USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘scary stories’
Legends

La Siguanaba

She was a woman that went out every night to wash by the river. Everyone would hear her washing. But no one would go outside. They would see a woman that had long hair that would drag on the floor. She seduced the men. The story is often told to children to scare them into not misbehaving.

My tia Estella did not listen to my grandmother and went out at night. She was using the bathroom outside and she saw a tall women standing there. The woman had long black hair. And she was washing. My tia thought it was one of the neighbors washing. She approached the lady and when the lady turned to her she was a skeleton. My tia became mute and ran away from the women.

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.

The interesting part of this piece is the similarities between this and the Llorona of Mexico. It is also interesting because my own aunt experienced it. This story is a classic tale Salvadoran parents use to keep them from misbehaving.

 

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Jasy Jatere

My friend grew up in Paraguay and has a lot of myths and legends that stem from the Guarani tradition.

Friend: “The Jasy Jatere is the God of the siesta. I heard about him from my grandmother. Apparently he would steal kids who snuck off during the siesta, which is a nap most people take during the day. I think the story was told to keep kids from leaving their houses while their parents were sleeping. Like don’t go away or the Jasy Jatere will get you!”

Me: What did he look like?

Friend: “He was supposed to look like a kid. He has blonde hair and is pretty small-framed. But he’s actually a full-grown man. Kids are supposed to think he’s their friend, he plays with them and feeds them fruit and honey, and then, according to my grandmother, he imprisons the kids and pokes out their eyes so that they cannot see to find their way home.”

Me:Did it scare you into napping during the siesta?

Friend: “Yeah I was pretty freaked out by Jasy Jatere. I definitely thought he would come and get me if I wasn’t napping. He’s sort of like the boogeyman of Paraguay.”

Analysis:The Jasy Jatere being a “Paraguyayan Boogeyman” is interesting. In some ways, it is creepy that parents would try to scare their children into staying at home and trying to sleep. Most of the time, these fears dissolve without much consequence. A child grows up and learns not to fear the Jatere, or the Boogeyman. Another connection that could be made to the Jasy Jatere is Peter Pan. It is the same archetype: a boyish creature who seems to be immortal, coming when children are without their parents, to take them away to a far off place– usually never to return home. Many cultures have these types of stories, and I think they play into our fear (and curiosity) of being taken from a loving home  with one of our kind who has learned to survive without the support of parents. transcoder

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Legends
Narrative

Grandma’s Ghost

Informant (A.G.) is an 18 year old student from Los Angeles.

A.G.: “My mom is really religious and my grandma is really religious. I was raised Catholic and I used to go to church and stuff”

While his “dad is Italian” and his “mom is Colombian,” they “both grew up in Columbia” to come here when they were “18 or 19.” Alex’s mom is a “stay at home mom,” and his dad does “construction” and owns some local “properties.” We grew up in the same area of Los Angeles, and started to hang out in high school. He was telling some ghost stories at a party one weekend, so I set up an interview for the following Saturday afternoon. I picked him up and brought him to our mutual friend’s house to conduct the collection.

A.G.: “In my apartment building, we used to live in one of the back apartment units.”

While the family still owns the apartment building, A.G. has since upgraded to a nearby house.

A.G.: “At the dinner table… my brother and sister used to talk about stuff that would happen to them because our house was super creepy.”

Here “our house” refers to the family’s apartment building.

A.G.’s family connects over the supernatural. For instance, while the non-religious A.G. is less concerned with Christianity than his pious mother, she is less concerned with the supernatural. However, they all contribute supernatural experiences to the dinner table discussion.

A.G.: “This happened to my mom. It was weird hearing it from her because she’s always like ‘oh that stuff’s bullshit.’ This happened in Florida when she was visiting my grandma in her last days. After a few days after she passed away, my mom said she was sleeping in the living room or something and then she said that she woke up at night and the TV was on and she saw a figure that reminded her of her mom.”

A.G’s mother’s experience of seeing a recently deceased family member is a regular part of the grieving process. Such memorates, referred to as crisis apparitions, make up a large part of the ghost story genre. While A.G.’s mother’s experience was attached to the deceased grandmother, A.G.’s siblings had their own supernatural experiences attached to the old apartment building. Whether it’s remembering the loss of a loved one, or a displeasurable living situation, I interpret the exchange of scary stories to be the family’s way of bonding over personal tribulations.

For more ghost stories about deceased loved ones, visit http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/23/living/crisis-apparitions/

Folk Beliefs
Kinesthetic
Magic
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Dancing With the Devil

The informant’s family had been a traditional Mexican family then they moved to America and expanded their culture here. His parents were born and raised in Mexico and learned many cultural forms of folklore with the informant who was born in America. He shared some of the folklore that he was told that stuck with him as he grew older and more wise and mature. 

