USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘high school’
Legends

El Paso High Ghost-Moratorium

Main Piece:

The Participant is marked as BH. I am marked as LJ.

LJ: Can you tell me about El Paso High School.

BH: So El Paso High is known as the oldest high school in El Paso, but beyond that, its also the most haunted high school in the city. It used to be um, the moratorium for world war 11 soldiers who had died in combat, but had no family members reclaim their bodies. So all these bodies were just left there…so as a result, it has been said that there are many ghosts that wander the halls of all of these veterans who have not been able to find peace.

LJ: How did you learn about the ghosts?

BH: I would hear them all the time when I was growing up. Um…I think I heard them more around middle school. There were kids who would go out to the school at night. So sometimes they would hear things..

 

Context:

I had visited the participant and her family in El Paso in March. This was recorded after.

Background:

The participant is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. She is a firm believer in religion and likes “scary stories,” including television shows and hearing about hauntings. She grew up primarily in El Paso, Texas with her mom and two sisters.

Analysis:

This is an example of how ghost stories are passed from one person to the next, immortalizing the event and history of the place. In this case, El Paso High, being the oldest has a lot of history. Not all of the stories may be true, but they are believed by a large amount of the population in El Paso. Being there, I also learned that since El Paso is so close knit, many of the stories and beliefs are shared by the community. Every place I went on my visit had some sort of history to it. There were plaques along the walls and in the pavement, but a lot of what I learned came from listening to native El Paso-ans speak about their city.

 

Folk Beliefs
general
Humor

9/11: The TRUTH

Context: I was chatting with my roommate about his time in marching band in high school, and the following is one of the encounters he had during one of his festival trips.

Background: My roommate is a psychology minor, and one of the aspects of the subject he’s always been interested in is the part of the human brain that induces paranoia. Because of this, he’s been invested in conspiracy theories for a long time.

Dialogue: (Note: C denotes myself, B denotes my roommate)

C: So what about the van?

B: Oh, 9/11!

C: 9/11, tell me about 9/11!

B: OK! First of all, inside job. Second of all, I was in Victoria, British Columbia on a band trip, and, um, we were getting ready to march in this parade, and we saw this van driving around the– the– I guess the Parliament building? Um, and it said on the side of it, “9/11 was an inside job.” It was like a 9/11 truther van. And I thought, “Why… do you care? You’re in Canada… 9/11 did not happen in Canada.” I just thought that was interesting. I had a lot of questions, first of all… “What?” Second of all, um, like like like are these Americans doing this? Uh, if so, why are they in Canada, why are they in Victoria, British Columbia? Um… you know you’re not even near New York at this point!

Analysis: I actually debated with myself over what to categorize this piece as. The central bit of folklore revolves around a conspiracy theory regarding what “really” happened on 9/11, which is a tragic day in American history. However, the countless people who insist that 9/11 was an “inside job” (AKA a disaster orchestrated by the US government itself) have put such ridiculous and unreal theories out there, that it’s nearly impossible not to laugh at something like a “9/11 truther van” driving around. Because of this, and because of the fact that this theory is a belief shared in online communities without consideration for reality, I decided to categorize it as both Humor and as a Folk Belief.

Annotation: My roommate’s encounter is not nearly the first instance where the “9/11 was an inside job” belief popped up. In fact, in the same conversation, my roommate mentioned the documentary Loose Change as a good place to go deeper into the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Going to Hell in High School

Context: I collected this from a high school friend when we were on a camping trip together over Spring Break.

Background: My friend and I were part of our high school’s marching band.

Dialogue: (Note: C denotes myself, J denotes my friend)

J: When I first went to CV [high school] they— We did the tour thing with the band, and they were like “This is the stairs to Hell! There’s a bomb shelter down there.” Which… fuck knows.

C: There’s a bomb shelter?

J: Yeah, apparently there’s a bomb shelter in CV. It was built in the 60s, it makes sense, y’know. I’ve never looked at the blueprints.

C: I was never told there was a bomb shelter.

