USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Legend Quest’
Legends

The Legend of Oniontown

MR heard about the legend of Oniontown at a summer camp a few hours away, in New Milford, Connecticut. Him and his friends didn’t believe it was real, so they went on a legend quest to see if it was true. It’s a bit of a memorate in that their own personal experience might have been due to other causes, but fit into the legends surrounding the place and and therefore they (at least at first) attributed their experience to what they had heard about inbreeding and meth cookers, despite acknowledgements that the town might just be trying to keep all these dumb kids out.

“Oniontown is a tiny town surrounded by urban legends. People say that it’s a place where people are giant inbred mutants. It’s a lawless society where mutant people will drag strangers out of their car and beat them to death. Police overlook it, though it is only a few miles from civilization.  It supposedly has a giant statue of an onion in the town square.

I was friends with camp owner’s son, and the counselors & them went to go and prove it wrong since we were so close and obsessed with urban legends. We got a van together and went to check it out.

They made a rule that if anyone gets too scared, they would turn back, no questions asked.

As they are driving, it starts getting more woodsy.

Two of the people get freaked out and don’t like way it looks. They decide they’re too scared, and ask to turn back.

Ok, fine, so we turn back, but then we get lost. We have no clue where we are. We got so lost that we ended up right near the main road to Oniontown. We decided we might as well go check it out, so we drop our scared friends off at McDonalds and tell them we’ll go explore and come back for them.

The stories say that first the road will turn to gravel, then get narrower and narrower, then mutants will come.

The first thing we see is a junkyard on right named “Murphy’s autobody,” which we take to be a good sign because Murphy is last name of guy driving car. Which, by the way, is a piece of shit car. It’s a van driven down from Canada, old and decrepit, which was given to the guy to run into the ground since it’s near the end of its life).

Then the asphalt turns to gravel.

The two car road changes to a one car then narrows even more to barely a one car road. We wonder how on gods green earth do people get to this city.

We come around a bend and stop. Headlights turn on in front of us.

Three enormous guys get out in road in front of us, huge ass guys, seven feet tall, and one is holding a cinderblock.

The mood in car turns from laughing to complete horror. One guy throws a rock, and the entire windshield shatters.

On of the other guys throws something else at passenger window, and that shatters too. I was in the backseat so it took a while for this to register.

One friend, who I credit our survival to his fast thinking, decided to drive forward. At the last minute he sees a branching road, spins the wheel and goes down that way and into a field. ACDC was on the radio, and my friend thought it was a good idea to turn it up. It was only funny later.

We go back to the road, spin around, and go back to MacDonald’s.Our friends are still there, eating a happy meal and taking their sweet time. We scream and motion for them to get in the car. They get up, take their time, throw away their stuff, not aware of what’s happening. Just then the truck with the guys pulls in and comes around other side of parking lot and rolls down the window.

A guy says: ‘You think this is a joke? Think this is funny? don’t ever come to our town again.'”

MR thinks that because so many people heard about onion town and started to visit, people got tired of strangers coming to town and now mess with people. He also still thinks there’s something fishy going on, maybe cooking meth or something of the sort. There are weird buff hillbillies, nonetheless.

Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Quest to Delaware Valley High School

