USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘haunting’
Game
general
Legends

Bloody Mary

The following informant is an 8th grader. In this account she is explaining what Bloody Mary game is. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as SA and I am identified as K:

SA: So it’s this girl, she was from like a large ship, and she got married there and then something happened to her and she died there… and she haunts the ship… and she can come into your house. So the game goes: If you go into your bathroom and then you close the door, you turn off the lights and you flush the toilet three times and you say Bloody Mary three times and she comes through the mirror and takes you

K: She just takes you, what happens?

SA: Well she takes you so I don’t know.

K: Have you ever played the game?

SA: No, I never tried it, some of my friends did, but when they screamed it freaked me out to much. This was a long time ago thought like 4 years, and I heard the story on YouTube.

K: Can I ask if you believed she would actually come through the mirror and take you.

SA: I think I did when I was younger, but now not so much, but I still don’t want to try it

Context: She told me this while at my house one weekend.

Thoughts:

This was the first time I had heard of a origin story for the Bloody Mary, so I was very interested. Adding the origin story to the scary game made me almost feel bad for the Blood Mary, which felt strange. But what was also interesting is that when I grew up, I heard about this game from my friends who heard it from their friends. But this informant heard about it on YouTube, it’s a different generation with a very different way of exchanging information. She did not need to be in the same place as the person telling her about the game to still experience it.

Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Clinton Road

Item (direct transcription):

In New Jersey, one of the few things New Jersey has is… um… New Jersey has the most haunted road in the United States: Clinton Road. It’s a haunted road, and it goes really long.

The reason it was haunted and that hype started up was because of just the terrain and how, just, like, rural it is. That’s where a lot of murderers go and bury the bodies of their victims. So, like, there’s a lot of, like, lost souls there that haunt the road.

I remember going on it. Like, my friends and I. There was a couple of us, and we were going down it. And then, we were just like… okay. And you have to go at night, because that’s the full experience. We went at night. And it fogs up there a lot, and the reason is because there’s a lot of trees and apparently, like, throughout the day there’s a lot of sun out, but all the shade makes the ground stay cool. So it cools down a lot quicker, so the dew point’s a lot lower… or some shit like that. So it like, fogs up easier that normally.

And, umm, we went through it once. It was our senior year. And uh, frickin’… nothing like scary happened. It was just, like, our paranoia. It’s like, “What was that!?!” “What was that!?” “What was that?!” But then one incident… one incident… we were going down the road, and we come across an intersection. With a stop light, alright? And when we approached it, it was red. So we stopped. And then we were just like, “This is a trap!” Cause, like, we thought it was just jammed. That light was long. Or maybe it just appeared long to us. But like, at least from our perspective it was really long. So we were just like, “Nah… nah… this can’t be. It can’t be.”

So we kept looking around, and then Matt—fucking Matt—Matt opens his door, and we were just like, “What!!” But he’s just like, “Nah, I’m just gonna check it out, you know?” So he opens up the door and he walks—there’s no other cars around us—so he opens up the door and he kinda just like walks around. And we’re just like, none of us wanted to get out of the car. I still had my seat belt on. That shit was not coming off. And we’re just like, “Matt! Matt! Get back in the car! This could turn green any second! Matt!” And then umm, at one point, Shabab [the driver] was just like, “Fuck this.” ‘Cause the light had turned green. Matt was still outside the car. I think he was just fucking with us. But then Shabab just started driving away, and Matt was like, “What!?!” [Laughing.] Oh my god! [More laughing.] He didn’t go far. He wasn’t that mean. And then he backed up. And that scared the fuck out of me, too, you know. I’m like, “No, no, Shabab, we can’t leave him. No, no, we have to explain this to his parents!” [Laughs.]

Background Information:

The informant says that Clinton Road is a very well-known “touristy spot” within New Jersey. However, he believes that no one outside of New Jersey really knows about it.

At the very least, he believes that there really are dead bodies of murder victims buried there.

Contextual Information:

The informant treats this story as a cherished memory and hilarious story to tell to friends.

Analysis:

The legend of Clinton Road’s haunting is clearly connected to semi-ritualized visits to the road by high school students. The informant himself participated in such a visit, as well as the practical jokes that accompanied it. This pattern (i.e. a legend, a ritual, and a practical joke) matches typical traditions surrounding American haunting legends.