J: Um, but I don’t know where that is. I’ve always assumed it was down in Hell, um, but… A couple years after that, uh, I was told by… someone, that a hobo used to live down in Hell and just kind of… slept there, cuz y’know, shelter I guess, and that one day administration found that hobo dead in Hell. So that sucks— Well it’s not really in Hell, cuz Hell you get to from the inside of the auditorium, you gotta go down the stairs from the Jazz Cave, but this was like— you know the stairs behind the auditorium, that go down and are like, sketchy and dark?

C: The spiral ones?

J: N0, the spirals are in the Jazz Cave. The ones that are, like, if you’re going from the Band Room up to the quad, and instead of going up the stairs you go around the stairs, and then there’s stairs down. If you go down those stairs.

C: Okay.

J: That’s where I was told that the hobo died.

C: Oh! Yeah, yeah.

J: And it’s like dark there and shit, so… it would make sense that no one found him there for a while.

Analysis: This is almost my own piece of folklore too, since I went to high school in the same place and knew about the same locations. In this instance, however, comparing my own knowledge about “Hell” (a basement area underneath our school’s auditorium) to what my friend knew showed some variation: I had never heard of the bomb shelter existing before, nor did I know that the specific staircase my friend had spoken about was supposed to be an “entrance to Hell,” as we would have put it back in the day.

Gestures
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Good Luck Free Throw

Everyone who plays basketball has some sort of free-throw routine. This is my brother’s:

Skye: When I get fouled, I go to the free throw line. The referee hands me the ball.I spin it, let it hit the ground, it comes back to me. I dribble twice. Look at the basket, take a deep breath. Spin it again. Shoot. Make it. And then do it again for the second free throw but I don’t get second free throws.

Me: Does everybody have a free-throw routine?

Skye: Yeah, but everybody’s is different.

Me: When did you discover your free-throw routine?

Skye: Middle school. I’ve changed it up a couple times. It used to be three dribbles instead of two. Ball is life. Ball is wife.

Analysis: Basketball is not a game of luck. However, having  a free throw routine can help to center a lot of players when they’re being yelled at from the opposing team’s crowd. Like in other sports, there are moments where a single athlete’s performance can matter more than the entire team’s. A free throw, when all of the team is watching, is a moment of extreme pressure for the individual. If the player has a routine, he feels centered and ready to score.

general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

High School Spirit week

Informant:

Daniel is a first year analyst at a prominent Manhattan based investment bank. He grew up in Northern California from a predominantly irish background

Piece:

 

My high school took spirit week super seriously and every single person got super hyped for it and dressed up every day. It was awesome. The whole week culminated on thursday nights when we had the annual Rock N Jock tournament which was a game of basketball with modified rules. Each player on the court dressed as a different character and had different limitations and scoring potential. Like the granny had to only shoot underhand but got a 3 points no matter where she shot from. And the traveler could travel all he wanted, but had to carry a small piece of luggage with him and wasn’t allowed to shoot. Scuba diver had to wear a scuba mask, wetsuit, and flippers, but got 5 free throws if he ever got to the line. The most important character of all though was the flamingo who had to hop on one foot whenever he was on the offensive half of the court, but got 7 points if he made any shot, 3 if he hit the rim, and 1 for just hitting the backboard. The game essentially boiled down to boxing out so that the flamingo could take shots and try to get as many points as possible. It was the best part of spirit week for sure.

Collector’s thoughts:

Once again, the idea of multiplicity and variation arises. While the game of basketball has official and standardized rules, this adaptation of the famous game also has its own set of very specific rules and regulations. While this game might not be “official” it represents a great amount to the informant. This game was the essential part in determining the winner of spirit week.  

