USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘legend’
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Initiations
Legends

The Legend of Camino Hall

The following informant is a 22 year old student from the University of San Diego. In this account she is describing a legend about one of the buildings on her campus. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: There is this urban legend that someone, umm… like killed themselves in either the Camino bathroom. Thats like one of the residence halls but you know also where the administration building is. Umm… yeah so apparently, she had gone to class, this was a girl, and she was going through a hard time and she just like went to the bathroom, like in the middle of class. And people were like “what the fuck, why did she not come back” and then they were like “oh she is probably still in the bathroom”. So they went to the bathroom and she was just like hanging from the ceiling. So like it may or may not have happened, most people believe it, but like some don’t.

K: So when did this happen?

S: Like right when the school opened, like around that time, the school was established in 1949

K: How did you hear about it?

S: oh, just people were randomly talking about it when i transferred, like that first semester, and i was just like what the heck why are we talking about this right now. It was the older students telling the new ones, it was very random, and i don’t know if it was to scare us but i was just like “thank you so much for this information, what do you want me to do with it”

K: did they ever say why she killed herself?

S: no one knows why she killed herself

K: What did you take away from this?

S: I was kind of just like taken back, because i had just transferred, and so i was kind of like um so why are you telling me this. but i had not thought about it since they told me, so… yeah, its not something i think about often.

Context:

This conversation took place at a café one evening. I was visiting the informant at USD, and after providing a different collection of folklore, she launched into this story. As we were in a public space, people overheard the conversation and a few even nodded in agreement, like they were validating what she was saying.

Thoughts:

This is a particularly interesting legend for a couple of reasons. One is that out of my own curiosity I tried to do some research to see if there are more details on the internet and the search came up empty. This by no means insinuates that what she is saying is false, especially because the group of not so subtle eavesdroppers seemed familiar with the legend. But in the age of the digital realm, it seems odd there is no account of it only. The other interesting aspect is how the legend is used now. She explained that the older students tell it to the new students while they orient to the new campus. This seems like a mild form of hazing, in that in order to complete your transformation as a student of USD, you have to get mildly scared by the older students first.

Legends
Narrative

Marjorie Jackson’s House

Context & Analysis

The subject, my mother, and I were getting coffee for breakfast and I asked her if she could tell me some stories about her childhood. The subject’s father (who has recently passed away) was a history professor in the Midwest. The family moved frequently because of this, which made it difficult for them to settle in a single area for too long. The subject stated that this was one of the most memorable urban legends, or ghost stories, that she knew of as a teenager living in Indiana. This legend is a classic example of the ‘neighborhood haunted house’ and also happened to be a traceable true story that was of large international interest. According to usatoday.com, Marjorie Jackson—an heiress to the Standard Grocery Chain—hid as much as $15 million in various places in her home—“in closets, toolboxes, garbage cans and vacuum cleaner bags” (usatoday.com). In 1977, Jackson was killed when two burglars broke into her home and shot her in the stomach. It is interesting that the subject did not point out the infamous nature of this story in her narrative, instead presenting it as an urban legend. While the “hole” aspect of the story seems to be more of an embellishment, the rest of her account aligns with the documented case of Jackson’s murder in 1977.

(Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/09/21/murdered-heiress-mystery/72590690/)

Main Piece

“When I was in high school there was this house that a lady was murdered in; her name was Marjorie Jackson, um, and the house…so people went in—supposedly she hid money in her walls and under her mattresses and stuff and she didn’t have any money in the bank so she hid it all over her house, so supposedly people [burglars] came in and after they heard those rumors and they killed her and there were holes all over the walls. So, like, me and my friends sometimes [laughs] would go to the house because nobody wanted to buy it so we would sneak in there and there really were holes all over and it was probably not safe to go in there cuz it was kind of [laughs] condemned. That was Marjorie Jackson’s house.”

Legends

Flower German Legend

The following was recorded from a conversation I had with my mom regarding ghost stories she was told in her childhoods. Our family has German origins, and she specifically remembered an old German myth she was told as a child. She is marked JS, and I am marked CS.

