USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘murder’
Legends

Squidward’s Suicide

Squidward’s Suicide is an urban legend surrounding the Nickelodeon children’s television show, Spongebob Squarepants (referencing the character “Squidward”).


 

BA: So, the story goes, that there was an intern at Nickelodeon; I think he just started working there, and he was really excited about it, I guess. And during one of the episodes, when they’re watching the..I think it was the final cut before air, I guess… And they were looking at the timestamps, and they saw it was edited only a few seconds before they watched it–basically the times of them editing it didn’t match up, and they realized. So, it starts out kind of normal, but something’s off: the eyes of all the characters are hyperreal–like not real, but not exactly CGI. But that’s, “that’s whatever”. SO they keep watching, and it’s an episode where Squidward has a performance (Squidward is a musician). He really f***** it up, it was really bad. But the booing was really intense, it was very unsettling.

Do you know if that was intended by the animators, or if that part just showed up?

BA: Oh, no no no, it was not intentional. The part where the eyes were hypperreal, that was not supposed to happen. The part where the booing was really unsettling, that was not supposed to happen. But, whatever, it happens. So, he’s in his house. And he’s sobbing. Sobbing uncontrollably. Then those sobs turn to screeches, and again, very unsettling–oh, it’s something like… there’s a noise that happens, that doesn’t sound like speaker noise, if that makes sense. So, the animators hear that and they’re like “so, this is super weird”. And I guess the creepiest part is that there are frames that are intercut into the episode of, like, dead children, who are completely maimed with their eyes falling out. And it looks like a crime scene, except there’s no tape or chalk, so it looks like whoever did it took those pictures. And they played it back, and they could see the kid move between frames, and they could tell he was still alive. Then, at the end of the episode, Squidward kills himself, and we don’t know where all the changes to the editing came in.


 

There are several variations to this story: In some versions, the episode was sent on a disk from the serial killer in Scotland to Nickelodeon, where an intern played it and later gave it to higher-ups for investigation by law enforcement. There’s also a version where the disk was made by a disgruntled ex-employee of Nickeoleon looking for revenge by broadcasting images of murdered children on a children’s network. Either way, this legend has circulated on the internet and even inspired some animators to recreate the episode based off the legend, then post those images to falsely prove that the legend is real.

Game

Mrs. Birdy Webkinz Glitch

The informant is an 18-year-old student, of Italian and American origin, who spends a lot of his time playing computer games.


 

Who is Mrs. Birdy?

BW: Mrs. Birdy was a character in the old online pay-to-play game, Webkinz–like Neopets and Club Penguin. Those kinds of games were very popular at the time, and the way it worked was you go to a store in real life and buy a stuffed animal called a Webkin, then you register it online and it gives you an online pet that you play games with and domesticate and care for and stuff.

And the glitch?

BW: Yeah, well, it was just a rumor, I think, but it spread a lot to everyone that played Webkinz. This was in… I was ten… so like 2007. And there was a rumor that the Mrs. Birdy character would climb in through your house and murder your Webkinz with an axe. Since the game is for little kids, it caused a lot of feared kids. I had to tell my mom, and she Googled it. The official Webkinz site had a whole page dedicated to the fact that it was a rumor and that nothing scary would happen to the kids’ Webkinz. I was still terrified, ’cause I was in the little kid bubble.. and then there’s all this worry about murdering my pets.


 

There are many forum sites either proliferating or desperately trying to end the fears about the supposed Mrs. Birdy murder glitch. It’s somewhat morphed into an issue of parenting and protecting children against the dangers of the internet.