Also, the informant directly associates his knowledge of and participation in this legend with his identity as someone who grew up in New Jersey. He believes that the legend is something shared only within the state.

Legends
Narrative

Apple Pie Hill

Item (direct transcription):

There’s a hiking trail [in New Jersey] that I went on a couple times with a group of friends. It was about eight of us. And there’s a place called Apple Pie Hill. And it’s along the Appalachian Mountains. Like, the very beginning of it. And the trail that’s like the biggest trail that’s most popular and closest to where we live… when you go up it—it’s a couple of miles—um, when you go up on it, at the very, very top—at the top of Apple Pie Hill—there’s like a tower. And, uh, it’s abandoned. But there’s like a bunch of writing on it. People visit it all the time. They would leave like locks on it, or whatever, like “I love you” locks and stuff. People write on it a lot. I wrote down “USC Fight on! Class of 2019” on it.

There’s a story, though, behind that tower. That tower, you can go up on it—you can spiral up. Um, it’s like, it’s like a metal tower, but then there’s like a little box—like a room—on the very top. And the only way that you can get in is up a ladder there’s a little latch. Kinda like how you would get into an attic. But it’s locked. And there’s a story on why. And it’s because that tower, that place, that certain area is haunted. Because that tower is a… back in the old days—you know, when they didn’t have satellites and just didn’t have the technology that we have today—the way, uh, they would, uh, look out for wildfires was there was literally a guy watching from a tower like that. It’s a really old tower. Like, it looked really unsteady.

But, um, there’s a legend saying that the place is haunted by this one guy, ’cause he was a park ranger and there was a forest fire going on. But he was sleeping on that tower. So by the time he saw the fire and he wanted to, like, alert people, uh, the fire was, like, engulfing the mountain around him. He died there. He was burnt to death in those mountains. So they think his ghost still wanders around those mountains to this day.

Background Information:

The informant was told the story by his friend’s mother. He suspects that she was embellishing the story.

He’s not sure whether it’s true that a park ranger died on Apple Pie Hill, but he thinks it’s possible. He says he would be scared to visit the tower at night.

Contextual Information:

The informant treats this story as a cherished memory. Evidently, his visit to the tower and the story associated with it had a significant impact on him, as he was eager to share photos of him and his friends at the tower.

Analysis:

This legend seems to match common American stories about haunted locations. It has the usual motif of someone dying in an unusual way, then becoming a ghost and haunting the site of their death.

general

Ghost Hauntings in India

BACKGROUND:

An individual in Los Gatos, California recounts her familial folk belief in ghosts while living in India. According to her, when a family member passes, the whole extended family sleeps in one room for about a week after the passing due to the fear of the ghost of the departed returning to haunt individual family members. She tells a family legend of her grandfather’s experience with ghosts. According to him, when his mother passed the family all slept in the same room as per their beliefs. While sleeping, with a gust of wind, the door opened and the ghost of his mother appeared before her widowed husband. When the father saw her, other family members awoke, screamed, and the ghost fled from the house.

INTERVIEW:

My interview with my source, A, went as follows:

ME: Could you tell me about what the beliefs are towards ghosts in India?

A: So when someone passes away they’re always afraid that the ghost is going to return. So they would all sleep in the same room for the first, you know, week after the death.

ME: Was there ever an instance in which a ghost returned?

A: When my grandfather was 8 years old… his mother died. So they’re all sleeping in the same room and they said one of the doors opened, there was a gust of wind, and she came in. She came in to see my grandfather. And my grandfather saw her, and she… like other family members woke up and saw her, they screamed, and she ran away.

ME: Did she ever come back?

A: I don’t know, I just know she visited them that one time.

MY THOUGHTS:

I find it interesting that this belief and fear of returning spirits is fended off not via a religious figure, but through the bond and support of family. While the recounted legend is quite compelling, I’m more interested in the bonding experience this belief provides for the family. The passing of a loved one is an extremely traumatic experience. The idea that the only way to prevent a spirit from returning is through the family banding together is a good way to help cope with the depression of losing a family member.

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.