 

JS: “Okay so the other legend I believe was called ‘The Wonderful Flower.” It was about a Shepherd who was in the middle of a difficult relationship. I think they were poor and didn’t have enough money to live a secure life or something like that. Anyways, one day he walked up a mountain and the further he climbed the happier he was, and when he reached the top he discovered a flower that was so beautiful and incomparable to anything else he had ever seen. He decided to keep it to hopefully preserve his relationship with this girl since he was too poor. He then found I think a bunch of bright and beautiful stones and was about to take them when a voice said something like “you’re missing the best one.” Then, somehow, he looked at his hat where he was storing the flower and the flower had somehow disappeared. And then a dwarf appeared and asked what happened to the flower and the shepherd responded that he wasn’t sure. He then went back home and had to tell his fiancé and they both cried together because they assumed that was their only hope of having enough money to get married and have a secure life. However, he remembered he had the stones that were actually gold and the two had a happy life. But the bigger moral of the story is the long-lost flower, and how still, even to this day, people think that they might be able to find it because it is meant for them.”

 

Context:

A phone call conversation with my mom, JS, discussing old ghost legends and tales she’s heard of.

Background:

JS currently resides in Laguna Beach, California but was previously raised in Minnesota.

 

Analysis:

What I found to be most thought provoking of this legend is how it was less of a focus in the end on the shepherd and his wife and instead a focus on the flower and its meaning in Germany. I feel that most legends tend to follow the protagonist all the way through, and those protagonists are likely meant to resonate with the audience and teach a moral lesson in the end. But with this legend, it is a story more or less about how certain people are meant for treasury like a flower or pebbles and it is a greater being that determines that the one who is meant to be with it, will find it.

 

 

Legends

Legend: The Shadow

I discovered this legend when researching unique legends online. The following is the quoted legend from online.

“The Shadow”

“I didn’t know that’s what it was called until much later. I was living in a house in Laguna Beach that had been there since the 1920s. In it’s history, it had been a speakeasy, a brothel and a house for smuggling illegal immigrants.

One day, my new wife and I were having an argument. I can’t even recall what it was about. She walked down the block to get a cup of coffee and cool off, and I was alone in the house. The way the place was built was incredibly haphazard. There was a bedroom and living room on one side, then a bathroom with two entrances. On the other side of the bathroom was a hallway that had windows in one side and two bedrooms on the other. From my bedroom, I could look across the hall into the bathroom, then through the bathroom and down the other hall. I was standing at my dresser, and I just noticed movement out the corner of my eye, and looked down there. There was… and honest to god, this gives me goose bumps just typing it, 17 years later, a black figure. It was maybe three feet tall, and it was only vaguely humanoid. It looked like black scribbles, like someone had scribbled a human shape, but the scribbles moved, like electricity arcing, that’s the best way to describe it.

There was no sound that I could remember. I distinctly remember when I saw it I wasn’t afraid, just like, WTF? Then it noticed me looking at it. I can’t say it turned around, it just, focused on me I guess. THEN I was scared. I didn’t move, didn’t scream, nothing, I was just frozen, because it just fucking came at me, it RUSHED down the hall towards me. I have no idea what it intended, but as soon as it entered the bathroom, the door closest to me just SLAMMED shut on it. I screamed. I yelled for my wife. She wasn’t home. I went the fuck outside, into the daylight, and didn’t go back in until she got home about 10 minutes later.

I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe I saw something supernatural, but I know I saw something. I don’t know what it was.”

Analysis:

I found this legend especially interesting because I am from Laguna Beach and found personal interest in the ghost story taking place in my hometown. There is a similar styled home in my neighbor that is also rumored to be haunted. It is one of the oldest homes in Laguna Beach and has its own lighthouse and saltwater swimming pool that is embedded in the actual rocks. I visited this home once and immediately felt it had an eerie atmosphere. To this day, whenever I pass the home I still continually feel that strange, supernatural element to it. I therefore found this legend extremely relatable and am curious of its origins. It would be interesting to know if perhaps the teller of the legend lived in the same home I saw or a different one.

Website Citation: For other similar ghost legends, visit the following URL where this legend was originally published:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/Mandatory/ghost-stories_b_8296528.html

Legends

Bell Witch Legend

The following was recorded from a conversation I had with my mom regarding ghost stories she was told in her childhoods. Our family has a few Southern ties, and she specifically remembered an old Southern ghost legend. She is marked JS, and I am marked CS.

