Tag Archives: legend

The Jersey Devil

Background: 

My informant, NK, is 19 years old and of South Korean descent from both her mother and father’s sides of the family. Her grandparents live close to her, so she spends a lot of time with them. She is very passionate about cooking. Even though she is majoring in biochemical engineering at UC Berkeley, she has always been, and remains to be, extremely interested in conspiracy theories. While she may not necessarily believe them, she enjoys hearing lore from across the world. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance:

NK: So, there’s this urban legend in New Jersey, called the Jersey Devil. I’ve heard about it from different like conspiracy shows or websites, and just word of mouth. Um, and it’s one of those things like Bigfoot. The myth goes that there’s a woman – there’s some variations obviously – but she had one kid or thirteen, depending on who you ask, and she had a pact with the devil or hooked up with him, or something. And so either that one kid or the youngest one was born deformed, so he had like wings and a beak and was human-like but also bat-like. He grew up to huge sizes, and then would be seen around New Jersey, I’m not sure which area. And then there’s been sightings, I’m not sure when the first one was, but there were a lot in the 20th century. I wanna say it’s similar to Mothman: big wings, red eyes, part human. 

SW: Do you know anything about the origins of the story?

NK: I’m not sure, but I think there were some sightings that were hard to explain, so people kind of made up the lore to explain them. 

Thoughts:

I love urban legends. As NK pointed out, like many urban legends, it’s safe to assume that the legend of the Jersey Devil developed in response to some unexplained sightings in an effort to make sense of them. There are a few different variations of the Jersey Devil legend. Most seem to identify the woman NK mentioned as Mother Leeds, as Leeds was one of the first settlers in New Jersey, and family with the name Leeds can still be found there today. There have been numerous accounts and sightings of the Jersey Devil, many of which can be found all across the internet. For more background on this urban legend and personal sightings of the Jersey Devil, see “The Jersey Devil.”

Annotation:

“The Jersey Devil.” Weird NJ, Weird NJ, 13 Jan. 2017, weirdnj.com/stories/jersey-devil/.

The Legend of The Beast of Bodmin Moor

Informant: In the 1970s there was a rumor, legend, whatever, that there was a beast on Bodmin Moor in Devon. The moor was isolated and creepy and people became afraid to go there because of this beast. You need to know there were a lot of sheep on the moor that had been found mutilated and chewed by something. And there were reported sightings of a huge panther like thing with yellow eyes and a big black cloak. Then in the late 1970s people said somebody found a huge cat like a lion or a tiger or something. The rumor said it had been released from a nearby zoo or private owner, someone like Jo Exotic.
Other people said it was some sort of paranormal beast. Nobody ever got a picture of it. But THEN, and I think it was the late 1970s, somebody found a tiger or a panther skull on the moor.

Interviewer: So wait there actually way a panther on the moors?

Informant: Ah but! They sent it to the museum in London and it was indeed the skull of a panther, but the way it was detached from the rest of the body it looked like a rug. It turned out somebody had chucked out an old ratty rug and it rotted away leaving only the skull. So the mystery has never been solved.

Interviewer: Do you think it could have been someone just wearing the rug as a costume and messing with people?

Informant: Might have been, yeah. Could have been.

Interviewer: But I don’t know how they would have disemboweled the sheep like what you described.

Informant: Yeah. There weren’t wolves around there in 1978, I don’t think, so it couldn’t have been them. But it might have been foxes or natural wildlife, or a big dog.

Context: I asked my informant about what stories she knew about as a kid growing up in England. This was the first thing that came to mind.

Thoughts: There are pictures of a black cat when one searches for the beast which definitely coincides with my informants description of the creatures. I wonder if once upon a time there was a large cat in the area or if it really was just a large dog.

Russian Urban Legend

Name: Баба Яга

Transliteration: Baba Yaga

Description: Informant describes it as an Urban Legend that became a fairytale, but presented more like a legend. It is a witch who lives in a traditional log cabin. The cabin sits on either two or one giant bird feet. She is a cannibalistic witch. Her house is decorated with the decapitated heads of her victims. She flys in the sky on a butter churner. She lures children if they are not sleeping and kidnaps them. Described as an ugly old lady with a big hook nose. People have expressed memorates of how they have seen her and how disturbing she looks.

