USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘scary’
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.

general
Legends
Narrative

“People Can Lick Too”

INFORMANT: “So this is a scary story I used to get told all the time as a kid on camping trips or sleepovers or what have you. I’m totally going to mess it up, but bear with me. Okay, so there was this little girl who lived in a house with her family and her dog, and her dog would sleep right next to her bed each night. And she liked this, it made her feel safe to know her dog was there with her, especially when it got dark and she got scared like kids sometimes do in the dark. So whenever she got freaked out at night, she would hang her arm off the bed and the dog would lick her hand, and she would know he was right there with her.

So one night, the house seems eerily quiet, and she gets scared. She hangs her arm off the bed, feels the lick, and tries to go to sleep again. But something just doesn’t feel right, so in a few minutes she hangs her arm off the bed again. Another lick. So she goes to sleep, and eventually in the middle of the night she wakes up and needs to go to the bathroom. So she gets out of bed, walks into the bathroom, and turns on the lights. The whole bathroom is covered in blood, and the mangled body of her dog is crumpled on the floor – every bone in his body is broken. And she looks in horror up at the bathroom mirror, because there, written in dripping red blood, is the sentence ‘People can lick too.'”

 

When the informant told me this story, I wasn’t surprised because I’d definitely heard variations of it before. Ghost stories and scary stories are great examples of folklore because there are so many different variants of each story. Certain defining elements remain the same, but details change based on where you hear the story or just who’s telling it. This story in particular seems to utilize the rule of threes: the girl gets one lick, two licks, and the third time she wakes up, the time she goes to the bathroom, is when she discovers the dead dog and the eery message. This is an effective scary story because it makes you go back and think – it’s not showing you the monster, he doesn’t kill the girl or anything. But the listener automatically backtracks and realizes that it was the dog murderer that was licking the little girl’s hand the whole time!

ANNOTATION: Several other versions of this particular story can be found on the scary story website Creepypasta, including this one: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Licking

Narrative
Riddle

Halloween House

The riddle:

Informant: “It was a dark, Halloween night, and a boy was walking alone. There was a house with no power, like in the woods, in the back of the woods, like there was a pathway up to the house, there was no power. And he went in alone, and he goes, and he was walking through it all, and he kept on hearing creaky sounds, and then he finally got to the back, and this voice over the house just was like, ‘You walked into this house, and now you have to die,’ and he said, ‘but I’ll give you five choices on how to die.’ And it was like, ‘You can take a pill, and you won’t feel anything at all, and you’ll just die peacefully. Or you can, um, I can cut your neck off’…there are like two other ways, I can’t remember, and then, um…oh and then, ‘You can sit in a rocking chair and you’ll die by the…electric chair.’ And he…what would you have chosen? The pill where you don’t feel anything?”

Informant’s mom: “No, or the electric chair, or what?”

Informant: “Getting your head chopped off.”

Informant’s mom: “I don’t know, I wouldn’t do the pill, because I would think that I might have a chance to escape. So I wouldn’t do that.”

Informant: “Alright, well, he picked the pill, but if he would’ve picked the electric chair, he wouldn’t’ve died, because remember at the beginning, I said there was no power.”

Informant’s mom: “Ohhhhh (laughs).”

 

The informant, a sophomore in high school, told this to her mother. She says that she learned this from a classmate in second grade. The riddle doesn’t seem to be that clever, but I think it was probably very clever for second graders once they knew the right answer. It probably amused them while also skirting around the taboo of death and violence at such a young age. While effectively harmless, it was fun for young children to sort of trick one another.

Folk Beliefs
general
Protection

The Devil will pull you under the bed by your feet

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

 

Transcript:

“M: Cuando nosotros uh… youngers, uh…. younger? Okay and we lied, my mom said to us when you go to sleep tonight… that was scary… the devil is coming and grab you from your feet and taking you with him. Usually we went to sleep and we covered our feet very well, and wore socks, and the next day sometimes we lost one of ours socks. She would say the devil took the socks but didn’t grab us from our feet.

Me: So what this supposed to happen when you were in bed?

Yeah, because we was wearing socks and took our socks instead.

Me: Did he like stay or live under the bed?

M: Yeah! I believe he did, he was under the bed or under old blankets. Later we’d find the socks lost sometimes and believe “oh god the devil was here”. We’d later find the socks sometimes.

Me: So she said that only happened when you lied?

M: It’s only when we lied, ‘’I know you’re lying tonight and the devil will come get you from you feet’’ [imitation of mother].

Me: Was there any way to stop him, like could you confess that you lied or pray to stop the devil?

(Did not address question as I interrupted)

M: That was like 40 something years ago, I believe that was similar in the United States in the 50s. I don’t think it a very funny way to teach to behave.”

