USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Indiana’
Tales /märchen

The Windmill in Wawasee

Informant is a 19 year old female who was born in Chicago and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is my roommate.

Informant: We have a lake house in Wawasee, Indiana, and, behind our house, there’s this big like green kind of forest and it drops down into a creek. And there’s a property right next to it, where there’s this big wide patch of green with a windmill in the middle of it, and behind it is this creek, and the place where it drops off into a creek is hard to see, and so the area is not safe around the windmill, and nobody wanted their kids playing there. So this windmill, I could only see inside the windows if I was on my tiptoes. So when I was younger, it was very mysterious to me, and my parents didn’t want me and my cousin playing near the creek because they thought we would fall in. So they told us that there was a witch that lived inside of the windmill. The legend that they told us was that during the day, she wouldn’t live in the windmill, and that was why you couldn’t see her during the day, but at night, she would live in there. And if there were children around at night and she saw them, she would take them and she would eat them. So me and my cousins would go up to the windmill and dare each other to go look in it, and we would take our dogs for a walk and when we would like walk past the windmill, we would have to run by it because we were just so scared. And it wasn’t just our parents that told us, but it was like a thing in the neighborhood, like all of the kids knew that there was this witch that lived in this windmill, and still to this day it’s still there, like the property has never been bought. Nobody knows who owns the property or how the windmill got there, but its been there since before my mom lived there, and like her parents told her about the witch too, and it’s been passed down from her since her childhood. And the older kids would tell me that they would see the witch in the windmill, and when I was older I would tell the little kids. And not until I was older did I realize that the whole point was to protect us from going near this creek at night and falling in.

Collector: Does this story have any special significance to you?

Informant: I think the significance is that even today when I walk past it, I always think of the legend, and when I look at the windmill now, I still get scared. It’s just like stuck with me all of this time.

This story isn’t a well-known national story, it’s just a story that people would tell their children in this small like place in Indiana. In a way, I think that that makes this story even more interesting because it’s cool to see how folklore can be created from mystery and warnings. It’s cool to note how the parents would tell their kids this story to keep them from adventuring into the creek at night, and drowning without anyone to help them. The kids, however, never realized this, and until they were older, it just served as a mysterious story for them. In that way, folklore serves two different purposes: to protect and to entertain.

general

Sugar Creek Smallmouth Bass

“There’s a creek that goes through my hometown of Crawfordsville, Indiana called Sugar Creek, and they say it has best smallmouth bass fishing in the country. Apparently in the 80s, some high school kid went down to the Creek after school and caught four 8lb smallmouths, and a massive 12 pounder in an hour. Ever since kids always go down there to try to catch some huge ones, and I’ve caught a couple big ones myself, but nowhere near the 12 pounder he caught.”

 

This is from my friend who comes from a small town in Indiana with a lot of folklore traditions. He’s lived there all of his life, and apparently there are a lot of these little local stories legends about his town which is awesome. He said that this one particularly resonates with him and gives him a sense of nostalgia because it reminds him of his times fishing during his childhood and looking for legendary bass.

 

general

Indiana Grizzlies

“There’ve been a number of sightings of grizzly bears around Crawfordsville [my hometown in Indiana], and my parents always used to warn me about them when I was little. Allegedly a while ago some family in Crawfordsville lost their kid in the woods one night, and the whole town basically blamed it on the bear. The weird thing is, grizzlies aren’t native to Indiana or any of the surrounding areas. It’s essentially like the sasquatch of Crawfordsville, because even though there have been a lot of sightings even recently, no one’s ever gotten a picture. Everyone is still afraid of it though.”

 

This is from my friend who comes from a small town in Indiana with a lot of folklore traditions. He’s lived there all of his life, and apparently there are a lot of these little local stories legends about his town which is awesome. He said that this one is kind of funny now, because he took it as such a serious threat when he was a kid, but now he doesn’t even believe in it.

 

general

Hose Elementary Kidnappings

“So I went to Hose Elementary school in a small town in Indiana, and there was a wooded area right next to the playground that wasn’t fenced off or anything, but we were always told not to go in there. Apparently back in the 70s, some kids from the same school wandered in and got kidnapped, so it’s basically an unspoken rule to not go into the woods or else you’ll get kidnapped.”


This is from my friend who comes from a small town in Indiana with a lot of folklore traditions. He’s lived there all of his life, and apparently there are a lot of these little local stories legends about his town which is awesome. This one just reminds him of his friends from elementary school, because they all shared a common fear of the forest. I think this one likely originates in kids trying to find out why their parents wouldn’t let them out alone in the woods, so they just made up kidnapping as the reason

general

Crawfordsville Clocktower

“So there was this clocktower in crawfordsville, right next to the town hall. For some reason, during World War II, the clock tower was dismantled. Apparently though, the reason for tearing the whole structure down was the bell inside. The reason they wanted the bell was to melt the metal down to make bullets to help the war effort, so now there’s no clock tower simply because the town wanted to make bullets from the bell.”


This is from my friend who comes from a small town in Indiana with a lot of folklore traditions. He’s lived there all of his life, and apparently there are a lot of these little local stories legends about his town which is awesome. This one doesn’t resonate with him too much since it was way before he was born, but he still finds it interesting because it’s kind of a unique version of a history of his hometown.

Folk Beliefs
general
Myths

The Author of Ben-Hur

The rumor/myth: “The author of Ben-Hur, whose name is something Lane I think? (The only book ever written in Crawfordsville, Indiana.) His house is in Crawfordsville, and they say that on the grounds of this house is like every tree that’s like native to Indiana. I don’t actually know if it’s true though, I heard it from my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Harris. She was really weird.”

The informant, originally from Crawfordsville, told me this about the author of Ben-Hur, actually named Lew Wallace. He has never actually read the novel, but his teacher told their class about Wallace’s house in Crawfordsville. I think she told 5th graders this story to give them pride about their hometown, as it is a very small rural town that isn’t very famous to people that aren’t from there. Its truth value doesn’t seem to matter, and one could even say that it’s a sacred truth to the inhabitants of Crawfordsville. I imagine Mrs. Harris would be a bit offended if anyone challenged her on the verity of this statement, since it represents the mythology of Crawfordsville.

Earth cycle
Folk speech
Holidays

Indiana Corn Folklore

“Knee High by the 4th of July”

In Indiana, and especially in the source’s hometown near Indianapolis, cornfields surround most of the neighborhoods, and this is where all of the neighborhood kids play during the summer. In fact, when the source moved to Los Angeles, he said he was surprised to find that no one else knew how tall corn was supposed be during different parts of the year. He understood “Knee High by the 4th of July” to be common knowledge all over the country.

People in Indiana mark time, especially in the summertime, by how tall the corn is. It is accepted there that if a corn crop is doing well, it will be “Knee high by the 4th of July”. The height of the corn is also indicative of how hot the summer has been, or how much rain has fallen. He said that people use the cornfields in Indiana to gauge the weather conditions, much like people in Malibu watch the ocean for seasonal changes and weather patterns.

The source explained that the saying is used often, mostly in cars as people pass various cornfields and discuss how the crop is coming along that summer.

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