USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘horror’
general
Legends
Narrative

Abandoned Nunnery in Oklahoma

Text:

KM: “Apparently there’s this like abandoned nunnery out somewhere in Tulsa, and I had a couple of my friends who got there, obviously trespassing to this place. But it was like, I don’t know, but there were rumors that there were like tapes that were still there even though the place was like abandoned that like showed like really bad things I think that happened there. So they go out there at like night, and they say – there were like 6 of them I think, 4 or 6 or them, and they were like okay we’re going to split up and we’re going to search for these tapes. And so, the person who told me this, he and this other guy, they went up like upstairs, and they were like searching for stuff. But um, my other friend, he went in the basement and they actually found the tape. And when they like picked it up, the like lights flickered in the building. And so, they had to like get out of there and apparently the tape is supposed to be like super creepy and stuff and my friend was just like keeping it in his car for the longest time.”

MS: “Did you ever play the tape, to see what was on it?”

KM: “No I don’t think so – it was a VHS tape so I don’t know. I never really followed up. I’m pretty sure the tape is just in my friend’s car still.”

KM: “But for the longest time, I felt like I was haunted by the nuns after hearing this story because like weird stuff would happen with like my phone and I was like “the nuns are haunting me” so I was convinced… My Twitter AV, this is like stupid, but my Twitter AV, which is like your profile picture on Twitter, I would upload it and it would always just turn to black, just like a black picture and I could never like change it back, and I was like I’m really being haunted by these nuns for listening to this story. Because I think part of the legend was that once you hear the story, or once you know about the tapes, they would target you too so I just remember feeling distinctly uncomfortable knowing this.”

 

Context:

The informant is a Chinese-American college student from Tulsa, Oklahoma. This conversation was part of a discussion among a group of similarly aged people about their high school experiences growing up in various parts of America. The content has been lightly edited, and the removed content is indicated by ellipses.

 

Interpretation:

Even though this is not a first-person account of visiting this apparently haunted nunnery, it still provides us with information because this is how legends typically spread – the informant believes she was haunted by the nuns even though she never took a part in directing interacting with the legend herself. She may have experienced the same “haunting” things even if she hadn’t heard the legend but having heard it, she automatically used its mysterious nature as a way to justify inexplicable things in her life. Also interesting is how the mysterious nature of the tapes gives them their value and so even though they were taken from the original site, they were never actually played to verify the legend one way or the other. This may be an instance of the fear of the “other”. For the modern generation, VHS tapes are not something familiar and have this spooky quality because of that.

 

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Haunted Driveway of Valencia

TEXT:  This is a short transcription of my conversation with someone who knows the story of the Haunted Driveway of Valencia. My informant will be seen as and I will be B. 

A: There was this one time where my friends and I drive through there at like 2 am just to see what it was like. And then we played a game of rock paper scissors and the loser had to get outside and touch a tree that was barely visible. It was almost pitch black because there were no lights or anything. No one lived there or anything. I ended up losing, of course, and I ran out to go touch the tree but my friends were slowly driving off. I was so scared. I chased after them but I swear, it felt like someone was behind me.

B: Why was this place scary? Like did it have a reputation?

A: Yeah, so Valencia is not that old but even still, for however long Valencia has been around, there has been no construction on this road at all. Everywhere around it, there are houses and stores and stuff but the city hasn’t even bothered putting lights here. And it’s a dead end if you drive far enough. And there was this girl in my school that did something similar to what I did and she came back traumatized or something. Apparently, when she got back in her friend’s car, she was bawling cause she said she saw a ghost or something.

B: Was she the only one that experienced this?

A: I think so. The driveway always had a scary reputation, even before her, but she kind of just solidified it.

B: Do people believe her?

A: People were talking about it and going up to her at school asking if she was okay for a few days or so. Personally, I don’t really believe her. I think it was probably her own head that tricked her. You know how when your foot is dangling off your bed at night, you feel like someone is going to grab it? I think it was something like that.

B: What are your views of the driveway now?

A: I mean, I don’t really believe in ghosts. But I do have to admit, it was pretty scary to be in the middle of darkness. I really do feel like someone was chasing me but I know in my head that there was no one. But it was still one of the scariest experiences of my life.

 

INFORMANT: My informant has lived in Valencia since he was in 3rd grade. Ever since he moved there, that road has had cones around the entrance. Even though there has not been any construction, cones blocked the entrance. He is not a believer in terms of ghosts or supernatural events. He loves to watch scary movies because he likes the thrill but never gets affected by the movies afterward.

