USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘road spirits’
Legends

El Paso Trans-mountain Road

Main Piece:

The Participant is marked as BH. I am marked as LJ.

LJ: Can you tell me some history about El Paso?

BH: Oh, so…in El Paso there are a stretch of mountains called the Franklin Mountains. And these happen to be the end of the Rocky Mountains which stretch all through the united states. And what is interesting about these mountains it is said that you’re not supposed drive on this road on the Trans-mountain road–which literally cuts through the mountains. So you’re not supposed to drive on this road after midnight. One because there are a lot of accidents and two there is folklore of ghosts on the road. Either hitching for rides or a monk that walks around with a donkey–well he’s a friar, with a donkey haha. And he’s in search of the treasure that supposedly exists in the mountains.

Context:

I had visited the participant and her family in El Paso, Texas in March. This was recorded after.

Background:

The participant is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. She is a firm believer in religion and likes “scary stories,” including television shows and hearing about hauntings. She grew up primarily in El Paso, Texas with her mom and two sisters.

Analysis:

This shows part of the great history that El Paso has. There is so much from Native American groups to the Mexican-American war to the waves of immigration that it sees coming in from Cuidad Juarez. It was obvious that there were more stories to these mountains, but I stuck with this one.

The monk/friar in search for treasure is actually a little funny. The ideals of a monk, as I understand them, are to denounce worldly possessions, so for the monk to be looking for treasure so long after his death is almost incredulous. However, perhaps this began as him looking for something else, or it could have been a result of period when the church was not trusted by the peoples of El Paso.

These stories open paths that need further exploration to make full sense of them.

Folk Beliefs
Material
Protection

Biker Bell

Informant: “Among bikers that is just something you don’t do and also it is popular to get a little iron bell. They’re like these tiny little bells that you just attach to the front of your bike and normally other people buy them for you and you just put them on there before you ride otherwise its not as safe I guess. Its just weird little things in the biker culture I guess.”

 

The informant is from Beaumont, California and lives in a family where motorcycles are very common, “everybody in my family, especially my dad and my grandfather, are bikers.” Moreover, the informant said, “I like grew up in a garage pretty much. That’s what my dad does and my dads dad. My dad, he’s a welder, and he builds and rides his own bikes and he has a lot. I don’t know how many he has. He does old ones though, like the ones from the 30s and 40s and then my grandpa was the leader of the Vagos when biker gangs were huge.”

The informant said that she first learned about this lore when she was a young girl because putting a bell on a motorbike is family tradition, “whenever my dad would get a new bike he would get a bell for it.” However, the informant said that you need to get a bell as a gift; you cannot go buy one on your own. The bell should be low to the ground and is usually attached with leather, though people use different things like zip ties etc. When put on a motorcycle, the folk belief states that the bell will ensure a safe ride. As someone who comes from a family of bikers, she is aware that many things can happen to bikers if they are going to go on a ride for an extended period of time. Thus, there is an incentive to have the loved one return safely, so you give them a bell. Furthermore, the informant and her family do believe in the paranormal so she figures putting a bell on the bike can’t hurt.

After doing some research online, I found these bells can be called, Ride Bells, Karma Bells, Gremlin Bells, and Guardian (Angel) bells, among others. The most popular names were the Karma and Gremlin Bell.

The practice of putting a bell on a motorcycle comes from an old legend regarding road gremlins or evil road spirits. The bell will scare away these creatures, and it prevents them from causing harm to you and your bike. The gremlin’s are said to cause many different problems such as mechanical problems like causing turn signals to malfunction, the battery to die etc, as well as small items in the road and problems caused by other motorcyclists.

Apparently, some people who do not believe in the tradition still give bells as a gesture of good will, and others find the bell represents that “someone cares about you.” Thus, it seems that the tradition has moved from just chasing away road spirits to a gesture of concern and kindness for a loved one.

Lastly, there are actually a few companies based around the sale of Gremlin bells, so the practice seems to be quite common.

Below are some images of Biker Bells

           

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