Original Script: “Okay, so when I moved to Milford, Pennsylvania, I didn’t know anyone! Besides mom and Chuck, and we all know just how fun that could be. Anyways, I had been going to DV for a couple of months and had made some really awesome friends. But they told me about this legend at the school, how this one kid died from a seizure in the hallways and you can hear locker slams, and water dripping in the hallway at night (apparently he was on the swim team). But it was weird because apparently he had epilepsy, but the school didn’t know about it…I don’t know the whole story doesn’t make sense. But I really wanted to see if the legend was true because I’m really into that stuff and also a lot of people have heard the ghost at the school. Anyways, because I was swim team manager, I had a key to the school for early morning practices. But of course, my friends and I thought it was a good idea to go at night to see if it was true. So I told mom that I was sleeping over at my friend, Jess’s, house. And Jess told her mom the same. So we met up with our other friends outside the school, I honestly have no idea how they were able to sneak out…but apparently they do it all the time. Anyways, we used my key to get into the school, we weren’t worried about cameras or anything because that school is so cheap, we live in the middle of nowhere! Trust me, they are not too worried about security. But, we walked into the school, me, Jess, Katie, our friend Nate and Josh.
First of all, it was already creepy to begin with. I mean the school is old! So it gives off creep vibes. In the first fifteen minutes, there was nothing and we started getting board wandering up and down the halls. But, in the next few minutes. I have never been so terrified in my life. We were at the really old part of the school. A part that hasn’t been rebuilt in such a long time, and all of a sudden we heard dripping, and almost if wet people were hitting the tile, then we heard lockers slam shut! Safe enough to stay, we didn’t stick around longer than that. We ran out of the school and Jess drove me back to my house. I stuck up into my room and barley slept that night and when I came down the next morning, mom was surprised to see me out of bed! She asked what I was doing home so early and I told her it was because of swim team practice this morning! Hahaha, it was really funny because when I got to the school, I totally forgot that we didn’t lock the door behind us! So, I definitely thought we were going to get caught. But, when I walked up to the Swim team supervisor, she looked me down and was like, ‘Jenna…when I got to the school the door was open!’ I knew I had been caught, but then she said, ‘I guess Noah forgot to close up after afternoon practice yesterday, so I guess you are the only one with the key now!’ I was trying so hard not to laugh as Noah kept protesting that he didn’t forget! I never said anything after that, and now I will literally be late to all my classes because I refuse to walk through the old part of the school again!”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jenna grew up in Chandler, Arizona with her family. About two years ago, she moved across country with her mother and now lives in Milford, Pennsylvania. Jenna loves stuff about ghosts, and she is always willing to see if the legends are true. She has gone on a many legend quests but have yet to hold them true until this one. She is now a senior in high school and eighteen years old and plans to go to California in the fall.

Context of the Performance: Sneaking into a school at night

Thoughts about the piece: This interviewee happened to be my younger sister, whom I am very close with. She had told me the story the day after it happened. Though, I interviewed her again because I thought it would be perfect to that of a category of a legend quest. This story, as seemingly innocence as it was, speaks volumes in relative terms to Jenna’s belief system. Jenna has always been interested in the supernatural, but has never experienced anything that has seemed to be true. (I conducted an interview with her based off of the legend of Bloody Mary, she tried the ritual and nothing had happened that was seemingly supernatural, please see that article for reference). However, this being the first, “supernatural,” thing Jenna has experienced, gives this story a specific edge.

Firstly, this story does fall under the category of a “legend quest” because it is a quest of a high school student to see if the legend of the ghost at Desert Valley High School is true. Furthermore, the ghost story adheres to the category of a legend, something that can (or has) happened in the real world. Secondly, the fact that this legend scared Jenna, that there was happenings of the unknown (i.e. the watery footsteps, the slamming lockers, etc.), signifies that this story held some significance to it. It might have been the social environment Jenna was in. For example, the fact that everyone believed in the legend or it could have been because of the building Jenna and her friends were in was an old building—it could even have been a combination of the two. Thus, it is interesting that this legend quest can also transform into a memorate. In a follow up with Jenna, she had told me that she had shared the story with her other friends that week—friends that believe in the legend as well—and her friends approved that it must have been the ghost of the boy.

Interestingly, this legend quest can also fit into the category of inanition into a group of sorts. Jenna was new at her school, she had mentioned in the story that “everybody” has heard the ghost, and she might of wanted to fit into the new social environment. So, experiencing such a legend quest with a group of friends already part of the Delaware Valley High School, made Jenna ‘fit in’ more with the group, it initiated her as part of the Delaware Valley High School students.

Folk Beliefs
Game
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody…Mary?

