USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Narrative’
Legends
Narrative

New England Ghost Story

Informant EB is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in political science. EB is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, but he has spent the majority of his youth in Connecticut. Here, he shares a ghost story known to a town in Connecticut called Dudley Town.

EB: “So Dudley Town is a famous old colonial town in Cornwall, Connecticut, and most people who are from Connecticut know of it as a spooky, old ghost town. Back in the mid to late 1700’s, Dudley Town was mostly farmland and it was used for farming purposes only. But because other businesses were opening up and it was located on an area that was not ideal for farming, the agricultural production suffered and eventually closed down. So the story is that there was a doctor in this town who killed all of his patients when he would go visit them at their homes. He would poison his patients by giving them the wrong medication. This doctor was known to be a Satanist and that he believed that if he followed and did what the devil instructed him to do, he would be rewarded with a rich and fruitful afterlife. So he did this for years and years up until he hung himself in the middle of town. It has been known that his dark, evil spirit haunts the remains of this old town and that no one will really go near it because of all the strange things that have happened. I think it is even closed off to the public today.”

Where did you earn about this legend?

EB: “Um well I heard it while going to school when I was younger and it is a story that is talked about in school by our the older classmates. I have heard variations of the story over the years, but it is something that has been talked about among friends and schoolmates for generations.”

Does this legend have any significant meaning to you?

EB: “Uh kind of in that it is was talked about in school as a way to warn the students to not venture over to that town because of what happened, but it mostly freaked me out when I first heard in school.”

What context or setting would you share this story?

EB: “I have shared this legend to other people when it has been close to Halloween, but I feel like if I were to run into someone who is from Connecticut, they would have a better understanding of the whole ghost story thing and we would be able to relate to it better. I feel like most people who aren’t from Connecticut would look at me weird because they may not know the historical background of old colonial towns like Dudley and or they might now believe in the supernatural. But it’s also a fun story to share for entertainment purposes too.”

Analysis:

Connecticut is a New England state that is prominently known for its coastal cities and its mysterious rural areas. The remains of an old colonial settlement, Dudley Town is known to be cursed. Plagued by hundreds of unexplained deaths and tragedies, this town is now prohibited to the public and has been reclaimed by the surrounding forest. The remains of this eerie town are now fully covered by trees and wildlife. I found it interesting how the informant learned about this legend in school while he was a new student and how it is tradition each year to share this legend with the younger incoming students.

Legends
Narrative

Croatian Cemetery Legend

Informant FV is my grandfather who was born and raised in Split, Croatia. Here, he describes a Croatian legend from the city of Split that was about a courageous man who was dared by his friends to visit a cemetery alone at night. This legend has long been told over generations:

FV: “There were a group of guys who were one night hanging out with each other like they normally do after work. They started talking about daring each other to go to the cemetery by themselves. No one out of the group would immediately volunteer because they knew you’re not supposed to trespass. Well, there was one guy in the group who eventually volunteered himself to go. He volunteered because he wanted to prove to his friends that he was brave enough to go alone to the cemetery. Then they all agreed that he would go to the cemetery at midnight with a knife. And this was during the wintertime. They told him to put the knife on top of the grave and to leave it there. And that’s what the brave man did. He followed the instruction to place the knife on top of a grave and to leave it there to be found the next morning. Well, when his friends came the next morning to pick the knife up, they couldn’t find him anywhere. So they proceeded into the cemetery at the break of dawn looking for their friend. Once they ventured into the cemetery, they saw a man passed out over one of the graves. Turns out their friend who was dared to enter the cemetery late at night to put a knife on top of a grave died. The man ended up getting tangled up on his long coat. Because it was pitch black and you couldn’t see anything, he thought someone was grabbing him by his coat, which caused him to have a heart attack. He died on top of a grave from a heart attack. Now, people say that they see the man’s silhouette or ghostly figure roaming around the cemetery looking for his friends.”

How did you learn about this legend?

FV: “Well it’s a story that is told over the years while growing up. I heard it from my grandfather when I was a young boy. My friends also heard about the story from their grandparents as well. It’s meant to scare the young kids in town and for entertainment purposes. But there are people who truly believe that the man who died that night still exists within the cemetery, so people tend to tell the same legend. It’s an old legend that is known in Split and is still told today.”

Why do you like sharing this legend with other people?

FV: “Well, it’s a story that lives on over generations and it’s fun to tell for fun, but I know some people who have shared with me that they have seen the apparition of the man themselves so there is a spookiness to the story.”

