USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘night’
Folk Beliefs
Myths
Narrative

Devil Sightings on Horse at Night – Mexico

KF: People have tales of like because uh Mexico is like predominantly like Catholic um…people say that like they’ve seen the devil on like their horse- on his horse…like just like galloping like if you stay up really really late at night, you’ll see him like come through like the town or something.

 

Background:

Location of story – predominantly Mexico, according to informant

Location of Performance – Interviewer’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. KF approached me two days prior to this interview, but schedules did not allow for a recording until she came to ask a homework and remembered. I am good friends with KF. This story followed one of KF’s previously about La Llorona.

 

Analysis: It is interesting to note that the devil only appears late at night. In Catholic tradition, one is always at risk to sin and the Devil, but for some reason, these monsters only seem to reveal themselves at night. In Mathias Clasen’s article “Monsters Evolve: A Biocultural Approach to Horror Stories,” Paul Shepard is quoted as saying, “our fear of monsters in the night probably has its origins far back in the evolution of our primate ancestors, whose tribes were pruned by horrors whose shadows continue to elicit our monkey screams in dark theaters” (Clasen 1). In other words, tradition has conditioned us to believe that the night brings about supernatural activity. This phenomenon can possibly be explained by a communal need to feel protected from evils, such as the Devil, by having times dedicated to explore and be free and then times dedicated to retreat and hide.

 

Additional Reading:

Clasen, Mathias. “Monsters Evolve: A Biocultural Approach to Horror Stories.” Review of General Psychology, vol. 16, no. 2, June 2012, pp. 222–229, doi:10.1037/a0027918.

Shepard, Paul. The others: How animals made us human. Island Press, 1997.

Legends
Narrative

Supernatual event at Lu Xun Middle School

Context
The informant grows up in Beijing. The story happened in a middle school in Beijing. We were talking about ghost stories when she brought up this legend.

Content
Informant: In our city, there is a school called Lu Xun Middle School. Because it is Lu Xun Middle School, it has a statue of Lu Xun. I don’t know in what position, but the statue is pointing at a direction, I think it’s left. Then, a student for some reason goes into the school at midnight. He says that when he goes in the school, the statue looks as if it’s pointing to the right, but the statue is still facing the same direction. Then, he goes into the building to fetch his things. After that, his hand was dirty, so he washes his hand. When he comes out, the Lu Xun statue is still pointing to the right. So he goes home. But the next day, he is told that someone is killed. He goes back to see the statue. It’s still pointing to the left. He finds out that the sink where he washed his hands the night before is filled with the blood of the victim.

Analysis
I did some research online. It turns out that the Lu Xun Middle School is furnished in a traditional style. It was built in 1901 and 2 of its alumni were killed in the March 18 Massacre. The violence was taken by Bei Yang Governments, who tried to suppress a demonstration that asked the government to stop signing inequal treaties to western countries. The famous writer Lu Xun called it “the darkest day in the history of the Republic of China”.
The school was named after the influential Chinese writer Lu Xun, who was honored for attacking conservative forces relentlessly by his writings at that time.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative
Signs

The Lady in White

Main Piece:

“A couple of weeks before my first husband was diagnosed with cancer, I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a spirit of a woman floating in the middle of my room. She was staring toward me but was not looking at me. She looked sad. I decided to close my eyes and hide under the covers. After a while I fell asleep. The next night though, she appeared again, but this time she was much closer to my bed. She was at the end of my bed actually. I was so afraid and decided to slowly walk around her and out the door. My husband woke up after I left and he rushed out of the room as well. He was panting and his face was white. He said he had seen a woman in a white dress floating in the middle of the room and that she was staring right at him. I told him I had also seen her. It was so creepy. A few weeks later he was diagnosed with cancer and he died some months later.”

Context:

The informant is an elderly Caucasian woman born and raised in Tennessee. She had this spiritual experience while married to her first husband who died of cancer. She now believes that the spirit was trying to warn her about her husband having developed cancer. A couple of days after seeing this spirit, her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Analysis:

I believe that the informant now believes that the spirit she saw was trying to communicate to her the terrible news to come. Maybe back then she might have just felt fear but today the informant truly believes that that spirit was a good spirit.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends

Whistling at Night

 

Interviewer: What is being performed?

 

Informant: Whistling at Night by Rayna Koishikawa

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: My Kumu (hula teacher) told us whistling at night summons night maschess (ghosts of Hawaiian warriors)

 

Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: Maui, HI

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: I don’t belong to this group but it is a Hawaiian superstition.

