USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Haunted House’
general
Legends

Winchester Mystery House

Context:  The informant began to speak of odd places near her hometown and had this place as an example.

Piece: “So I am from San Jose California and there is a really famous house in San Jose called the Winchester Mystery house. And it’s supposedly by Sarah Winchester, who was married to William Winchester, I believe, and um she moved there after he died, I think. But he passed away and he was the manufacturer of this really famous rifle called like the Winchester rifle. So Sarah, after she died like thought she was haunted by the ghosts of the people who were killed with his guns, yeah which is a lot of people. So she built this house, and she just kept expanding it because she was trying to protect herself from the ghosts. So you go to this house and the architecture makes absolutely no sense because she just kept building and building and building so its super vast and she could protect herself from the outside. There are like stairs that lead to nowhere and doors that lead to nowhere and cause like it doesn’t make sense and there is this motif of spiderwebs throughout it like there are windows that look like webs and so like it really looks like a haunted house. I have been there and they actually take a lot of kids on field trips there now, which is weird. And it’s well known and a lot of people go there.”

Background: The informant is a 19 year old USC student who grew up in San Jose, California. She is very well versed in the Winchester Mystery House and has personally been there.

Analysis: This home is a ghost tripping home, attracting people to quest to find or see ghosts. This site in particular has house tours and advertising, indicating that it is in the commercial industry and makes profit from the stories about the home. The motifs in the house further add to the spectacle that attracts visitors, as well as adding to the feel of the environment. It is also interesting how there is an eerie quality to the odd architecture– such as the stairs that lead nowhere. The transitional, liminal quality creates the uneasy energy that plays into the ghost stories associated with the site.

 

Legends
Magic
Narrative
Old age

An apartment is found haunted by reflection on the window

Context
The informant grew up in Beijing. We were discussing ghost stories when she brought out this story.

Content
A man bought a new apartment. It was on the first floor. Outside the window is the garden, a small grassland in a residential district. He said that when the apartment was being furnished, he often saw an old man staring at him strangely from the window. When he walked outdoors to find the old man, the old man disappeared. When he moved into the house, a friend of his came to visit him. He told his friend that he often saw an old man. He asked his friend to go out and take a look, while he stood indoors to see whether the old man disappeared from the window. The friend went out, and then ran in hurriedly, brought him out and said, “You could not live in the apartment. The old man is a reflection on the window.”

Analysis
Because the old man is a reflection on the window, he is a ghost in the house. The main motif of the story is that mirrors or mirror-like object (window in this story) can show the reflection of ghosts, even though ghosts cannot be seen directly. Notice that the ghost is an old man. The old man must have some unfulfilled wishes that connect with the apartment – he probably lives in the apartment. To me, the story reflects the anxiety of the working force who fail to pay enough attention to their aging parents.

Legends

Haunted House in Crockett, Texas

Collector: Do you have any ghost stories you could share with me?

CW: Yes, when I was a young girl growing up in my hometown of Crockett, Texas there was a house located on the edge of our town that everyone believed to be haunted. It was a very old beaten down brown house with all the windows boarded off. It was said that a very old man who we called “Old Man Hinkle”, lived there but no one had seen him in years, so everyone thought he had passed away and his ghost haunted the house. However, when me and friends would go by the house it was always very spooky. We could hear noises coming from the house but never any lights or anyone coming in or out of it. I remember one time some kids from our town claimed to have gone inside one night and saw a ghost in there but who knows if that was true. Another time  I was near the house and could hear what sounded like screaming but I never saw a ghost or went inside the house. 

Collector: What impact did this haunted house have on your childhood?

CW: It was my favorite thing on Halloween. On already such a spooky night for us kids we would always sneak off and go by the house. It always felt like such an adventure and was very fun for me and my friends. 

Collector: Did the whole town believe the house was haunted?

CW: All the parents knew that it was just an abandoned house of course, but for us kids it was widely believed and everyone seemed to know about it. 

Collector: What do you think about the house now?

CW: Well, since I do not believe in ghost I don’t believe it was haunted or anything. But, when I go home to visit my family in Crockett I sometimes go by it and it gives me fond memories especially of my Halloweens growing up. I also wonder whether or not the kids in Crockett still believe it is haunted or know about “ Old Man Hinkle”.

Context: This informant is a sixty five year old woman that was born and raised in Crockett, Texas. She has moved around the world since leaving Crockett to go to college. However, she still frequently visits the town. This performance was collected in person at her home in Palm Desert, California

Analysis: This legend is an interesting one because it sounds a lot like ghost stories and haunted house stories seen in popular culture. It has all the aspects of many movies and television shows, like a small town, scary house, and kids wandering near the “haunted house”. It seems to be a unique part of her communities folklore and a unique part of my informant’s childhood.

 

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.

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.

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