 

CS: “So can you tell me a little synopsis of this ghost legend?”

JS: “Absolutely. So I believe it was called the Bell Witch, or Bo Witch…something like that. You might want to research it. Anyways, how the story goes from when it was told is that the witch appeared around Tennessee and has been there for centuries. Around the 17th or 18th century, I believe, a man and his family had moved to some settlement along the river. On a random day, the man—wait, now I remember. The man’s name was Bell. So the witch must be the Bell Witch. Anyways, the man (something Bell) came across an animal on their farm—I think they had a farm. Or maybe it was a cornfield. In any case, the animal I believe had the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit. The man shot it, but the animal disappeared. After the incident, the man and his family kept experiencing kind of a haunting around the house—like, the kids would be sleeping and they thought someone or something was tugging at their covers, and each night the family heard a pounding at the door but couldn’t see anyone doing it. Then, they began hearing voices, and each night, the voice grew louder and louder, getting much creepier night after night. Then they eventually started to tell everyone in the town cause the presence was growing stronger, I think it had actually started hurting the younger daughter somehow. It may have been pulling her hair or pinching her? Something like that. Anyway, word of it spread around the town like wildfire and Andrew Jackson, who fought alongside Bell in the Battle of New Orleans, decided to pay a visit at the home. But his wagon stopped and the horses couldn’t pull it the closer they got to the home. It was there that even he learned of this Bell witch and believed the rumors he’d been hearing. Then I believe the witch later attacked one of Jackson’s men for being a fraud and many of his men left cause they were obviously so afraid. Eventually all of the men left. I think there was also a sub-plot to the story where the youngest daughter was engaged and had to end the engagement because of the presence of the entity whenever her and her fiancé would meet. And after she ended it, then subsequently the witch decreased her presence. Bell finally died from a poison, which was said to be filled with some kind of liquid in a vial, given to him by the witch herself. Apparently she told the family it was allegedly his cure. The poison also killed the dog. After his death, the witch stopped appearing and no longer tormented the family. I think it was at his funeral—yeah, at the graveyard—that all of Tennessee was there and all continually heard the witch laughing during his ceremony. Crazy story.”

 

Context:

A phone call conversation with my mom, JS, discussing old ghost legends and tales she’s heard of.

Background:

JS currently resides in Laguna Beach, California but was previously raised in Minnesota.

 

Analysis:

After hearing this terrifying legend, I decided to do some research of my own to compare my mom’s version with other recounts of the Bell Witch. For the most part, her version is very in line with most; however, there are a few variations (in part probably because of memory mix ups). For one, the “dog” she refers to I have read in other accounts was actually a cat. This was interesting reading the different variations and imagining how this legend came to be and its specific origins.

general
Legends

The Unaired Night Stalker

The following informant is a stay at home mom from Upland. Here she is describing a legend about the Night Stalker, a serial killer who terrorized Los Angeles in the 80’s. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as KA and I am identified as K:

KA: So there was this family, older man and lady, and he had got into the house, and they did not put this out in the news, but it was um… he had taken their eyes out and with blood wrote on the walls, that is what he had did

K: Do you know what he wrote?

KA: um… some devil, like the star and like devil symbols, like the zodiac symbols you know, but it was the star one, that’s the devil and that was on the wall

K: And this was never broadcasted?

KA: No they never put it in the newspaper, nothing, they did not tell nobody

K: so how did you hear about it

KA: at the salon, where I worked, people talk all the time, and some lady heard it from other people

K: What year was this?

KA: Probably in the 80s cause that was when he was going around

K: Do you think he actually committed this crime?

KA: oh yeah, he terrorized people, it sounds like something he did

Context: She was telling me this as we were sitting on her couch talking about scary stories my mother told me when I was a kid and she remembered this one that she heard.

