USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘legends’

Werewolf of Morbach 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 I believe the city is Morbach, and according to the legend, this is the last place a werewolf has been killed. I think it was killed in the late 1900’s or something. Anyways, the legend is called ‘The Werewolf of Morbach” because it is about a candle that has always been lit as a reminder to the village that the werewolf wont return. And allegedly, one night, the candle went out and soldiers spotted a wolf like figure. And to this day, the candle hasn’t burned out, but allegedly, if it does the wolf is destined to return.”

CS: “And when were you first told this legend?”

JS: “God, I wanna say when I was like 5? My mom loved legends like these and always told them to me before bed.”



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


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



I enjoyed this legend because I like how its undertones ties back to war with the soldiers being the ones to discover the unlit candle. I think this is indicative of when the legend arose and why it arose when it did. The legend thus serves as a good reflection of the political and social climate of Germany of the time.



La Siguanaba

She was a woman that went out every night to wash by the river. Everyone would hear her washing. But no one would go outside. They would see a woman that had long hair that would drag on the floor. She seduced the men. The story is often told to children to scare them into not misbehaving.

My tia Estella did not listen to my grandmother and went out at night. She was using the bathroom outside and she saw a tall women standing there. The woman had long black hair. And she was washing. My tia thought it was one of the neighbors washing. She approached the lady and when the lady turned to her she was a skeleton. My tia became mute and ran away from the women.

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.

The interesting part of this piece is the similarities between this and the Llorona of Mexico. It is also interesting because my own aunt experienced it. This story is a classic tale Salvadoran parents use to keep them from misbehaving.


Folk Beliefs

Sleep Paralysis Ghost

Informant: The informant is Nabila. She is eighteen years old and is a freshman at Northeastern University. She grew up in Bangladesh.

Context of the Performance: We sat on the living room floor of a mutual friend’s house in Yonkers, New York over our spring breaks form college.

Original Script:

Informant: So basically, do you know about sleep paralysis?

Interviewer: Yes.

Informant: Basically, it’s a condition which doesn’t allow you to move or talk when you’re waking up or first falling asleep. In Asian culture, when that happens, people believe that it is a form of nightmare or that it is a ghost sitting on you. When you have sleep paralysis, since you can’t move, and you might be screaming out loud but can’t actually make any noise, people think that he’s sitting on you. Because he can’t speak, since he’s a ghost, you can’t speak either. I actually don’t believe it though. My mom told me this when I was about thirteen, but now I know that it’s actually sleep paralysis.

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

Informant: It’s important to me in the sense that when it happened to me, it really scared me. I had a bunk bed, and it happened to me the first time I slept on the top bunk. So, I never slept on the top bunk again because I thought that the nightmare would happen again.

Personal Thoughts: I find this piece interesting because I have known about sleep paralysis for years now and have never heard of this type of fear of it. In fact, I, along with many of my friends, have tried to achieve sleep paralysis because you need to do so in order to lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is something so many people try to do, so it is compelling to me that Nabila and her family are so afraid of sleep paralysis.


The Little People

The informant for this piece is my aunt, who worked for the Cherokee Government for several years and is still heavily involved in the organization. She grew up in Tulsa, OK, but has also lived extensively in Tahlequah, OK.

In this piece, my aunt talks to me about the legend of the Little People in Cherokee folklore.

AJ: There was another story I’ll tell you. It’s about the Little People. Have you heard of them?

Me: I don’t think so, no.

AJ: Again, your Mimi, and therefore your mom and I, weren’t told many stories about Cherokee folklore growing up. Some people felt that it was in competition with religion and Christianity, so they didn’t tell their kids.

Me: Right.

AJ: Well, the Little People are this race of spirits who live in caves. They’re about the height of your knees, and are supposedly very pretty and handsome. Their hair is so long it almost touches the ground. They’re helpful, kind, and great workers. They love music and spend their times singing and dancing. They’re kind of like you: they’re very nice and sweet, but don’t like to be disturbed.

Me: That is like me.