Original Script: “Okay so I was around thirteen when this happened. I never really believed in this Bloody Mary legend but I was like, ‘what the hell?’ I was at a sleep over and everyone wanted to do it and I was like whatever about it. I have heard so many things on what you are suppose to do but I just let my friends take the lead. Basically, we went into my friend’s, Becca, basement bathroom. It was me, Becca, and Kaylin doing this. Anyways, we lit a candle, apparently the person holding the candle had to say the chant and the other two were suppose to touch the person’s shoulders. Then, whoever was closest to the light switch had to flicker the lights off and every time Bloody Mary was said—which you had to say three times, then blow our the candle. Anyways, I was volunteered to hold the candle, we walked into the bathroom and Kaylin was the one designated to flicker on and off the lights. So we went, ‘Bloody Mary’ lights off, lights on ‘Bloody Mary’ lights off, lights on, and for the last one I started to get a little freaked out for the last one. I had no idea what was going to happen, I have never done this before! So I held my breath and was like, ‘Bloody Mary,’ and blew out the candle. And the lights shut off. I waited a couple of seconds for Kaylin to turn the lights back on, finally Becca was like, ‘Okay Kaylin, turn on the lights,’ and Kaylin was like, ‘I never turned off the light!’ At that point we all started freaking out and fumbling for the light switch, which was not working. Then I heard a, ‘what the hell, oh you have got to be kidding me, girls get up here!’ Which was Becca’s mom, so we opened the bathroom door and it was still pitch black. Like none of the light switches were working, so we fumbled all the way from the bathroom, to the stairs then up the stairs, and, because of the windows, you could see the moonlight outside and Becca’s mom pacing. Apparently, there was a whole blackout on the street! We were worried for nothing! But safe enough to say, I will not be doing that again, still haven’t till this day! That was crazy scary!”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jenna grew up in Chandler, Arizona with her family. About two years ago, she moved across country with her mother and now lives in Milford, Pennsylvania. When she did this Bloody Mary ritual, albeit the legend, she was in junior high school, in eighth grade to be exact. She is now a senior in high school and eighteen years old and plans to go to California in the fall.

Context of the Performance: Bloody Mary Ritual

Thoughts about the piece: The Bloody Mary ritual/ legend quest, is a very fascinating item, foremost, because it falls under the category of both a ritual and legend quest. Bloody Mary is a common legend among, typically, young adolescents, and does fit the category of a legend quest. However, it also fits the category of a ritual, for example, the lights flickering on and off, saying Bloody Mary three times, holding a candle—however, the ritual does vary and it would be interesting to see if it varies by regions. It is noteworthy to also mention, in my folklore class, we had discussed that Bloody Mary was almost a coming to woman hood, type legend quest. Which aligns perfectly with the age Jenna was at, at the time she did the ritual.

Furthermore, it is also important to note the candle in the ritual. The candle almost represents a form of enlightenment, as well as the lights turning on and off. Thus, blowing out the candle could represents the finishing of coming to womanhood, that you know all you need to know, and hence blowing out the candle.

Additionally, though Jenna did not believe in the legend of Bloody Mary, she still got scared toward the end of the ritual—scared of the unknown. This theme—being afraid of the unknown—seems to be precedent in today’s society: people afraid of ghosts, people afraid of things they cannot control. It also seems as if groups add to this inherent anxiety, it seems as if because there was a group all participating in the ritual, they all mimicked the anxiety/ fear of the unknown. (This is also precedent in another interview I conducted with Jenna about a Ghost in her high school, please see the interview for reference).

Legends
Narrative

Native American Spirit House

Item:

