USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘memorate’

The Hook Man


The informant both introduces and retells her father’s encounter with the mysterious “Hook Man.”

Main Piece

When I was a kid, I lived in a house in the woods, and often, the power would go out. So when the power was out we would sit around the kitchen table with candles and my dad would tell us scary stories. This story is a story my dad told me when I was a kid, and it’s called “The Hook Man.” So my dad told it in the first-person perspective as if it happened to him, ‘cause he believes it did. It’s a ghost story — he believes it happened to him while he was at the University of Virginia. I don’t believe that, ‘cause I don’t believe in ghosts, but this is how it goes:

So my dad and his friends were by the old train tracks one night because they heard this urban legend about the Hook Man. The Hook Man worked on the transcontinental railroad in the early 20th century. He was the man who would put the railway down — the train tracks. And that work was very dangerous, so one day, the Hook Man got his hook, because his arm got cut off while he was working, and he died soon after, because he had no food, no way to sustain himself. So his ghost would haunt the train tracks.

So, my dad and his friends decided they would go to the train tracks in search of the Hook Man. And he would carry a lantern — the Hook Man — and this is how you would know, because the lantern would swing on his hook. So, they came to the train tracks. They were in their car waiting and they’re waiting to see him. And all the sudden, about five hundred feet away, they see the hook, the light swinging *swwsshh* — my dad did sound effects — and so, they got in their car and they’re like, “that’s the Hook Man” and they step on the gas *rrrr* (doing car revving sound effect) down the train tracks and they stop, because they notice that the lantern is now about a hundred feet away from where it was before. So they chased the lantern all night, and in the morning, it was gone. And that’s “The Hook Man.”


When the informant introduced her story as “The Hook Man,” I assumed she was referring to the popular urban legend of an escaped hooked convict terrorizing teenage couples, but was pleasantly surprised with a completely original ghost story. As with many supposedly-true ghost stories, this one has likely evolved and been exaggerated over time by the informant’s father, though this is a second-hand telling. As such, “The Hook Man” could be classified as a memorate: it originated with an experience the informant’s father ostensibly had, but was almost certainly altered to conform to common storytelling conventions when retold to the informant.


The Impossible Aircraft

Item (direct transcription):

My encounter with aliens was when I was flying back from Bangladesh about two summers ago. In the skies above Canada… um, this might have just been some weird aircraft or some weird, uh, phenomenon with the wind. Anyways, we were flying towards California, right, at a very high rate of speed, and I saw this—looking out my window—very far away I saw this tiny streak of, like… light going in the other direction. And it was flying pretty fast—in the other direction.

It had a smoke trail behind it. No, not behind it! In front of it! Which was the weird part. Like, then I guess you can’t call it a smoke trail, exactly. It looked like something was being emitted from the front, and it was, like, following that. It was so weird! But it was also very far away… there were no clouds in the area, though, so it couldn’t have been a cloud.

At the time, I had no idea what it was! Because no plane flies like this! I thought it was some kind of, maybe like, alien craft, or something. I don’t know. Maybe some secret government experiment.

Background Information:

The informant was very insistent in the validity of his testimony. He is certain that he saw this impossible aircraft. He thinks it must have been a high-tech craft built either by aliens or by a top-secret government project.

Contextual Information:

The informant accompanied his story with a simple drawing to illustrate the aircraft.


This story matches the format of a typical memorate. The informant has linked his experience to common American folk beliefs in aliens and top-secret government aeronautical projects.


Family Roadtrips

Informant Info: The informant is a 20-year-old female who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother is Caucasian, and her father is Hispanic. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and works for Walt Disney World.


Interview Transcript:
Interviewer: Can you tell me about your favorite past time?


Interviewee: I think my favorite past time would have to be being in the car. Not sitting in traffic, but with people I love going on a spontaneous adventure.


Interviewer: Really? Where did this come from. Like why do you love driving or what are your favorite memories from it?