What context or setting would this story be told in?

FV: “Well, this story has been told at gatherings like parties or other events mainly to entertain those who are listening.”

Does this legend have any significance to you?

FV: “I enjoyed telling this story to my children when they were young and to my grandchildren because it was a legend that was passed down to me by my family, so I like to do the same and share it with my family.”

Analysis:

There are many legends and myths within the Croatian culture and this is one example of a legend that has been past down generation to generation by word of mouth. This legend is told for entertainment purposes during parties or gatherings to compel the audience with something interesting. It has been said that those who have visited this cemetery in Split have seen the same man walking through as if he was alive. Legends like this are often shared in the Croatian culture to amuse the young children.

 

Legends
Narrative

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.”

Analysis:

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:

http://www.hotchkiss.org/abouthotchkiss/hotchkiss-today/last-bissell-halloween-walk/index.aspx

Citation:

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

 

 

Legends
Narrative

Menehune- Mischievous Hawaiian Spirits

Informant CT is in her third year as a neuroscience major at the University of Southern California. CT is Hawaiian and is from the island of Oahu. Here, she describes a well-known Hawaiian legend about mischievous spirits who play tricks on those who visit the Hawaiian Islands:

CT: “Menehune were natives of the Hawaiian Islands and were really small in stature. They have been known to look like little elves or fairies, but not really fairies, more like trolls and they lived deep in the forest away from civilization. They have been known to trick and mess with the tourists who come to the islands for vacation, like they tend to play practical jokes on the tourists like they would misplace your things while on your stay or they would pull you hair. They would also pinch or poke you. Mostly just silly stuff.”

How or where did you learn this legend from?

CT: “Well, my grandparents would always share this story with me and my sister when we were little. They’ve told us that the Menehune were like the first people to come to Hawaii and live on the islands. My grandparents would always say to us that whenever me and my sister did something bad or went against our parent’s rules, that is was the menehune that made us to it, that they influenced us to do it, like in a playful way.”

So the Menehune were not scary or meant to scare anyone?

CT: “No not at all. They, from what I have been told when I was little is that they are just playful spirits that mess around with young kids. It was never a scary thing or something to be afraid of. Nothing in that nature.”

In what kind of context would you share this Hawaiian legend?

CT: “Um well I guess you would share this legend to those who are going to Hawaii on vacation. Like I’ve made a joke about it before to my friends who were going to Hawaii during the summer. I would tell them to watch out for the Menehune while they are there because it’s been known in my culture that they mess with the tourists and their things so its just something fun to share with other people and kind of make them aware of this legend.”

Does this legend have any significant meaning to you?

CT: “Um, well it does in the sense that it is part of my Hawaiian culture and that it’s been shared and passed down through my family and it’s pretty well known. Like my friends and their families have spoken about it, mostly in a fun and joking way.”

Analysis:

These mischievous spirits have been known to pull pranks on those who visit the Hawaiian Islands for leisurely reasons, especially in more remote areas of the islands. Although there is no official record of a Menehune siting, legend has it that their spirits still live on and play on the minds of those who visit the Hawaiian Islands.

 

Folk speech
Humor
Narrative

“Whatever you do, don’t step on the cracks”

Informant AB is a 23-year-old male who is from the East Bay in Northern California. He is a student at the University of Southern California in his third year as a civil engineer major. Informant AB was taught by his grandfather as a child to not walk on the cracks on the sidewalk to avoid bad luck:

AB: “When I was little, I would visit my grandparents on the weekends with my younger brother and we would sit in the family room all together after dinner. My grandfather would tell us all kinds of stories of when he was a kid growing up. He told us that his father would always tell him to never walk on the cracks on the side walk because it will give you bad luck for 7 years.”

How did your grandfather’s father learn about this type of lore?

AB: “Well, I asked him one day about the meaning behind the story and he said that his father learned it from a buddy of his when he was a kid. He said that his friend heard it from the neighborhood kids. My grandfather said it was mostly to be meant as a joke, but some of kids took it seriously, like my grandfather.”

Does this folklore have any significance to you?

AB: “Ya it’s pretty funny how it actually does mean something to me. Ever since my grandfather told me and my brother this story, I have been very conscious to walk a certain way to avoid the cracks in the ground. I know it’s mostly a joke and not meant to be taken too seriously, but just knowing the idea of the potential bad luck that can come from stepping on the cracks makes me more aware to avoid them. It’s pretty funny how seriously I take it sometimes.”