AJ: [laughs] My mom told me that sometimes you will hear the Little People drumming but that it is not safe to follow the sound because they don’t want to be disturbed at home. If you bother them, they’ll throw a spell on you so that they become confused and get lost. They like to do things for people, but they don’t like to be watched. Supposedly, you could hear them whispering outside of their house, but that you weren’t allowed to go outside. In the morning, you would wake up and find that corn had been gathered and set outside of your home.

Me: That’s nice.

AJ: I know. I wish I had the Little People clean my house at night.

Me: It would be a good service, huh?

AJ: One last thing about the Little People is that if you find something in the woods you have to say “Little People, I would like to take this” and then you’d say whatever it is you found.

Me: Why do you have to say that?

AJ: Because it may belong to one of them. If you don’t ask permission, the Little People will throw stones at you.

Me: I guess that makes sense.

AJ: So next time you’re out in the woods of California, make sure and say hi to the Little People.

Me: I will.

I personally really like this, and I know my aunt likes it to because she enjoys the idea of these people in a way looking out for the Cherokee people. I like it because it reminds me a lot of myself: I like helping people, but I don’t want any recognition or people to observe me trying to help someone. I would much rather not get any praise. My aunt is very similar to me in that fashion, so in a way we feel a connection to the Little People. I think a lot of the traditions with the Little People, such as asking for their permission to take something in the woods, is a practice that makes life a little more interesting. I don’t think my Aunt believes in the Little People, but she still likes to do the act. In a way, I think it connects her with our ancestors, and in another way, I think it’s just a little thing to do that keeps life interesting.

Earth cycle
Folk Beliefs

Saint Wenceslaus

Informant: “Saint Wenceslaus was a big saint in the Czech Republic, there is this well known carol about him, though I can’t remember exactly how it goes. He was a bit like Saint Nicholas or Santa like we have in the U.S., except that he took care of people as opposed to giving gifts. The legend goes that Good King Wenceslaus was out walking in the snow and he found a poor person and gave him money, and how that what you’re supposed to do at Christmas is give money to help poor people. A bunch of legends built up around him, like the carol talks about how on this dark and stormy night, we was walking with his helper, and he told his helper to walk in his footsteps in the snow behind him, which was supposed to have a Christ-like connotation to it. An supposedly the whole kingdom under his reign was a wonderful golden age because they had this wonderful king who was a saint. A lot of Catholic churches in the Czech republic and also in places in the United States with a lot of Czech people would be called Saint Wenceslaus’s, or just Saint Wen’s. There is actually a big statue of him in the main square in Prague that is supposed to have the original king’s actual helmet on it!”

The informant is a 77 year old retired anthropologist living in Portland Oregon. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Kingdom of Bohemia (in the modern day Czech Republic) in the 1890’s to escape the economic turmoil within the country in that time period. She was born and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and studied anthropology at Stanford University, during which time she became interested in learning more about the traditions of her heritage. She has on several occasions traveled to the Czech republic to visit relatives there.

Collector Analysis: This is an interesting legend, and provides an interesting counterpoint to the classic “Winter gift giving story”. Whereas most Christmas traditions involve giving gifts you your family and loved ones, the story of Saint Wenceslaus advocates giving to those people you don’t know who are in need, specifically the poor. Saint Wenceslaus is the Catholic patron saint of Bohemia, which is currently a region within the Czech Republic. This particular legend also shows the strong connection there was between the old European royalty and the Christian faith.


La Llorona

Primary informant: “La Llorona, I think is just really a part of every, like, Latin American household, I guess. Um, and specifically, I didn’t hear it from my dad because he doesn’t really believe in that shit, but from, like, my aunts and my grandma, whatever. And, um, it’s basically, this lady who… it’s like, okay, myth, legend, I’m not sure which one, but it’s like this lady who had kids, um, I don’t know what happened to the husband, if it was out of wedlock, or he died or whatever– the guy’s not there and, um, she ends up having a lover and the lover doesn’t want kids or whatever, so she takes her kids and she drowns them, in the river, and he ends up not getting with her anyway. So she just- um, like, got, I don’t know, got really sad or whatever and just, like, walks around. They say- people say that they see her walking around, like, rivers or, like, places with children and she’s always, like, they can, like, hear her, like, crying or something and just being really sad and all of that.”