Interviewee: One of my most cherished memories was the road trip my brother, best friend, and I took from San Antonio all the way to Fayetteville, North Carolina. It’s a 22-hour trip and I drove for 18 of them. We stopped in so many places along the way. Our first stop was in Houston to get coffee. I ended up drinking a total of 8 shots in a matter of minutes and I do not recommend that…but I was awake for the rest of the trip! Then we were in Louisiana when the sky decided to break and rain harder than I ever thought possible. Next thing you know my driver side windshield wiper flew off and straight into the bayou… Like…Great. We pull over as soon as we can and I switch from the passenger side to the driver side. We ended up in Gross Teet, Louisiana and the name to this day still makes me laugh. We got new ones and went on our way. Next stop was New Orleans, and boy! It did not disappoint. Beignets by the dozen and fortunes from the voodoo man were in store. After living my Tiana dreams we were on the road again. Next stop Pensacola. We stopped for dinner at a Cracker Barrel and we were on the way again. My brother drove the last four hours into North Carolina but before we crossed into the state we had to stop at south of the border: the most insane truck stop experience EVER. Once we got to North Carolina, I decided I wanted to keep going to Virginia Beach to see my maw and grandaddy and to this day I’m so happy I did. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d ever see my grandaddy and I hold that memory very close to my heart. After Virginia, we went back to North Carolina and I graduated high school and then traveled to the happiest place on earth (Disney World) and made some more really great memories, like meeting you!



This is not direct folklore, but it is an excellent example of story-telling. I was with the informant in person when she told me this story, and she gave a very active-performance. She was very excited, spoke with lots of arm movements, and loved being able to talk about her favorite past time. At a later time, off the record, she brought up how important road trips are to her, and how she wants to find a way to make road trips a family tradition in the future.


Connecticut Ghost Story

Informant EM is 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Southern California. Her major is cinema and media stories. Here, she discusses her ghostly experience as a freshman in high school in Connecticut:

EM: “For my freshman year of high school, I went to boarding school in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut. It was kind of an isolated community so we had to tell each other stories to keep us entertained for the most part and a lot of those stories involve the founding of the school and the legacy of the people who founded the school. So I got the luck of moving into the oldest dorm on campus that had been around since the 1800’s and it was a scary place. It was drafty, it was cold, it was falling apart, so naturally we had a bunch of ghost stories about it. The most memorable one was the story of the ghost of Maria Bissell Hotchkiss who was the founder of the school. Legend had it that if you went out at night to the hallway and you went to the back staircase of the dormitory, which was named after her by the way, you would see a woman dressed in white in a Victorian costume, like very old fashioned clothing, walking back and forth throughout the hallway and she would go down the stairs and if you tried to follow her, she would disappear. A lot of this has to do with the fact that back part of the dorm used to be her home when the school was originally founded. It’s kind of like the idea that she is looking out for the students. She’s been known to be a benevolent ghost, nothing really scary about her, but it was still creepy and there were definitely tons of sightings. I remember in particular when we had a blackout, because we were snowed in, there was this horrible blizzard. I actually feel like I might have seen something. I like to think that there is a rational explanation because like again it’s an old building, but I heard footsteps out in the hallway and I had the room closest to the back staircase and there wasn’t anyone with me. My roommate was back in my room but she heard the footsteps too, but she didn’t see what I saw. I saw someone in the dark who was dressed in white and this figure was opening the back door to the staircase and going in and you know there could be many explanations obviously, but it definitely made me think and it was kind of a fun story to tell other people after.”

How did people react to your experience?               

EM: “Well there was this girl who was a daughter of a teacher and she lived in the house adjacent to the dorms, and she said that all throughout her childhood before even knowing who Maria Bissell was, she had actually seen the ghost in one of the rooms, which when we later went upstairs to look at it, it turned out to be my room because it is the closest to the back. So we were thinking that maybe this used to be Maria Bissell’s room when it was a house, so maybe that explains why she keeps going there. But the girl said she wasn’t scared of her as a young child. She said that she got the impression that this spirit was kind to children. She started a school so maybe she is still around just to keep looking out for her students to make sure that they are OK.”

How or from whom did you learn about your school’s history?