Have you shared your grandfather’s story with anyone else?

AB: “Ya I’ve told my buddy NC and a few other friends growing up about the story and it’s pretty funny now I have them doing the same thing. We know it’s not meant to be taken too serious, but I think it’s funny how much of an impact it made on all of us. Even at our age today we are still very mindful of the bad luck that can happen if we step on any cracks.”

Have your friends carried on this folklore in any way?

AB: “My brother and my friend NC have definitely shared this story with their friends just to mess with their minds in a joking way. They find it entertaining to make people feel that bad luck can happen if you step on cracks. It has become a running joke between all of us and it has managed to freak other people out.”

Analysis:

The informant’s example of oral folklore shows just how a story can cross boundaries between different groups of people and influence their everyday lives. It began with AB’s grandfather’s father who initially carried on the story, but now AB and his brother have continued to pass the story along to their group of friends. I find it interesting how this story has turned into an inside joke between friends, but how it also had such an impact that it managed to make them aware enough to avoid any chances of being struck with bad luck.

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Legend of La Llorona

“I remember my mother always warning to be cautious at night when coming home from a friends or if I was late from school when I was growing up in Chihuahua, Mexico. She would constantly warn that La Llorona was out there, ready to take children wandering at night by themselves. I never really knew who La Llorona was until I asked my mom, and she looked so nervous when I asked her. She was supposedly a lady who wanted to marry a rich landowner, though he would not accept her two children as his own. Eventually, the woman drowned her kids and when she told him what she had done, he was horrified and wanted nothing to do with her. She then realized what she had done and was overcome by grief and spent her time looking for her kids near the river. She then drowned herself and her spirit constantly is on the lookout for other children, wanting to drown them out of jealousy for her own missing children.”

The informant grew up in a rural town outside of Chihuahua but moved to Los Angeles in high school. Because he lived in the countryside, he felt people tended to believe in Mexican legends more than those who grew up in a city. I asked him at lunch this week if he remembered any Mexican folklore from growing up, and this story was the first thing that came to mind for him. He remembers always being afraid of being alone outside, due to his mom constantly warning him about La Llorona, which translates to “the crier.” When he was seven, he finally learned from his mom who she was and grew even more afraid of walking alone outside and made sure to always have friends with him if he had to go somewhere.

Though he never asked his mom point blank, the informant strongly believes that his mom regards the legend as true, due to her nervousness when explaining La Llorona’s story. His mom had learned about La Llorona from her mom, but the informant also heard other versions of the story from his classmates later on in elementary school. Some said she wore a black dress instead of a white one while some said she drowned her children for a different reason than that mentioned above. I think the story is creepy, and if I were the informant and heard about the story at such a young age, I would have probably believed it and be deathly afraid of walking outside by myself, especially at night. For another version of this legend, see Rudolfo Anaya’s novel La Llorona: the Crying Woman.

Anaya, Rudolfo. La Llorona: The Crying Woman. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2011. Print.

general
Magic
Myths

Sleep Paralysis and Devils

Sleep Paralysis

The Informant:

My friend, was born in Diamond Bar, CA. He is the son of a pastor whose church is in Diamond Bar. He lives with his parents and three younger siblings, a sister and two brothers. His father is Chinese and his mother is Korean.

The Story:

The first time that this happened to me was when I was either a sophomore or a junior in high school. I was lying on my bed, obviously in the middle of my sleep, when all of a sudden I realized I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move my body, I couldn’t scream, there was no air in my lungs. I tried to scream but couldn’t and I started to freak out. All of a sudden… I felt super cold, from top, my head, down, to my feet. I don’t remember if I was outside the blankets or inside but regardless I felt the wind. Suddenly I felt a heavy weight on my chest, as if something was sitting on it, and a shadow on top of me. I don’t really remember what happened after that. All of these instances blur together after a while. This was the first time it happened. After that it happened on a weekly basis for at least a year. There are times when I know it’s coming. You just feel like you’re getting really tired, or sometimes you can just sense something is off, as if there’s something in your room with you. I’ve never seen anything in my room though, and it always happens at night. There’s nothing I could do except wait for it to pass… and I’m always alone when this happens.

