USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘spirits’
Folk Beliefs
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Legends
Life cycle

The Haunting of the Lorenzo

Main Piece

JS: “Yeah, dude! The Lorenzo is haunted! You’ve never heard about this?”

Collector: “No! I guess I don’t know enough people who live there.”

JS: “The Lorenzo used to be a hospital, which was abandoned for a bunch of years before the developers bought out the land for the apartments. A bunch of people died in that hospital, so obviously some parts of a place that big have got to be haunted. They try to gloss over it, but the carpets in there still give it away. It looks like The Shining! People get lost in the hallways all the time, and never come back.”

Collector: [laughter] “Has this happened to people you know or is it just something that you’ve heard about?”

JS: [laughter] “No, it’s never happened to anyone I’ve known. It’s probably all just made up. You can never be too careful, though. The place still gives off the creepy vibes and I am not making up that it used to be a hospital…look it up!”

Analysis

Buildings that have taken on lives beyond their original intention or original owners are often claimed as haunted places. The inevitability of death and pain in places like hospitals and prisons adds a very convincing layer to many that there are still souls who cannot escape the earth trapped in these locales. Many people are uncomfortable thinking about the harsh lives of those in the same spot as them, even if they did not know them directly. The legend is known to students of USC because of how many end up living at the Lorenzo after they lose their spots in student housing. To this very day, people consider ghosts as considerations when deciding where to live, which demonstrates how strong the belief in after life and spirits are in the US.

Legends
Narrative

Lonnie Lake

Main Piece
Lonnie Lake
Well there is the Lonnie Lake tale. Well, So, there was a horror story they would tell us at YSSC, Yosemite Sierra Summer Camp. There was a story that, this is told to 13-year-old boys, so, there is a lake in Yosemite that is not even on the map. so, like, It was a lake in kind of like the finger lakes area, on the Yosemite side of the national forest whatever boundary, and it was a place apparently so dangerous that they removed it from the map. So not even on the map. So the story goes that there was the spirit this Native American women who was hurt brutally hurt by young braves, and her way of revenge was drowning young boys in the lake. It’s called Lonnie Lake, and that’s where she died, and that’s where her spirit lives, a native American spirit, who drowned boys in the lake. And you’re not supposed to go to Lonney Lake, because if you go in the lake, she drowns you. I was told this by the staff of the camp, so don’t ever go to Lonney Lake and don’t go in, because there will a native American spirit and she will drown you.

Background
Yosemite Sierra Summer Camp is a Christian Adventure camp located near Bass Lake, California, right near Yosemite National Park. The camp includes all sorts of different activities, including lake activities like water skiing and wakeboarding. The campers range in age from 8-16, with the informant recalling a time when he was 13-years-old. The camp is located on Bass Lake, with the story about a different lake named “Lonnie Lake”.

Context
The informant is a 25-year-old man, born and raised in a Christian family in Southern California. The information was collected while inside his family home in Palm Desert, California, on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I thought it was really interesting to hear about this tale, for I had also attended this same camp, but had never heard this tale. I enjoyed how the informant identified this story correctly as a tale, instead of legend or myth, which would have been incorrect. Upon further research, I cannot find any evidence of this “Lonnie Lake”, yet tales involving Native American spirits are common. I wonder about the purpose of creating a cautionary tale about a lake that truly doesn’t exist. I also think it interesting for such a tale to be shared at a Christian camp, for the religion does not endorse ghosts or vengeful ghost-spirits. I think it must be really fun for the participants of the tradition to tell the story and try to scare the campers, but I do not think that the telling of the story has any meaningful link to Native American tradition. Instead, it utilizes the native american tradition in another way.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Life cycle
Magic
Narrative
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Haunted Babies

The informant was telling me of a belief that there are different kinds of babies. She explains how some babies are possessed by spirits when they are born below:

There is one kind of baby that only cries at night and it cries really loud. We have a specific phrase for them yia cu long which means those babies are haunted by some kind of ghosts, because like when a baby is first born they seem very vulnerable to ghosts, so they can easily see ghosts since they’re just born. If a baby is always crying at night it means yi cu long, meaning they are kind of haunted by ghosts, and so that’s why the baby is terrified and he always cry during the night. So in some of the culture what they will do is they will actually have like a person to do some ceremony in order to get the ghost out of their body or stop them from haunting the baby, so it’s like a witch but not really, and then after that the babies are not supposed to cry anymore during the night.