Background Information: Russian legend whose story is told by adults to children or spread from children to children. Also spread and kept alive through memorates.

Context: The informant had originally told me this story when we were children. She recently reiterated it to me through video call. She is of Russian and Armenian descent. She was originally introduced to Baba Yaga by her cousin who was living in a small town named Stary Oskol, which is located in Russia.

Thoughts: Classic example of stranger danger. This legend is used as a lesson to children to sleep and not to wander (especially into the woods). Informant told me that Russia is very forested, so Russians try to warn children to not go into the woods because it is very dangerous. Baba Yaga is used as a cautionary tale to not go into the woods because the witch lives there. Adults need to make a fear that the children will understand instead of telling them the reality of the danger of the woods. Fantasy is more effective for children in contrast to reality.

Legend of the Chupacabra

Main piece: 

The following was transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer. 

Informant: The story of the chupacabra originated in a pueblo, I think it was in Hidalgo. Supposedly the cattle and other farm animals were dying. The farmers didn’t know why they’d die because they were in good health the night before but would awaken the next day dead. So they started to get together and investigate because they were losing a lot of money and they found…ehh that the cows had little to no blood left.

Interviewer: Was this real? Or is it part of the story?

Informant: No the cattle dying was real. The news started reporting these deaths and images showed a vampire-like bite on the cows. But the size of the bite and symmetry of it… it was like no other animal and that generated a lot of speculation. The farmers began to guard their farms overnight and after many nights, one farmer claimed to have seen a creature. 

Interviewer: And how does this creature look according to the stories? 

Informant: From far away it looked human but from closer you can see his bottom half was that of a goat. Its legs were that of goat. From the top half, it was muscular y had like hair and scales. Is eyes were shiny and red but they weren’t circular like us. His mouth was like a wolf’s but not that long. But seeing such a beast made people paralyze in fear and the creature would escape in the blink of an eye so no one has actually seen it for more than 2 seconds. 

Background: My grandpa was my informant. He was born and raised in Guadalajara and did not travel to the U.S. until a couple years ago. He has lived in Mexico for about 70 years so he knows of a lot of Mexican traditions and legends. He says that this is one of his favorite legends and that he heard about it in the news when he was in his 40s. It doesn’t terrorize him but he thinks it’s real. 

Context: I was in my bedroom watching tv on the last day and I needed 3 more collections so I asked my grandpa if he knew of one myth or legend like La llorona and he said if the chupacabra counted and I said of course so he told me this legend o the spot. We were in my room and I was typing as he told it in spanish and later translated into english. 

Thoughts: I find myself believing in this one because it’s plausible. I guess that’s what makes it a legend. My grandpa claims to have seen the news about it so as far as the cattle killings, that’s true. The autopsies confirm a lack of blood and some witnesses claim to have seen the beast. So I find it very convincing but without hardcore evidence of the beast we won’t know for sure. Then again, if we were to have hardcore evidence and it was true, then the chupacabra would no longer be a legend.

La Llorona legend

Main piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: The llorona was a woman, a very beautiful woman but very poor. And well… she was very pretty so a lot of men went after her but she fell in love with a wealthy man. 

Interviewer: Did she marry him? 

Informant: Yes, they marry but… um the husband’s father didn’t like her because she was poor. I don’t know if it was in the revolution, yes or actually I’m not sure. The point is that in the revolution, the husband gets killed. And the father-in-law took her kids to educate them himself and left her on the street. She pretty much loses everything, and he makes sure to leave her nothing. 

Interviewer: And did she kill herself or what? 

Informant: No, she saw death and hunger and war but she was always looking for her children. She sees a lot of things that haunt her. She cried for her children and would call others to help her find her children but no one believed her because of her poor appearance. And finally, she dies searching for her children… but she dies sick, unprotected, poor, and crazy for everything she lived and saw with the wars in that time. She dies young, she doesn’t die old. But she always expressed the love and her necessity in finding her children. And from that point on, in the pueblos… umm it’s said that since she dies without finding her children, her soul never rests and she goes about yelling through the walls and streets searching and calling for her children.