Folk Beliefs

Haunted Bedroom

Title: Haunted Bedroom

Interviewee: Steven Miao

Ethnicity: Chinese-American

Age: 19

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): In his room at Webb tower at USC in Los Angeles. Me and the interviewer.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee- “Apparently my sister thinks my room back home is haunted. Every time she sleeps in my room, she wakes up in the middle of the night with a heavy chest. She is superstitious and a believer in spirits. She has tried to make me move out of my room once. My parents were worried about me, and asked if I woke up at night with a heavy chest. She said it was the spirits of ancestors that were angry with us.”

Interviewer- “When was the first time you heard about this?”

Interviewee- “Well it kind-of just was, ever since we had moved into that house that we live in now. She never like the house, and for some reason especially me room. She just always has really…weird experiences when she sleeps in that room. I don’t know, it’s seems fine to me. I never had anything wrong with it. I like my room actually, it’s nice.”

Interviewer- “Is this a story you like to tell people about?”

Interviewee- “Not really. I mean I usually tell people that story if they ask if I know of any ghost stories or things like that. But no I don’t particularly like telling people this story. To be honest it creeps me out a little thinking about that fact that my sister could be right…”

Analyzation: The Interviewee seems to recall this story in multiple parts, more coming back to him as he speaks more. It is obvious that this story indeed is not one that he tells often, because he does not remember most of it. But that is how it goes, especially since he said himself that he does not like talking about it much. Perhaps allowing the idea of ghosts or ancestors living in his room unnerves him, as he recently has had trouble with his parents, and worries about what his parents think of his life’s choices. That being said, it makes sense that the sister is worried about the Interviewee, and that she worries that the ancestors of both of them would be unhappy with what the Interviewee is doing with his life, which is contrary to traditional Chinese practices.

Tags: Haunted Room, Haunting, Ancestors

Legends
Myths
Narrative

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.

Legends
Narrative

The Colorado Street Bridge

AA is a high school senior living in Arcadia, California. She is certainly a folklore enthusiast- when I collected this piece from her in her bedroom, her bookshelves were stuffed with books about mythologies and tales from seemingly every corner of the world. But I was surprised to hear this legend about a location only miles away from our neighborhood that she shared with me:

 

“Ok, so the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, right? So what I heard is that it’s known to be, like, a suicide bridge, so a lot of students will go there and jump off the bridge. I think there was this one time, uh, where there was this couple that went on the bridge. It was late at night. And they saw this kid, you know, and he was about to jump. And they had persuade him, and coax him for an hour or two so that he wouldn’t jump. He didn’t jump off the bridge. But he disappeared into thin air right after he told them that he wouldn’t jump.

Another story says that a man was just walking down the bridge and there was this certain area where, like, it felt colder than other places on the bridge. The air was still- there was no breeze or anything. And later he found out that someone had actually died jumping off from that same spot.

This legend really fascinates me. I’ve basically asked everyone if they’ve heard anything about it and I’ve read about it online. I’ve never gone to walk around there myself, though- I would be too scared.”

What made you want to look more into this story?

“The bridge is just so pretty. I always wondered about it though- I always wondered why it was just empty. Like, you will never see anyone on the bridge. I remember driving past it at night and the streetlamps were on, do you could totally walk on it- but still it was completely empty. I always wondered why, I drive past this bridge every day and not once have I seen someone walking on the bridge.

It’s interesting because it’s so close to us. It’s this super recognizable landmark. You’ll read about everywhere, it’s one of the things people know about where we live.  And the story is just so sad, you don’t really think about people committing suicide so nearby. It’s such a nice area. You wouldn’t expect it. Also it’s so public. It’s hard to imagine people going there to kill themselves right in front of the highway, in this very recognizable, very public place. It’s very tangible when it’s happening in a place you know. It’s a huge problem.”

The Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, CA

The Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, CA

 

My thoughts: Places with tragic histories almost always have legends surrounding them.  Perhaps these frightening legends are meant to deter people from going there to commit suicide themselves, or to warn people to stay away in case they end up witnessing something traumatic.  While it might have originated as a way of explaining why the bridge is always empty, I think it might have gone the other way around, too. It’s a widely circulated story I’ve heard in my neighborhood, and I think it’s definitely had an impression on the people who have heard it- the bridge is always deserted because people are scared to walk there at night, even though its safe and brightly lit. Also this legend ties into other folklore that claims that the spirits of those who committed suicide might stay behind- again, this is a cautionary tale that denotes suicide as wrong or immoral by presenting potential consequences of committing suicide.