 

Legends
Magic
Material
Protection
Signs

Brooklyn Doll

So my grandma moved from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn when she was six years old with her mom, like Brooklyn in New York, the city with her mom and 5 siblings, and the rest of her family stayed in Puerto Rico with the dad, and they were gonna move out later after the dad finished his Navy term. She moved into an apartment and her mom, like so my great grandma, really believes in ghost stories, so she had little plants, little cacti with the long leaves, and she believed those fended off ghosts for some reason. So she kept those around the apartment because when she purchased the apartment she got creepy vibes, as my grandma says. My grandma lived in a closet sized room with her sister and they didn’t really have all their stuff with them, so my grandma just brought books with her. She brought books, and there was a little shelf above her bed so my grandma put her books up there and her mom put a plant up there. So supposedly the apartment was protected from ghosts because of the plants. So then one day though they got new neighbors next to them; it was a wife, husband and dog, they had a dog. They had recently moved into building, and landlord came by my grandma’s apartment to tell them they would have new neighbors. The landlord came by and gave my grandma’s family a doll, and it was the first time they had met the landlord, as it was a friend of my grandma’s dad. My grandma thought the doll was a threat to her ghost-protected house, so she put it on top of the fridge away from everything. The landlord, when she gave it to them said it was supposed to protect from death, but then one night, like I don’t know, this is why I always get so confused, I think its my grandma’s exaggerations. My grandma said one night my great-grandma was out of the house, and so grandma had to watch over all the siblings. She was putting everyone to bed and turned off all the lights and all of a sudden the power went out in whole building. Everything was pitch black. The refrigerator stopped working, there were no phones, and my grandma didn’t know how to reach her mom. There was one circular window that shined directly on the top of the fridge exactly where the doll was sitting. So my grandma is looking around making sure everyone is ok in the house. So my grandma turns around and sees the light of the full moon shining on the top of the fridge and the doll missing. So then the landlord comes by, knocks on the door, and says very very creepily three deaths will occur. Because the doll is missing. She basically told them at the beginning that they couldn’t lose the doll because death would occur. And then…so then, and the landlord knew that my great-grandma put it on top of the fridge. And she checked to see that it wasn’t there and that’s why she told us that three deaths would occur. My grandma did not believe the landlord, and she was trying to be protective because her younger siblings were really scared, so then the landlord left. The next morning everyone woke up and my great-grandma was back, but then they were told everyone had to leave the building for some reason, and like everyone was being evacuated and no one knew why. The police was there. They were all standing out in the middle of the street, and they saw that there were three body bags in the middle of the street. The police told them that the people next door had been killed last night. The wife, husband and dog who lived in the apartment next to them had gone to get groceries from the store beneath the apartments, and there was an armed robbery. The robber shot the wife, husband and dog. And ever since then, my grandma has always believed in ghost stories and she gave my family a plant that is supposed to fend off ghosts.

 

Background information: Sarah is my best friend from home, Manhattan Beach. She knows this piece because her grandma has told it to her a few times and that is the reason Sarah has a demon/ghost-protecting plant in her own house from her grandma because her grandma is now very superstitious about ghosts ever since this happened to her. Sarah really likes this piece because it happened to someone who is very close to her, and although it sounds like something out of a movie—three deaths predicted solely because of this doll—it really happened to her and is pretty freaky, not something she can forget easily, especially since it happened to her grandma. Her grandma is from Puerto Rico, and to Sarah, as she mentioned above, she believes it may just be her grandma’s exaggerations, but she still remembers the story very clearly. The story was collected via FaceTime because Sarah goes to college at Middlebury in Vermont.

general
Legends
Narrative

Spring Break in Mexico

The informant was told this scary story on a camping trip with other USC students. The student who told him the story said he heard it from his friend who was actually among the students in the story. This gives the story more validity, though of course it’s completely likely that the story is absolutely false.

 