EM: “Well before I saw it with my own eyes, I had the background because it was a popular story to hear around Halloween from the older students. It was kind of like an initiation thing like I would hear it from like the girls who were proctors and were seniors and you would hear it from the faculty. But I remember that they would make this little ritual out of it on Halloween where they would take us to a graveyard. They would take us out on Halloween night to the grave of Maria Bissell. It was just to scare us and it was part of the initiation process. It was a big part of the school culture and especially the women who are a part of the school. The boys never heard about this kind of stuff that went on, only the girls were involved.”

Did any of the girls ever share this with the boys?

EM: “Never. No, actually it was very exclusive. I don’t know if it had to do with that the dorm was a girls dorm, but it was definitely women who passed it on to other women.”

Does your experience have any meaning to you?

EM: “Well I’m not sure, but I like to keep my mind open. I like to think of it more as a lucky encounter or a positive thing, almost like a good luck charm more than it would be like something that is very scary because it was a way in connecting with the history of the place and also it’s nice for a change to have like a mascot ghost that isn’t out to get you. It was definitely a positive experience.”

What context would you share your experience in?

EM: “Well it makes a great story for stuff like Halloween, but I feel like it’s probably easier to explain to people from my same background. So if I were to meet another girl who went to Hotchkiss, I would probably ask her if she heard about Maria Bissell and ask her of she experienced anything similar. Everyone has their own story on Maria Bissell, which kind of defines your belonging to group of Hotchkiss girls. It would definitely be a bonding thing.”


EM’s experience with the ghost of Maria Bissell Hotchkiss is a large part of the schools initiation process and part of the tradition of passing those experiences onto the new class of girls who are coming in. It represents belonging within the community and the spirit of Marie Bissell Hotchkiss is portrayed as a benevolent spirit who is a reminder that the girls of this community a part of a tradition that was upheld for decades. The shared experiences and stories brought the community together. It solidified the bond between the girls of the school. It also established a sense of identity for the girls who went to Hotchkiss. Many girls came from all over the U.S. and the world to earn an education at this school and through the many experiences of encountering Maria Bissell over generations brought a sense of community and a shared belief system that all the girls could relate to and understand.


For another version of this legend, check out this article written by Stephanie Thomas:


Thomas, Stephanie. “Origins of the Bissell Halloween Walk.” The Hotchkiss School. N.p., 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.




Two Mirrors

The informant, NVS,is a junior at the University of Southern California majoring in social sciences and psychology. She is from Los Angeles, California, and is of Croatian and Italian descent. This is her memorate regarding a family ghost:


“So my family and I- I was raised as a Catholic and my entire family is Catholic. We are not super strict, but we do go to church and we do follow most beliefs within Catholicism. However, when we experienced- I guess you could call it a supernatural experience- within our house, it changed certain beliefs of ours. Of course we’re still Catholic today but we know have more of an open mind when it comes to certain things.

A little bit of background on our house: our house was the original house that my parents moved into before my siblings and I were born. There was a prior owner to the house. My parents kept the original format of the house until they remodeled it 8-10 years ago.

So one day, my mom was working around the house and she kept hearing these noises around the house. She didn’t think it was a big deal. She thought maybe that it was our dad doing things around the house but then she would realize “oh wait, I’m home alone!”

So she would hear footsteps and knocks, but she’s not the kind of person who gets scared easily. She didn’t think much of it until the situation started to…progress. Not in a bad way, it just became more intense. It wasn’t to the point where she couldn’t stand it, it was more like “okay, there’s something here but I can’t quite understand what it is.” She would always get the sense that someone was watching her, not in a negative way, just the feeling that something was with her and that she was not alone in the house. My mom would experience these things even when we were babies. I’d say it started when they first moved in- it started a long, long time ago. Once she had us it started to get more intense. When my parents remodeled the house, more stuff started happening even more frequently and I think it had to do with the renovation of the house because the original parts of the house were altered.