“So, I grew up in Arizona, uh, in a pretty common neighborhood, except that we were backed up right against the Indian reservation. Um and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an Indian reservation, but it’s usually a very like barren, not very developed area, and especially when you have a suburban neighborhood backed up against that, it really uh, it really lends a stark contrast. So even when you’re a child you could tell the difference, like that’s the Indian reservation, this is the suburbia that I live in. And, so, my family was one of the first to move into an area that had before been undeveloped. I had a couple of friends whose families had also moved into that area. And uh, you know, typical childhood playing around and stuff. And so one day we noticed that a new house was being constructed, a fairly common thing in the neighborhood, uh because once again, it was fairly undeveloped before this. Um they graded the land and they started putting it up. Again, I need to stress; this house was right next to where the Indian reservation is. Like, you could see the fence from like the house. And, so, uh, you know. When they were building this house we could hear really strange noises coming from uh, basically just like the, it was like a wood-only structure basically while it was under construction, as most buildings are. And this house was really big, so it took a long time to build. So this place was here just wood, for like a solid year. And, so again, it was backed up, basically right against, nature. The Indian reservation was virgin desert. So, a lot of strange and mysterious animals would go into the construction site. And uh, you know, so me and my friends would also, you know, play in this abandoned house. And um we found a lot of things in there that we um, that wasn’t typical to find in a suburban house that would be typical to find in the desert. For example, we saw a couple of diamond back rattlesnakes, uh that could have easily, totally messed us up. Uh and these were the years before cell phones, so two of my fifth grade friends would have had to have carried me back if I was bit by one. Anyway, so a lot of animals would creep into this place and we started developing sort of this theory, which seemed completely rational at the time, that this place must be haunted; it must be drawing the Indian spirits, because it had to have been built on an Indian burial ground, of course. So all of this was naturally confirmed one night when, I believe it was mid May, the end of school, when um, we heard very strange noises that sounded like music coming from this place, and we were all hanging out in my backyard, which is less than a block away from this place, and we hear this really loud music and we looked over and there were these lights going on in this place, and it was a wooden structure at this point, so it was very strange to see, and it was dark. So we wondered what it was and we all snuck out. We assumed it the time that it was the strange Indian spirits that had called all their snake friends. And uh so we crept up on this place and peeked in and saw all these people dancing, and naturally we assumed that this was a huge, undead Indian party. Of course it had to of been, you know cause it was dark, there were strobe lights going so you didn’t have a good idea of who was there, and we were seeing this from kind of far away, so we totally ran away from there because we didn’t want to get like  some pissed off Native American spirits coming after us, sicking rattlesnakes on us and what not. I mean, it was definitely a real youthful moment, and my parents actually confirmed that it was Native American spirits because, as it were to turn out, uh the “Native American spirits” had the police called on them due to a noise complaint, yeah but we found out uh, that a girl named Amber who lived down the street actually uh had thrown this party, it was a graduation party.”

Context:

The informant, who is from Scottsdale, Arizona, said that a couple of years after the events in this story happened, when he was in late middle school, he ran into Amber and she told him that her and her friends thew a party that night. The informant stated that this realization marked the end of his youth.

Analysis:

This lengthy narrative has several different dimensions. First, it functions as a sort of ghost story, a tale of the supernatural. It also functions as a legend quest in that the informant and his friends attempt to investigate this neighborhood mystery. Lastly, it functions, in a way, as a rite of passage, a transition from childhood to adolescence. When the informant stated that his realization that what was going on in the house that night was not a Native American spirit gathering, but rather, a party, marked the end of his youth, I think he expressed how invested he was in the notion of these spirits and how much the idea meant to him. Essentially, in a manner similar to a child finding out that Santa does not exist, the informant lost the innocence of his childhood.

Legends
Narrative

Haunted Middle School

Informant: “I know in the town next to us, there is a middle school and there is a legend that this boy fell into a hole in like the thirties or something and they were pouring cement and he got trapped under the cement and there was like somehow an air passage that he was able to breathe through, through the cement that they poured on top of him. But then he died there, and so now this ghost haunts the school and if you knock on the principal’s door three times, he’ll knock back.”

 

The informant comes from a small town in California. The informant states “there is nothing to do there, it is just a small town and the biggest thing we have is a Walmart.” She said that because the town is small “everybody knows each other, and we kind of grew up together.”

The middle school from the tale is located in Redlands. The informant learned this tale as a child from her mother. The informant’s mother used to live in Redlands and attended this middle school. The informant remembers this tale because “Its just one of things you’re told that you remember when you are a little kid just because it is interesting.”

The informant does believe in ghosts and has had a personal experience with a ghost. When asked, the informant recalled that “the house I grew up in until I was seven was definitely haunted, I saw his ghost multiple times, and it wasn’t just me, my parents saw him. We would go to bed with all of the windows and doors shut and we would wake up and they would all be wide open, you would hear banging on the pipes and whatnot. We found out that the person who lived there before us died in the house. So the ghost was of the guy that died there.” Thus, ghosts are very real to the informant.

According to the informant, some kids will try to knock on the principal’s door to see if they can get the ghost to knock back. Thus, some kids use this legend to go on a legend quest. The story is also rather morbid and represents a fear of death, especially a slow painful death.