Customs
general

Stealing Props

There’s this huge tradition in theatre… our high school theatre… uh, department… where after we close a show, everyone in the cast and crew, like, steals one of their props or, like, a piece of the set or something. And we’re not technically supposed to do that, like, all the props and sets are supposed to, like, be deconstructed and put back in the vault, but, like, nobody actually cares. But um… yeah, my first show at the high school, I didn’t know this was a thing, so I didn’t take anything, which… I cry (laughs). But then for the spring show my freshman year, I… we did Pippin and I was one of the, like, farmer guys in Act Two, which, like… wooo, big role, I know, but, um… during strike, I almost forgot about that, but, uh… fortunately, I was just walking around backstage after school one day, and I found my hat that I wore for the show, which was just, like, a really redneck-looking baseball cap… and it was just lying on one of the tables backstage… I don’t know if, like, somebody forgot to put it back with all the costumes or something, but, like, yeah, I just decided to take it, because I’d forgotten to take any other props, and, like, you know, it was my first speaking role in a high school show… I mean, a small one, but you know, and so… yeah, I guess I just wanted to keep it. Uh… but yeah, I’ve seen people walk away with… like, whole pieces of sets that they just keep in their rooms, I guess, or, like… just other props… I know the middle school kids are starting to take props from their shows that they do, too, so… I guess it’s spreading (laughs). But yeah, I guess it’s kind of a problem within the theatre department, you know, like, we’re supposed to give them back so they can use them for future shows, but, like, in all honesty, they hardly ever do, they mostly just sit there in the prop vault for years… and, like, honestly, our school has enough money to just buy new props if they need to, so, like… nobody actually cares that we’re just stealing props and set pieces, and it’s… it’s pretty cool to, like, keep parts of shows you’ve been in or worked on, so we just do it.

 

Thoughts:

The tradition of stealing props or set pieces is a highly sentimental one. After working for weeks or sometimes months on a show that closes after a few performances, those involved in it want to keep pieces of the show to remember it by, especially since a show’s closing is usually very emotional (the same informant, as well as others, tell me of cast parties during which everybody cries the whole night). It also allows cast and crew members to show others or “prove” that they were a part of a particular show, since they have a keepsake from it. This tradition also points to high school students’ desires to break rules and get away with “sneaking around” behind the adults.

general
Legends

High School Song Contest

This tradition was told in a setting where a group of friends were recounting old and weird high school traditions. This is one from a small private all-girl’s school in Ohio.

“So in my high school, my high school is like a school that’s all grades, like you can go there from the time you’re two years old to when you graduate, I just went when I went o high school, and in the highs school there’s this thing that each grade, so just the four, they do a thing called song contest and each grade will pick a theme and it’s super secretive and then you have to pick songs like four or five songs that fit that theme and change the lyrics to be about my high school Laurel, and you have to play your own music, so like you can’t play a stereo, you have to get your own music and your own dances, and then the alumni will vote on the best and which celebrates Laurel the most, and it’s this whole thing because my school’s been around since 1896 so there’s some very old alumni, and like, they’re like, conspiracies that like you have to pick older songs cause the old people aren’t going to know, and last year the juniors did beyonce and it was good like super good, but they didn’t win because basically because they chose too new of the artists or something like that, and there’s another conspiracy that like if the seniors don’t win it’s like a riot, and I guess that like once the seniors didn’t win and all their rich parents were like we’re defunding, we’re taking back our loans and all that, but like the seniors haven’t won a few times, like we didn’t win when we were seniors and we were fine, there was some people though who made it a big thing because they have ties to alumni and all that”

Analysis:

It’s clear to see that the reasoning behind the rumours around the song contest – it would mean more chances to win. However, it is interesting about the seniors needing to win, because it would seem that perhaps it would ENSURE that the senior class would win. However, as the informant noted, her class did not win and there were no repercussions.

Legends
Narrative

The Headmistress

This story is from a small private, all-girl’s school in Ohio. The informant is now in college.

“Ok so, at my high school it’s very small, so like sixty girls a grade, and in the lower school it’s less than that like 20 girls. so like everyone really knows everybody especially in the upper school even the teachers. And the headmistresses, she started when I was like when i was really young and before I got there, but by the time I got there she had been the headmistress for like ten years and everybody loved her and she was widely known for like, turning the school around like before that it had all these weird scandals, like prep-schooly scandals which she like made it more artists and empowering, and she’s the reason why the school is what it is and stuff, and there’s this like story about her about, her name is Ann, and there’s this story that Ann found a girl in the bathroom doing coke. which is like, it’s not like crazy, but like I didn’t know anybody who did coke at my school and it was like a weird thing so like, apparently she found her doing coke and then brought her to her office and was like I will pay for your read therapy rehab, and i won’t tell your parents but you can’t do coke again, you can’t do it on schoolgrounds and you have to go to all your therapies and if you like don’t do all those things i’ll tell your parents but like I’ll take care of everything else. and like, i don’t know if that’s true, but like i feel like it was girl that was two years older than me and i like had friends in that grade and stuff and yeah, so that was the crazy part. And it was plausible that she was able to do it because she was super rich.”