So one day…it’s kind of funny because my dad doesn’t believe in any kind of supernatural phenomena or ghosts or anything. He’s more science based, like “prove it to me scientifically, and then I’ll believe it”. He’s very close minded to THAT kind of stuff. My mom was not bothered by it, she accepted it. My sister and I-when we were little kids- we noticed things too, but my mother never talked to us about it. We approached her, actually, with the same things she experienced and that’s when she confirmed with us that she was hearing these things too. One of the big things was that we would always here, like, someone always calling our names? Ever so slightly. When I was little, I would always here my name being called out- it was actually my nickname that only my family uses! One day, it sounded like my dad calling me, but my dad wasn’t home. This actually happened many times, always when my dad was out of the house. So I think we established that it was this male energy in our house- not a bad energy, but we could sense that it was a male presence. You can just feel it.

My mom, my sister and I, the three of us- it’s kind of funny, just the girls in the family would experience these things. But my dad never experienced them, maybe because he was so close-minded or maybe even because he was male. Up until he finally saw it for himself.

I want to say this happened recently, a year or two ago. My dad was walking through the living room. The only original part of the house that we never changed was the living room. There were, at both ends of the room, two mirrors facing each other. We never thought too much of it until these things started to happen. It’s said that two mirrors facing each other is not the greatest idea…I’ve heard that it can open up a portal to somewhere else, some kind of dimension. I don’t know how I feel about that, but it’s something I’ve always heard. My dad was going about his business through the house that day when he saw, no joke, an apparition- not even an apparition, a full person! A solid person, literally to the point where he could describe to us later what he looked like. He had brown, curly hair, a green polo shirt, pants and everything- but the one thing he said that was odd was that this figure didn’t have feet! Whatever my dad saw, was clearly an apparition of some kind, not a real person.

But- no joke! He saw someone, or something. And my dad is not the type of person to make anything like this up. I have never seen him so scared and so in shock in my life- he didn’t talk to anyone for like a couple of days! That’s how shocked he was. And then he came to us saying, “This is what happened, this is what I saw.” And my mom just accepted it, like, “we know already!” It’s interesting how the women in the family experienced similar things and then my dad, who was completely closed off to belief in the supernatural, had the most extreme encounter out of all of us.

Small things continue to happen in our house. In terms of talking back to them, I never get a response. If I go throughout the house looking for the source of the voice, no one is ever there. We took one mirror down after what happened to my dad. This didn’t completely get rid of the sounds we hear around the house, but we definitely notice a difference in the level of how much it occurs- it’s not as intense.

Later we found out- and this is really interesting- that my dad’s description of the man fit the previous owner of the house’s appearance to a T. He died, I don’t know if it was in the house, but her died of natural causes…we asked our neighbors about the house. They have lived there forever, even before anyone else, and they knew more about our house’s history than we did. When my dad described what happened to him, they pulled out a picture of the man who had lived there before us and he was identical to my dad’s vision. We assume that what he saw was the ghost of the original owner of the house, and he was still attached to the house. The renovations we did seemed to spark something- I don’t think they made him angry. I think he just wanted to let us know that he was there with us, kind of watching out for us.

What does this story/experience mean to you?

This experience, for all four of us, made us more open-minded to encounters with the unknown or the unfamiliar. We now truly feel that there are things out there that we can’t fully understand that may be greater than us. They’re not necessarily bad things- they can also be there to protect us, or simply coexist alongside us. Knowing exactly who it is- the previous owner of the home- makes us more comfortable with the situation.

What kind of people have you shared this story with? Is it more of a private family story?

Honestly, I share it with both believers and non-believers. I’m open about it and willing to share it with everyone to see if they connect with it. I think it may be helpful for others who may be skeptical to get that perspective. It’s not something I hide, or that I’m scared of sharing.”


My thoughts: I think this legend is really fascinating because it engages directly with the idea of belief, including religious belief, belief in the supernatural, and skepticism. It illustrates how religious families can have specific beliefs that don’t necessarily exist within organized religion, or how skeptics may end up believing in legends after personal experiences. This memorate also illustrates how places with a lot of history- such as old homes- often have legends such as ghosts stories attached to them.

