USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘legend’
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

The Legend of the Zodiac Shack

Informant: The informant is Briana, a nineteen-year-old freshman at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Vacaville, California, in the Bay Area, and has lived there for her entire life, until she moved to Los Angeles for college. She is of African descent.

Context of the performance: This performance was done while we were sitting on the grass outside of my dorm building on USC’s campus.

Original Script:

Informant: There’s a legend of a shack out far in the country of my hometown, Vacaville, California. So there’s this little abandoned shack or storage unit, where the Zodiac killer would take and murder his victims. The Zodiac killer, who came up with his title himself, goes murdered multiple women and couples. My friend, April C., told me about this legend in Vacaville. April had visited the shack before, and a lot of people do, for the excitement of exploring the scene. High school students tend to go to the shack most, once they learn to drive, because it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece?

Informant: I like this piece because it’s connected to my hometown and an interesting story to tell visitors. My family and friends from home and I like this piece because even though we don’t believe it to be true, it’s something exciting for a small town to have. We can get together and visit the site at any time of the year, mainly at night.

Personal Thoughts: I found this piece to be very interesting because I had never heard of the Zodiac Killer and assumed he was created by Vacaville. After Briana shared her town’s side of the legend, I looked into the Zodiac Killer and was appalled yet fascinated by the results. In the late 1960s, he allegedly murdered at least five people and injured two, though he admitted to killing thirty, in the San Francisco Bay Area. After his murders, he would taunt the police and members of the community, providing hints as to who he was, including a three-part cipher, letters, phone calls, and fingerprints. Yet, the police could not solve the case. Perhaps the townspeople in Vacaville came up with the idea that the legend that the Zodiac Killer took his victims to this shack because they felt lost without answers as to his identity. Therefore, they may have used this story for a sense of comfort and relief, so that they could feel that they know some information about him and his whereabouts. For more information, visit http://www.zodiackiller.com/.

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

The Legend of Rozafa Castle

Informant: The informant is Mrika. She has lived in the Bronx, New York for her whole life. She is eighteen years old and is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. She is of Albanian descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat across from each other at a table at a diner in Yonkers, New York during our spring breaks from college.

Original Script:

Informant: In Albania, there is a castle called Rozafa Castle, and it’s not in the best condition right now. These three brothers were trying to build the castle. They would work all day, but when they would go home at night and come back in the morning, the walls would all fall down. So, one day, they came across an old man who said the walls would only stay standing if they sacrificed someone. So the three brothers couldn’t decide what the right thing to do was. The ended up deciding to sacrifice one of their wives. Their wives would always drop off lunch for them while they worked. They were going to sacrifice the first wife who showed up, so that it would be by chance. They promised not to tell their wives about their plan, but two of the brothers lied and told their wives not to bring them lunch the next day. The youngest brother was honest, and when she came, they buried within the castle’s walls. Her name was Rozafa, which is the name of the castle. She accepted this because she thought it was her fate. She figured the city needed the castle, so she could do this for the city, but this role was put on her. It wasn’t actually her fate to show up first. Anyway, she gave in because she thought it was her destiny. She said that she was only worried about her infant son. So she asked to be buried in the wall with one of her breasts out so that she could breastfeed him and one of her arms out so that she could caress him. When the brothers buried her in the wall and came back the next day, the walls were still standing.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: This is important to me because it’s a story about the city where my parents grew up- Shkoder, or Shkodra. My mom told me this legend when we saw the castle while we visited Albania. She believed it to be true, and learned it from my grandma, who also believed it. It has been passed on through my family. Also, the name Rozafa was kept in my family. My cousin’s name is Rozafa.

Personal Thoughts: This legend is definitely compelling, and it is interesting to see Mrika’s connection to it. I loved hearing about how she visited the castle when she was in Albania and that her cousin was named after Rozafa. I actually graduated high school in a church called Our Lady of Shkodra, but I never knew anything about the city itself. Hearing this story made me think about how often I neglect the background information of different places I have visited, even if they are important to me.

Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Narrative

Curse of Dudleytown

Informant is a teacher living in LA.

The story is one from a  summer camp in CT where he and I met originally. The subject of the story is a town called “Dudleytown” which suffers a horrible curse: every 7 years, somebody nearby dies.

“So Dudleytown as you know, is haunted. Every seven years, somebody nearby dies. That’s because Edward Dudley was cursed by King Henry for treason, and the curse followed him across the Atlantic Ocean and caused all their crops to die. Now, nobody’s growing crops there anymore. But the curse still comes up once every seven years……. some things just stick with the location geographically, you know?”

He says he heard the story from other people at the camp when he first got there, as the location was relatively close by. He swears it is real and true but he does so with an air of silliness, indicating to me that this belief is faux-sincerity. I think this choosing-to-believe makes sense: people like the strong narrative of a 7-year-curse more than they want to “ruin the fun” in applying logic. It’s a fun belief and brings people together over a common fear, even if it is just pretend.

 

general
Legends
Narrative

The Origin of Adjorlolo

Context: When I told my roommate about how I was collecting folklore, he offered to talk about some of the stories he’d heard over the course of his life.

