one by one these foster kids would kinda just disappear from the foster system and no one knew why. And it was discovered that this couple had just kinda murdering their foster kids and they murdered like four kids. I heard this story when I was in the 7th grade from my friends when I went in the Proctor house. But I heard it throughout my teenage years. The dolls, like, had the spirits of the kids inside of them, or something.”

 

Background information

This story would mostly be performed by children around the playground or in social situations near his school and the house. As our informant mentioned, he learned this story first from his friends. He would later also tell me that all the parents knew about this story and wouldn’t let their kids go near the house. He said while this was probably because of the aforementioned homeless and drug addicted populations, many kids like the informant would interpret this as an affirmation of the mystic dangers of this house.

 

Personal Analysis

The dynamic between the children that recount this story and their parents are what I find to be most intriguing. The children believe the tall tale of the haunted house and the clichéd dolls-as-murdered-children horror story, most likely as its grandiose details are continuously reinforced in those kids’ social circles and media. The parents, however, know the house’s true nature, and that it is potentially very dangerous and filled with drug addicts and squatters. These harsh realities of life might be too much for a kid to hear, and so they simply say “Don’t go into the Proctor House.” Somewhat unintentionally, this furthers the legend of The Proctor House as being haunted. In my research, I couldn’t find any authored material on the Proctor House; this would suggest that this legend is relatively local and new. Perhaps the house became abandoned and overrun when the participant was young, spurring the rumors. When I asked the participant about the story’s origin, he said that he wasn’t sure.

Also interesting is the house’s role as a legend quest. When the kids are old enough to brave a trip into the Proctor House, it’s viewed as somewhat of a rite of passage, affirming their role as a “big kid”, or young adult. Ironically, though, it is their discovery of truth about the house, either firsthand or from their parents, and the loss of the childlike innocence about the house’s true state, that affirms their role as an adult.

Legends
Narrative

The Cat’s Manor at USC

Folk Piece

Informant: So I live in a house on [REDACTED] street at the North University Park District of Los Angeles, California. Actually, the Governor of California used to live there in the early 1900s. But whoever lived there in the 1940s or ‘50s, um, they, there was a whole third story. Like picture the old victorian houses with the spirals and stuff. But there was this third story and it burned down, like, in this crazy fire. And the like room that burned like more than any others was the room where this crazy woman that lived there had all of her cats. And like all of the cats died, so now like in the middle of the night, if you go up, there’s like this stair case that leads to the roof of the house but as you’re going up this staircase you can see the remnants of this old third floor. Um, cause they like didn’t do a really good job of getting rid of that, and when you’re going up that staircase to the roof, you can hear meows in the middle of the night. I have not personally heard them, but I’ve only gone up there once.”

 

Background information

Informant: “I learned this story when I was a freshman when I joined a group that has lived there the past decade or so. I heard it from a senior who was also a very superstitious guy who said ‘Oh, I like, hear it every night.’  The people who believe it take it very, very seriously. But the people who never experienced it all kind of think of it as a joke.”

 

Context

Informant: “We tell the story when we let in new members. I don’t know, it’s just a fun thing to add to the aura of it all – they’re like, typically freshman, you know? It’s just fun to make them feel like a part of the group with a little story.”

 

Analysis

Ghost animals are not nearly as common as ghost people in folklore, as we’ve talked about in our class with Professor Tok Thompson. Yet, in this story, they are just as eerily scary. That this ghost story includes artifacts that tie the legend into real observable truth, in that the remnants of the burnt third floor are easily accessible, is truly haunting. In the participant telling the story, I could envision walking up the stairs and seeing the charred, blackened floor.

It also seems like there is somewhat of a ritualistic retelling each year for new members of this group. The story helps identify their group because they collectively lease the house year by year, and so in retelling this story and having it be retold primarily by their group, they are owning the house in more than one way. The formal telling of this story to another member is one way to extend that ownership.

Equally as interesting is that this group is a singing group and that the hauntings come in audio form. Oftentimes, ghost stories, legends, and other forms of folklore are described in terms that are familiar to that particular ‘in’ group. In no way am I comparing their singing to the meowing of 40 cats burned alive, but it is interesting that they are auditorily stimulated, rather than visually.

Legends
Narrative

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.

general

Winchester Mystery House Tourist Site

The Winchester Mystery House is a house that was built in San Jose, California, in the 1800s, occupied by a husband and wife. As the story goes, as relayed by the informant, the woman in the story was paranoid that her husband’s ghost and others in the house would attempt to haunt her. Then, the woman, to avoid collisions with the supernatural, built several traps to fool her husband’s ghost: staircases that led nowhere, extra rooms, dead-ends, etc.


Interestingly, the house has since been turned into a tourist property, where, playing off the above legend, visits can pay for night tours through the “haunted house”. The Winchester Mystery House remains open to the public. Tours can be scheduled at its official website: http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/


It is impossible to know if the folklore surrounding the property caused the site to become a tourist attraction–or if the folklore was fabricated in order to promote the tourist attraction.

 

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