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

The Ghosts of Cheesman Park: Haunting in Colorado

Background: CW Originally heard the story from their father and once from their grandmother, positioning the story as fairly old within the history of Cheesman. CW Then looked it up on google to confirm it. CW Finds the story interesting and “Kind of messed up, to be honest” it matters to them because they lived in a haunted place and had a friend who was extremely interested in ghost hunting.
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Context CW, with a mug of hot tea sits, on my couch after an afternoon of doing homework and recounts stories from their childhood. The atmosphere is calm, the air is calm and the room is mostly quiet in between stories. CW has known the collector for some time and thus is excited to share their stories.

Performance:
CW:The park that I used to live by is supposedly super haunted because it used to be a cemetery
MW: Aw Hell yeah!
CW: CHEESMAN PARK
MW: Cheesman Park?
CW Cheesman Park.
CW: OK Cheesman park used to be a cemetery I don’t remember when but the …..the city was like “Hey why don’t we not make this a cemetery”
CW: Cause ok it was a cemetery for un unn, like you know like people who weren’t paying for a burial
MW: A potters field?
CW Yeah, and also Asian Americans in Little Cheesman which is a part of Cheesman but it’s like a strip on the other side of the road. That’s where the Asian Americans people were. I think, if I’m remembering correctly Idunno.
CW:And so the city was like “Yeah we don’t want this to be a graveyard anymore so lets like”….I’m starting to doubt what I remember
MW: Just tell me what you remember
CW: So they hired someone to, like basically dig up all the graves. Buuut he was super sketchy and he would like mix the remains and pack them into child coffins to make more money off of it….[CW trails off, and laughs at my bewildered expression inn response to the exhuming ]
CW: But now supposedly Cheesman park is like super haunted because of all the graves that were disrupted.
CW: My friends told me if you lay down in Cheesman park you’ll feel like you can’t get back up because the spirits are trying to keep you there with them and definitely like a lot of weird noises
CW: Because I lived right on the park, I was pretty convinced they were some whack noises for the middle of ….Denver….the Gay Neighborhood of Denver, but yeah…spoooky.
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Analysis:
The story plays on two key fears that might represent the anxieties in the Cheesman community, notably two different local marginalized groups at the time of the story’s conception, the poor and Asian Americans. These groups likely felt uncomfortable in the city anyway and made some of the majority uncomfortable with their presence thus the city’s desire to remove the cemetery can be seen as a drive to remove these people from the environment. The desecration of their graves, the stuffing of bones into childrens’ coffins serves to mimic the disrespect these communities received in life and why they’d be angry enough to trap someone in the park and force their victims to join their community. Likewise that Cheesmann is now “the gay neighborhood of Denver” the feeling of unrest and danger felt by the LGBT community there might to be an impetus for the survival of the story.

Folk Beliefs

No Mirror Facing You When You Sleep

Context: The collector interviewed the informant (as XZ) for superstitions. The informant is a USC student from Los Angeles. Her parents are from China. The conversation was in the collector’s dorm room When the informant saw a mirror on the collector’s bookshelf, she came up with the following folk belief.

 

 

Main Piece:

Never put the mirror where you can see your own reflection when you sleep.

 

XZ: My parents told me never put the mirror where you can see your own reflection when you sleep. Because when you are sleeping, your soul, this is so funny, I don’t really believe it, is above your body and moves around. So if you have a mirror facing you when you are sleeping, your soul will look into the mirror and get confused. So it will, like, not go back to your body.

XZ: My parents just told me the story. They think it’s funny. But some people really believe in this. They never put mirrors where mirrors reflect their bed.

 

The informant doesn’t think it is an Asian folk belief but rather an American one. She said that she didn’t believe the saying, but when asked about whether she would put a mirror against her bed, she answered no.

 

 

Collector’s thoughts:

Reflection of the real world in the mirror is a common topic of folk belief. There seem to be an underlying fear of the other self in the reflection, which threatens the exclusivity of self in the real world.