CONTEXT: The informant and I were grabbing a meal on a weekday because we were catching up after a while of not seeing each other. I asked him if I can talk to him about the Haunted Driveway in Valencia for my project and he obliged. It was very casual and he did not tell the story with any scary or fearful intonations. This was primarily because of the fact that he did not believe in paranormal things or haunted areas.

MY INTERPRETATION: I was actually raised in Valencia as well so I had heard about this Haunted Driveway before. However, I did not know too much about it because I did not live as close to the driveway and because my friends did not like scary things so we never tested this myth. I also heard about the girl that was traumatized from her experience on this driveway but I heard a far more exaggerated version. I heard that she had to go to the hospital because she had fainted and when she woke up, she had not been the same for a few days. It was interesting to hear from someone that actually went to the same school as her. I couldn’t help but think about the idea of multiplicity and variation as the story gets performed by different people over time. This story probably started off as the story that my informant said and slowly deviated into a more horror-like story as it got to other people in the city. This supports the idea that as every time a story is performed, there is a little variation in the story. If there is enough of this variation, eventually, the story will be very different from the original.

In my personal opinion, I have a very similar perspective to my informant. I do not think that the driveway is haunted by any spirits or anything. I completely agreed with the small side story that my informant had said about the foot that is dangling off the side of the bed. It’s true that often times, people get scared that something will grab their foot. This is similar to when some people have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Often times, people don’t like to do it because they are scared of the dark. Especially because this driveway has no lights at all, being in complete darkness probably perpetuates fear in people who do not like the dark. I have driven on that road with my friends during the day and it seems awfully normal. There are just a lot of trees and mountains encircling this very narrow plot of land which also makes it hard for the moonlight to help illuminate this area during the evening.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Signs

The Headless Drummer Boy

Context:

I conducted this interview over the phone, the subject was born and raised in Scotland before moving to England, Canada, the United States, then to Northern Ireland, and, finally, back to the United States. I knew she continued to practice certain traditions which were heavily present in her childhood and wanted to ask her more about them.

 

Piece:

Subject: Grandpa used to tell us this ghost story when we were kids about a drummer boy who had no head and would patrol the castles in Scotland. I have no idea why he’s headless or what happened, but he would sometimes get lost from the castle and show up to houses and play the drum to find his way home.

Interviewer: Was he scary at all?

Subject: Yeah, it was meant to scare us, cuz I think if you heard the drum it meant bad things were coming because the boy was so mad that he couldn’t find his way home.

Interviewer: Did it scare you?

Subject: When I was a kid it was frightening!

 

Analysis:

I looked up this scary story to find The Headless Drummer is a known tale in Scotland. According to visitscotland.com, “His identity and the story behind his decapitation remain a mystery, but it is said he made his first appearance in 1650. This was the fateful year Oliver Cromwell launched his invasion of Scotland which culminated in the capture of the castle following a three month siege.” I think there’s a certain fascination with young children who die at the hands of war, or defending something larger than their innocent selves. It’s a sad, glum fascination, but it’s clearly tied heavily to their past.

Source:

Fanthorpe, Lionel, and Patricia Fanthorpe. Mysteries and Secrets: The 16-Book Complete Codex. Dundurn, 2014.

 

Legends
Narrative

NEWLY WEDS HORROR STORY ON THE HIGHWAY TO CHIHUAHUA

Main Piece:

“Growing up…wherever we were in a car on the road to…pretty much anywhere, one of my uncles or aunts would tell us this one story. Apparently in Chihuahua there is this long highway with very few exits or cars passing by. So this couple, who ad literally just married, were on their way to Chihuahua. It was during the night…it was extremely dark. Their car broke down and the husband told his wife that he would walk down the road until he found help, and that she was to stay in the car and lock all the doors. He emphasized that she only opens the doors to him. She agreed and he left. An hour or two after he left, the wife noticed a raggedy man with a brown bag walking down the highway toward her car. The man stopped beside the passenger door and knocked on her window. He smiled at her and pointed at the bag. He knocked again and smiled. Just then a car passed the highway and the man rushed into the trees to hide. The woman flickered her headlights to try to get the car to stop but it did not. After the car was gone, the man with the bag approached her car door window again. He looked at her, smiled, and pointed toward the bag. The wife looked away from him, the man knocked, she turned to face him, again he smiled and pointed toward the bag. Just then another car was making its way down the highway. The man ran into the trees to hide again. The woman flickered her headlights and the car stopped. She told the man from the car that there was an old raggedy man with a bag bothering her and trying to get her to open her door. The man told her that he would hide and when the old man with the bag came back, that she honks many times and he would rush over in his car.