Thoughts:

I am not saying whether I think he did or did not commit this particular crime, however I will comment on the supposed writing of the devil zodiac sign. I think that is a particular interesting piece of information, especially because it sounds identical to the Zodiac Killer, which is a completely different case. And maybe the Night Stalker did commit this crime, but it is interesting to see how despite terrorize the community, he persona has become a topic of urban legends.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

The House Across the Street

My informant, an Irish-American male, grew up immersed in Irish culture. He was excited to share his stories with me — especially because sharing stories is an important part of Irish social culture. I collected this story (which he learned from his father) from him while we sat on his couch:

 

“Back in Ireland, there’s this house across the street with an old man — and he’s a rat bastard — he’s a piece of s***. He used to be an IRA [Irish Republican Army]. He would beat his wife — his kids… and one day he was arrested and sent to prison. The day he got out, his whole family celebrated (as they do) with lots and lots of alcohol. So everyone’s drinking and he pulls out a Ouija board and someone in the room is like, “witchcraft it’s evil.” [the informant backtracks] Oh, and the guys name is Patty. [Back to the original story] He said, “no, no, no. It’s fun we used it in prison and it’s just a nice, fun game. Let’s try to see if we can contact our grandmother.” And so they they use it on on the table and they contacted his grandmother, whatever — and the grandmother was was also just a huge b***h when she was alive. Also abusive and terrible. And then someone across the room holding a beer says, “alright, well it’s been nice talking to you we got to go now. We’re praying for you.” But then he follows it with: “I don’t need your prayers where I am.” And everyone in the room s***s their pants. They scream they run. And after that, Patty was a much more secluded guy. He never really talked to anyone. One of his sons (that was never in) was there that night he went crazy. And they lived in the house next door because they’re connected houses over there. The son got up to go to the bathroom one night. And as he was going over to the bathroom he saw this ghostly white figure come across the hallway and he was a little disturbed… but, like, it’s Ireland so you kind of don’t really pay attention that much to that. And then his wife was in the room and she goes, “honey, who’s there? I just saw someone walk across the doorway.” And the husband says, “oh my God! I just saw someone walk across the hall. That’s really creepy.” And so they sort of, like, bless themselves, and go to bed. And this was in the house directly next to it [the Ouija board event] — because the houses are connected. the figure would come out of the wall that that they shared with the other house. And, you know, ever since since that day when when they used the Ouija board legitimately the sun doesn’t shine on on that house on the street. Like I said: hardly ever.”

 

My informant added that his dad told him this story first, and then he went to see the house from the story. He says it’s true that the sun doesn’t shine on the house. Even on days where the sun is fully illuminating the houses around it, this house is still shrouded in shadow.

 

Analysis:

Because my informant did not share his belief in the dark magical curse the Ouija board left on the house, he probably sees it as a legend attached to the house. His story takes place in the real world, but the events may or may not actually be true. I personally find it to be a fun story to tell at a social gathering. I can picture my informant being told the story by an active bearer (his father), and becoming a passive bearer until he shared the story with me when I interviewed him.

 

general
Legends
Musical

The Ballad of John Henry

BACKGROUND:

The Ballad of John Henry was an Afro-American folk song dating back to the late 1800s. The song tells of a man who worked as a steel driver when the railroads were being built across Western America. John was so good at his job, that he was put up against a steam powered hammer in a race to see who would complete the job faster. In the end, John Henry is victorious. But the celebrations are short lived as he dies of exhaustion directly after claiming victory. It has been determined that John Henry was an actual man who worked on the railroads and died with a hammer in his hand. Whether this race actually took place is up for debate.

THE SONG:

The lyrics to The Ballad of John Henry are as follows:

When John Henry was a little tiny baby
Sitting on his mama’s knee,
He picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel
Saying, “Hammer’s going to be the death of me, Lord, Lord,
Hammer’s going to be the death of me.”
John Henry was a man just six feet high,
Nearly two feet and a half across his breast.
He’d hammer with a nine-pound hammer all day
And never get tired and want to rest, Lord, Lord,
And never get tired and want to rest.
John Henry went up on the mountain
And he looked one eye straight up its side.
The mountain was so tall and John Henry was so small,
He laid down his hammer and he cried, “Lord, Lord,”
He laid down his hammer and he cried.
John Henry said to his captain,
“Captain, you go to town,
Bring me back a TWELVE-pound hammer, please,
And I’ll beat that steam drill down, Lord, Lord,
I’ll beat that steam drill down.”
The captain said to John Henry,
“I believe this mountain’s sinking in.”
But John Henry said, “Captain, just you stand aside–
It’s nothing but my hammer catching wind, Lord, Lord,
It’s nothing but my hammer catching wind.”
John Henry said to his shaker,
“Shaker, boy, you better start to pray,
‘Cause if my TWELVE-pound hammer miss that little piece of steel,
Tomorrow’ll be your burying day, Lord, Lord,
Tomorrow’ll be your burying day.”
John Henry said to his captain,
“A man is nothing but a man,
But before I let your steam drill beat me down,
I’d die with a hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord,
I’d die with a hammer in my hand.”
The man that invented the steam drill,
He figured he was mighty high and fine,
But John Henry sunk the steel down fourteen feet
While the steam drill only made nine, Lord, Lord,
The steam drill only made nine.
John Henry hammered on the right-hand side.
Steam drill kept driving on the left.
John Henry beat that steam drill down.
But he hammered his poor heart to death, Lord, Lord,
He hammered his poor heart to death.
Well, they carried John Henry down the tunnel
And they laid his body in the sand.
Now every woman riding on a C and O train
Says, “There lies my steel-driving man, Lord, Lord,
There lies my steel-driving man.”

MY THOUGHTS:

The song is a very interesting piece in that it was one of the first cultural occurrences to feature the concept of “Man vs. Machine”. This song was written at the height of the industrial revolution where big business reigned king. In America at the time, African American’s had only just claimed their freedom from slavery. While the song does have a very strict tone of Man vs. Machine, the song can also be viewed as an allegory for the African American community’s place in America at the time; They were able to do their work better their monopolistic overlords and yet, no matter how hard they worked, they would still never gain the respect they deserve. This specific version of the legend, however, has a more optimistic ending, giving hope to those who sought for the glory they deserved.

Legends
Narrative

Turkish Wolf

The following story is collected from my friend. He lived in Turkey for the most part of his life. This interview is done on phone. “A” refers to me, the collector. And “B” refers to the participant.

 

A:” Do you know any legends?”

 

B: :Turkish people had a nomadic culture many years ago. They would not stay in the same location for too long. They liked fighting but once they won the wars, they would just keep moving on rather than conquering the territory. When Turkish tribes moved from Asia to Anatolia, according to the legend, they lose their path. For few days, they can not find anyfood or water. Then just before they are about to die, a wolf show up. She is called “Asena”, which is a Turkish name still used this day. The wolf shows the way to water source and saves the people.The wolf is believed to save the Turks, and without her, there would be no Turks today.”

 

A: “Do people believe this?”

 

B: “Many people do. Over the years, it became a symbol for nationalism. There are organizations who call themselves; “Bozkurtlar” (The word means “Brownwolfs”). These people are right wing nationalist people and their symbol is the wolf, who saved the Turks. They even have a hand symbol that looks like a wolf. This wolf legend is very important for TUrkish identity”

 

Legends

La Llorona, Mexico

This story was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico and is 20 years old. She told me her version about La Llorona, a widespread legend in the American Southwest, South America, and Central America. A lot of versions of the story exist in different regions, and this is the one her nanny used to tell her when she was growing up. Most versions have themes of maternal love, marriage, and death and suicide.

 

According to my friend’s version, La Llorona is about a woman whose husband left her, which made her lose her mind and kill her three children. When she came into her senses and realized what she had done, she couldn’t live with it so she committed suicide. She couldn’t go to heaven for having killed herself, so she stayed on Earth. She is supposed to go around looking for her children and taking all of the children she can find thinking they are hers.

 

My friend says it didn’t have much of an impact on her since she didn’t really believe in ghosts or anything of the sort, but it did make her scared to leave her house at night when she first heard it since she was so young. She also believes that was its intended purpose; something a parent would say to their child to scare them into behaving more safely, since Mexico has some dangerous areas.

 

I think it’s very interesting that her version has some religious undertones in its incorporation of heaven, since the one that I heard growing up didn’t, which speaks to how religious Mexico is as a country. Also, some other versions portray the woman as “bad,” condemning her behavior saying she intentionally killed her children as a form of revenge yet this version seems to portray her as more of a victim of a terrible situation. This is surprising to me, for Mexico is a sexist country in a lot of ways.

 

For more versions of this legend, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Llorona

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