Secondary informant: “La Llorona, she’s forever cursed to stay on Earth and she—for eternity, to find the remains of her children. And that’s why she’s constantly near rivers, because she’s trying to find the remains of her children and she can’t ascend into the afterlife until she does. So that’s why she’s stuck here, that’s why she’s hanging around here and shit.”

Tertiary Informant: “The one that I’m more familiar with, her husband was cheating on her. And so to get revenge on him, she drowns her children.”

Primary Informant: “The variations of that…”

Tertiary Informant: “But in whatever… ends up, he never ends up with her…”

Primary informant: “And she eventually ends up drowning her kids.”

Secondary Informant: “She’s forever alone.”


Primary Informant: “Yeah, forever alone.”


Both informants who shared information about La Llorona are of Mexican descent and heard this story from their families. This story was shared in the primary informant’s apartment. We spent the afternoon sharing stories and combining the information we all had about each legend. These stories are important to the informants because they have been passed on from the older generations in their families. Because they value their older relatives, they value and enjoy the stories they’ve been told.



Los Duendes

Primary Informant: “So, there are these things called duendes, which are like gnomes and I guess they’re, like, cousins or something, they’re, like, related to leprechauns, essentially. And they’re popular, or known about, not just in Mexico, but also in, like, Central America, like El Salvador, or, um, in other parts of South America. And, um, apparently, from what I understand is, these, like, leprechaun-like creatures, these gnomes, they can, they like–, they choose a house or something and, um, when they choose a house, um, like, they’ll, like, try and, like, live in the house, but you can’t really see them, I don’t know, like, adults can’t really see them, I guess. But if you do see it, you have to give it food, um, because if you don’t give it food, it will, like, play pranks on you for the rest of your life. Like, it will just, like, mess with your life I guess after that. Um, and so a friend of mine was saying that, like, uh, he was at his other friend’s house and they had, like, a lemon tree or some kind of tree, a fruit tree, and, um, there would be, a, like, a– they would leave fruits on the ground, like the ones that fell. They would pick some, but they would leave others and he would pick ‘em up and he would, like, throw them or whatever. And I don’t know who it was, but it was like, ‘Noah! Don’t do that!’ and he was like, ‘Why? They’re just—they’re on the ground.’ And it was like, ‘Well, those are for the duendes, you know, so they don’t, like, come in and start, like, messing with my life.’ And, like, there are videos on YouTube, like, of duendes. And the same guy, that told me that story, he said that when he was in El Salvador with his parents, he was- he was young or whatever and he said that he saw a duende, like, following him. And he was like, ‘Mom! Mom!’ And she was like, “No, you can’t pay attention to it, don’t pay attention to it and then it will leave you alone, it won’t bother you.” Um, and that was just on the road. I don’t even think they were at the house. But, if it chooses your house and you don’t give it food, you like, you know, tell it to eff off, it will, like, mess with you forever. Um, but apparently, they really like hanging out with children and, like, playing with children I guess, um, that’s all I really know about that… Yeah. It’s, like, weird, the YouTube video, you see the guy, like this guy’s like playing soccer in his house, I don’t know why, and, um—“

Secondary Informant: “Uh, it’s like South America…. That’s like everyday.”

Primary Informant: “But, like in the house?”

Secondary Informant: “That’s like the pastime, dude.”

Primary Informant: “Okay, in the house, for sure. And he’s playing soccer in the house and he, like, kicks the ball over to the wall and ,like, you just see this little thing just like start running across the… and you just see the guy, like, freak out. He’s just like, ‘What the hell?’

Lavelle: “Is it… fake?”

Secondary Informant: “It looks genuine.”

Primary Informant: “I mean, the only thing is, it’s, like, terrible quality, so you can’t really tell. It looks like a cell phone camera.”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah, but do you really think someone would wanna go out of their way to…”

Primary Informant: “To make that up?”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah.”