 

Analysis:

The monster pulling you under the bed by your feet piece of Folklore appears to exist in the United States, as was noted by “M”, often tied to the boogeyman. There are multiple references to the ‘under the bed monster’ and in American popular studies journals being cited in one article as “…so universal that we no longer stop to think about their origins. “(Shimabukuro, 2014). As identified by “M” at the end of the transcript, it was used as a method to convince her, by her mother, to tell her if she had been lying. This could be used to scare the truth out of a child, or if the child would not tell no matter what, as a way to negatively reinforce such behavior.

“M”s use of socks to protect her from the devil living under the bed appears to be used as a protection charm from the devil, similar to when children hide their heads under the blanket. It was also used as an indicator of the devil’s presence, as the disappearance of the socks may have indicated to “M” that the devil had tried to grab her and grabbed her sock instead.

Work Cited

Shimabukuro, K. (2014). The Bogeyman of Your Nightmares: Freddy Krueger’s Folkloric Roots. STUDIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.

Game
general

Scary Hide and Go Seek

“D” is a 19 year old female student at The University of Southern California. She is a Chemistry major and interested in pursuing Pharmacy after college.  She is Vietnamese on both sides of her family and describes herself as very close with her sister, whom she shares many Folkloric traditions with. She played soccer up through high school and is currently active in the rugby community.

 

 

Transcript:

“D: So when we were little we used to play hide and go seek tag, kind of, but we were supposed to in bed. All four of us, our bedrooms are in the same wing of the house and so, we had to play when we were supposed to be sleeping and it was all dark and we had to be completely silent. So what we would try to do instead of actually just hiding, we would find the darkest clothing or blanket and just crouch in a corner and pretend we were like a rock or the wall. So the majority of the time it started off as hide and go seek, and  we’d try to find the other person, towards like, as we got older, it was like ‘who can scare the other person to get them to scream the loudest so they can get caught’.

Me: So the point was like, to not wake up your parents but still be able to play?

D: Yeah, yeah!

Me: Do you remember when you first started playing?

D: My brother and sister were older so they started playing first, I would say I was about six, so my sister was eight, my brother was ten.

Me: So from that other piece of Folklore you told me about before (titled “Siblings tapping though walls to talk to each other “, also in this database), you would tap on the wall with you sister to communicate without your parents knowing, she would come over there or you would go over there and you would try to scare the shit out of each other by pretending to be  rocks and stuff?

D: It started out as hide and go seek, than it was like ‘scare the shit out of each other!’ ”

 

Analysis:

Coupled with “D”s tapping through the walls to communicate with her sister, as featured in the other piece of Folklore mentioned above in bold, this game appears to be an attempt to extend play past when was dictated by her parents. By attempting to scare each other, they both acknowledged that they were in a situation they were not supposed to be in, and also implemented it into their game play, building a game around the environment provided to them. The use of scaring both allowed implementation of the taboo aspect of the game, while taking advantage of the lack of awareness provided by the dark, as the dark is conventionally very scary for children. “D”s being pulled into game play despite being one of the younger siblings allowed to bonding to take place by showing the younger sibling she was allowed to participate in her form of play.

 

Game
Kinesthetic

Dead Woman game

Context: The informant is an 11 year old girl of Pakistani descent. She is a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  Her social groups include friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. The following game is a modified version of tag she learned around third grade from her close friends of Indo-Pakistani descent.

The game starts by choosing someone to be the Dead Woman:

Me: And how do you choose who’s It?

Inf.: Well sometimes–like, i like to be It because I’d rather be the one chasing other people than getting chased myself.

Me: Ok, but what if no one wants to be It?

Inf.: Then you could…then everyone goes “Not it!” and whoever says it last–or actually what me and my friends do is we’ll do Nose Goes?

Me: Yeah, i know what that is, ok, and then?

Inf.: And then whoever’s It lays down on the floor, and everyone runs around them going,

“Dead woman, dead woman, come alive,

when i count to the number five

1,2,3,4,5, come alive!”

and then the Dead Woman gets up and starts chasing us, and she can’t open her eyes, so it’s like, she has to–or he, he or she has find us and catch someone without seeing, and whoever gets caught has to be the Dead Woman.

Analysis: Like many childhood games, ‘tag’ being the prime example, this game is basically a chasing game. The interesting variation in this version is that there seems to be a backstory to this particular game: the Dead Woman who comes alive with the enacting of a special incantation and comes after the ones who have revived her. Death holds a certain fascination for all humans, and children are no different. The added fear factor of having someone come back from the dead, when everybody supposedly “knows” that such a feat is impossible, is probably part of the appeal. In this game, then, kids are literally running from death, something that is very representative of Western society as a whole–its obsession with youth and how it refuses to deal with or accept the prospect of death in any form. The fact that the Dead Woman is brought to life via an incantation is also an interesting reflection on society’ s obsession with control and wanting to be able to recreate life of imitate it in the very least–how many incarnations of Frankenstein have there been? How hotly is the issue of cloning and genetic engineering debated?

