Tag Archives: horror

Slenderman

“The idea is that there is a man that lives in the woods, he is very tall and lanky, he wears a suit and has tentacles on his back but the biggest thing is that he doesn’t have a face, when you look at him it’s just a white head, a flat nothing. I honestly don’t remember how I first heard about- it was probably just through talking to other kids because it became such a big deal because Slenderman started as a creepy pasta where someone wrote a story and it just spread through the Internet. There’s a whole bunch of scary photos with a child next to him and the whole idea is that he would lure kids into the woods and kill them. One of the things that was scary about him was that the more you research the Slenderman, the more likely he is to get you. So like as you look stuff up, he’s like gonna put you on his list like this person looking too much into it. I don’t fully know how that started and it made it scarier because we can’t find anything about him.”

Background:

My informant is a 16-year old from Kansas City, Missouri. She is active on the Internet and has been on YouTube since early 2010. In the early days of the Internet, people invented short stories that would be spread throughout the Internet via copy and pasting, earning the name copy pastas. Eventually, this act of sharing stories transformed to fit the horror genre and this subculture was known as creepy pastas. These stories are shared in Internet circles as short and creepy stories and are subject to reinterpretation with each telling. My informant, being invested with the Internet, learned of several of these throughout the years and remembered this one in particular. 

Context:

My informant brought up this story during a walk around her neighborhood when I asked her about scary stories from her childhood. 

Thoughts:

This story is interesting as it represents several fears for a generation that is heavily present on the Internet. Firstly, the Slenderman takes from similar urban legends of the past featuring a man in the woods who seeks to hurt others. It should be noted though, that this specific story states he only seeks to hurt children, which is done to emphasize his cruelty and evil nature. Furthermore, it is tailored to fit those who would stumble upon the story, most of which would be younger children using the Internet. Being entirely on the Internet also changes how people could discuss the story, which features prominently in this telling of the story. The informant told me that she heard you could not look anything up about the creature, as it would make you his target. This is fascinating, as it plays into the fears of a generation with seemingly unlimited access to technology, which is a restriction of said content. If nothing else, the Slenderman also represents an entire shift in the methods by which stories are told. Whereas other classic horror stories are primarily told orally, the Slenderman’s origins are entirely on the Internet. This pushed the content of the piece to better fit this audience, and it adapted to address fears of this generation of kids on the Internet.

For an in-depth look at the history of this legend, see: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/movies/slender-man-timeline.html

Vietnamese Friday the 13th

 Main Story: 

The following is transcribed between myself and the informant, from this point forward the informant will be known as TT and I will be MH. 

TT: Are you familiar with Friday the 13th? 

MH: Yes, I am. 

TT: In Vietnam we also have Friday the 13th, but it has a different context then the commercialized one in the United States. The story goes, in the early 2000s there was a storm in a city in Vietnam and that city was semi-destroyed in the storm and many people were displaced. The people in the surrounding regions banded together and came into the town to deliver aid and help out. Then one day, well Friday the 13th, two busses carrying people who were supposed to be delivering aid crashed and almost everyone died in the collision. And now the day is cursed. 

MH: Is there any relevance of Friday the 13th as we know it in America, or like are the two ideas completely separate? 

TT: From what I remember the two are not linked but purely by coincidence. 

Background: 

The informant grew up in south Vietnam, however he moved here for school alone when he was sixteen. While adjusting to America he found this to be an interesting coincidence and parallel between the two vastly different cultures. 

Context: 

The conversation happened over FaceTime during quarantine. We were talking about tattoos and how tattoo parlors do “flash tattoos” (pre-designed tattoos that clients can pick from that usually only cost no more than 50$) on Friday the 13th,  and how often they are spooky themed. This then got us talking about the concept of Friday the 13th and the odd parallel between the culture of it here in the USA versus in Vietnam. 

My thoughts: 

I think the concept of the unlucky number 13 is fascinating as it centers from the western christian ideal of the 13 disciples – the 13th being Judas the traitor of jesus- so there were really only 12 proper ones. The fear around the number  was popularized in the 1890s in England. This trickled in building codes as most western buildings, especially in the U.S. omit the 13th floor. However, my friends and I are familiar with the fear of 13, and Friday the 13th, from popular slasher films in the 1980s-90s. It’s interesting to see the presence of fear surrounding Friday the 13th in a non-western culture.