Interviewer: This version is very different from the story I hear all the time. 

Informant: This story was the one that my grandmother would tell me and my sister and she would say that La Llorona was very beautiful… but very beautiful. And in the ranch, when the sun was setting, my aunt would call us in because in Queretaro… write down that it was in Queretaro… 

Interviewer: Yeah I got it. 

Informant: Ok so in Queretaro when a boy or girl went missing, my aunt would say it was La Llorona, or that the Llorona would take them. And she wouldn’t let us play after sunset. Anything that happened to young kids: a disease or a death or a disappearance… anything really…  for almost anything, it was said it was La Llorona. 

Background: My informant was my mom who was born in Mexico City. She heard this story of La Llorona since she was a kid and she’s seen a lot of variations but carries with this one the most. She heard this story from her grandmother, my great grandmother, who is 104 years old. So since my great grandmother lived during the Mexican Revolution, my mom thinks her story is plausible. 

Context: I didn’t tell her I was doing this for a project at first so I asked her “is La Llorona evil?” and she responded with “no” and I continued by asking “wait. What story do you know?” and then the main piece was transcribed from our conversation and her story telling. The setting was my house. 

Thoughts: I found this version of La Llorona very interesting because it was the first time I heard it like this. From this story, I actually felt bad she was taken away from her children. I no longer see her as the murderer of her children. I enjoyed this story and will be telling this version from now on. 

Citation: For more information and variations of La Llorona, check out the following sources.

  1. Carbonell, Ana Maria “From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlicue in Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros” in MELUS, Vol.24, Religion, Myth, and Ritual. (Summer, 1999), pp. 53-74. 
  1. Chavez, Michael “The Curse of La Llorona” film, (Spring, 2019).

Legend of Slender Man

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer. 

Informant: A guy who supposedly lives in the woods and he goes…  umm for young teenagers and kids. And it has it that he gets these kids to basically collect their faces since he doesn’t have one. And lets see… umm… where was I at? 

Interviewer: You said that he collects their faces since he doest have one.

Informant: Oh ok and he does it because he believes that he’ll get a face but he doesn’t. 

Interviewer: And does he get boys only or girls only? Or how does it work? Who does he kill? 

Informant: Well we don’t know. He just makes them go missing. They disappear but it’s random. 

Interviewer: Anything else about him? 

Informant: Well he’s known to have a black suit and a white face and octopus-like tentacles… you know like the arms I’m talking about. 

Background: My sister was born in LA and she goes to school in Downey. She knows this story from a couple years ago when she was talking to a friend about scary stories. She also watched the Slender Man film that came out in 2019. 

Context: We were in my room and I asked her if she can tell me any scary stories like myths and legends and gave her La llorona as an example. She proceeded with the legend of Slender Man. 

Thoughts: I’ve heard the story of Slender Man. I know there’s a mobile game about him and a film that came out. I’m personally into scary stuff so I know the legend. As to whether it is true or not, I believe it’s not true. It doesn’t make too much sense to me. I don’t find it plausible but it’s a figure I know relatively well, or at least I can tell his story, and can be frightening with the right setting. 

Citation: For more information about Slender Man, check out the following source

White, Sylvain “Slender Man” film (Fall 2018). 

Legend of Pele

Context: TC is a 22 year old senior at USC, she is also a coworker. T was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii  and is really familiar with a lot of legends. During our break at work I decided to ask her about any known legends she’d like to share with me. There were other people in the break room which created the atmosphere of storytelling and interest was sparked among the other individuals. We all gathered around her while people ate their snacks.

YM: So tell me about this legend of Pele 

TC: Well I’ve heard different things for the story of Pele, but I tell you the one my grandma use to tell me about  

YM: oh yeah ! tell me what you know 

TC: okay so there’s this  legend about this lady in white who haunts or inhabits this one highway called the Pali Highway…. Uh there many variations of this story, depending on which Hawaiian island.  Apparently she is the ancient Hawaiian volcano goddess named Pele. If you are driving down this highway…which is a one lane highway through a dense forest, and very often deserted and you see a lady in white, you are supposed to pick her up and take her wherever she asks to go, otherwise…you’ll have bad luck for the rest of your life? I don’t know … I guess because she owns the land.  Also for some reason if you drive down this highway with any pork in your car, your car will break down, unless you throw out the pork. And, do not take lava rocks home. It apparently angers Pele, and there are “stories” of people who have had a lot of bad things happen to them like the loss of a family member or bad accidents.