So, the wife waited for the old man to return. He finally did and again he knocked on the window, smiled, and pointed toward the bag. The wife honked and turned her headlights on. The other car rushed over. The old man then tried to escape and in doing so dropped the bag he was carrying. The wife got out of her car and ran toward the bag. The other man stood next to her as she opened the bag. The wife screamed and fainted from the contents in the bag. Inside was the severed head of her husband.”

Context:

The informant is a 27-year-old Mexican-American college student. He learned this story from his uncle, father, aunt, and any and all other family members. It is a very popular story to tell in his family. He believes to a certain extent that the events in this story might be based on true events, but he also believes that it might just be a scary story to tell around a campfire.

Analysis:

This legend seems to have some possibility of being true, which makes for a great legend. I believe that the reason this story continues to be told through generations in this informant’s family is because of how real the legend feels.

This story highlights the idea of sticking together in all circumstances.

Customs
Game

Weekly Horror Game Nights

“My roommates Lane and Brendan, and also our friend Andrew who doesn’t live with us but is around sometimes, we have a tradition of having horror game nights where we all get together late at night – recently, we’ve done it with cake that says like, ‘Happy Horror Game Night!’ – and we’ll sit around, and turn all of the lights off, and play a horror video game. It’s a terrible idea because all of us get scared very easily and none of us like horror games, so we just we don’t really enjoy it. It’s fun because it can sometimes be fun to get scared, but none of us like being scared. I especially don’t like being scared. We’ll sometimes switch off who plays but usually it’s Brendan or Andrew because I get too scared and Lane gets headaches and stuff, so they will play the game and we’ll all watch, and do the story and stuff, and freak out, and then take breaks, and turn the lights on, and eat cake, and turn them off again, and then I’ll say, ‘let’s stop.’ Everyone will say, ‘No, let’s keep going!’ and I’ll say, ‘Ok!’ and then we’ll all cuddle on the couch together in fear and horror.”

Background Information and Context:

“It’s a bonding experience being of afraid together, and it’s how we became friends in the first place, which is why we continue to do it. The very first time we all were in the same place at the same time, we were all at Brendan’s place and we had just gotten this game called PT, which we later found out stood for Playable Trailer because it’s a playable trailer for a game called, like, Silent Hill. The trailer was super scary, and it was basically like this hallway that you kept going round and round and round, and you kept circling back, and things kept happening, and it was super duper scary. He had gotten that, and we were playing it together even though we didn’t really know each other. It was in Webb Tower, and we sat this couch together and, like, all the lights are off, and we are playing it for some whatever ridiculous reason, and at one point there’s this ghost lady, and she looked popped out of nowhere, and literally all of us let out bloodcurdling screams. And no one came to check on us! We were in Webb Tower, there is an RA in that building,  I’m sorry it was very clearly not like we’re having a good time screams! It was screams of terror!”

Collector’s Notes:

This anecdote offers insight into the reasons people willingly engage in activities that are not enjoyable. I, personally, never watch horror movies or play horror movies, but many people, like the informant and her friends, engage in the genre frequently. For some, the adrenaline rush, itself, is an exciting and enjoyable experience. For the informant and her friends, being scared is a social experience. They are afraid, but they are doing it together in solidarity even though none of them enjoy the fear, itself. The tradition is also symbolic, reminding them of how they became friends as they experience this shared experience each week. I think stories of being scared also make great, exciting stories, and telling those stories can be a rewarding social experience.

Legends
Narrative

The Weeping River Lady

Informant was told of the legend by her mother, who was born in Laos, whose parents had passed it down to her when she was a young child. Informant’s grandparents were a poor family living in the capitol of Laos (Pakse).

Okay, tell me what you remember.

“I think I was like a freshman in high school when I heard this one. My mom told it to me and my sisters when we were camping once. She, uh, spoke of a very small village in Laos that all of the farmers had to pass through in order to reach the market to sell their crops. According to the story, if anyone tries through the village between midnight to 3 AM, a crying woman wearing rags will walk out of a nearby river and stand to block the path. The woman chants something… like gibberish or some random language maybe?  If the person passing through doesn’t run away and still tries to pass, they become possessed and lose consciousness, and once they wake up, they find themselves in a spirit realm, and are gone from the real world forever. My mom said this is why people said never to pass through the village at this time.”