Annabel Lee

Main Piece:

Charleston is known to be like one of the most haunted cities in America, because there have been lots of tragedies like fire, earthquake, and more crazy stuff. So there are ghost tours all around the city, and a lot of places are supposedly haunted. One spot that’s pretty famous is the Unitarian Church graveyard. People claim to have seen a young woman there at night, and that woman is supposedly the ghost of Annabel Lee. There’s an old Charleston story, like Antebellum era, where a Virginian sailor falls in love with Annabel Lee, a sweet Charleston girl, while he was stationed in this city. But her father disapproved, and while separated she died of syphilis. Where it gets interesting is that Edgar Allan Poe wrote a poem about Annabel Lee. Poe was actually enlisted in the navy and was actually stationed in Charleston, and he met his wife Virginia there. His wife also died young from tuberculosis, and people speculate how Poe wrote the poem based on the local Charleston legend and combining it with his own story. The poem is also the last thing Poe ever wrote, he died two days after finishing that poem. So when people say they see the ghost of Annabel Lee, it’s more likely that it’s actually the ghost of Virginia, because Annabel Lee was a fictional character.

Background:

My informant currently resides in Los Angeles, but was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. Sullivan’s Island, a region in Charleston, is where the historic forts used during the colonial era. This region has rich history and lore about spirits and ghosts, and it’s also where my informant is from. Ghost stories of Charleston, from what my informant has described to me, are very common and are tossed around especially amongst younger children. While not all of the residents of Charleston may believe these stories, the city still attracts plenty of tourists enticed by these spirits.

Context:

The conversation took place at my apartment in Los Angeles, and no other person was present during our conversation. It was a comfortable setting with no notable distractions.

My thoughts:

I found this piece particularly interesting, more so than other ghost stories, because it’s a mixture of actual folklore and literature. The myth of Annabel Lee predated Poe, but it was his poem that made this story mainstream to the rest of the world. And because his poem was so heavily based on his own life, it resulted in an interesting amalgamation of an author inserting himself into a folklore to enrich the myth even further.

The Black Dog

Main Piece:

My grandma would tell me these stories about black dogs, or the black dog I guess. Basically, she said that when you see the black dog, it’s a sign of bad luck or death. It’s not just any black dogs, but you would know if you see one because this dog has red eyes and would just randomly appear and disappear without you noticing. The Black Dog apparently is a ghost who works for the Devil himself, and seeing the Dog basically means that the Devil will eventually get to you. She told me this story of when she was little, she visited her dead grandparents at a graveyard. She supposedly saw the Black Dog there, and apparently she lost her aunt from a cancer a few months after. I haven’t bothered to check up on how true the story was, but it did scare me when I was little. My family even avoided getting a black colored dog when we first got our puppy. My dog is beige.

Background:

My informant is of Irish and Scottish descent, his parents being immigrants from those respective countries. He grew up heavily influenced by both cultures, and he’s told me that he relates more with Irish and Scottish cultures more so than Irish American or Scottish American identities. The Black Dog is a popular motif and a mythical creature in European countries, especially in Britain, Scotland, and Wales. While the details of the story varies per region, but in general the Black Dog is believed to bring terrible news. It’s also the motif behind the famous Sherlock Holmes story “the Hound of the Baskervilles”.

Context:

The informant relayed this piece of information during our lunch at my apartment, near USC campus. There no other people present during our talk, and we were dining as we talked. It was a comfortable setting.

My thoughts:

Because there’s so much cultural positive rep for dogs in western viewpoint, I found it fascinating that there’s a very old and famous European belief that a dog could ever be this sinister and evil. The color black being associated with Satan and the Devil seemed appropriate for Europeans to do so. From my understanding, to say “I have a black dog” nowadays means that someone suffers from depression, and it was helpful to understand where the phrase originated from.

For more information on the Black Dog, please see:

Quaile, Sheilagh. “The black dog that worries you at home: The Black Dog Motif in Modern English Folklore and Literary Culture.” The Great Lakes Journal of Undergraduate History, vol.1 article 3, 2013.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.