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: My Kumu

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: Hawaiian legend

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: Childhood superstition

 

Context of the performance- Talking with a classmate before class

 

Thoughts about the piece- Whistling is thought to bring bad luck in Russian, Japanese and many other cultures. I’ve heard warnings not to whistle in kitchens (French Revolution origins) or while sailing (New England- whistle up a storm). Here is another version of the Night Marchers of Hawaii: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/10/hawaiian-legends_n_3898664.html

More Hawaiian superstitions at: http://www.hawaiimagazine.com/content/your-must-know-list-hawaii%E2%80%99s-diverse-local-superstitions

 

Adulthood
Legends
Narrative

A Ghost in Grass Valley

Informant JM is 58 years old and recounted the story of a paranormal encounter she experienced ~10 years ago:

Have you ever experienced anything that you would consider to be of supernatural origins?

“Only once. Never before and never since but I will always remember that night”

So what happened?

“Well I was in my room getting ready for bed. All of a sudden I felt the room grow eerily cold. I thought it was a bit odd but continued to undress and sat on the bed to take off my socks. Upon doing so I felt the cold presence to my immediate right and upon turning saw, *shivers* wow this gives me chills just thinking about it. I saw a depression in the bed next to me as if someone were sitting next to me. Not knowing the intentions of this spirit I yelled at the top of my lungs ‘Go! Get out! Be gone with you!!’ and closed my eyes. After a moment or two I felt the cold dissipate and upon opening my eyes saw the depression was no longer there.”

Did your opinion regarding the existence of the paranormal changed after this experience?

“Well prior to this encounter I’d say I believed that ghosts existed sure, but having never experienced an encounter first hand and not knowing any immediate family or friends that had, I was certainly a bit skeptical. After that experience, I know now without a shred of doubt that ghosts or some form of spirit form definite exist. I cannot think of a single other rational explanation for what I experienced that night.”

What context would you share your experience in?

“At first, I shared it with literally anyone that would listen. I was equal parts excited and terrified by what I had experienced. In the years since though I only tend to bring it up when someone asks about my ghost encounter or the conversation shifts towards the talk of ghosts. ”

How did people react to your experience?  

“People tend to get pretty freaked out by it. They sometimes ask whether I thought it was going to harm he. Now I am not sure what the intentions of this spirit were, but be they benign or malignant the coldness of its presence definitely gave me an uneasy feeling leading to my prompt response of telling it to leave”

 

Analysis: This story possesses a couple motifs common to ghost stories. One such example is that it occurs at night. Another aspect of this story common to several stories I’ve read or been told is the association of the presence of a ghost with coldness. A unique aspect of this story is that the ghost in no way made itself directly heard or seen; it was only because of the drop in temperature and the depression it left in the bed that JM was even aware of its presence. The ghost itself was not visible or audible. While neither JM or anyone else would be able to determine the intentions of the ghost, be they simple curiosity or something more malicious, the fact that it reacted to her yells for it to leave is another interesting component of this particular encounter.

Legends
Narrative

Bay Area Ghost Story

Informant EB is 52 years old and recounted the story of a paranormal encounter he experienced last fall:

Have you ever experienced anything that you would consider to be of supernatural origins?

“As a matter of fact, I have. First some backstory. When my wife and I were purchasing our home we were told by the realtor that the prior owner, a contractor who had built the house himself,  had committed suicide along the side of the house due to financial difficulties and his wife leaving him. Early last November, a day or two after Halloween, I was walking my aging dog whose hips are starting to fail around the walkway surrounding our property in order to avoid her straining herself by climbing up the stairs inside. Upon rounding a corner, which due to tree cover and a lack of windows on that side of the house was submerged in near complete darkness,  I saw, for only a split-second, what could only be described as a face come rushing at me before passing right through sending a curdling chill down my spine. My dog started barking incessantly and I, obviously shake, continued on into the light of the front of the house and inside.”

Did your opinion regarding the existence of the paranormal changed after this experience?

“Yeah I’d say so. I wouldn’t say I didn’t believe in the paranormal prior to this experience but having never had any personal encounters I definitely had my fair share of doubts. I’definitely say this experience has solidified my belief in the existence of the supernatural to some extent.”

What context would you share your experience in?

“I have told several people in the month since. Whenever talk of ghosts has come up in conversation I’ve brought it up.”

How did people react to your experience?  