This folk belief also involves the topic of body and soul separation, and the process of sleeping. In this folklore, the connection between the soul and the body is unstable. The soul can get lost easily.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative

Blue Ghosts in Okinawa, Japan

AM: So, it was- like the first month or two when i moved to Japan and I was hanging outside at like…2am like at night in a park. Um, the military base we was staying on was built like near like Japanese Shrines and whatnot and they said that you know the shrines are haunted and there’s a lotta “superstitions” with those. So while we’re out hanging, there was like oh look- you can see a bluf- blue figure on a hill like on top of the shrine and when I looked over you- I saw like a bluish like glow from the hills where the shrine was and they said that this island is one of the most haunted places and that there’s a lot of spirits around.

VG: Woah. What island was it?

AM: Okinawa.

VG: Woah-

AM: And that is- it is very common to see those there… so we was like “yeah, let’s get the hell out of here.”

 

Background:

Location of Story – Okinawa, Japan

Location of Performance – 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. This story came after a few others. The one prior was specifically about a high school grade being cursed.

 

Analysis: One point of interest in this performance is the effectiveness of the subtlety of the description of the “spirits.” The only physical description the audience receives about these supernatural beings is that they humanoid in figure and blue. The color is particularly notable because, at least in my experience, I have always viewed the ghosts in ghost stories as being neutral toned or white. Therefore, this description was able to create a whole new image for me and draw me deeper into this performance. It also reinforces the foreignness AM might feel since he had just moved to Japan: not only is the location different but also all of the local lore. One might even go so far as to say that this story was presented with a negative conation despite having no description of graphic hauntings or threats. 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

La Siguanaba

Main Piece:

“La Siguanaba was the mother of El Cipitio. She wandered around the river banks at night and would lure men to her. At first, she would appear to be the most beautiful woman on earth to make sure men would follow her into the woods. She would flirt with them too. After playing with the men, the Siguanaba would turn into a hideous woman and would torture the men until they went completely crazy. She would do this over and over.”

Context:

The informant is a middle-aged woman, born in El Salvador. She learned this story from her grandmother. The informant believes that the story is told to stop people from wandering around at night, especially young men and women. This was a form to instill fear into them.

 

Legends
Narrative

The Weeping Lady of the Woods

Main Piece:

“There was this story we were told as kids up in the mountains of Tennessee. I never heard her but apparently at night there was a spirit of a woman who would cry in front of a specific tree. She cried there because when running away from a predator, a cougar or something big, she and her two children tried to climb up that tree to get away, but her two kids fell off the tree and were killed by the cougar. The woman was devastated and committed suicide shortly thereafter. So, at night you can hear her weeping next to the tree where her children were killed. I never heard her but everyone knew about her.”

 

Context:

The informant is an elderly Caucasian woman born and raised in Tennessee. I asked the informant what she thought the story meant or was told, she responded that she feels the story is a way to warn people, specifically kids, of the dangers that exist within the woods.

 

Analysis:

This legend has similarities to another folklore legend found in Mexico known as  LA LLORONA. They both have weeping women who weep for their lost children. I agree with the informant on the meaning or relevance of the legend. It is a way to warn children of the dangers found in the woods, especially at night.

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.

general

Poltergeist

Collected in the informant’s office on his free time. I asked him to describe a time where he experienced something that he couldn’t explain.

The informant attended the University of Southern California many years ago. The apartment he discusses is not known to be haunted.
Informant: “Um… Well, uhh… When I was in school here at USC, uh, there was a series of very strange events in my building. And, uhh… one night there was a loud, uh, series of noises from my living room of my one-bedroom apartment. I could see that my, uh, cla- my roommate was asleep next to us, and but there was clearly someone in the other room. And when I went in to investigate, things had been knocked off the shelves and walls, but the room was not broken into. Uh, and I am convinced that it was a poltergeist.”

Interviewer: “What would you define a poltergeist as?”

Informant: “Uh, well poltergeists are, uh, unmoored spirits traditionally, uh, kept from the afterlife by their own unfinished business, uhh, frequently revolved, or revolving around, like, rage, hate, or anger – Negative emotions that have kept them tethered to the world. But, uh, poltergeists traditionally, uh, travel. Uh, they’re not tied to one singular location. Um, so I believe at the time, uh, there was a, it was simply a poltergeist was moving through our apartment complex.”