BackgroundMy roommate comes from a mixed-race family, one side of which originates from the Ivory Coast of Africa.

Dialogue: It is said, that my great-great-grandfather, who lived inn Ghana, who was the first man to be called Adjorlolo, um, had sixteen wives, and… I’ve heard between eighty-four and ninety-six kids.

Analysis: This one is pretty straightforward in terms of being a simple piece of folklore about a family’s origins. I found it interesting that the number of offspring from the first Adjorlolo was debated amongst the family. Also interesting was the fact that this was only the great-great-grandfather, which leads only so far back in time. A really good example of how a family’s history can be lost to time quicker than expected, to the degree that legends of eighty-something children and sixteen wives can spring up and become rooted in the family’s history by the time its fifth generation comes around.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Joshua the Apocalyptic Prophet

Context: When I told my roommate about how I was collecting folklore, he offered to talk about some of the stories he’d heard over the course of his life.

Background: This is something my roommate heard in his religious studies class this semester.

Dialogue: (Note: C denotes myself, B denotes my roommate)

B: …And I think especially the Jesus story is folklore.

C: Based on what your professor told you.

B: Yeah, um… He told me — not me personally but he told my class, uh, because we were studying the origins of Christianity at the time — that there was a man living somewhere in the Fertile Crescent, I think, name Joshua bar Joseph, and he [the professor] was like, “Joshua bar Joseph was an apocalyptic prophet,” meaning, he went around saying that the end was near, and that if people didn’t follow him, that they will die, and they would be s— very sad, and their life would be over. BUT— Wait did I say “if?” Sorry. If they didn’t follow him, they would die die, damnation, whatever. But if they DID follow him, uh, they would go to Paradise when they died, y’know. “The Apocalypse is coming, but, if you follow me, you’re gonna go to heaven.” Um, and then he’s [the professor] like, “Does this sound familiar?” and we’re like, “YEAH IT’S JESUS” and he’s like, “EXACTLY, Jesus was just an apocalyptic cult leader!” Um, and I’m like, “Well THAT makes sense.” So, yeah, that’s what my professor told me. But, I guess that means the Bible’s folklore.

Analysis: This is a really good example at how religion is deeply tied with folklore. From my roommate’s perspective and the perspective of the professor who gave him this narrative, the Bible is considered the alternative way of telling their story, where it would be commonly thought of as the “correct” way of telling the stories contained within. The fact that the story of Jesus allows for such variations—I’ve personally also heard the names “Joshua ben Joseph” and “Jeshua ben Joseph” ascribed to Jesus outside of Biblical context—attests to the fact that the Bible can be seen as merely another, more popular form of  a certain folk belief.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Going to Hell in High School

Context: I collected this from a high school friend when we were on a camping trip together over Spring Break.

Background: My friend and I were part of our high school’s marching band.

Dialogue: (Note: C denotes myself, J denotes my friend)

J: When I first went to CV [high school] they— We did the tour thing with the band, and they were like “This is the stairs to Hell! There’s a bomb shelter down there.” Which… fuck knows.

C: There’s a bomb shelter?

J: Yeah, apparently there’s a bomb shelter in CV. It was built in the 60s, it makes sense, y’know. I’ve never looked at the blueprints.

C: I was never told there was a bomb shelter.

J: Um, but I don’t know where that is. I’ve always assumed it was down in Hell, um, but… A couple years after that, uh, I was told by… someone, that a hobo used to live down in Hell and just kind of… slept there, cuz y’know, shelter I guess, and that one day administration found that hobo dead in Hell. So that sucks— Well it’s not really in Hell, cuz Hell you get to from the inside of the auditorium, you gotta go down the stairs from the Jazz Cave, but this was like— you know the stairs behind the auditorium, that go down and are like, sketchy and dark?

C: The spiral ones?

J: N0, the spirals are in the Jazz Cave. The ones that are, like, if you’re going from the Band Room up to the quad, and instead of going up the stairs you go around the stairs, and then there’s stairs down. If you go down those stairs.

C: Okay.

J: That’s where I was told that the hobo died.

C: Oh! Yeah, yeah.

J: And it’s like dark there and shit, so… it would make sense that no one found him there for a while.

Analysis: This is almost my own piece of folklore too, since I went to high school in the same place and knew about the same locations. In this instance, however, comparing my own knowledge about “Hell” (a basement area underneath our school’s auditorium) to what my friend knew showed some variation: I had never heard of the bomb shelter existing before, nor did I know that the specific staircase my friend had spoken about was supposed to be an “entrance to Hell,” as we would have put it back in the day.

Customs
general
Humor
Legends
Narrative

The Family Car Story

Context: I collected this from a friend on a trip over Spring Break, after he’d heard me talking about folklore with another friend I was collecting from.

Background: This is a story my friend’s father like to recount at family gatherings or parties they host.