Folk Beliefs

The Ghost of Chula Vista

Original Script: “Most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me in my life. My friend, before she was officially moving out, she invited me to stay the night at her grandparents house. The house use to be a brothel and I have always felt that her family has something that has really negative energy around it. Anyways, when I walked into the house I like got the weirdest feeling ever. The first thing that happened, happened in the nieces room. You know like how small storage rooms have that little door? Well, apparently none of the family even knew that that door was there because it was painted over and plastered. But, like, the family was looking for the niece so she could come say hi to me but they could not find her. An HOUR, later, they found her playing with her ‘imaginary’ friend, the room was just plain sketchy. But, it was creepy because she had never had an imaginary friend before. Apparently, the imaginary friend would tell her a lot of weird things and things that happened in the house, like women coming and going. She also described her imaginary friend as being this tall man, nothing any cutesy stuff about it. Anyways, I was getting bad vibes from the minute I stepped into the house and especially after the whole imaginary friend scenario. Later on in the day, that night we slept in her guess room, which was not even a bedroom to begin with, it was the extension from the garage and the family had made it an extra room, like a new room…we both stayed in that room…And when we were asleep, I woke up to hearing a bunch of things outside…because we were by the boarder I just thought it was some animals or construction outside but then I saw a figure pass by the window, like, a silhouette of a man walking passed the window, to get to the backyard someone would have had to sneak in because the backyard was gated and made of high bushes around a brick wall…we got so freaked out both ran to the grandparents room…the grandfather checked the backyard and did not see anyone so he checked the cameras—which they had because they lived so close to the boarder and saw that no one had passed and sent us back to the room.

I was freaking the hell out but my friend fell asleep…an hour later, I saw the man again!!! But this time, the silhouette just stands there, like it was staring inside the window…and the lamp turned on by itself! I scream, my friend wakes up and see what’s happening and she runs out and finally I was able to move…I ran back to the grandparents room, and the grandparents said it was probably a ghost because they knew the place was haunted. Like really? Thanks for telling me. I could not sleep at all that night and the next morning before I left I went to the fridge outside and felt like someone was behind me…I was felt terrified in that house.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Kamilah and her mother have always been spiritual people. The belief in witches, demons, and angels is strong to Kamilah’s mother however, it is even more so in her home country—Nicaragua. Kamilah has always believed that spirits and demons haunt people that are surrounded with negative energy.

Context of the Performance: Visiting a friend’s house in Chula Vista

Thoughts about the piece: Re-writing the story word for word from a recording, gave me a different thought process than the first time I had heard it. After reviewing the story a second time, I saw how Kamilah’s spiritual belief the unknown made this story so terrifying for her, in terms where it became a product of cultural relativism.

To begin with, most people hearing this story would think that it was either somewhat scary or that Kamilah’s child mind had interrupted something from out of its context. However, given the fact that Kamilah was a sophomore in high school as well as her spiritual background, it gives this story a whole different meaning—a meaning where imagination becomes a dangerous game. In a second follow up with Kamilah, she explained how she thought of spirits and demons as completely separate entities: spirits were more of an ancestral background, that guided you, while demons were very dark spirits that fed off the negative energy from people. The fact that she felt negative energy around the house, and not a very friendly feeling from the figure outside the window, as well as the creepy feeling she got when the niece talked about her imaginary friend, and the very label of “terrifying,” Kamilah associated this story with that of a more demonic presence.

Furthermore, this story would not fall under a legend quest because Kamilah did not know about the grandparent’s house being haunted. It would not of been just a legend because this pertinent information was also kept from Kamilah. Instead, this story was more of a memorate for Kamilah, in which a memorate is a personal experience that is translated into a traditional narrative. After discussing the story with her mother, when she came to pick Kamilah up, her mother told her it must have been a demon. Thus, as Kamilah told her story, the social atmosphere labeled the unexplainable (i.e. the man at the window) as being a demon.