The Analysis:

This is a different occurrence of the scissor lock that my other friend experienced. We talked about this in his room, and a couple other friends were present. As he continued to tell his story, our other friends slowly became quiet, and then silent. The way Trevor spoke was genuine and even though such an occurrence would be questionable, there was no doubt in his voice that this was true. In Trevor’s instance, this happens on a semi-regular basis, with the last one occurring a couple months ago. Before that, it happened once a week or once every other week. There is no basis for why he goes through the scissor lock so often, but his actions showed that he doesn’t get used to it, even though it’s happened numerous times. It is creepy that this has happened so many times that they all seem to blur into one for him. One aspect that was interesting is that he is a pastor’s kid. This was one difference I noticed between him and my other informant on this same topic – it is probable that his stronger faith or adherence to Christianity has an affect on these continual occurrences. Whether it is due to faith or not, I wondered if it was the devil’s doing, and led me to question the existence of the devil and it’s many forms.

 

Researchers have attempted to examine the causes of the scissor lock, dubbing it generally as sleep paralysis: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FB%3ADREM.0000005896.68083.ae

A different version of sleep paralysis from someone not religious can be found at: http://kerryonian.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/the-experience/

Folk Beliefs
Narrative

How the Leopard Got Its Spots

Item:

“The Leopard used to live on the sandy-coloured High Veldt. He too was sandy-coloured, and so was hard for prey animals like Giraffe and Zebra to see when he lay in wait for them. The Ethiopian lived there too and was similarly coloured. He, with his bow and arrows, used to hunt with the Leopard.

Then the prey animals left the High Veldt to live in a forest and grew blotches, stripes and other forms of camouflage. The Leopard and the Ethiopian were hungry and consulted Baviaan, the wise baboon, who said the prey animals had “gone into other spots” and advised them to do the same. So they went searching and came to the forest. They could smell Giraffe and Zebra there but could not see them. When night came, they managed to catch Giraffe and Zebra by sound and scent. Asked why they looked so different, the two prey animals demonstrated how easily they could disappear against the forest background.

So the Ethiopian changed his skin to black, and marked the Leopard’s coat with his bunched black fingertips. Then they too could hide. They lived happily ever after, and will never change their colouring again.

The second version is told by the native Africans and goes as follows:

The leopard used to be as white as snow. It was always difficult for the leopard to catch its prey and had to work very hard at it. After the hard work it would go and rest in the shade of the tree.

The wart hogs used to love playing and rolling in the mud in the nearby waterhole. They still do this today.

One day they were playing like this and heard the roar of a lion. They got such a fright and ran right over the leopard leaving little brown spots on the beautifull white coats.

At first the leopards were very upset but then they realized it was much easier to catch their prey and to this day they have kept their spots.”

Context:

The three items of folklore I collected from this informant were the only three out of all the items in my collection that were not a result of face to face interaction. The text above was sent to me, from the informant, via email. I also corresponded with the informant over the phone to receive the context behind her stories. That said, the informant, who lived most of her life in South Africa (she moved to Dallas, Texas with her family in the 90’s), heard both of these variations of this classic African legend when she was a child. She recalls hearing them in elementary school and listening to a version of the story on a cassette player. She likes the second version of the story better because of its depiction of how animals actually congregate around watering holes in real life.

Analysis:

From my research of this tale, I discovered that the first version of the story the informant related is a variation of a Rudyard Kipling story entitled “How the Leopard Got His Spots.” That said, I theorize that Kipling’s version of the story became the canonized version from which all future stories referred to and grew out of.

Both variations of the tale focus on the relationship between predator and prey, reflecting the age of the story. The first variation of the story, in particular, features a human as a hunter. That said, the story might be as old as the hunter gatherer society it depicts.

Here is a link to Rudyard Kipling’s “How the Leopard Got His Spots”:  http://www.sff.net/people/karawynn/justso/leopard.htp

Digital
Legends
Narrative
Protection

New Form of Kidnapping (Ladies – be aware – worth a read)

“NEW FORM OF KIDNAPPING

Please take a minute to read this. This is very scary and could happen to
any of us.. Seems like every nice thing people do for one another can be
perverted.
A new twist on kidnapping from a very smart survivor:
About a month ago there was a woman standing by the mall entrance passing
out flyers to all the women going in. The woman had written the flyer
herself to tell about an experience she had, so that she might warn other
women.
The previous day, this woman had finished shopping, went out to her car and
discovered that she had a flat.
She got the jack out of the trunk and began to change the flat. A nice man
dressed in a business suit and carrying a briefcase walked up to her and
said, ‘I noticed you’re changing a flat tire. Would you like me to take care
of it for you?’
The woman was grateful for his offer and accepted his help. They chatted
amiably while the man changed the flat, and then put the flat tire and the
jack in the trunk, shut it and dusted his hands off.
The woman thanked him profusely, and as she was about to get in her car, the
man told her that he left his car around on the other side of the mall, and
asked if she would mind giving him a lift to his car.
< BR>She was a little surprised and she asked him why his car was on other
side.
He explained that he had seen an old friend in the mall that he hadn’t seen
for some time and they had a bite to eat, visited for a while, and he got
turned around in the mall and left through the wrong exit, and now he was
running late.