How did you react to the story?

“I was really scared. I think my mom was just telling it to us to scare us, but I had a really hard time sleeping afterward. So my sisters and I just stayed up together.”

Conclusion of Collector:

Laos, a country in Southeast Asia, is primarily a rural economy, and many rice farmers live and work in the countryside. This legend was passed mostly through the farming communities, explaining why it is related to the market path. This story seems very similar to legends such as La Llorona, which also involve crying, ghostly women, which makes me wonder if the tales are related, or if they formed through polygenesis. However, the legend also seems like a warning to those who would try to make the journey at night, perhaps to prevent people from getting robbed or passing through the village so late. One could say that this legend might even have been used to warn children from staying out too late or leaving the house at night.

Legends
Narrative

Lady Idyllwild

Informant recalls a story that he heard when he was in 7th grade, during a three-day school camping trip in the Idyllwild Mountains of the San Bernadino forest.

“I was in my cabin with a bunch of other classmates, and my friend’s brother, who was in 8th grade, began telling us a scary story. We were all huddled around when he started. So, it was basically a young married couple driving through the Idyllwild Mountains on a snowy day, when their car got stalled on the road. The husband is sitting in the passenger seat, and he gets out of the car to try and fix it, while his pregnant wife sits inside to wait for him. He opens the hood of the car to look inside, so now the wife can’t see him anymore because her view is blocked by the hood. After 20 minutes, the car has still not been fixed, and the wife realizes that she hasn’t seen or heard her husband at all. She gets out of the car into the snow, and realizes that her husband is nowhere to be found, even though the hood is still wide open. She looks around for a bit, and notices a perfectly straight red line in the snow, and wonders, “How did a straight line like that get there?” Then, she looks up and notices that her husband’s severed head is above her, attached to a tree by a rope, shooting blood and swinging like a pendulum, which is why the red line was there. I don’t really remember how, but the story goes that Lady Idyllwild appears suddenly, looking very pale white with white hair and a white dress, but with blood-red eyes. She kills the the woman somehow, and then after, for some reason, she warns the dead couple that tourists are not allowed on Mt. Idyllwild, although they’re already dead so I guess it’s a little too late. I think maybe Lady Idyllwild took the unborn baby. But yeah.”

Do you remember your reaction to the story?

“I literally could not sleep. I remember that the guy in the bunk above me couldn’t sleep either, so we sorta talked the whole night about how scared we were. My friend’s older brother, the guy telling the story, was sort of an asshole, so it totally made sense that he would try and scare us so bad right before bed. Also, it didn’t help that it was actually snowing outside of our cabin, and I had the bed right next to the window, so I couldn’t sleep at all.”

 

Collector’s Conclusions:

This sounds like a classic campfire/cabin story to scare younger children, especially in the informant’s situation at a sleepaway camp. Like many other ghost stories, this is one involving a ghostly woman, who is tied to a specific location, in this case, Mt. Idyllwild. The contrast between the white snow and the red blood is significant, perhaps indicating some symbolism related to females or motherhood, and the fact that Lady Idyllwild takes the woman’s baby hints towards some connection to motherhood. Parallels can be drawn between this story and the La Llorona legend, and others like it. For the informant, this folklore was probably more impactful because he was actually in he was in the location in which the story allegedly occurred, which is an example of context affecting belief.

Legends
Narrative

The Jersey Devil

Informant is from a suburb in the center of New Jersey, in Monmouth County. She went to a boarding high school in rural Northern New Jersey however, in a very isolated area.

“We had this thing called a Freshman Retreat in my 9th grade year, which was at a campground called Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, which was literally the same camp where they filmed Friday the 13th. Because of this, one of the nights we decided to watch Friday the 13th, and began telling each other scary stories to scare each other before bed. One of these stories was the Jersey Devil, which was a local legend. This is a story that basically anybody who is from New Jersey has heard of, and people tell it all the time.