INFORMANT: “Okay, so apparently this guy had a friend who decided to go down to Mexico for spring break with a group of his friends, pretty standard. The guy was totally psyched, and so were all his friends, because they’d never been to Mexico, but one of them was a little nervous because he had a huge exam the night they were supposed to get back. But they repeatedly assured him they’d be back on time and he shouldn’t worry, so even he loosened up and got really pumped for the trip. So they went to Mexico, they had an amazing time, it was a crazy week full of alcohol and debauchery or whatever goes on when college kids go to Mexico. And finally, before they knew it it was their last night, and they decided to celebrate their awesome week by going out to a club and dancing the night away. So they went to this club, mingled with the other club-goers, danced and drank, you know. And one of this guy’s friends started flirting with this handsome muscly Mexican guy, and they were really hitting it off. She spent the whole night talking to him and dancing with him, and when the time came for the group to head back to the hotel, she told them she was going to spend the night with the guy and that she’d text them where to pick her up the next morning. Everyone was drunk and trusted her judgment, especially since they assumed she’d gotten to know the guy decently well because they’d been together all night. So the group shrugged it off and went home to the hotel. In the morning, they packed all their stuff into the car and waited for a text from the girl. And waited, and waited, and waited. They called her several times, but she didn’t pick up. They left her dozens of texts and voicemails, but nothing. They were annoyed – they assumed she was still passed out with that guy somewhere, hungover or whatever. And the guy with the test was starting to get really nervous again, because he had to get back. So eventually, after something like 3 hours, they were just like ‘Screw it, she’ll have to fly or take a bus or something. And they finished packing the car and they set out back for USC. When they reached the border, they were waiting in the big line of cars and a border patrolman came up to see their passports and ask all the usual questions. The kids thought this would be a good opportunity to bring up their friend – ‘We have this friend who stayed overnight with a guy here and she didn’t respond to us so she’s still around, but we’ve got to get back. What do we do?’ As the patrolman was about to answer, one of the guy’s friends shouted ‘DUDE! There she is!’ They all looked over, and believe it or not, there was their friend, asleep in the passenger seat of some random guy’s car. The patrolman went over and had the driver roll down his window. He glanced at the girl, who was out cold, dark sunglasses on and head flopping down and everything. ‘Sir, can you wake her up please? We need her to reenter the States in the same group she came with.’ The driver was like, ‘No, it’s okay, let her sleep. She’s sleeping. It’s okay.’ But the patrolman insisted, and the driver was like ‘No, it’s fine.’ So this went on for a while, and finally the patrolman just went around to the passenger side of the car and opened the door. To his shock and horror, the girl fell limp out of her seat and onto the dusty ground. The sunglasses fell off, and the patrolman saw that the girl’s eyes had been SEWN SHUT. She was dead. Naturally, the driver was apprehended, and the USC kids all had to be taken in for questioning, so that one guy definitely missed his test. As it turns out, the girl had been cut open, all her organs had been removed, and she’d been stuffed with drugs and sewn back up. They were going to use her to smuggle drugs across the border and then dump her body somewhere! How awful is that?”

As any good scary story should, this story has the potential to be true. It hits especially close to home that the people involved are described as USC students, and the fact that the story came from a friend makes it seem like it must have really happened. The story definitely relies on stereotypes and qualifies as blason populaire – it plays on people’s fears of Mexico as a dangerous place riddled with drug crimes and violence. The informant voiced that the story is effective because it horrified him so much that the only way he can feel better about it is if he spreads the story so other people will be equally horrified. Scary stories spread rapidly in this way, with people wanting others to share in their fear and shock.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

pakistani slang

Context: The informant is a 30 year old married Pakistani schoolteacher and mother. She jokingly asked her cousin, who was visiting America, to buy her a store’s entire stock of a certain makeup product (that had the number 420 in its name) when she came back, and the cousin replied, you are a 420. When questioned about the meaning of this phrase, the informant laughed and replied that it was slang for a thief or fraud. Questioned further, she revealed that the term comes from the Pakistani penal code, in which “302 is for murder criminals and 420 is for thieves–like they say in the movies, a 201 is going down or something.”

Analysis: This particular slang phrase is interesting in that the origin is a written piece of work–and not even something that is easily accessible to most laypeople, like a storybook or a children’s movie, but the very laws of the country, which are, no doubt, as convoluted and verbose as those of any in the US. However, these codes have made their way, either through the jargon of lawmakers and law enforcement officials, or through popular movies that use “authentic” police jargon in their police scenes, to the laypeople who now use it, not to actually accuse or apprehend anyone, but to jokingly call out each others’ social vices. The act of exaggerating a little social or moral error into something criminalizable by the national penal code may be a way of enforcing social norms while still maintaining social relationships.