The woman hated to tell him ‘no’ because he had just rescued her from having
to change her flat tire all by herself, but she! felt un easy . (Trust that
gut feeling!)

Then she remembered seeing the man put his briefcase in her trunk before
shutting it and before he asked her for a ride to his car.

She told him that she’d be happy to drive him around to his car, But she
just remembered one last thing she needed to buy (Smart woman!!)

She said she would only be a few minutes; he could sit down in her car and
wait for her; she would be as quick as she could be

She hurried into the mall, and told a security guard what had happened, the
guard came out to her car with her, but the man had left. They opened the
trunk, took out his locked briefcase and took it down to the police station.

The police opened it (ostensibly to look for ID so they could return it to
the man). What they found was rope, duct tape, and knives. When the police
checked her ‘flat’ tire, there was nothing wrong with it; the air had simply
been let out.  It was obvious what the man’s intention was, and obvious that
he had carefully thought it out in advance. The woman was blessed to have
escaped harm.

How much worse it would have been if she had children with her and had them
wait in the car while the man fixed the tire, or if she had a baby strapped
into a car seat? Or if she’d gone against her judgment and given him a lift?

I’d like you to forward this to all the women you know. It may save a life.

A candle is not dimmed by lighting another candle. I was going to send this
to the ladies only; but guys, if you love your mothers, wives, sisters,
daughters, etc.., you may want to pass it on to them, as well.

Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that The world
we live in has a lot of crazies in it. Better to be safe than sorry.

PLEASE BE SAFE AND NOT
SORRY”

 

This email was originally received by my real estate agent, she resent it to me with the message that I should be, “extra careful!” especially since I am a single woman living away from home.

What first threw me off about this narrative was that the woman remembers the man put his briefcase in the trunk of her car; however, when she is narrating what he put in the trunk, she doesn’t mention the briefcase. It was inattention to detail like this that made me look it up and as it turns out, it’s an urban legend that’s been around since at least 1998.

My real estate lady is older, and she sent it to me because as a single young woman living in a big city like Los Angeles by myself, she thought I was more at risk. I guess this goes along with the stories and legends you hear about how dangerous and gang-infested big cities are.

Humor
Legends
Narrative

Weekend Liberties Admonition for the Coast Guard

“At the end of the sixth week of training… no at the uh… after the fourth week of training in the, in the Coast Guard, you get on-base liberty, which means you get an entire day to yourself where you can do whatever you want. You can go to the duty free shop, you can exercise, you can read a book, you can go to the computer lab… whatever. Then, um… during the sixth week of basic training, assuming you haven’t done anything to disrupt, you get off-base liberty, which means you get dressed up in your military dress uniform and you go off base—into the town, and you do whatever you want from eight to eight. Me personally, I went out and, uh, saw two movies. I, uh, I pigged out at a fast food place. Other people get hotels to, you know, sleep with other people on the base. Or uh, they go to the bars to get wasted—even though that’s not allowed, what they do is they get a hotel and they get roaring drunk before they have to get back to base—or at least, hide it enough so no one knows that they’re piss-drunk…

“There were six guys—they called them six pack—and they got so black-out-drunk that when they got back—they almost got away with it—they took a taxi up to the front gate, they managed to uh walk past the gate, and when they got to, to uh, their barracks, to their, to their private little room, they had to walk past their company commander office… and as soon as they walked past: bluuehhhh! [makes vomiting noise]. Their company commander was right there, they just, they almost made it, they just passed his office, and then [vomiting noise] everywhere. Guy came out, they all got busted for, like two weeks.”

 

The informant’s company commander told him this legend. The commander said that they tell this story to everyone when they are allowed to go out on weekend liberty. The commanding officers admonish the recruits: “don’t be like the Six Pack. This was a warning to training Coast Guard recruits that their position is tenuous as well as determined by themselves.

This is a good illustration of how the Coast Guard functions: part hierarchy, part brotherhood. The way in which the commanding officers disseminate rules and expectations to those under their command (done through folklore) is friendly enough to make it easy to accept as someone under the command of another.

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