 

So like one of my mom’s friends, his grandson actually all of a sudden started crying at night everyday and he finds someone to produce the ceremony or whatever, and the baby actually stopped crying.

 

Context:

One day when we were talking she told me she had some interesting pieces of her culture that she could share with me, so a few weeks later we met a little café on campus at USC. We sat outdoors while she shared this tradition with me.

Background:

My informant was raised in China until middle school. When she was sixteen years old she moved to the US where she attended a boarding school in Maryland for high school. My informant transferred to USC for her sophomore year of college.  She was telling me about a superstition in Chinese culture that is practiced when babies are crying. A family friend of her mother had a grandson who was crying and ‘haunted’ by a spirit, and when this ritual was performed, the baby stopped crying at night, meaning the spirit was gone.

Analysis:

I found it intriguing that babies can be ‘possessed’ by spirits because they are weaker and new to the world. Even more so, I think it’s incredibly that my informants family friend’s grandson stopped crying after the ritual was performed, which gives the ritual more credibility.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Myths
Tales /märchen

Filipino Folklore: The Maligno

Context:

The informant is a Filipino American woman in her late twenties. I asked her if she knew any stories or folklore from either friends or possibly any folklore from her family and her culture. She mentioned her mother knew many stories about spirits and creatures in the Philippines. The main piece is told in her own words:

The Main Piece:

So, my cousin’s friend decided to set up an apartment for drafting for their upcoming architecture firm. Her friend apparently had a sixth sense, looked out the window, saw a tree in the neighbor’s yard, and suddenly left and didn’t want to return. Apparently, she said there was a tree full of Maligno. My mom said it was a bad area.

Background:

The informant knows this piece from her family and folklore from her own culture. She is Filipino and her mother shared these stories with her and her siblings. She states, “My mom told us about this story while we were in the Philippines. We were visiting some of the old houses where my mom and relatives grew up, which were supposedly haunted. One of the houses had some crazy scratches on the wood floors and little footprint markings. The she started talking about folklore and how they could have been made.” She says it’s interesting because the stories explain what happens when certain areas create bad feelings or if someone has a certain ailment, certain creatures in the Philippines are responsible for them.

Notes:

Namaligno is a term used by Filipinos for someone being affected by something magical or supernatural. Maligno are spirits that haunt places or people. They can also disguise themselves as regular people. If the Maligno takes a liking to a certain individual, it can cause harm to them. For example, in the Philippines, when someone comes down with a sickness or ailment, it is because the Maligno is attached to that individual. Filipinos believe that certain diseases can be caused by the intervention of a magical or supernatural entity. This is usually due to a disease, sickness or ailment that cannot be explained or has no apparent cause. An example of this is Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome, a common occurrence in the Philippines. Due to the lack of explanation as to how people die from this, Filipinos will connect the cause to Malignos. It is an interesting concept because we, as humans, always need and explanation for things. The unknown is an unsatisfactory answer for why certain things happen, so to cope with the unexplained, we search for reasons why. This would explain how in many different cultures, there are creatures or spirits that are to blame for unexplained phenomena.

 

 

For another version/story of Maligno, check out: http://phspirits.com/maligno/

Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Filipino Funeral Rituals & Superstitions

Context:

The informant is a 26-year-old male of Filipino descent. He will be referred to as DY. DY and his family lived in Hawaii for a time, and he currently resides in California. His piece of folklore comes from a memory he had in Hawaii and is described in the main piece in his own words:

Main Piece:

With my family, growing up I had a few family members pass away and I realized as a kid that our grieving process was different. Prior to the funeral we would go through a 9 day prayer process but what stood out to me after all of that is that we would do this ritual where my family would boil guava leaves, water, and vinegar together and the person closest to the deceased would rub this mixture on every member of the family’s face. I asked my mom why we would do that, and my mom told me that it’s because It’s one of the final steps that we need to do in order to help the dead move on or else they will still linger onto this world and attach themselves to anyone who didn’t partake in the ritual. If anyone starts to feel some sort of sickness around the time of these prayers, they would do this thing we called “Ano ano” where my aunt would knock on the forehead of the person feeling sick because it was a sign of the dead trying to hold onto that person. My mom never believed in it because she never felt any kind of dizziness or sickness, but a good chunk of my aunties is superstitious in that way so if you felt any sort of dizziness you had to have it happen to you.