So the Jersey Devil was like, this winged goat-like creature with hooves and horns that lives in the forests of New Jersey. Some lady a long time ago had a bunch of children, and when she had her 13th child, a devil popped out instead and flew away, which is now the Jersey Devil. Some of the campers said that it was near Trenton, but others said that it was near Blairstown, where we were. Either way, that had me really really scared. So the Jersey Devil would steal away young children from their parents. Uhh… It would either eat you, or raise you as its own child, but I can’t really remember. One thing I can remember though is that someone was saying that if it came into our cabins, it would take people who slept on the top bunk. I was also sleeping on the top bunk, right by the window, so I was thinking about it the whole night and was so scared.”

Why do you think people told this story?

“Now looking back at it, probably mostly to scare people, especially little kids. Like, the cabin we were at was a perfect place to tell it because it was so close to the woods. I even told my little brother the story once when he was being a brat, so he would shut up. But yeah, I guess it was mainly just to give people in New Jersey a fright.”

 

Collector’s Comments:

This is a pretty famous story that even I have heard of all the way in California, through a TV program about supernatural creatures. However, the informant, being in the woods in New Jersey, probably got the full experience and the most impact from hearing it. This local legend has become widespread across all of New Jersey, making it a piece of folklore that is shared through state identity, and I would say that it has become a part of New Jersey’s culture. It was very interesting to hear about it from a person who is actually from New Jersey, making the story seem more authentic than it was when I had seen it on television.

 

Legends
Narrative

Bloody Mary

Tell me who Bloody Mary is.

“Bloody Mary is a story that was really really popular among my schoolmates back when I was in elementary school. Basically uhh…, she was like a ghost or phantom or something that was the Virgin Mary with bloody eyes. And you could conjure her in a mirror through a ritual, and she would kill you. I don’t know why it was so popular looking back on it, cause it was basically asking for a death sentence if you did the ritual. But yeah, we used to tell it to each other and dare each other to do it, especially if there was someone who said they didn’t believe in ghosts. It’s especially fun to do at sleepovers, which is what my friends and I used to do.”

How is the ritual performed?

“You go into a room alone with all the lights off, and there has to be a mirror inside obviously. You stand in front of the mirror and you chant ‘Bloody Mary’ three times. After the third time, Bloody Mary is supposed to appear in the mirror, where she will slit your throat and you will die. I actually have tried it before, but nothing really happened which is good cause I really didn’t want to die. It was super scary though, and sometimes you even feel like something might happen, especially when you’re in the dark standing in front of the mirror and have said it twice already.”

 

Collector’s Comments:

This is perhaps one of the most famous ghost stories out there, and one that I have heard multiple times before. One very interesting thing that I noticed is that the informant describes the ghost as a bloodied Virgin Mary. In the versions that I have heard, Bloody Mary is another woman entirely, with no relation to the Catholic Mary, so this makes me wonder if the fact that the informant heard this story at Catholic school had affected the telling. Another point that is interesting is that the informant had actually performed the ritual, and while nothing happened, the fear that he felt was very real, making the context and the setting a large factor in his belief.

 

For another version of this story, see the horror film Paranormal Activity III (2011), which has a scene where the characters recreate the Bloody Mary ritual.

general

Three friends at a cemetery

my informant MK is my brother and he told me this story this past summer while exchanging horror stories one night. He heard this story from his friends at school. MK is 18 and a senior I high school. He was born in the States but has been living in Croatia for the past 15 years

 

There were three friends and one day like every other they were competing with each other who among them was the bravest and more manly. In order to settle this discussion once and for all, one of them suggested that if they are really fearless tonight as the clock strikes midnight they will dig out a grave and hammer a nail into it. All three of them were scared at first, but after one of them said that he is a the bravest one and he will do it and since the other two didn’t want to be seen as cowards they said they were going to do it as well. That same night they dig out a grave and when the clock hit twelve the first one went down and hammered the first nail. When he came out the second one went down and hammers his nail. After the second friend climbed out the third one went down to hammer his nail. He hits once, twice and after the third time it was nailed in. As he was going back up something pulled him back in and the two friends that were watching ran back home without even looking back. Tomorrow morning not hearing from the third friend they went back to the graveyard looking for him. When they came to the spot they left him, they found him dead. While he was hammering the nail in the coffin he got his jacket sleeve to, so when he tried to go back up that was what pulled him back. Thinking it was a dead man that pulled him he got a heart attack and died.”

 

I heard a slightly different version of this story from my friends back in elementary school. I thing that the story has a message (children not to mess around late at night especially at cemeteries), but it is used more for entertainment around kids to scare each other, rather than educational purposes.

[geolocation]