Tunnels Under Edwards Air Force Base

Contextual Data: My informant had read this on the Internet, and he shared it with me over Spring Break one night after we came back from New York City. We had been chatting about his car, and as we got home, he remembered this story that he had recently read on the Audi forum of which he was a part. He said he thought it was a crazy story and I asked him if I could record it for the archive. The following is an exact transcript of his story.

“So Edwards Air Force Base has this like, you know, long history of being like this kinda creepy place that, you know, has like a very sketchy military history. They do a lot of really secret, you know, testing and all this other stuff there that, uh… Very classified things, cutting edge stuff happens in Edwards Air Force Base—‘cause it’s in the middle of the desert, and um… whatever. So, uh, it’s also one of the largest bases, so they have a lot of ground, so there’s like, you know, there’s like random buildings and just things from the sixties and when they’re doing all this random testing like way out in the desert of the base that, you know, it’s just land that they own.

“Um… So, this one guy, you know, he’s in the Air Force and, um… I guess he was like on a patrol duty at the base, so they go to this one like place where pretty much nothing has happened since the sixties. It’s like an abandoned, uh, building — couple of buildings way out there. Um, so they get out of the car and, you know, they’re checking around on foot, and uh, they go to this one building and it’s got no doors or windows—anything, except for just one door in the front of it, right? And it’s made of concrete. Uh, it’s just got a single door. And… the guy, you know, just pulls the door—you know, the door handle to make sure it’s locked. Figured it’s definitely going to be locked, and it was unlocked. It was open. And, uh… The door opens and he looks at his buddy and he’s like ‘…Should we?’ And the other guy’s like, ‘Hell yes.’ [Laughs.] ‘Let’s do—Let’s go.’ So they walk inside and it’s just, um, one giant room in this building, right? There’s just the one door on the outside, one giant room, it’s all concrete, and there’s nothing but a set of stairs just going down in the middle of the room, right? And uh… They pull their flashlights out ‘cause there’s no lights, that, you know—no light switches or anything. And they… And so they pull out, you know, their flashlights and their pistols, you know, the way that they — you see them in movies. [Mimes with his hands in front of him, the “flashlight” on top in his left hand and the “pistol” below it, in his right.] They kind of hold it like this—one over the other. And they start going down this stairwell. Now it’s, you know, it’s daylight outside but it’s dark in this thing and they’re going down these stairs. And he says the stairs go down for…What he thinks is like a hundred feet. Like ten stories. He’s just going down these stairs and they’re just like—it’s just like this narrow stairwell they keep going down. It’s like a tunnel basically. Um, and you know, he’s like at this point things are getting—already feel very weird. It’s already really sketchy.

“Um, and they get to the bottom, and then it’s just this hallway that goes forward and they go forward in the hallway and there’s this door. And he looks at the other guy and uh, then they walk in. And he says all that’s in this room—again it’s like this one large concrete room. They’re now like, you know, he thinks like a hundred feet underground. There’s nothing but cameras on the walls, like near the ceiling. And in the middle of the room is this giant chair. [Mimes really wide with his hands], like metal chair. It’s got like wrist straps and feet straps—like ankle straps or whatever. And underneath the chair is a drain, like a metal drain. And the whole concrete floor, the whole place just kind of slopes gently down in the middle. So you don’t know like… What was there, but there, you know—could’ve been torture, whatever. But, um, he… At this point he’s getting like really weirded out, and there’s this other room on the side, and he looks in there. And um… There’s like these huge stretchers and these huge things that are bigger than they’re—than the ones that are meant for people. It’s literally like—and the chair is bigger than one that’s meant for people. You know, it’s like, very freaky. And then he…He talks to the other guy, and he—The other guys just points up and one of the cameras had just turned and was looking right at them. Um… So they just freaked out. He’s like, ‘We gotta go.’ And they just got way—you know they went all the way back upstairs. And as soon as they got back upstairs, the guy’s cellphone rings. And it’s like the base telling him they need to get back to base right now. And they didn’t explain why or whatever. But they’re just like, ‘You need to get back. We’ve called you like three times. Why was your cellphone off?’ He’s like, ‘It wasn’t off. I just didn’t have service.’ And they’re like, ‘What’d you mean you didn’t have service?’ He’s like, ‘Wha—Never mind.’ [Laughs.] And then that was it. He, like, never found out anything more about it.”