The Dance

Informant…

“Their was a woman in Mexico who wanted to go to this dance but her parents told her no you cant go, but she really wanted to go so she snuck out at night to go. So she went out to the dance and she was having a really good time. Some point while she was at the dance she met a guy and he seemed really cool, he was good looking, and well dressed. She started dancing with him and the party went on around them it was raging and exciting and a typical dance environment. The party progressed and my grandma described it to me that they were ballroom dancing. She looked around and noticed that there was no one there but her and the guy. She realized that they were just dancing alone and by this time it was late into the night and every one had been gone. She thought it was strange and looked back again and it was just her standing there and the guy was gone. She realized that she was just dancing by herself the whole time and she was alone the whole night. Frightened, she ran out of the dance place because she was so freaked out by what had happened and where the strange man came from. When she ran out, there was a black dog who chased her all the way to her house. The mom came to the door just as the girl was about to get there and said ““where the hell have you been its 2 o’clock in the morning!”” The girl was screaming crying that a dog was chasing her so the mom beat the dog with a broom, scratched it on the eye and the dog ran away. The next day in the town there was a weird creepy man. The creepy man had a patch on his eye and it was bruised up pretty badly. The story infers that the creepy man is supposed to be the Devil.”

The informant also stressed, “the message it is trying to get across is you better listen to your mother because you might end up dancing with the devil or doing the devil’s work.”

The informant said that this wasn’t necessarily meant to have any meaning behind it, but once his grandmother told him this he was put on the right path and was so freaked out that he would be home every night by ten o’clock, or he wouldn’t talk to any type of stranger. This story was creepy enough to the point where he wanted to listen to his parents when they said no.

Analysis…

I was able to collect folklore information from two Latina descendants. In this culture it seems common where the stories are created for the children to get them to get on the right track. The legends, myths, tales, and family tales all have a way to persuade the children to act the way the parents want them to ask whether that is a scare tactic or giving the children a saint to look up to. In the culture I’m use to, it is common where stories are told to direct children in the paths that their parents want but it is more common where the legends, myths, or tales are told to confuse the older generations. We talk about the existence of aliens, Bigfoot, vampires, werewolves, or any other strange tales that are told to our older generations. It is interesting how the folklore is geared to attract different age groups of people.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

“La Llorona”

The informant’s family had been a traditional Mexican family then they moved to America and expanded their culture here. His parents were born and raised in Mexico and learned many cultural forms of folklore with the informant who was born in America. He shared some of the folklore that he was told that stuck with him as he grew older and more wise and mature. 

Informant…

“There was a woman in Mexico named Maria. Maria was gorgeous, more beautiful than anyone else so she believed she was above everyone else. As Maria go older, she got more beautiful and prideful because of it.When she was old snout to have an interest in men she wouldn’t look at the men from her village. She believed they weren’t good enough for her and what she thought she deserved so she would say thing about how when she would be married it would be to the most handsome man in the world. And then one day, a man who fit her standard rode into her village. He was a handsome young ranchero as well as the son of a rich rancher from the south. He only rode wild horses, he thought it wasn’t manly to ride a horse if it wasn’t half wild. He was the most handsome man in the world, but he had various talents as well he sang beautifully and played the guitar. Maria decided that that was the man for her. Maria played mind games with the ranchero, if he would speak to her on the pathway she would ignore him and pretend he wasn’t there, he would go to her how at night to play the guitar and serenade her but Maria wouldn’t go to her window, she wouldn’t accept any gifts from him. This all made the ranchero want her even more and he knew he had to get her to love him. Everything went according to Maria’s plan and they were soon married. Things were great in the beginning of their marriage they had 2 kids. But the man became bored with Maria and wanted to live his crazy wild life again, he showed more affection to the children that he showed to her. As proud as Maria was, she became very angry with the him. She also began to feel anger toward her children. One night she drowned her kids in the river and when the man found out that she drowned her kids he basically rebuked her away. So she was cursed because she drowned her kids for all eternity to wander the earth crying for her kids, hence the name la llorona.”

Analysis…

“La Llorona” translated in english as the woman who cries

When asked about where he heard the story he said his mother and grandmother had told him but he wasn’t sure where the story originated or came from but he knew that it came from Mexico. The informant believes that La Llorona is real. He came into close contact with her when he was young around the ages of two or three. He said that his mother and his aunt were in Mexico cleaning his grandmother’s house when they heard her painful, creepy, whaling cries. He said that she was saying “oh my babies” and when his mother and aunt heard that they took all the children and threw them under the bed in the next room. He said they did this because it is believed that if she finds children she will take them as her own because she had lost hers. He believes that this story is also told to children as a scare tactic method to keep them in the house at night so that La Llorona doesn’t take them. He believes that because his mom used it as a scare tactic on him, his brothers, and his cousins.