YM: did your grandma ever tell you why you’re not supposed to take the lava rocks home or about the pork ? 

TC: Well she would say that the lava rocks are a creation of Pele the volcano goddess, so I think if you take them you take something that is hers and doesn’t belong to you. But I always thought it was because you take the land of the islands. The entire islands are made from lava. We’ve had our land taken from us so I think it’s symbolic to that and uh Yeah I don’t know about the pork….It was just kinda like a given that you’re just not supposed to do that

YM: wow, interesting. Do you believe in this legend ? 

TC: I mean I do and I don’t. I’ve gone through this highway many times and nothing has happened to me, but there are real people from my town who swear things have happened to them. I guess I also see Pele as like a mother or protector of the island so in that sense I kinda do believe in her legend

YM: Yeah I see how she would have a symbolic meaning to you 

TC: Yeah I remember being scared as a child but not anymore… I like knowing there’s this woman who is not to be messed with or disrespected and that we should also respect her land 

YM: thats awesome 

Background info: T shared that her grandmother would always tell stories at the dinner table. The legend of Pele was the most popular throughout the years. She grew up listening to stories about Pele and remember being scared as a child. But as she grew older she realized that it was more about honoring and respecting  their goddess rather than fearing her.  

Analysis: This legend seems to encourage the people of the islands of Hawaii to honor their Gods. I would believe the fear inflicted in their everyday lives by the lady in white seems to encourage them to respect the mother  and protector of their island. This seems to be a religious or otherwise spiritual legend that inclines towards myth. The story is essentially a mythic truth that relates to larger works. In this case it’s the story of the mother and protector of Hawaii. As well as a cosmogenic story of how Hawaii was created. It definitely imbukes meaning and is a sacred narrative that the people of Hawaii should believe in otherwise it will bring you bad juju. 

Ohia and Lehua

Context: TC is a 22 year old senior at USC, she is also my coworker. T was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii,  and is really familiar with a lot of legends of Hawaii. During our break at work I decided to ask her about any known legends she’d like to share with me. There were other people in the break room which created the atmosphere of storytelling and interest was sparked among the other individuals. We all gathered around her while people ate their snacks.

YM: So who are Ohia and Lehua? 

TC: They were young lovers. But one day Pele; she’s a volcano goddess. She met Ohia and decided that she wanted him for herself. But he rejected her so this upset Pele, she then turned him into an ugly twisted tree. Lehua pleaded to pele to turn him back but pele ignored her pleas. The other gods felt sorry for the young girl so they turns her into a beautiful red flower on the tree so the two lovers never had to be apart again

TC:Legend says that as long as the flowers remain in the tree, that the weather is sunny and fair. But when a flower is plucked from the tree, rain falls like tears as lehua cannot handle being separated from her love, ohia

YM: Does Ohia and Lehua represent a specific tree? Or is it any tree? 

TC: Oh yeah its a tree called ‘Ohi’a lehua haha just like their names 

YM: Do you believe this story, what are your thoughts about it ? 

TC: Yes, It’s a love story about lovers who can’t be together but in the afterworld they are together? Pretty much saying that in the end, love conquers all despite all forces trying to break It apart. Whether it’s people or just life.

YM: I believe that

Background info: TC shared that her grandmother would always tell stories at the dinner table. The legend of Ohia and Lehua was popular throughout the years. Most of the stories her grandmother told her had Pele, the volcano goddess that was considered the protector and creator of the island. She grew up listening to stories to appreciate the trees and plants more. Caring for the earth and believing that they have a spirit or are alive is important to T and her family, knowing that nature is alive reminds them that they should care for it. 