- End Transcript – 

When I asked my informant about the significance of this story, he alluded back to how he began the story: that Edwards Air Force Base has a history of being this “creepy” place, surrounded with all sorts of conspiracy theories. He was a little skeptical of this story — he first read it online on the forum where he actually finds information about his car; some guy had posted it  there as a first hand account. But he’d read some of the guy’s other posts, and he seemed like a respectable enough person, who had “his head screwed on right.” Given all the other things that my informant has heard about military bases — especially the remote ones out in the middle of the desert — he wouldn’t be surprised if such a place as the one described actually existed, which is one of the reasons why he found it interesting to share. But he doesn’t believe the larger conspiracies surrounding the base (i.e. that there were actual alien encounters there.) Beyond that, he just thinks that this is a fun, creepy story to tell, and he has shared it with a few other friends.

On it’s own, this story is more of a memorate than a legend, as it’s a personal account that contributes to the larger urban legends and conspiracy theories that surround Edwards AFB. There are many different stories about such bases and military sites having underground tunnels and being the sites of extra terrestrial encounters. Some people would therefore enjoy telling this story because they think it’s true, others because they think it validates the conspiracy theories, and others simply because it’s a great story to tell to spook people out. For my brother, it was a combination of the first and the last reason.


Belmont Ghost Legend

At Belmont University, in the 1960s out in front of Wright Hall (the girls side of building that I lived in), there’s a small field out in front where you can have a picnic.  It was kind of like a quad.  One night, a girl was coming home alone, and it was dark.  She was a resident of Wright though they don’t remember what floor or room she lived in.  These two guys came up to her.  One approached her from the front to make her back up, and the other shot her.  It was the only confirmed violence on campus.  It happened around December or November, during finals time.  The girl who had been killed was very studious.

The whole legend was that around that time you would see the girl wandering through the halls.  She would come up behind you and poke you or do something to you because she had been devoting herself to school and was taken away.

“One night, my roommate and I were in our room on the third floor.  My roommate and I were asleep probably around …I tell the time later.  I was laying down and my eyes burst open.  I had felt something in my ear like heard someone say hey. I felt something like breath in my ear.  I checked if the air was on. (waves hands around showing what she did)  Then I got up and checked.  There was no air conditioning, and my roommate was dead to the world, snoring.  She checked in the hall and saw no one.  It was about  2 in the morning.”

Her roommate had experienced something similar, but they didn’t remember the legend until they were talking.  They realized it had happened right around the time finals were starting.

“It was weird. I told it to my mom and my grandma.  I was literally sitting on the edge of the bed so confused.  I thought it was a waking dream at first then I remembered I felt breath, like someone blowing in your ear.”

The informant heard the legend on a campus tour when the tour guide was showing them the dorm that they would be living in.  She thought, “Great, we are going to be living in a murder house.”  The informant believes that the legend is told half to scare people who are easy to scare, but it is also just one of the ten stories that have really stuck with the campus through the years.

The informant’s story is a good example of a memorate.  She had heard the legend previously so when the experience happened she connected the dots.  The informant  believes the legend more than before she had had the experience because she formed a personal connection with it.  Perhaps if she had never heard the legend, the breath in her ear would still be a mystery.  The legend also seems like a cautionary tale, telling students to be aware of their surroundings so that they do not end up like the girl who was murdered.