In my childhood, we played a similar game, but it was called simply “Mummy”. The Mummy had to lie down on the floor, and the other kids would enact a “discovery” of the Mummy (“Oh, look! It’s an ancient Egyptian tomb! I wonder what’s inside!”), only to “realize” that all their poking and prodding had brought the Mummy to life. The Mummy would then get up with an eerie groan and chase after the kids, stiff-legged and blind, until s/he caught someone. Here we see similar themes of bringing someone back from the dead and having them be vengeful because of it, though this time there is no deliberate life-giving incantation. Is the change in the newer version a reflection on humanity’s intensifying urge to (re)create life?

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/

Game

One Person Hide and go Seek

According to my friend, Japanese people are very interested in horror. They believe that spirits exist and may sometimes be harmful to people. They are very mischievous and have no intention of leaving once they have latched onto someone they love to fool around with. This story in particular was not too significant because he does not believe in the occult. However, it was a little past midnight when he told me the rules for playing this game, and the lights were off. It was slightly frightening. He learned this from other students who normally play with the occult, whether it’s through Ouija boards, séances, or Kokkuri-san, another version of an Ouija board.

There are many things that you must prepare for this ritual. You need a stuffed doll, and it must have limbs. You need enough rice that you can fill the doll with it. You need a needle and thread that is red in color. You need a nail clipper and a very sharp object such as a knife or whatnot. You need a cup of salt water, and you need to have a bathroom that has a bathtub. You also need a hiding place, such as a room. It must also have a TV in there.

You are supposed to open the doll and take out all the stuffing. There must be nothing left, so scraping the doll’s insides may be necessary. Once all of its stuffing is removed, it must be filled with rice. This is meant to represent innards, and will attract ghosts to possess the doll and allow it to live inside. You must clip off a few nails and then put them inside the doll. You sew the tear you made to open the doll up with the crimson thread. The stitches should be relatively clumsy. When you are done sewing up the thread, you are to tie the doll up with the rest of it. The red thread is actually supposed to represent blood vessels and will manage to hold the spirit inside the doll. You have to go to the bathroom and fill the bathtub with water, and then return to your hiding place with the cup of salt water.

In playing it, you have to give a name to your doll. It can be any name, as long as it is not yours. At 3 AM, you are to tell the doll “your name is the first it” to the doll three times. You are to go the bathroom and put the doll into the water-filled bathtub. You turn off all the lights in your house and go back to the hiding place and switch on the TV. After counting to ten, you return to the bathroom with the sharp tool in hand. You are supposed to go to the bathtub and say to the doll “I have found you, <name that you gave to it>.” You are to stab it with the edged tool, symbolizing that you are setting the spirit inside free. Then you’re suppose to say, “You are the next it, <name that you gave to it>.” As you take the doll out of the bathtub, you leave it on the counter. You run back to your hiding place and hide very well.

You are supposed to pour half of the cup of salt water in your mouth and you are not to drink any of it. This is supposed to keep you safe. If you do not, you might encounter a wandering spirit in the house which may harm you if you are not careful. You cannot see it, so the only way to know if something is getting closer to you is to watch what is happening to the TV in your room. You should have turned it on at this point in time. Get out of your hiding place and look for the doll. It may not be in the bathroom where you left it. No matter what happens you must not spit out the salt water because that is what is keeping you safe. When you find the doll, you’re supposd to pour the rest of the salt water from the cup that you had over it. Then you spit the salt water in your mouth onto it as well.  Then you say, “I win” three times and the ritual is done.

After this, you must dry, burn and discard the doll.

Honestly, this game was ultimately very creepy. I do not like dolls to begin with, and knowing that this doll could potentially harm you because it was even worse. I found it hard to understand why people would be so into horror, but I believe it just represents the people group as a whole in terms of their spirituality. It is explainable because they do believe in ghosts and malevolent spirits and whatnot. I would not perform this ritual, but other people might. I suppose it would take a brave person not afraid of ghosts and spirits to actually go through with the ritual. It would also require some belief in the occult as well. Again, it sounds somewhat like a stereotype of the Japanese people.

Legends
Narrative

Always Check the Backseat

Click here for video.