“A mixture of fear and skepticism. I would be skeptical too had I not been the one to experience it. ”

 

Analysis: The story took place “a day or two after Halloween” meaning it quite likely could have fallen on November 2nd, which is also All Souls Day. All Souls Day is a day on which the Catholic Church remembers those dead that are now in Purgatory being cleansed of their venial sins and carrying out the temporal punishments for their mortal sins. November 1st or 2nd is also a part of the three days of Day of the Dead festivities popular in Hispanic cultures during which the souls of ancestors are remembered and are believed to return from the dead to visit their living relatives. As such the soul of a man who had died via the mortal sin of suicide would, according to the catholic doctrine and Hispanic customs be more likely to appear during this time frame. A motif common to many ghost stories and which also appears in this story is its occurrence in a liminal location, the property line between the former homeowner’s property and that of his neighbors.

general

The Night Marchers

“The legend of the Night Marchers takes place on the west coast of Oahu, on a beach called Keawa-Ula Bay. Basically, a few days of the year the spirits of dead Native Hawaiians march from the mountains to the ocean in order to somehow reach the afterlife. They pound their drums and carry torches, and anyone who gets in the way of their march is never seen again, so people are supposed to stay inside if they ever hear the marching. My parents told this one to me when I was a kid, and they taught about it in elementary school too. I think it’s mostly used by parents to warn their kids from going outside at night, at least that’s how it was for me.”

 

The person I got this from is one of my 19-year-old friends at USC. He’s lived all of his live in Hawaii, and even though he isn’t racially Hawaiian (half Japanese, half Guatemalan), he and his family are very immersed in Hawaiian culture. To him, this legend evokes memories of his home and childhood, and it reminds him of his cultural

background.

Childhood
Narrative

Overnight Resident in Campus Shack

Item:

“There was no way we were going to see what made the sound, we were way to scared.”

The informant went to an elementary school that had a wooden structure in the middle of the playground that held all of the playground equipment. The structure was a bit ominous looking, with a pointed roof and fencing over the windows when it was closed down. The kids would sign up for shift to man the shack, and it was their job to hand out things like balls or jump ropes when other kids would request them. At the end of the day, it was the child’s job to get everything back and put things where they should be. The shack was then closed by fences being pulled over the windows and the door being shut.

There was a rumor among the students that someone would break into the shack and live in it overnight. This was reinforced by their own reports of things being moved around by the next morning after closing it up. The person who supposedly lived in the shack was homeless and came and went when nobody was around. On one occasion, when the informant stayed late for daycare, he and his friends apparently heard a crash sound come from the shack, although they opted to not investigate.

 

Context:

According to the informant, the rumor of the man in the playground hut originated some time around when he was there, so it wasn’t terribly old. But it lasted through his entire time there and didn’t really lose believability among children, even into middle school. The instance of him hearing a noise come from it at night was, he admitted, likely just something falling over, but it was more than enough confirmation as a child for him.

 

Analysis:

The most interesting part of this story is the fact that the rumor didn’t fade as the children got older. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that the story itself isn’t so farfetched that middle schoolers would rule it out as impossible. Something like an axe murderer or magical being living in the shack would lose realism as children got older and rationalized things, but the possibility of someone sneaking onto campus and taking up temporary residence in an unlocked hut is there. It’s easy to say the stuff got moved around just naturally, or someone cleans up the shack at night from the school, but the fact that nothing in the story is “out of this world” makes it even more haunting to a certain extent.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Monday Night Dinner

My informant told me about the tradition of “Monday Night Dinner” at sororities at USC

“Every Monday all the girls come to the sorority house for dinner. They all dress in fancy attire and arrive at the houses around 4:45pm. The new members make “deliveries”, which is when before dinner they bring gifts and notes to the different frats that are having Monday Night Dinner too. After they finish they come in and sit down to dinner. As they eat, boys from different frats come in and make deliveries to the house. The girls clap as they come in and each gift is delivered to the specific girl. They can be anything from a romantic bouquet to a funny card from a friend. It is also a way for frats and sororities to strengthen their relationships with each other by sending deliveries to certain houses.”

My informant told me that she enjoys the tradition, and she likes to take advantage of it for flirting with boys. If you like someone, you can send them a delivery.

I am in a sorority on campus and I enjoy the tradition of Monday Night Dinner as well. I have utilized it to ask certain boys to our House Invites and also to send funny notes to friends. I’ve also noticed that boys who are usually very shy will use this as a way to communicate with girls that they like. I’ve also noticed that if girls “hook up” with boys over the weekend it is often customary for the boy to send the girl a delivery on monday, such as chocolates or flowers, as (although it seems ridiculous) a “thank you, I’d like to kiss you again some time” kind of delivery.

I also talked to my friends who are in sororities in other schools and none of them were familiar with the tradition of “Monday Night Dinner”. It seems to be a unique tradition to the Greek System at USC. It has been happening for as long as many of my friends can remember, so I assume that it is something that the Greek life likes to keep alive to pride itself on its heritage.

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