Childhood
Customs
Kinesthetic

Alley Murderer

Item:

Informant: “Mhmm the murderer would come back and  jump out and kill the girl if she walked down the alleyway.”

Me: “Wait didn’t the murder occur, like, several decades earlier?”

There is an alleyway that school kids, including the informant, passed by every day coming home from school. The alley was a very convenient shortcut to get home. However, it was told among the kids that years before, a girl walked down the alley and was then murdered. The murderer got away. Now, only boys walk down the alleyway, and all the girls avoid it. They say that if a girl walks down the alleyway, the murderer will jump out and kill her too. So, instead of taking the shortcut, girls would walk about an extra 5 minutes around the large block and meet up on the other side.

 

Context:

The informant recalls this being an occurrence common in early middle school. The murder apparently took place several decades beforehand and the criminal got away. The boys didn’t pay much attention to the story because it was assumed that only girls would be targeted. He said that as they got older, it was talked about less, but the girls still avoided the alley.

 

Analysis:

The concept of a specific place, especially a route, being associated with death or murder is really interesting in this context. Kids at any point in elementary through middle school are beginning to deal with the realities of both death and violent crime. By creating a story (or perhaps propagating a fact) around the alley, they’ve drawn a connection between murder and a specific location and scenario: the alley, a girl, an un-captured murderer. To a certain extent, it’s an example of boys and girls segregating at the early stages of puberty. Perhaps it’s a rare opportunity to have just the boys talking in one place and the girls talking in another for 5 minutes after a day of school. Even more so, it’s almost an empowering way for kids to deal with death. By the girls avoiding the alley, they are effectively cheating what they associate with being killed. And for the boys, it’s almost a courageous act because they are confident they won’t be the victims, so they take the convenient route. It’s also worth noting that for something that happens on a daily basis, 5 minutes extra on a walk is sort of inconvenient. The story was obviously taken seriously enough to convince girls they should take the long way home.

Legends
Narrative

The Previous Resident

My friend once told me about his dad experiencing some spooky stuff when he was just out of college. He was in his early 20s. He didn’t have too much money at the time. I forget which town he lived in, but he was desperately trying to find a place to rent. Eventually, he realized that it would be financially wise to rent just one room in a house. So he found a location that allowed him to pay for just a bedroom. The seller though had to disclose information that the previous resident who rented the room was a criminal. In fact, this guy apparently was a brutal murderer. I don’t know if he did it in the house, the room, or whatever. But supposedly no one was renting out the other rooms at the time. This guy had the entire house to himself when he lived there. Well, my friend’s dad was pretty curious and would often meander around the house looking for history or clues as to what exactly happened. I guess he started lifting up the carpets and found some sort of satanic markings on the floorboards. After that, my friend’s dad said he always felt some sort of presence in the house. Especially when walking up the staircase. He always felt like someone or something was accompanying him from the first to last step.

 

I heard this story in a USC cafeteria around 3:30pm during a late lunch. The informant is a good friend of mine. He heard this story from a friend of his, who heard it from their father. The father directly experienced this event. My friend thinks it’s creepy, “especially the satanic markings part.”

I found a multitude of ghostly motifs in my informant’s tale. These motifs include satanic markings, murder, and the renting of property with abnormal history. Though the motif that stands out to me most would be the staircase. Ghosts are liminal beings and tie themselves to liminal times, events, and locations. Staircases are arguably liminal locations because they are neither the bottom or top floor of a house. I find it interesting then, that my informant explicitly states that his friend’s father felt the most discomfort on the staircase than in any other part of the house.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

House of Tia Toña

In the forest of Chapultepec in the capital (DF) there is an old dilapidated house that is said to be inhabited by a woman who flies into a rage when curious onlookers come to visit.  Visitors to the house have said that when she is enraged, you can hear strange noises in and around the house; you will often see a shadow pass through the windows and the feeling of being watched by someone who sends chills down your spine and goosebumps over your flesh. 
The name of the woman was “Tia Toña”, and she was a very wealthy widow who lived many, many years ago in her house by herself. She was a very kind person and to ease her loneliness, she started taking in homeless children off the street. She gave them money, food, clothes and shelter. But in spite of her charitable acts, the kids were unruly and ungrateful. They made her life impossible and one day, they banded together and decided to kill her in order to take the house and her money.
The kids carried out the murder and threw the body down in the attic. However, they were unable to live in peace because the woman’s angered spirit returned and chased them out of the house – eventually leading each to a terrible death.  From then on, the woman’s angry spirit haunted the house and continues to do so now. Kids are especially warned to stay away from the house.