“So there is this story about a girl at a gas station filling up and she sees [a gas station attendant] and this person is being really odd and waving and trying to get her to come to him and stuff so she gets scared and gets in her car and drives off. But apparently the attendant was trying to get her to leave the car because the attendant saw someone hiding in her backseat. And I think I heard this from my sister or something and apparently it might have been inspired by something that might have been true. And that’s why my sister tells me to always look in the backseat before I climb into my car because she’s scared someone will try to kidnap me. Either that or kill me, but I think I don’t know.”


The informants sister told her this piece of folklore. I have heard this piece of folklore many times. From what I can gather, there are two main versions of this piece of folklore. There is a version with a gas station attendant and a version with a motorist. Usually, in the gas station version, the attendant sees a would-be killer hide in the backseat of the woman’s car. The attendant then finds a reason to call the woman over to his office. The reason can vary a lot ranging from claiming the woman provided him with counterfeit money to telling her that her car needs an oil change. When the woman enters the attendant’s office and the woman is told discreetly that there is someone hiding in her backseat while the attendant locks the door and calls the police.

In the motorist version, a passing driver sees the killer rise out of the back seat while the woman is driving. This prompts the driver to flash his lights at the woman, trying to warn her. However, all the woman sees is that there is a car following her flashing its lights and panics. Eventually she stops somewhere in a panic, calling for police and the driver of the other car points out the would-be killer.

In both of these stories, the almost victim is always a woman. Perhaps this is popular because as a society we believe women to be vulnerable and in need of saving. Additionally, both versions hit home the idea that things are not always what they seem. In both cases, the strangers trying to help the women both seem like they represent trouble of some kind. When, in reality they were trying to save the woman. This piece of folklore also serves as a warning to women to be cautious when out and about alone, as the woman would have been murdered had a stranger not intervened.


Both versions and more information can be found in the following:

Brunvand, Jan H. Encyclopedia of urban legends. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2012. Print. 358-351

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

A Ghost Story

When my informant was about 10 or 11 years old, she was told a story by one of her mother’s friends because she was bored and there no cable in the house. She remembers the story well to this day because of how good a story-teller her mother’s friend, Dave Morton, was.

 

The following is a paraphrase of my informant’s ghost story:

 

“There is a big Victorian house is in Morgan Hill in Northern California. A young businesswoman moves in and discovers an ugly lime green master bedroom in the house. She starts to paint the room bright white because she hates the color and then goes to bed in another one of the rooms. She walks into this room the next day and one of the walls is a BRIGHT green again. But the others are still white. So she paints the wall again, but still the next day it appears bright green. Finally she gives up and decides to sleep in the master bedroom that night. But in the middle of the night she sits up quickly because she has this weird feeling….and there is a lady at the end of the bed staring at her, a tall, young, pretty, brunette, in Victorian clothing. The businesswoman puts her head under the bed to pretend it’s not real, she peaks under from the covers and there is no one there.

 

So the next day she has her dog sleep with her to make her feel easier. Once again she sits up in the middle of the night and she looks over and the dog is missing and the ghostly woman is there again staring.

 

She gives the bedroom one more night, she falls asleep, but she sleeps ‘on the surface’

It’s not a deep sleep. Then all of a sudden she starts to feel something in the room. She looks at the end of the bed and there’s the girl standing there again. The businesswoman thinks maybe something has to happen. She yells at the girl standing and yells ‘what do you want?’ The ghost lifts her arm and points at her.

 

So the next day she wakes up and the one green wall is a little lighter green. The business woman thinks that the wall is lighter because she talked to the ghost the night before.

 

The next night the ghost appears once again and the woman asks what she can do to help the ghost, but the ghost disappears.

 

When the businesswoman wakes up the next morning, there is a locket sitting on the edge of her bed. She sits there and she looks at the initials engraved on the locket. Then she notices that the green wall is even lighter, and realizes that the ghost wants her to figure out the ghost’s story.

 

She starts asking around if they know anything about the house and this woman. She finally finds a woman who knew stories about what took place in this house: that there is a young girl brutally murdered the night before her wedding in the master bedroom against the green wall. The girl’s fiancée found her the next day, and also discovered that the only thing missing from the room was the girl’s locket. The killer was also never found.

 

No one was in that room long enough to find the locket or for the ghost to give the locket to someone still living. So the ghost had found the locket and gave it to the businesswoman, the current resident, and because of that she was free, and the wall was no longer green and the ghost never came back.”

 

Now my informant said she wasn’t even interested in the killer or the fact that he was never found. What stuck with her was how her mother’s friend described the murder as a “splatter job,” and how there was a second person, who confirmed that the story was true.  My informant feels that there is no moral to this story. It was for pure entertainment purposes, as there is not much reason to stay away from the house because the ghost is now supposedly gone.

[geolocation]