USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘haunted road’
Legends
Narrative

Beast of Bray Road – Legend

Piece: 

“Okay, uhm aight so first thing is the beast of Bray road, sooo it takes place in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, on bray road, and they say that the road is cursed and haunted, and that a strange wolf like creature roams the area, and if you go there at night with ill intent, you’ll see him and it will try to attack you but it only shows itself to bad people. The first sighting was in the 1930’s but there have also been sightings reported in the 1980’s and 1990’s”

 

Background information: The informant is a close friend of mine from back home. (Wisconsin) He lives in the town adjacent to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, so he is very familiar with the area.

Context: This legend is usually shared during bonfires. Being from Elkhorn myself, people like to bring this up in order to frighten those who are extremely scared of local beasts. The informant shared that he’s heard of this legend multiple times as a kid.

Background Information: I was browsing my phone last semester when I stumbled upon a facebook post that a friend from back home had shared. I clicked on the article and found out that there was a new Netflix documentary on the Beast of Bray road. A Netflix documentary. For those not familiar with Elkhorn, it’s a super small town in the middle of nowhere. A city folk would chuckle at its population size of only 9,000. I didn’t know much about Bray road until I decided to look it up on google maps. Turns out, Bray road is 3 minutes away from where I live. I’ve actually driven on bray road before, not knowing of the “beast” that resided in it. I never saw the beast, but then again, I’ve only been on the road during the daytime.

Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Legends

Cihuateotl

The informant (L) is a 22 year old film student at California State University Los Angeles. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma before coming to Los Angeles for college after high school. Her family is Mexican and Catholic. At the suggestion of our mutual friend who had heard the story before, she told me the legend of the Cihuateotl. She mentioned prior to telling me that the story was not told often within her family because of how sad it is. She was told the story by her grandmother when L’s fourth cousin died in childbirth, when L was around seven years old. Though L does not tell the story often within her family, L does tell the story when other urban legends are being discussed among her friends in Los Angeles, which is where I heard some of the story prior to beginning to collect folklore for this database.  The story involves the following legendary figures:

In “native ancient Mexico,” the cihuateotl are the spirits of the women who died in childbirth. Their sadness is the reason the sun goes down at night. Once a month, the spirits haunt the streets to hold the children they were never able to hold. After sunset, they try to abduct children. Because ‘good’ children should be inside and safe by the time the sun goes down, the children they were trying to abduct are the bad, misbehaving children. This is also used to scare children into behaving, as the cihuateotl would not give the children back.

This mix of ancient myth and urban legend is an interesting intersection between old and new. Though the spirits make sense in both modern and ancient contexts, the haunting of streets does not make as much sense in ancient Mexico, which probably did not have the sort of streets and highways L referred to in her retelling.

The story also presents some interesting contrasts. The fact that the cihuateotl only abduct bad children seem to say something about how either those children  do not deserve a real mother or the mothers who allow their children to be  bad don’t deserve to have children when there are mothers who died trying to have them. While these ideas are in the background, the practical use of scaring children into behaving probably plays more of a role in why the story is told than the more subtle themes.

general
Initiations
Legends

Downey Lane

The following legend is that of Downey Lane, a haunted road in Roseville, California.

“I come from a town called Roseville California. It’s been around for a really long time, it actually used to be a big railroad stop and so it became a really huge city based on the railroad. It’s small now cause the railroad isn’t running through anymore. But um… uh… there’s this one lane on the outskirts of town, like where the rural area kind of is—I actually live pretty close to it which scares the crap out of me, but it’s called Downey Lane. The legend is that back in civil war times, seven completely innocent black men were hung on the trees that line Downey Lane. And so one of the things that you are kind of obligated to do is to drive down Downey Lane with your headlights off. They say that the souls cursed the place. I had a friend who is really susceptible to psychic impulses—she was taken to the road and she walked just like a couple of steps down it and she started screaming, turned around, and ran. She said that she got a really really oppressive feeling. But it’s pretty scary and she went during the middle of the day.

Last year two of my friends, when I went back visiting home said, “you have to come with us and we’re driving you down Downey Lane.” I had never been down this road before. It’s out of the way and you usually don’t take it to go anywhere because it’s kind of in the farmland kind of area, so you don’t really need to go down the lane very often, especially in the dark. So they took me and it was actually pretty close to—well it was really late. It might have been like 10-11 o-clock. But we go down and roll down the windows and turn off the headlights and they are telling me these stories of how wild dogs will come and attack you and how people will run you off the road and as we were going down this road we noticed a car on the side of the road. And we were like, “okay this is really kind of creepy.” Just in case me and my friend, we ducked down cause we’re both girls and didn’t want to be seen, like if there’s any sketchy guys. And my friend’s boyfriend kept on driving, and so we kept driving for a little bit and I told them, “okay this is really spooky guys, can we just turn around soon and go,” and they were like, “no, just a little bit further.” And then we see headlights come up behind us, and we turn around and we think it’s the same car. They had the floodlights on—just as bright as it can go—and they start speeding up behind us. So we’re like, “crap!” We turn on the headlights and we start going faster, cause we’re like shit this person’s coming up really fast behind us and we speed up and they keep following us, speeding up more and more, and we’re tearing down the road at this point, cause we’re terrified that these are the people who go and drive people off the road. We eventually got around a corner, we turned our headlights off and were like ok, maybe—cause we had got far enough ahead of him that we could do that—we were like, ok, maybe they’ll just like stop and turn around. And they did stop, headlights still up, and we’re like ok… this road is basically almost like a one way road that just ends but uh… we didn’t want to go all the way around because it would have taken us a very long time to get back to the main street if we kept going the way we were and so we turned around, which I’m not sure if that was really a smart idea or not, cause, the car was still there with its brights still on. So we went back and were like ok they aren’t following us. Then the other car turned around and started following us a little bit more. One again we’re like, “oh my god, oh my god, we’re going to die” and then it stopped and started blinking its lights at us. By that point were just gassed it and drove off the road and went straight home.

There headlights were so bright that we couldn’t see who was driving and like, my friends were thinking it was probably just some gang members. They like to hide out here, run people off the road, and beat them for there stuff. But ya know… it was still really scary and creepy.”

My informant explained that her town has a troubled past with race relations, thus the legend of a haunted road as a result of past racism acts as a reminder of past misdeeds not to be repeated. While my informant does genuinely believe there is something haunted–or at least off about Downey Lane, she also thinks there there is likelihood that the legend might have been created as a reason to keep people away from what is a dangerous area. As her experience exemplifies, driving down the road at night has serious risks. The road is isolated, hard to get to, has no street lights, and is essentially the perfect place to get mugged. Furthermore, according to my informant, the wild dogs are actually a problem in the area.

“As my friend and her boyfriend were driving me down the road they were like, yeah, one of my friends who drove down this got—he was just driving down it and a wild dog just jumped hon the hood and started barking at him and he kept driving cause he’s like “ahhhh dog!”

As terrifying as the process of driving down Downey Lane was for my informant, she explained it as something everyone from her town has to do at least once. For the kids in her town, facing the terror that is Downey Lane is a coming of age ritual.

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