For more on this legend, see Weird California’s write-up, Pasadena’s Suicide Bridge, which discusses the bridge’s tragic history as well as the ghost stories surrounding it: http://www.weirdca.com/location.php?location=57

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Bell Witch Haunting

“The legend of Bell Witch is a famous haunted house story in Tennessee.  There was once a farmer named John Bell who moved to a farm land in what is now known as Adams, Tennessee.  One day, John saw a strange animal in the field, so he tried to shoot it and it disappeared.  After that incident, the members of the family began hearing strange noises around the house.  The noises got worse and the family started hearing voices as well.  Soon, they were physically affected when the spirit would actually pull their hair, slap their faces, throw things, and much more.  After the presence became extremely unbearable, John decided ask around to receive help.  No one was able to get rid of the spirit because it was so powerful.  In the end, John got very sick and the spirit finally killed him after it poisoned him.  Today, it is believed that some areas in Adams are haunted because of Bell Witch.  Visitors have supposedly heard voices and sounds of laughter.  Also, people have taken pictures on the property, but the developed pictures would show a man standing behind the visitor in the picture.”

This legend is popular in Tennessee, so my informant heard about it after she moved to Tennessee from Texas several years ago.  Her friends and neighbors also mention the Bell Witch legend occasionally because of its popularity.  Theresa learned more about the legend after the movies Bell Witch Haunting and An American Haunting were made.  The movies provided her with a more thorough understanding of the story and the haunting that went on in the Bell house.
Because she has been exposed to this well-known legend as a Tennessee resident, my informant thinks about the story when the topic of haunted houses comes up.  Haunted houses remind her of the legend of Bell Witch, so she shares what she knows with people who don’t know the story.
Even though she shares this legend with those unfamiliar with it, she does not believe that it is true.  She does not believe in ghosts, so she does not think that the incidents that happened at the Bell house had to do with spirits and witches.  Although the tale of Bell Witch contains many supernatural occurrences, she does not have any explanation as to why the Bell family was taunted by a spirit.
Since I do believe in ghosts, I think that this story is highly credible.  Some of the incidents in the story do not really make sense, but I think that the Bell family could very likely have been haunted by Bell Witch.  There would not be a legend like this or recent incidents if none of this were true.  The fact that there are museums, researchers, and attractions dedicated to Adams, Tennessee reveals the legitimacy of the legend.  Visitors have experienced supernatural confrontations that relate back to the Bell family.  I do think that the property is haunted, even though I’m not quite sure I believe the entire background story.

Annotation:
Fitzhugh, Pat.  “The Bell Witch Haunting.”  The Bell Witch “Keeping the Story Real.”  16 Jan     2007.  21 April 2007 <http://www.bellwitch.org/story.htm>.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Hauntings at Elsinore Theater

“There’s a story about the Elsinore Theater in Salem. It’s supposedly supposed to be haunted. I’ve heard that they’re actors and actresses that use to perform on the stage in the past that died, and now they’ve come back to haunt the theater and to watch those who use the stage now. My friend said she read somewhere that the original owner’s daughter died in Elsinore and that she also haunts the theater. There’s supposed to be some place on the stage that’s a cold spot. If you’re on that place while performing, you’ll suddenly feel the temperature drop, and you might see a weird figure watching you. Also, there have been reports of people in the scaffolding area, and also of a dark figure visible from the stage, walking around the aisles during performances.”

This information was told to my informant during a choir benefit concert. She was there with her orchestra to play Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” with the choir. As she was in the waiting room before her performance time, she was talking with some of her choir friends, and they passed on these stories of the theater. She said it was definitely a bit creepy for her, as it was late in the evening in winter, so there was a lot of howling wind and dreary rain. She refused to go to the bathroom by herself, after hearing these accounts, as she was afraid she would encounter one of these ghostly apparitions. Although she does not really believe these accounts to be true, she said something about the theater just seems eerie to her now.

I have been to the Elsinore Theater myself, although I have never heard about these possible hauntings. It is an old and beautiful theater, and I could see how rumors like these could have arisen. For me, places where art is made such as music and plays, these places seem a bit romantically scary. It is almost as though past performers or composers, or the subjects of the plays or music seem to linger around in these areas of high emotion and passion. Elsinore Theater seems to be one of those places where even fairytales can come true.

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