Interviewer: “Interesting… Were there any other details about the incident?”

Informant: “[Sighs and smacks lips, thinking] Um… Only that a apropo of nothing, a similar incident was reported by our downstairs neighbors the night before, and, uh, a very strange occurrence happened a few days later when everyone was watching a movie together, and in the same moment, everyone screamed, uh, because we all saw, in the same moment, a face in the screen. It was like a, just an image of like, the characters were standing in front of a bush, and the green bush, for a moment, shifted, and we all saw it.”

Interviewer: “You saw the face too?”

Informant: “I saw the face, yeah.”

Interviewer: “What did the face look like?”

Informant: “Uh, it was just a brief moment of, like, an, an angry man’s face. Like a screaming face.”

Interviewer: “What do you think that was? Same thing?”

Informant: “[Sighs deeply in thought] … Yes? It couldn’t have been a different poltergeist. Like probably the same spirit infesting the building, uh, for that period of time.”
The informant has an interesting claim of poltergeists being able to move from location to location, not tied to a person or place like other sources claim. He also has a reliable account due to other people also being witnesses to multiple accounts of this “poltergeist.”

Adulthood
Customs
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Bayanihan Spirit

Pauline is an international student from the Philippines. She is studying Chemical Engineering in the United States, and she plans to return to the Philippines once she graduates and receives her B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Her hobbies are watching anime, eating delicious food, and taking naps.

Original Script

So there’s this custom from the olden times in the Philippines that’s called Bayanihan. So before like people used to live in like really small bamboo huts and when like people wanted to move because maybe like the ground is not fertile anymore and they wanted to go to another place like near the shore or something. Like instead of just leaving their home and building a new one, it’s like actually portable—there’s sticks at the bottom—and then like you can like carry your house and then just move it. So the concept of Bayanihan is all your neighbors are like going to help you carry the house.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant learned about the Bayanihan spirit in elementary school. Her teacher wished to teach this value to her students because it is an integral part of Filipino culture and possesses heavy historical importance.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

The Bayanihan is a Filipino custom that refers to the spirit of communal unity, collaborating and working together to achieve a particular goal. “Bayan” means “community, nation, or town,” while bayanihan means “being in a bayan.” This concept can be traced back to the tradition of rural areas in the Philippines, where the town’s people would lend a hand to a family who is relocating. The Bayanihan spirit demonstrates the Filipino value of helping one another, especially in times of need, without expecting anything in return.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I really admire this quality valued by the Filipinos. When I visited the Philippines with my family a few years ago, I noticed that the Bayanihan spirit is still very much alive. While I was in the rural areas, the locals went out of their way to welcome and help my family and me. I also saw a group of Filipino men help a family move their house to another location.

Legends
Narrative

Old Miss Hackley

The informant, a 20-year-old college student, attended a private Ivy League Preparatory school in New York, the Hackley School, for grades 6-12. While I was out to lunch between classes with the informant, I asked if she could tell me about her school’s history, and if there were any traditions or narratives related to this history that all of the students know about.

“Well, Hackley is named after the woman who founded it over a century ago, Miss Hackley. Everyone thinks of her as this old, gray-haired, witch-like woman. Deep in the library there are a lot of old books and paintings. The story goes that in this one really old painting of the school, there was a shadowy figure towards the back for as long as anyone could remember. Then, a few years ago, the figure disappeared. So supposedly that was Miss Hackley, and she moves in and out of pictures and paintings throughout the campus watching the students’ every move and making sure that nobody is acting out or being disrespectful.”

This legend regarding the founder of the informant’s school is a way to keep the institution’s history alive by implying that the school’s long-dead founder is still very much aware of whether the students are being respectful and behaving appropriately. The informant said that while she does not believe that Miss Hackley’s spirit inhabits the school, thinking about the possibility still creeps her out. This legend functions to keep the students at Hackley School in line by providing an ultimatum that, while perhaps not entirely threatening, would make a student think twice before sneaking off into empty classrooms or cutting class: if you fail to obey the school’s code of conduct you are disrespecting Miss Hackley, and if she knows of these the potential for her to discipline you exists. The legend is not dependent on students believing that Miss Hackley’s spirit actually inhabits the school, but rather on the slightest bit of doubt that it possibly could. I think that the nature of the institution, as an old, elite private school on the east coast, allows the legend to operate much more effectively than it would at, say, a relatively new public school on the west coast, due to the fact that the older school as a more extensive, and unknown, history that a newer school would lack.

