USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘haunting’
Legends
Narrative

The Ghosts of Cheesman Park: Haunting in Colorado

Background: CW Originally heard the story from their father and once from their grandmother, positioning the story as fairly old within the history of Cheesman. CW Then looked it up on google to confirm it. CW Finds the story interesting and “Kind of messed up, to be honest” it matters to them because they lived in a haunted place and had a friend who was extremely interested in ghost hunting.
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Context CW, with a mug of hot tea sits, on my couch after an afternoon of doing homework and recounts stories from their childhood. The atmosphere is calm, the air is calm and the room is mostly quiet in between stories. CW has known the collector for some time and thus is excited to share their stories.

Performance:
CW:The park that I used to live by is supposedly super haunted because it used to be a cemetery
MW: Aw Hell yeah!
CW: CHEESMAN PARK
MW: Cheesman Park?
CW Cheesman Park.
CW: OK Cheesman park used to be a cemetery I don’t remember when but the …..the city was like “Hey why don’t we not make this a cemetery”
CW: Cause ok it was a cemetery for un unn, like you know like people who weren’t paying for a burial
MW: A potters field?
CW Yeah, and also Asian Americans in Little Cheesman which is a part of Cheesman but it’s like a strip on the other side of the road. That’s where the Asian Americans people were. I think, if I’m remembering correctly Idunno.
CW:And so the city was like “Yeah we don’t want this to be a graveyard anymore so lets like”….I’m starting to doubt what I remember
MW: Just tell me what you remember
CW: So they hired someone to, like basically dig up all the graves. Buuut he was super sketchy and he would like mix the remains and pack them into child coffins to make more money off of it….[CW trails off, and laughs at my bewildered expression inn response to the exhuming ]
CW: But now supposedly Cheesman park is like super haunted because of all the graves that were disrupted.
CW: My friends told me if you lay down in Cheesman park you’ll feel like you can’t get back up because the spirits are trying to keep you there with them and definitely like a lot of weird noises
CW: Because I lived right on the park, I was pretty convinced they were some whack noises for the middle of ….Denver….the Gay Neighborhood of Denver, but yeah…spoooky.
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Analysis:
The story plays on two key fears that might represent the anxieties in the Cheesman community, notably two different local marginalized groups at the time of the story’s conception, the poor and Asian Americans. These groups likely felt uncomfortable in the city anyway and made some of the majority uncomfortable with their presence thus the city’s desire to remove the cemetery can be seen as a drive to remove these people from the environment. The desecration of their graves, the stuffing of bones into childrens’ coffins serves to mimic the disrespect these communities received in life and why they’d be angry enough to trap someone in the park and force their victims to join their community. Likewise that Cheesmann is now “the gay neighborhood of Denver” the feeling of unrest and danger felt by the LGBT community there might to be an impetus for the survival of the story.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative

Blue Ghosts in Okinawa, Japan

AM: So, it was- like the first month or two when i moved to Japan and I was hanging outside at like…2am like at night in a park. Um, the military base we was staying on was built like near like Japanese Shrines and whatnot and they said that you know the shrines are haunted and there’s a lotta “superstitions” with those. So while we’re out hanging, there was like oh look- you can see a bluf- blue figure on a hill like on top of the shrine and when I looked over you- I saw like a bluish like glow from the hills where the shrine was and they said that this island is one of the most haunted places and that there’s a lot of spirits around.

VG: Woah. What island was it?

AM: Okinawa.

VG: Woah-

AM: And that is- it is very common to see those there… so we was like “yeah, let’s get the hell out of here.”

 

Background:

Location of Story – Okinawa, Japan

Location of Performance – Dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore. This story came after a few others. The one prior was specifically about a high school grade being cursed.