Primary Informant: “I mean, maybe.”


Both informants who shared information about los duendes are of Mexican descent and heard this story from their families and friends. This story was shared in the primary informant’s apartment. We spent the afternoon sharing stories and combining the information we all had about each legend. These stories are important to the informants because they have been passed on from the older generations in their families. Because they value their older relatives, they value and enjoy the stories they’ve been told.

What I found interesting about this exchange is how it became obvious that my secondary informant was more open to the possibility of these supernatural beings actually existing, while my primary informant was growing more skeptical.

Here is the YouTube video mentioned in the story:



Haunted House in Hesperia

“This one story that happened to my, uh, my two cousins, on my dad’s side of the family, Alicia and Carina. They are very, very, uh, I guess you could say—very easily susceptible to spirit—spiritual, supernatural occurrences. Like, they’re just a magnet to that shit. It’s just, since they were young, that’s how it’s been, you know. It’s kind of, uh, within my own family it’s kind of, we just kind of accept it for what it is. Like, shit, it happens. Um, so they live in Hesperia now. But when they were little girls, they moved into the house they are in now. And they got it for super cheap because they realized, like, after, uh, a little boy passed away, um, in the tub. His mom left to go grocery shopping, like, really quick just to get something and he was, uh, I think he had Down Syndrome, and he passed away. You know this actually happened, like, this is actually, like, a true story: he passed away. Um. So when they got the house there was some furniture some stuff left behind. Uh, and in my cousin’s room there was this doll. This doll, it was just there, you know. And my uncle says like, ‘Oh, I’ll keep this for Carina.’ So once they start moving in, this one night, my uncle and aunt told me that Carina just, they just hear Carina scream. At the top of her lungs, just scream. And they open the door and she’s just, she’s just crying. And they’re like, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’ ‘The doll was staring at me, was like, looking right at me’ And they’re like, ‘What?’ (scoffs) Like, ‘Oh my God, what are you talking about?’ Like, ‘Just stop. Go to sleep,’ you know? And this, this occurred like throughout a few weeks and almost every night, like, Carina would just, she had, like, no sleep because she would always claim that the doll would, at night, like, stand up and look at her and laugh. And she, her parents didn’t believe her. So this one time, my uncle was just so fed up with it, like, ‘Look, this is not real. You need to stop.’ Like, ‘You’re imagining things,’ you know? They got her a night-light, all this shit. So my aunt put the doll with all the other dolls in this little chest and put—just there, like, he’s not gonna get out, like, relax he’s in there you’re fine. That night, my aunt told me, when she went into the room all the fucking dolls, like, the thing was open and everything was scattered. And the doll was just, like, there. Like just, uuuhhh, just kind of there. Like, looking, like, at the doorway. And my aunt looked at my cousin. And she’s like, ‘Wait, why’d you make this mess?’ She’s like, ‘I didn’t do it. This wasn’t me I didn’t do it.’ And she asked my cousin, like Alicia, my little cousin Alicia,  ‘Alicia’s not—like, she wasn’t even here she was with my grandma.’ So like what the fuck? And my aunt was just, like, you’re being stupid, like, you did this shit. And, uh, this one time my aunt was vacuuming the living room and, uh, they’re have a, like, I guess you could say, like, somewhat of a poltergeist, like, they’ve experience the shit where you see the chairs, like, stacked up Like that’s happened to them. Like, they’ve seen it. And, so from that, they had a priest come to the house and like legitly bless it. You know. Um, so maybe for awhile, things started, like, things were completely fine. And it was’t until there was a barbeque at, they had a barbeque at their house. And my uncle decided, ‘you know what? Fuck it. I’m gonna—we’re gonna take this doll, and I’m just gonna throw it away, like, it’s done.’ You know, uh, so when people were coming, my grandpa at the time, he saw, he saw, like, this doll, perfectly fine on the trash can and he’s, like, why are they gonna throw this away? So he brought it back into the house. And you know from the perspective of everyone who’s outside, you just see a bunch of kids running out of the—outside in the back yard just running, just screaming, like ‘OH MY GOD!’ and my aunt was like what’s wrong, like, what happened? What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’ They said that—these are like little kids, a like my cousins, who said that, they claim that they saw the doll run across the room like the hallway.  And they all just ran out, screaming. It’s just… what the fuck? So from that they just, they just burned the doll, they got rid of it. They legitly just got rid of it. Um but I could like vouch for that. My brother, like, my oldest brother who’s 25, 26 now, he was a kid when that happened, like he was one of the kids that was there. You know. Like for him, it’s just, like, “Dude, I have no idea what the fuck happened. It was just there.” You know, but, yeah… just shit like that… like, supernatural shit.