Legends
Myths
Narrative

Woburn Abbey Ghost Story

TK: Did you ever see a ghost?

LK: No but they moved all the bathroom doors and wardrobes open and everything.

TK: Wait explain.

LK: I went to see my friend he lives in Woburn Abbey in England (was a house to priests or monks or something) for the weekend. I left after one day, I couldn’t do it, it freaked me out. (stuttering) It’s a house a family owned, it was an abbey, now it’s a public inn; not sure what it is to see all the stuff. It is known to be haunted. My mom’s friend grew up there and always saw ghosts growing up as a child. Mind you, he only told my mom this much later.

TK: Who’s they?

LK: Robin, aka Lord Russell. We went for dinner and spent the night. Robin was in his room, I was in my room and who else went with us? I don’t know, a couple other friends? Robin told us stories about when he was a kid when he grew up it was haunted.

TK: What was?

LK: The house. It freaked me out and I couldn’t believe we were out there stuck, two hours away from everything, couldn’t get back, and had to spent the night there. It was a residence on the top floor. They gave me a room that had three wardrobes, one on this side, one on that side and one with the TV. The bathroom door was over here (gesturing). I left the bathroom door open and all the wardrobes were shut

TK: Were you in the room alone?

LK: Yeah, everyone was ALL THE WAY DOWN THE HALL. So I was watching television and the TV kept popping in and out like a switch (acting it out) Meanwhile his mom came in to give me a pill to calm me down because I couldn’t handle it. I guess I finally fell asleep with the TV on and woke up to find every single wardrobe door open and the bathroom door was shut and the door to the bedroom was locked.

TK: Then what?

LK: I freaked out a little bit. I got up, I closed the wardrobe drawers, went to the bathroom and unlocked the bedroom door (laughing, thinking, nodding head) um…all the stuff in the bathroom and the toiletries were on the floor, toothbrush, toothpaste, everything that I had used to shower and everything.

TK: So then what?

LK: Picked everything up. I would say that was about three in the morning-ish. I opened the bedroom door to see the hallway, you know, I was freaked out.

TK: How did you go back to sleep after that?

LK: I sort of laid there. I thought Robin was playing  a trick on me, you know, so I actually walked down the hall, now that I think about it and walked all the way down the hall to see if they were up and didn’t really know which room they were in for sure and decided not to go all the way (shaking head) I didn’t want to see anything I was petrified. So I went back to my room put the TV on and I guess eventually fell asleep again and that was it. I woke up in the morning.

TK: What happened in the morning?

LK: I asked them if they had played a joke on me and they said no, oh come on, laughing, they go not at all. It was freaky. We were having breakfast and I said that’s it we’re not staying here anymore and his parents were laughing.

TK: Who were you with?

LK: His parents live at the house and his younger brother and I went there with Robin. And that was it.

THE INFORMANT: The informant was my mom. She was family friends with the Russells who were occupying the estate, and this occurred in the late 80s. This was the only time she experienced a ghostly visitation and the way she describes it makes it clear that she was disturbed by the incident although the family did not take it very seriously, possibly because they had dealt with the ghost before.


ANALYSIS: Woburn Abbey has long been known as a place haunted by ghosts and spirits, much like other English estates with a long history and many previous occupants. According to the website Ghostly Rooms, which catalogues ghost sightings in homes, “It is also said…there is a spirit that haunts the private chambers of Woburn Abbey. This spirit manifests itself by walking through the lounge, without being seen. The door will open on one side and the sound of footsteps move across the floor as the spirit passes through. Once on the other side the other door would open and then slams shut as the spirit leaves. In the 1960s this ghostly activity became so frequent that the Ducal family had to move their television to another room so the could watch the television without the chance of being disturbed.” This seems eerily similar to the experience my mother had, in which she was in one of the private chambers and noticed doors opening without explanation as well as a disturbance of her possessions.

[geolocation]