Customs
Legends
Protection

The Legend of Turnbull Canyon

My informant told me about this legend of a haunted canyon named “Turnbull Canyon.” This specific canyon is in Whittier and many high schools around this area know about this specific legend. He stated that at his high school Sunny Hills High School, everyone would go to this specific haunted canyon to prove themselves, have a thrill, and sometimes couples would even go there for a night of “romance” per say. This specific canyon includes tales of a abandoned gate with a dark hole within the bricks that hold the gate. Supposedly if you go towards this hole, you will see eyes of a demon as this hole is a portal to hell. Also this canyon is supposedly a breeding ground for Satanists and also white supremacists. There was an incident where either Satanists or white supremacists chained a girl to the back of their car and dragged her down the canyon, dismembering her body. There is also a tree at a specific turnout that  is supposedly haunted as a man hung himself at that spot. If you go to that tree at 2 a.m., you will see the body hanging there. There is also a house which use to be a mental hospital, however a tragedy occurred there. If you go in to this specific house you can see ghosts and hear screams from the tortured patients.

My informant stated that he went to this canyon during high school with his friends as they were bored. He said the personal experience that he had was that he heard noises coming from the house that use to house mental patients. This scared him so much that he drove down with his friends as soon as possible. Another of his friends stated that he saw a group of hooded figures in the woods who seemed to be doing a certain ritual.

My opinion of this piece of folklore is that it is a prime example of a legend quest. High School students around this area would go to this place to have a thrill as they would have story to tell to others about how they survived Turnbull Canyon. What is interesting about this legend is that when I did some research about it, there are incidents of a murder involving a woman found and also a mental institution which burned down. Thus these show where the inspiration for some of the legends came from. However nothing else could really be proven about the occult happenings.

Contagious
Customs
Legends

Legend of Blackstar Canyon

The Warning Sign

This sign warns individuals that the county is not held responsible.

My informant tells me that there is a very eerie hiking path within a canyon in the city of Orange. This canyon warns it entrants that the area is not maintained by the city and also the government is not responsible for any injuries or loss that occurs in this place. He states that this was a local spot to hang out in during high school, to either go do drugs or go and get scared. My informant states that kids in high school would take flashlights and cameras, to go and take pictures of the haunted landmarks while night-hiking.

The landmarks that are known are the haunted tree, overturned bus, the forsaken campsite, and also man known as Blackstar Bill. The haunted tree is supposedly haunted by the ghost of many unfortunate people that were punished with nooses there by white supremacists. These ghosts are miserable and angry and if you do something disrespectful to the tree, ghosts will appears. My informant stated that his friend decided to urinate on the tree and they heard noises, thus they ran away as fast as they could. The overturned buss is another landmark that is known for being haunted, as children died there unfortunately as the bus driver loss control. The forsaken campsite is known to be a very eerie-looking campsite that looks like it has been left alone for a long time. Supposedly there are very insane people that live at this campsite that are the remnants of an abandoned mental institution. There also is reasoning that this campsite is home to Satanists and White Supremacists who meet here. Lastly Blackstar Bill is a deranged mountain man that lives within a cabin in the woods. He will shoot at you with no regard for human life and will state that you are trespassing on his property, thus he has the right to kill you. These are the landmarks that kids usually try to get to a night and take pictures of. My informant states that he once went there and saw odd red eyes within the overturned bus and never has gone back. He also states that there are signs along the hiking trail that state that police will not help you beyond these points.

My informant states that the Legend of Blackstar Canyon is still prevalent within many Orange County high schools. He states that he told his younger brother about this myth and that he already knew about and also ventured there before.

This definitely is a legend quest that offers high school kids on a boring night a thrill. What is interesting is that the landmarks are shared by many different high schools, yet with different stories at some parts. An example of this would be the haunted tree; instead of summoning a ghost when you anger the tree, another version is that you summon a very demonic creature that resembles a chupacabra. This could possibly be a latino spin on the legend, but this demonstrates how legends change for different people. What makes this a legend is the fact that there have been sightings of Blackstar Bill by many people. However the meeting site for occultists cannot be proven. Either way high school kids perform this ritual to state that they have been there and survived. It is basically a rite of passage for these high school kids, once they can drive and get there.

[geolocation]