Analysis: Although this is a legend of Ohia and Lehua, this story points more towards nature mythology, an allegory of natural processes. The two loves are obviously a representation of nature and their separation is the natural process when the seasons change. Lehua is the official  flower of the island of Hawaii, it seems fit to have a story  for it. It is also recognized as Pele’s flower; it seems appropriate to include the protector and creator of the island.  This myth also holds a significance that TC mentioned, “love conquers all despite all forces trying to break It apart. Whether it’s people or just life.” Which I think is true and this story is perfect to send that message across. 

Phantom shitter

Main Piece

Well, from what I know, there’s some guy from before school hours or after school hours, when no one was around and no one could see him, and um, he just pooped wherever he felt like it and didn’t clean it up. They call him the “phantom shitter or shitters” because there were multiple people who were involved. I guess it was a prank, maybe it was a senior prank, but it was really gross. People say it’s real, but it was such a long time ago that nobody really knows for sure. I think it was real.

Context and background: My little brother told this to me as we sat together casually. He attends an all-boys high school, and the specific high school is well-known in the area for its epic senior pranks. The school has very masculine energy.

Thoughts/analysis:

This legend is absurd. I heard it long before he told me today, and I agree that it is a local legend. This to me makes sense only in an all-boys environment where the boys are silly and mischevious and unafraid to do things like this (this would never happen if girls were also there). I believe it’s real, and I remember some of my friends who are much older than my informant would claim their brothers knew who it was.

An American Ghost Story

“There was a man who lived in a house in the middle of the woods. There weren’t any neighbors. I don’t remember where it was. It was like the middle of America. So he was getting construction done, they wanted to build like another house for their wife and the construction workers were having problems because there was always this girl like who kept showing up. And they would be like “Hey you know you need to leave. You need to get out of here. You need to leave.” 

And one day they like went up to him and they were like, “Hey sir, you need to tell your daughter to like stay in the house.” Like and he’s like, “Oh that’s not our daughter she visits from time to time.” And they were like, “Oh, what the frick?” Because there’s no houses around there or anything you know. 

Anyways, so the guy’s grandson goes to stay at their house, um after like everything is done. And he’s like sleeping in the living room kitchen area, all the lights are off. And at like five in the morning he hears like the light turn on and someone’s in the kitchen and he’s like, “Oh that’s weird, Imma go check it out.” Um cuz it’s like the same kind of room. And like he goes in the kitchen and the light turns off and he sees somebody walking in a white dress. And so he thinks it’s his grandmother… or grandfather, he can’t really see them and so he goes back to bed. And then wakes up in the morning and is like, “Grandfather why were up so late like what… like what were you doing?” and he was like, “Oh that wasn’t me like, that was like”… I don’t know what he named her like Tiffany or something and he’s like, “Who’s Tiffany?” and he’s like, “Oh she’s a ghost who visits from time to time.” 

Like what the?”

Context: The piece was collected during a casual at-home interview. I knew the informant loves horror films and ghost stories so I asked her to tell me her favorite ghost story. 

Background: The informant is my twenty-two year old sister. She learned this piece from someone she used to date. She and the person who originally told her the story live in San Diego, California. She is an avid metal and alternative music fan with a love of body modifications including tattoos and piercings as well as horror films. She claims the story functions for her as evidence for the existence of ghosts.

Analysis: I find this ghost story to be especially ominous because so many components (for example, the girl’s back story, how the grandfather knows her and why he isn’t afraid) are unexplained. Although the transcript may not reflect this, the story was told in a very similar manner as you might expect to hear gossip from a close friend or sister. Surprisingly, the tale is not cautionary. The little girl doesn’t really do anything grossly disruptive nor does she demand vengeance for past events, but rather simply asserts her presence. Instead of justifying the ghost’s existence or its purpose, the story merely asserts that supernatural forces exist whether you choose to view them as such. The characters’ reactions are contrasted with the grandfather’s seemingly calm demeanor, suggesting that the more common reaction is fear of the supernatural. Since the initial assumption of the construction crew and grandson were that the ghost was not supernatural but rather was a real person, the audience’s potential skepticism is addressed. All of these elements are heightened by the storyteller’s fervent belief in the veracity of the story which serves to reproduce the belief.