There is another version of this story that I found in this Mexican newspaper:  http://www.vanguardia.com.mx7leyendasdeterrorquehanpuestoatemblaraldf-668416.html
It is all the same except for the fact that the woman is the one who kills the kids (because they misbehaved so much) only to then be driven to guilt by her actions. She locks herself in the house and has been there ever since. Flory told this story to me during a coffee date, there were no particular gestures that she used to relay it; however, she did say that when she visited the capital for the first time with her parents, her mother repeated this story to her in an effort to scare her away from wandering away from them (it worked, especially in said park).

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

La Casa Matusita A

This house situated in Downtown Lima, Peru is the most famous haunted structure in the entire country. It is famous throughout, you can ask anyone in Lima, and they will all know of it whether they believe in paranormal phenomena or not. The house was first brought to my attention when I moved to Peru by one of my maids, she told me all about it and then my mother confirmed the stories circulated, but said they were all made up. During her last visit, I had her recount a couple of versions of the story of the Matusita which she knew (there are dozens):
At the turn of the twentieth century, there lived in the house a cruel man with two servants (cook and butler). During dinner with friends, the servants decided to get their revenge and poison their master and his friends with hallucinogenic substances. They served the tampered dinner and locked the door of the dining room. A few minutes later, the servants heard  a horrible scuffle. They waited until the noises ceased and then when they opened the door, they saw that the diners were torn to pieces, there was blood spread everywhere. The servants felt terribly guilty and took their lives right there. This version is said to explain the loud voices, conversation and laughter followed by blood curling cries and sepulchral silence that neighbors and passerbyers have attributed to the house.  It is said that if they get close to the house or look in, they will go mad at the sights of gore and debauchery inside.
This version shows the rift between the master and his servants which can be extended to the sentiments that the indigenous and African workers feel towards their European (and later on Asian) masters. This tension is found to this very day since in Peru there is a very strong, but passive racist undercurrent that is perpetuated from generation to generation and never confronted. The race of the master is left unsaid in some versions of the story like this one (it is implied he was white); however , there are also versions that connect this version to version b which I also discuss. In those versions, the master is Asian and a descendent of the Chinese family who lived in the house in the 19th century.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

La Casa Matusita B

During the 19th century, the house was inhabited by a migrant Chinese (sometimes Japanese) family. The father worked very hard and came back late at night every day. One day, he came back earlier and was surprised to hear strange noises coming from his and his wife’s bedroom. He went there and fount his wife in bed with a lover, irate, he grabbed a knife and hacked them both up into pieces. When his kids got home, he decided to kill them as well since he saw no feasible explanation of his deeds and he didn’t want them to hate him. After that, he committed suicide.
While property records show that a Chinese family did indeed live in the house during the early 19th century, there is no proof that the above events transpired. This story’s popularity however could be attributed to lingering xenophobia, staring from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century, there was a very large wave of Chinese migrants to Lima. These immigrants were brought to Lima under false pretenses of wealth and opportunity when in reality, they were brought to collect guano since there was a dearth of cheap labor in Lima (the remaining Africans who were brought over as slaves were too few and the indigenous population had fled to the Andes to avoid being enslaved). These Chinese immigrants suffered horrendously and died by the thousands; however, there was a good number who survived the Guano age and established themselves in the city. In spite of their work which had brought an immense level of prosperity for Lima, these migrants were viewed with distrust by the Peruvians of European descent and were actively discriminated against. This version of the story is a vestige of that sentiment.

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