 

Analysis: One point of interest in this performance is the effectiveness of the subtlety of the description of the “spirits.” The only physical description the audience receives about these supernatural beings is that they humanoid in figure and blue. The color is particularly notable because, at least in my experience, I have always viewed the ghosts in ghost stories as being neutral toned or white. Therefore, this description was able to create a whole new image for me and draw me deeper into this performance. It also reinforces the foreignness AM might feel since he had just moved to Japan: not only is the location different but also all of the local lore. One might even go so far as to say that this story was presented with a negative conation despite having no description of graphic hauntings or threats. 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Krasue in South Asian Folklore

NC: So there’s this story about crossaway or crosu (Krasue) I don’t know exactly how to pronounce the name but in southeast asian folklore she is supposed to be a very beautiful woman and she’s only a head, so she’s a decapitated head and her entails are hanging out and she’s supposed to float around uh a building- a haunted building or something um she’s- I think she’s searching for something and she might also kill anyone who comes into the building. That’s all I’ve heard about it.

 

Background:

Location of Story – Southeast Asia

Location of Performance – Dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. NC approached me in person in response to the text and had just discovered this creature herself. 

 

Analysis: Krasue is physically unlike any other “monster” or creature I have heard of before. I was particularly interested in the dichotomy between the woman’s beauty and the grotesqueness of her lower half. For me, this hints at a commentary about how women are viewed around the world globally: her head is attached but her body has been ripped apart by what exactly? If women often fall victim to objectification, then it makes sense that this lore would depict her “body” has being completely consumed by something else or at least lost to something or someone besides herself. Additionally, the fact that she is bound by a building, confirms the archetypical “domestic” woman, but the threat she poses to anyone else trying to reside in her household disrupts this stereotype and protects the space as her own.

Legends
Narrative
Protection
Signs

La Llorona Legend

KF: Ok so, um, there’s this tale, or folklore, or urban legend- I’m not quite really sure what it is…um, where- I think they recently made a movie on it too. Uh, La Llorona is a woman who was married and she had children, but her husband ended up cheating on her or leaving her, and so she decided to get back at her husband she was gonna kill her kids, and um, she drowned them in like a nearby river or something and she ended up- I think she ended up committing suicide herself. And so then at night, she comes back uh crying, um, “my kids, my kids!” And So practically, it’s well known throughout like Mexico that like if you live near a river, and she like- you hear her say like “my kids, my kids,” you wanna hide your children cause she’ll like she’ll take them…um, and they’ll disappear forever or something like that.

 

Background:

Location of story – predominantly Mexico, according to informant

Location of Performance – Interviewer’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. KF approached me two days prior to this interview, but schedules did not allow for a recording until she came to ask a homework and remembered. I am good friend’s with KF.

 

Analysis: La Llorona has extensive foundations in the conquistador era, and the lack of knowledge about the historical context demonstrates to me how extensively the legend has spread and varied amongst different communties. I have studied La Llorona before but never had I heard about the warning cry “my kids, my kids!” Therefore, this is one of the more impactful versions of La Llorona I have heard because it actually has a physical effect on the people who might believe they have heard the cry because they remove their kids from a physical space.

Annotation: Another recent version of this legend is the The Curse of La Llorona movie that was recently released.

Citation: Chaves, Michael, director. The Curse of La Llorona. New Line Cinema, Atomic Monster Productions, 2019.

general
Legends
Narrative

San Francisco Hitch-Hiker Ghost Story

Informant:

J, a 22-year-old, Caucasian male who grew up in San Francisco, California until he turned 16. He now lives in Boise, Idaho. He spent his summers at summer camp with his friends.

Background info:

During summer camps, counselors and children would sit around a firepit at night and tell stories. While some of these were positive, most of them would be told with the aim of scaring people. This is one of the stories told to J during one of these sessions.

Context:

This was told amongst a group of friends sitting in a circle around a firepit late at night, slightly intoxicated, telling each other their favorite scary stories they heard as children.

Main piece:

“Okay, this next one is about a little girl from Sacramento… One night, a couple is driving down the road. It’s pitch-black and silent, all except the hum of the tires on the road… The roads are unusually empty, despite it being nearly midnight, and the headlights of the car created a cone of light, barely illuminating the edge of the road… *moves the flashlight in a circle on the ground around the fire*… As they’re driving, the hum of the tires starts to lull them into a trance. *Jacob’s voice began to get more and more quiet* Driving… Driving… Driving through the night. Out of nowhere, the boyfriend slams on the breaks! The girlfriend is lurched awake. ‘What the hell was that?!’ the girlfriend exclaimed. ‘I think I saw something on the side of the road…’. He backs up to find a little girl standing all alone. He stops the car and slowly gets out to ask the girl if she’s okay… Her clothes oddly out of place, her hair tangled, and her skin pale. Immediately, he notices that the girl’s arm is cut, and tears have run dry on her cheeks. ‘Are you okay? What are you doing out here all alone?’ The girl responds only by asking for a lift to her home, only a few miles down the road. Of course, the couple agrees to help the child, and offer to take her to the hospital, instead, but she insists on only going home… So, the couple drive her home, asking her a few questions, creating small-talk… Eventually, the girl stops responding and the couple look back to find she’s fallen asleep. They whisper quietly to each other the rest of the drive… As they pull up to the address, they slowly pull into the driveway. The couple notices that most of the house is dark, all except a single candle on the window by the door… Not wanting to wake the girl, the couple quietly gets out of the car to see if someone is home… *knock knock knock*…. No answer. *Knock Knock Knock*… Still, no answer… *KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*… The door slowly creeps open, and an old lady stands in the dark, the candle barely illuminating her. ‘Yes? How can I help you?’ The girlfriend answers, ‘I’m sorry to disturb you this late at night, but a little girl told us this was her address, and we thought we would bring her home.’ The old lady begins to tear up as the boyfriend goes to get the girl from the car. ‘I don’t know of any girl around here, only my late daughter, who died years ago in a car accident.’ The girlfriend turns pale and looks back at the car. The boyfriend stood staring at the empty backseat…”

Thoughts:

As I read back through this transcript, I wish I could better capture the feeling of this piece. The environment in which the piece was told really played into the feeling of the story. The cold, quiet, dark night with the flames casting shadows around us made it feel like we were surrounded by ghosts. I think the story was interesting coming from J, as he was raised in San Francisco, close to where this story is set. Being told at the summer camps, I believe it made it even more terrifying at the time (due to being told to children who lived near this setting). The recurring set of three also shows up in this story when the couple are knocking on the door, each time the knocking getting louder, as well as the repeated “Driving, driving, driving” to lull the listeners into a false sense of security. The sound effects that J used during the story really made it come alive, which is why I believe most recounts of live stories like this do not capture the actual experience of the story. I’ve also heard similar stories to this about a spirit or ghost making an appearance and convincing someone they are still alive, only to disappear later.

 

 

Narrative

The Cow Head Man

Main Piece:

“When I was a child my mother told me that one late night, she stayed up waiting for my father to return home. It was really late…we lived up in the mountains. So it was always very dark. My mother said that she looked out the sliding back doors and she saw, what looked like a man. She ducked behind the couch quickly as the man walked closer to the sliding doors. When it got up to the doors my mother noticed that the man’s head was that of a cow. It had big black eyes and it just stood there…only moving its eyes from one side to the other. My mother was so scared, she did not know what to do. I think I remember her saying that the cow head man was there for about 10 minutes, looking around. Finally, my father arrived, and his headlights beamed toward the back. That is when my mother looked out again and the cow head man had disappeared.

“This figure, man, or whatever it is has always followed my family and I around.” (when she said this, I asked her what she meant by that, and she continued to tell the story.)

“You see, no matter where we moved to, my mother or me or one of my sisters or brothers said they saw the same man. The last time I saw him it was here (Her current home). I was in the back bedroom, asleep. I was waiting for my husband to arrive. I woke up exactly at 12 midnight. It was weird because my body just woke up on its own, anyway, when I looked over to the window there he was, with his cow head and those huge black eyes. He was just staring at me. I was so afraid. I could not move. There was a point when he looked away from me and that is when I ran right out of there and told my sister. My sister yelled at it and that was not good. You aren’t supposed to test them like that. It’s crazy because it just doesn’t leave us alone.”

 

Context:

The informant is an elderly Caucasian woman born and raised in Tennessee. She first heard about this entity from her mother when she was a child. According to her she has also witnessed the entity with her own eyes. She is not sure why it follows her family around.

 

Analysis: It seems that this story is one shared by many members of this woman’s family. They have all claimed to have encountered this entity in some way or another.

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.

[geolocation]