The Come Carne Ants (flesh-eating ants)

“When I was… in high school, I lived in Costa Rica for six months… and… we decided to live by the beach.  And when you live by the beach for six months, you have to go to the beach every single day…  because, you’re never going to ever have the opportunity again.  Forever… So we, we go to the beach every single day, and that led to us knowing all of the secret beaches, like none of the tourists would be there.  Um, and this one day… it was a weekend, we spent the entire day at this secret beach… we’re the only ones there.  No one else… in sight, for the entire day… and being on this beach… forever… eventually, I had to go use the restroom.  Now, even though it was an abandoned beach with no one in sight except for my family, I, I felt like it would be improper to use the ocean.  And so, I ran over to this nearby bush, then again it was an abandoned beach, there was like nobody nearby, so I walk over to this bush… And I…  I really needed to go, so I started running straight there, I’ve been having a lot of fun, I’m not paying much attention, running straight in this bush to hide and then… Well, jus- just the week before… ehm… one of, one of the… one of these security guards for the apartmen we were living in had told us this story of the ‘come carne’ plant… Now, if you know Spanish, you know come carne is the stupidest  names ever, it means ‘eat meat’ in Spanish… and I guess more accurately translates to flesh-eating.  Now the plant itself doesn’t eat flesh… it’s, it’s like this rose and it has these giant thorns, but way bigger than a rose, HUGE thorns.  And… it, it’s a weird thorn because it has no tip, it just has a hole at the top instead, so it’s not pointy.  It just looks like a thorn, with no… no top, just this hole, and inside this thorn lives a colony of ants.    Now these might actually be the come carne ants, one of them’s named come carne, it’s probably the ants but I thought it was the… the plant that was named, so…  Now these ants don’t actually eat flesh, they eat the sap produced by the plant, inside of its thorn… and in return they protect the plant from any goats that try to eat it.  So the goat would come over, wanna nibble on this bush, out jump these ants that will bite craters of flesh off the goat’s nose and the goat would run off, screaming in pain because it’s one of the most painful things ever now our security guard was telling us this, and was like ‘You’ve never felt pain… until you’ve been bitten by these come carne ants!’   Now… I really had to go, so I wasn’t thinking, and I definitely wasn’t looking at this bush… as I was relieving myself on it, completely naked, you know, pants down… sw-swim trunks down… And he was right, there is no pain until you’ve, you’ve been bitten by a come carne ant… and… and so yeah, they bite off these chunks of flesh, and I actually have a scar right here on my arm, ‘cause one of them got on my arm, it’s been several years now so it’s like… so it’s almost gone, especially since I’m tan, but you can see that tiny white bit…”

[“Oh, please don’t tell me your…”]
“…Oh, it’s fine, hahaha…  they were definitely like… only one got my arm but there were a whole lot more elsewhere… so… you know your first reaction is like, when you’ve got flesh eating ants on you is to… get them off, by jumping into the ocean to get them off but I REALLY, REALLY had to go, and so I finished up and then I ran into the ocean and got them off, and then my pain tolerance level for the next… few months, was like, through the roof, I couldn’t feel like, anything… I felt like a superhero afterwards because… yeah… you don’t feel pain like that… on an everyday basis.”

My friend is an Interactive Media and Games major at the University of Southern California.  He went to high school in Colorado, but as he says in the above story, he lived in Costa Rica for a while.

The story deals with an “urban legend” of sorts, of flesh-eating ants in the Caribbean.  I tried to look up solid evidence for flesh eating ants in Costa Rica but could not find anything documented.  Because of the uncertain veracity of the come carne ants this makes my friend’s story a memorate (though he does have scars on his arms to prove that something did, in fact, rip off a piece of his flesh).

My friend noted that he’s told this story many times since the incident.  I think it’s really popular because of it’s outlandish premise.  Going to beaches everyday is an unusual circumstance, and becoming so familiar with beaches that you know where the secret beaches are is something different as well.  The fact that the security guard did warn my friend and his family about ‘come carne’ ants helps make a really good story (almost like an informant at the beginning of marchen that warns the protagonist of something that would lead to serious consequence).  The idea of flesh-eating ants that can rip off your flesh, and the image of someone falling victim to them during urination is hilarious and outlandish.  Since he’s told this to a lot of friends in the United States, I think the location of Costa Rica is far enough to be slightly exotic, which makes this story feel more true… as if these ants were an alien form of ants that exist on some tropical island, on abandoned beaches that you shouldn’t go to after you’ve learned this story.  I think my friend aims to make it seem alien too, especially when he describes the thorns of the plant in which these ants hide.