“But the way that my family sees it, well my dad, my dad’s like her (the secondary informant) dad, like, “That’s bullshit. Like you don’t pay attention to it. You know, you don give it energy, like it feeds off energy, like it needs to be noticed, you know so if you make that conscious decision, like okay I see it,  I’m gonna acknowledge it, it’s just (snaps), it’s gonna keep coming back, it’s gonna keep coming to you, you know. But for some—like my grandmother, and just this—but it’s mostly with older generations—”

Secondary informant: “They just love it! They just dig it.”

Primary informant: “It’s like older generations, you know, it’s an older generations thing.”

My informant is of Mexican ancestry and his family is very open to the idea of the supernatural. He says that his family frequently shares stories about ghosts, hauntings, and unexplainable occurrences. Although he is more skeptical than his older relatives, the older women are especially into it, he still enjoys sharing the stories he’s heard. He can’t help but believe that there’s at least some truth to what his family members are telling him.

Stories about dolls who are haunted or possessed are very popular within the fantastic genre of literature, art, and film.  My informant’s tale is a unique one and tells of something supernatural experienced by his relatives.


Succubus and Incubus

“My uncle, he’s, uh, he’s a truck driver, so he’s constantly on the road and stuff. And, uh, this one time, he is driving with his buddy and they stay at a motel and, you know, it’s probably, like, three o’clock in the morning and he’s just, like, dead asleep. He hears someone, like, shuffling in the room and he’s thinking, like, oh, it’s, like, fucking Greg, like, his guy who’s riding with him. ‘Oh, it’s probably Greg.’ Like, ‘What the fuck is he doing up?’ Like, ‘We need to sleep.’ Um, so he just goes back to sleep and maybe, like, a few minutes later he feels like someone is perching up on his bed, like, someone is knees deep onto his bed. And he starts feeling, like, hands, like, he physically, he physically feels someone, like, about to, like, go on him. And in his mind, like, ‘Greg, like, what the fuck are you doing, dude?’ And he wakes up, or he opens his eyes, and he sees this naked woman on top of him. And at first, like, ‘Dude, oh, this is a fucking a—this is a dream, you know. It’s a fucking dream’ And once he starts to realize, he realizes, like, no I’m awake, lik,e holy shit, no wait– this is actually happening. He sees this woman, like, beautiful, like the way he describes her, he saw, like, her silhouette and he could just feel her hair on his face and it was wet, like, if she just got out of the shower, but one thing that he couldn’t shake off, was the fact that he just smelled, he smelled sulfur. He smelled, like, that… he smelled sulfur. He’s like, ‘What the fuck is that?’ And he’s just, he’s just lying there with this woman on top of him and she’s just, like, there, like, smiling, she’s like, ‘Oh, hi.’ And he’s just trying to register, like, what’s happening, like, ‘What the fuck? Who are…? Like, who the fuck are you?’ And she’s trying to seduce him, like, he felt like she was trying to seduce him, like she wanted to, she wanted to fuck him. You know. And it wasn’t until he kinda started putting two and two together that he was like, ‘Wait, this is not right. Like how the fuck did you get in here? Like you need to get the fu—like get off me! Get the fuck off me!’ But she was like, the way he described her, like, she was so persistent. There was something about her that was just, like, off. Like she was just so hungry for him. You know, to have him. And, like, he just, he got up, he shoved her off and he turned on the light to see, to see who she was, and she just fucking vanished. And he, once he saw that she, like, disappeared he got all his shit and he just ran out. Everything. And then after thinking about it and, like, doing some research, he, for him, he thought it was a, a succubus, you know. He genuinely thought it was a fucking succubus. And, um, it was just like in like in a rural part of America, like, in this motel, like, out in the middle of nowhere, you know. And he was just, he has no idea what the fuck that was. But from the way he described it, it was probably a fucking succubus. This thing that you know, takes men’s souls after having sex with them. You know, uh….