Analysis:

The idolisation of the Headmistress is clear in this story because of all the good work that she has done. She is seen as a caring and benevolent ruler. Although perhaps not true, the story shows that the girls are able to trust and be cared for by the headmistress, if not more, than their parents. This places the faith and dedication and loyalty to the school and headmistress than perhaps before the girls heard this story.

general

Haunted High School Auditorium

The informant told a group of friends this story when recounting weird traditions and stories about their high school experience. The informant is from a rural town in Eastern Oregon.

“So, our auditorium at my high school is also haunted, and rumour has it that the drama/english teacher that later got fired because he apparently had sex with a student, um, basically he confirmed this, and was the director  of the theatre and stuff, but there was like this kid who was really into theater and everything, and he killed himself and we don’t know why or how, but he killed himself apparently, but the specific seat, J26, is supposed to be particularly haunted and that’s where he always sits, and my teacher would say how they would be putting on plays, and the light box you would see shadows or voices or scuttering about so, Yeah. That’s basically it.”

Analysis:

It is hard to see what the English/Drama teacher would gain by spreading the rumour of the ghost, but it has been widely accepted in the informants school as truthful.

folk metaphor
folk simile
Folk speech
Legends

Mascotgate

This was told to a group of friends while talking about funny or weird high school experiences.

“So at my high school, at the end of junior year, you pick a mascot, and the mascot is a mix of a pop culture figure and an animals, so like “Swanye West” or Swan F Kennedy, and i don’t know why those are both swans but those are easy, but um, uh, one time they did a movie, “Fight Cub”; “Moose Lee”, “mean squirrels”, um, and so you then you use them for your senior mascot and you get shirts based on that, and you also your yearbook will be entered on that, so when they did “moose lee” they made it look like an action movie, so like first people submit things and then we all vote on them, and the largest vote was “Genghis Kangaroo” like Genghis Khan and a kangaroo, um, and this had been submitted, and voted for number one, and it works like you vote for one and whatever gets the most votes wins, um, but then, oh yeah, so I was on term council which is like student council for each grade, and people were really mad, like I don’t want this, it can’t be Genghis kangaroo because I hate it but he’s also a mass-murderer, and like a pillager and a rapist, and we don’t want Genghis Khan representing us, and like all of those are obviously fair arguments, but like you could have said this at any point, like Genghis kangaroo could have been taken out at any point and we didn’t have to wait until it won, for then everyone to say why it’s fucked up? and then, we had a bunch of meetings at term council for what to do, what won the democratic vote, and there have always been rumours that it is a “termocracy” meaning that term council did shit without consulting the students and that we didn’t care about them, which was crazy because the meetings were open, so like anyone could come, so then you chose not come, and then we make decisions, and then you get mad about those decisions? so then we had a forum. and the forum on whether to like, like a forum to vote on whether we should re-vote and like take Genghis kangaroo out or go to the other high vote, and then on the high school meme page, there was a shit ton of memes, like conspiracy theory memes that were like, like “we’re going to have a forum to vote on whether to have re-vote a second forum for the first forum to vote on the third forum” and just like wrecking term, and like wrecking all the things that we were doing, because like what else do you want, because if we had just chosen ourselves and didn’t have a forum then they would have said “termocracy” but like when we had the vote on the revote they said this is nonsense and i think what ended up happening is that we had a forum and we just ended up going with the one which was the number two, which was TroutKast, which was a combination between Outcast the band and trout the animal, which was really good and everyone loved and  mascots were trout with the outkast costumes and then the yearbook got to be like a road trip, album tour type thing, like a cross-country tour. So it worked out.”

Analysis:

To me, what is most interesting about this story is the folklore that spread through the students through their “Meme page” as way of communication. The dubbing of the student council as a “termocracy” also shows the different levels of students and their awareness of the world, as if high school is like a much smaller country and the leaders are turning it into a dictatorship.

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