Dialogue: A large part of my family comes from this one place in Wisconsin called Steven’s Point, um, and, for a while they were… uh, I think, one side of my family was a— uh, was pretty wealthy and lived there for a while, and so, I think, when cars started rolling in across the country, um… So in the 1930s, I think, or, uh, the 1940s, my… great-grandmother, uh, she, moved to Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, uh, and, I think she was, she was starting to get kind of old, and she had to go renew her driver’s license. Now… there were only two cars in Steven’s Point at that time: the one she was driving, and the one she crashed into.

Analysis: The fact that my friend’s father likes to regularly tell this story at gatherings/parties convinced me to mark this in the Customs category, since it’s a familial custom for him to tell it. And while it’s not the most universal story in the world to tell, it feels very important in the legacy of this particular family. So it works as a more personal piece of folklore that way.

general
Legends
Narrative

How the McIsaac Clan Came to Be

Context: Gathered from one of my roommates once he found out about my collection project.

Background: My roommate comes from “a long lineage of Scottish kings and clan leaders of a certain group of isles.”

Dialogue: Donald McIsaac… was the, progenitor, the originator… the first dude, named McIsaac, um… and, he— So the backstory, basically, I learned this from my dad, he would tell this to my sister and me, his dad would tell it to him, I don’t know how far back it goes, maybe it stopped at Grandpa, but he always told us that this is, like, a story passed down through their family. Um, and, basically, uh, in Scotland, there was a war between two clans, the McDonalds and the Campbells. There was no McIsaac clan. Uh, these two clans were at war, and one day, uh, a group of Campbells’ bandits, um… They weren’t fixing for a nice helping of warm soup, they were, they were, bandits from Scotland, um… not cartoon characters from soup commercials… Um, they caught this guy named Isaac McDonald, and, Isaac McDonald was like, “N0nononono, guys, you don’t wanna kill me, or steal any of my stuff, I’m not a McDonald. I am not Donald-” Wait, uh- “I am not Isaac McDonald, I am Donald McIsaac, huh?” And they were like, “OH, kay! Sorry to bother you, run along!”

And that was how the McIsaac clan came to be, he ran along and started a family, etcetera, and, and… They just escaped persecution by just saying their name was McIsaac and not McDonald.

Analysis: I almost put this in the Humor category because of how much this plays out like a Monty Python sketch. It’s almost crazy to think that a solution so simple would work, but based on the story told, the feud between the two clans was more because of their names than because of anything the actual people with those names had done before. Cool to compare this with the other name origin legend I collected for this project, too, and how the differences in the legends surrounding the names illustrate what was important to the cultures those families belonged to: one focused on the progeny of the family, and the other focused on the conflicts between different families.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

The Rice Witch

Context: One of my roommates, when he heard me explaining to a friend about how stressful it was to try and find folklore from different sources, offered some of the stories he knew from his childhood.

Background: My roommate’s family was extremely superstitious when they lived in Vietnam before he was born.

Dialogue: One day my uncle got enough, like, money on a shopping errand to buy some bags of rice, and, you know, apparently, as far as we know, he did get the rice. He was heading back with two bags of rice, um, and… he came back with nothing! What he told the family was that, in the middle of the way he encountered an old lady who asked him to give him the rice, and… he just could not… control anything except the fact that he handed the rice over to her and watched her walk off with it, and then came back with, uh, nothing, and actually… everyone believed him. So I guess there’s that.

Analysis: This feels extremely of its culture, largely because my roommate specified that his family’s superstition were directly connected to the country they come from, Vietnam. This fact also leads me to believe that this witch is a kind  of witch specific to the Vietnamese and/or Southern Asian area, rather than just a witch that everyone in Western civilization is familiar with.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Dreaming of Buddha

Context: One of my roommates, when he heard me explaining to a friend about how stressful it was to try and find folklore from different sources, offered some of the stories he knew from his childhood.

Background: This is the story of an accident that happened to my roommate’s mother when she was young.

Dialogue: Um… I don’t remember how old she was, probably between, you know, 10 and 13. Um, she was playing hide and seek, and was in a two-story house, um, and she really wanted to be tough to find, so she climbed up out on the balcony, on the railing I think, and held on to the opposite side of the railing. Um… After that she accidentally let go and fell two stories and… landed on the ground, uh…

What happened after that, when she was unconscious. She had this dream where… uh, it was completely dark. She was looking around, and she could see these demons coming up everywhere, um, including the Devil I think, and so, her reaction was like, “What do I do, there’s demons all around me, there’s total darkness?!?” And then this light appears. I think it’s supposed to be the Buddha, is what she said, and it says, “Hey, uh… Don’t go towards those demons! Come towards me, that’s what you should do, that’s gonna be good.” Uh, so she goes on, she, you know, runs past those demons, heads to the light, and when she comes to, um, her whole family is, like, around her cuz she fell two stories, and they say she is completely unharmed. She gets back up, like, good as new, and, um… ever since then she’s been quite a bit more religious.

Analysis: I debated whether or not this deserved a “miracle” tag based on the fact that a two-story fall resulted in absolutely no injuries. I’m impressed by the fact that a single dream brought about a life-long change, but I suppose it is because views on religion in America and views on religion in Vietnam are different. It would be interesting to hear the dream told from the mother herself, though, just to get as much detail as possible on what happened while she was unconscious.

[geolocation]