And you know what’s funny, uh, the same kind of story happened to, uh, my friend Valentina. Uh, this was when she was back in high school, she was living at her dad’s house and, um, she was home alone and she felt, you know, pressure being laid on her and she opens her eyes and she sees this guy. And at first she thought it was her boyfriend, Peter. And she looked at him like, ‘Wait, what are you doing here?’ lLke, ‘Peter, what the fuck are you doing here?’ And he’s like, ‘Hey.’ Like, ‘No.’ Like, ‘Don’t worry, like, just go with it, just go with it,’ you know? And she’s like, ‘Wait—like holy shit, you’re not Peter.’ And at first she thought it was just a fucking rapist, like, ‘Oh my God!’ She starts, she’s screaming, like, she pushes him off. And the way she described the way he moved, like, once she pushed him off, like, he jumped, like, into the air, like, this fucking thing, you know? Like ‘hisssssss’ you know? It jumped off and he went under her sister’s bed. Because there’s two beds, so he jumped off and crawled like… crawled under her sister’s bed. And she turned on the light and under her sister’s bed, there’s boxes. You can’t physically go under the bed. And she hasn’t, she doesn’t, she has no idea what the fuck that was.”


These are stories that my informant heard from his uncle and from a friend. My informant is very open to the idea of supernatural occurrences and, although he is aware that the storytellers were likely exaggerating, he believes there is probably some truth to the tales they shared with him.

The incubus and succubus are popular characters in folklore and can be traced back several hundred years. Possibly originating as an excuse for adultery, succubi and incubi appear primarily at night and often tempt men & women to betray their spouse. They are possibly related to the vampire.


For more about the succubus:

And the incubus:


Backseat Horror Story

“A guy is driving on the road at night, and someone behind him keeps honking and flashing his brights. So the guy keeps turning around like what the fuck? So eventually he pulls over and the car pulls over and they get out and the guy’s like, ‘What the fuck?’ And the other guy’s like, ‘Dude, there was a guy standing in your backseat with a knife but every time I honked or flashed my brights he ducked down and you just never saw him.’ So they checked the backseat and there was a bloodstain on the ground and the guy was gone.”

The informant learned this legend from friends at camp when he was much younger. The informant was convinced that he didn’t know any folklore, so I asked him if he knew any classic scary stories, and this is what he told me. He kept trying to tell me personal anecdotes which, as I had to explain to him, were not actually folklore. He told this scary story very quickly and without much detail, because I think he found it boring and over-told. He was surprised that I had never heard the tale before. It is very similar to many of the scary stories I’ve heard, with a serial killer and an unwitting victim. The informant used to tell this story along side those similar stories at sleepovers and around the campfire. He hasn’t told it in a long time.

I have never been a big fan of scary stories; I used to plug my ears when my friends told them. Thus, I don’t know very many. However, I did not find this one very scary, probably because the informant told it in a hurried way and didn’t build any suspense. Most scary stories have an element of suspense, drawing out the story and keeping the reader from knowing what will happen, that keep listeners at the edge of their seats. This story is relatively recent, because it takes place on a road with cars that have high and low beams. It could even take place yesterday. I’m a little confused by the ending. It doesn’t make sense that the  guy waited so long in the backseat with a knife only to flee last minute. Also, I don’t know why there would be a bloodstain on the floor if he hadn’t killed anyone. I think the ending is an attempt to quickly wrap up the story and make it scary. It’s almost scarier knowing that there was someone behind you with a knife, even though he’s now gone, rather than the guy actually killing the man. The former gives me goosebumps, the latter is more shocking.