Tales like this are told all over the world as a scare tactic to force kids into doing whatever their parents feel like they should be doing. Most Americans have heard of having monsters under their beds (to keep children in their beds at night) or the boogie man (forces kids to bah in fear of the boogie man coming after them. This tale reminds me of those and I initially make the connection between them. The crazy part of this tale is the informant swears that the came into close contact with the la llorona meaning that it is possible that she is real which would lead to ghosts and unwanted spirits being real.

Another version of this legend can be found in movie form and is called The Crying Woman (1993) directed by Ramón Peón.

Digital
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Scary Story: The Message

Context:

The informant and I had recently gone on a retreat together to a wooded area. At the retreat, we participated in a nighttime ghost story telling session with some friends, and my informant was talented at performing ghost stories. I later asked her to share some ghost stories with me again, and I recorded the interview for collection purposes.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: Once upon a time… there was, um… You know, I don’t know if, in the story… I don’t know if it ever tells you who it is, ’cause it’s written from… When I read it, on like, Creepypasta, although the first time I heard this story, it was not on Creepypasta. It was, someone told me in my highschool art class. That was when we were sharing scary stories one time. In my highschool art class. When I was like, “You guys, let’s tell scary stories.” I think it was Halloween.

Me: I feel like… I feel like you’ve had too many instances, where you were like, stuck somewhere, and were just like, “Let’s tell scary stories.”

Informant: Yeah… I think it was Halloween. That’s the first time I heard about Creepypasta. It’s because, we were telling scary stories, and then I was like, “Where do you guys get this stuff?” And some guys were like, “Creepypasta.” Um, but yeah. The first time I heard this it was socially. Um, so, okay. Anyway. Once upon a time… There was, let’s mix it up and say, a teenage… boy this time, who was home alone. Um, his parents were gone for the weekend, and he was alone and he heard something in his house when he was up in his bed. And he got nervous, and he thought, “Okay. It was probably something.” But then he heard the sound of something heavy, like, coming up the stairs. Like this like sound of something, like a really heavy person, thumping up the stairs. And he was like, “Okay, maybe they think it’s an empty house. I’ll just lie in my bead, and I’ll like pretend, and I won’t do anything, and maybe they’ll leave and maybe they won’t notice.” And he heard it creep closer to his door, and closer to his door. And he like lay himself flat against the bed under the covers and he thought, “Maybe, it’s like a thief. And maybe if I act like I’m sleeping, like they’ll just, they won’t harm me and they’ll leave.” And then, under the covers, he looked through the door, and saw this… huge caveman looking like… like this caveman, this big bulky, hairy caveman, with like this prehistoric face. And he was like, “What?” And he was like, “Maybe, okay, like it’s a caveman. He’s probably not that intelligent.” And he was like, getting really nervous and scared. And he was like… sweating. And he was like, “I’ll stay under the covers, and maybe he won’t notice me, and he’ll leave…” And so, and he heard the caveman walk to the wall, and like, make some scratching sounds, and then the caveman sat down on the other side of his room in a chair. And he was like, “Okay… Maybe he’ll leave…” And like an hour passed. And then like another hour passed, and he stayed under the covers, and like, he was just peeking just barely under the covers, and the caveman wasn’t leaving. And he, like, was waiting, and waiting, and at some point he decided to just look under the covers just a little, and then he realized the scratching noise, was the sound of the caveman writing something on the wall. And he looked up at the wall, and it said, “I know you’re not asleep.” The end!

Analysis:

This story plays off of the listener’s fears concerning violation of privacy within one’s home, the unknown, and being watched. Its ability to invoke shock from an audience in such a short span of time makes it appropriate to tell both verbally and digitally, as shown by its being shared through multiple platforms. The informant’s explanation as to how she became exposed to the story suggests that it is usually performed at night, the time of day scary stories are usually associated with. The story itself also takes place at night while the main character lies in bed trying to sleep.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Scary Story: The Sound in the Night

Context:

The informant and I had recently gone on a retreat together to a wooded area. At the retreat, we participated in a nighttime ghost story telling session with some friends, and my informant was talented at performing ghost stories. I later asked her to share some ghost stories with me again, and I recorded the interview for collection purposes.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: I’ll tell another one! Here,  I’ll tell one that I did not tell at the retreat. I think I told most of these at the retreat… But ok. This one. It’s very short. Once upon a time, there was a teenage girl… *laughs* She was, not babysitting, she was home alone and, um, and her parents were gone. They were… doing something. I don’t know. They were gone for the weekend. Okay. That’s the story. They were gone for the weekend. She was home alone, and suddenly she heard a sound. And she couldn’t like, she heard a sound and she was like, “That’s weird… What is that sound?” And she was trying to figure out what was making it. It was kind of like this thump thump thump sound. And she was like, “Weird…” And she would just go back on Tumblr, and then she would hear it again a few times. Like thump thump, thump thump. And then she like walked around the house, and was like, “Huh…” She was like, “Is it like a tree? Like a branch banging against the house? But that’s not what it would sound like…” And it was like, late at night. It couldn’t have been like, kids bouncing a ball anywhere or anything. So she just like, let it go. And she like, heard it again. Thump thump thump thump. Thump thump thump thump. And she was like, “That’s strange…” But she let it go. She just turned on her music. And she went to sleep. She did not die. She was fine. The next day, um, her parents came home. Um, oh, it’s not as scary as I imagined it would be. But anyway, her parents came home, and everything was fine. And she kept wondering what that sound was. She even like experimented. She like, moved some things around. Smacked a branch against the house to figure out like, what it was, but nothing was making that same sound. And she was like, “Huh… I guess I’ll never know what it was.” And then, her dad went to go open the window, and the window was locked. And as he tried to open it a few times, it made that thump thump thump sound. And that’s when she realized that the sound was someone trying to like, break into her house. The end. That’s like, a more real fear, I guess.

Me: Yeah, but like a lot of, um, a lot of horror stories are based off of, like, real life fears. So yeah, that makes sense.

*pause*

Me: And I guess part of the, like, horror of it is that she doesn’t know who it was.

Informant: Yeah… Or that she didn’t even realize until like, later.

Analysis: 

This story feeds off of the listener’s fears concerning plausible situations, such as the possibility of being a victim of crime. The main character does not even figure out the source of the unknown sound until after the situation she was in danger during passes. The story takes place at night, playing off of people’s fear of the dark and of the unknown. The story’s nighttime setting is also appropriate considering that ghost stories are often told at night.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Scary Story: The Car Had Lights

Context:

The informant and I had recently gone on a retreat together to a wooded area. At the retreat, we participated in a nighttime ghost story telling session with some friends, and my informant was talented at performing ghost stories. I later asked her to share some ghost stories with me again, and I recorded the interview for collection purposes.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: Once upon a time… I think I told this one too, but anyway, there was a woman, driving in her car. She was just driving home on her way from work, it was like a thirty minute drive, and as she was driving, home, she started to notice something weird. She noticed that at every turn she took, the truck behind her would like, would keep taking the same turns, and go on like onto the same freeway as her. And she started to get suspicious because she started thinking that this truck driver was probably following her. So, she even started to like, she like took some random turns and even went in a loop, and she realized that it kept following her. And then, it started flashing its headlights at her. It would, like, flash its headlights a few times and then stop. And then she started getting freaked out, so she started speeding a little bit, and it started speeding after her. And she took like a sharp turn, and it took a sharp turn after her. And it kept flashing its, um, headlights at her. And so she started getting freaked out. So she decided she would call the police before, like, she drove home, and tell them to come to her house so that they would be there when she came so they could, like, arrest the truck driver right there are then. So, dangerously, she dialed… No, you know what, not dangerously. She used wireless… Like, um, speakerphone. Wait… yeah, okay. It doesn’t change the story. Anyways. She called the police and told them, “There’s a truck driver following me, following my car. Like, come to my address, it’s something something something street. And the police replied, like ‘Okay. We’re on our way.'” And so she got home. She got out of the car, and the police were there. And the truck driver… And the truck driver drove up behind her, and she pointed at the truck driver. And she was like, “There! That’s the man who’s been following me. Like see! I told you he was following me. He followed me all the way home.” And the police were like, “Sir, what’s going on?” And he was like, “There was someone in the car, in the backseat, and he was trying to kill you. And every time I saw him coming up with his knife, I would flash my headlights at him so that it would like, blind his eyes so he’d get back down.” And then they opened the back door, and there was a man with a knife. And they arrested him, and everyone was safe. The end.

Me: I like that.

Informant: Real fear.

Me: Yeah…

Informant: That’s why you should always check the back seats of the car…

Context:

This story derives its horror from a scary situation that a listener could realistically encounter in real life. It also has a plot twist, in that the figure originally made out to be scary ended up saving the woman by following her, and the woman’s car, which she had thought to be safe, turned out to be dangerous due to its housing an attempted murderer.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Scary Story: The Clown Statue

Context:

My informant first told me this story when we were on a retreat together in the mountains. She told it at night when our cabin-mates were sharing scary stories. I met with her again at a cafe, and we shared more scary stories over coffee. I recorded this interview during that meeting.

Interview Transcript: 

Informant: Once upon a time, there was a girl. She was babysitting some children, and… so the parents were out and the kids wanted to watch T.V. in their parents’ room, but they were afraid of the clown statue. So they asked her… they asked the babysitter if she could cover it up with something, like a towel, or a sheet. And so she decided, being the good citizen she is, to call the parents and ask if it would be okay to cover the clown statue. And she did, she called them, and she talked to the father on the phone. And she said, “Can I cover up that clown statue? It’s kind of, you know, creeping out the kids. I just want to cover it with like a towel.” And he said, “What? Clown statue? We don’t have a clown statue in our room. Get the kids! Get out of the house! Save yourselves!” But by the time they got home, the babysitter was gone, the kids were gone, and they were never found. Because the clown statue was actually a serial killer. The end.

Me: I like it. So… where did you first hear that story?

Informant: I think I read it somewhere… I think I read it in some kind of magazine, and it was a bunch of urban legends, and that was one of them.

Me: I see… Um, what settings do you usually tell that story in?

Informant: Retreats!

*laughter*

Informant: Um, if it’s late at night, oh my gosh… If I’m working on art in the studio and it’s late at night and people are still working I’ll tell it. Like, ‘hey guys, let’s tell scary stories.’ Or like, if like someone is like sleeping over, or like when I was little and like camped in my back yard and invited friends over to camp. I haven’t camped in like two years though.

Me: That is a good story to tell while camping.

Informant: Yeah. I think, um, also some thematic information. It’s not really information, but it’s funny that there’s a lot of, um, like scary stories about babysitters specifically.

Me: Mhmm.

Informant: Maybe something to examine. There’s actually a lot of scary stories about teenagers specifically. Or like, teenage girls. Anyway, something I noticed.

Me: That’s interesting. I can understand the babysitters, because like, you know how it’s kind of a fear of leaving your children alone with somebody that you’re not familiar with.

Informant: Hmm… Or like, being a babysitter and like being in someone else’s home. Or like, needing to like be an adult and taking care of someone else’s kids, but you’re in an unfamiliar location.

Analysis:

The horror of this story is derived from the listener’s fears concerning clowns, murderers, and the unknown. Clowns are a popular symbol in horror stories, despite their purpose being to make people happy. Serial killers are also commonly used as horror story villains. Batman’s rival the Joker, who appears in the 2008 film The Dark Knight is a popular example of a villain who embodies these characteristics.

Legends
Narrative

Backseat Horror Story

“A guy is driving on the road at night, and someone behind him keeps honking and flashing his brights. So the guy keeps turning around like what the fuck? So eventually he pulls over and the car pulls over and they get out and the guy’s like, ‘What the fuck?’ And the other guy’s like, ‘Dude, there was a guy standing in your backseat with a knife but every time I honked or flashed my brights he ducked down and you just never saw him.’ So they checked the backseat and there was a bloodstain on the ground and the guy was gone.”

The informant learned this legend from friends at camp when he was much younger. The informant was convinced that he didn’t know any folklore, so I asked him if he knew any classic scary stories, and this is what he told me. He kept trying to tell me personal anecdotes which, as I had to explain to him, were not actually folklore. He told this scary story very quickly and without much detail, because I think he found it boring and over-told. He was surprised that I had never heard the tale before. It is very similar to many of the scary stories I’ve heard, with a serial killer and an unwitting victim. The informant used to tell this story along side those similar stories at sleepovers and around the campfire. He hasn’t told it in a long time.

I have never been a big fan of scary stories; I used to plug my ears when my friends told them. Thus, I don’t know very many. However, I did not find this one very scary, probably because the informant told it in a hurried way and didn’t build any suspense. Most scary stories have an element of suspense, drawing out the story and keeping the reader from knowing what will happen, that keep listeners at the edge of their seats. This story is relatively recent, because it takes place on a road with cars that have high and low beams. It could even take place yesterday. I’m a little confused by the ending. It doesn’t make sense that the  guy waited so long in the backseat with a knife only to flee last minute. Also, I don’t know why there would be a bloodstain on the floor if he hadn’t killed anyone. I think the ending is an attempt to quickly wrap up the story and make it scary. It’s almost scarier knowing that there was someone behind you with a knife, even though he’s now gone, rather than the guy actually killing the man. The former gives me goosebumps, the latter is more shocking.

[geolocation]