Background:

DY heard the folklore from his mother, but it appears that the folklore is common knowledge among the elders in the family. It’s something passed down to the children to continue the tradition.  DY believes that through spiritual experiences he’s had with the passing of his grandmother, that he believes the rituals have magical properties but that he doesn’t really participate in them so he might not continue the tradition with his own children.

Notes:

The act of these rituals seems to be more than just the action of doing them. These rituals and traditions are important in keeping the family united. It is a social experience that of course, serves a purpose, but it also brings the family closer together. The use of guava leaves in a basin can also be used as a wash when people leave the funeral or cemetery, they rinse their hands in the basin to remove the spirits that may have attached themselves to the living.

 

Legends
Myths
Tales /märchen

The Lady in White at La Quinta Resort

Context:

The informant is a 45-year-old man and of Mexican ethnicity. The informant is my uncle on my mother’s side. On a trip to Palm Springs, my parents, uncle and aunt, who is referred to as YV in this piece, stayed at the La Quinta Resort for a weekend. On arrival, my uncle experienced something unusual.

Main Piece:

Okay, so we arrived at La Quinta resort at night. We parked curbside about 30 feet from our cottage. Your mum and dad were already inside. YV and I were unloading our bags from the car and I grabbed my things and was walking slowly towards the cottage looking down to the walkway. When I looked forward, I noticed an image of a woman standing near a tree about 40 ft away. She was wearing all white and she had long, black hair. I looked back to see if YV was looking in the same direction, but she was still getting her things from the car.  I quickly turned to where I had seen this woman, but she had disappeared. A shiver ran down my spine. I didn’t immediately tell YV of what I had just seen because I had a feeling she’d freak out.  Unbeknownst to me, YV later showed me a coffee mug she bought from hotel as a souvenir.  The woman on the mug is the woman I saw that night. Again, I felt that same shiver run down my back.

Background:

This is a personal experience that my uncle witnessed firsthand. Prior to this experience, he had no knowledge of hauntings or stories surrounding the Resort.

Notes:

There are similar stories told by other guests who have stayed at the resort regarding ghosts and hearing ghostly voices. A security guard working one night claimed to have seen a ghostly woman walking across the tennis courts at the hotel. Many stories describe experiences within the hotel rooms and bungalows. My aunt YV, experienced something in her room the same night my uncle saw the ghost woman. YV’s description matches the descriptions that other guests have had as well.

 

For more accounts of ghostly experiences at the La Quinta Resort, check this out:

https://www.hauntedplaces.org/item/la-quinta-resort-and-club/

Legends
Narrative

La Carreta Chillona/ The Weeping Wagon

Main Piece:

“It is a wagon that goes through the many towns during midnight. The spirits on the wagon would take all those it crossed. It is said that they would take them to hell. At midnight, you could hear the sound of the wooden wheel very loudly marking the wagon’s passage through the town. The wagon was conducted by spirits from hell in order to take humans to hell. My sister and I heard the wagon passing some nights. Maybe it was our imagination or fear, but we really thought we heard it passing. Some even say they saw it.”

Context: The informant is a middle-aged woman, born in El Salvador. Her mother told her this story, and she believes now that like many of the other stories her family told her, they were in order to prevent them from wandering the streets at night.

Thoughts:

I agree with the informant that the function of these stories is to prevent the young from wandering at night in order to avoid the many dangers that could occur at that hour.

Narrative

The Cow Head Man

Main Piece:

“When I was a child my mother told me that one late night, she stayed up waiting for my father to return home. It was really late…we lived up in the mountains. So it was always very dark. My mother said that she looked out the sliding back doors and she saw, what looked like a man. She ducked behind the couch quickly as the man walked closer to the sliding doors. When it got up to the doors my mother noticed that the man’s head was that of a cow. It had big black eyes and it just stood there…only moving its eyes from one side to the other. My mother was so scared, she did not know what to do. I think I remember her saying that the cow head man was there for about 10 minutes, looking around. Finally, my father arrived, and his headlights beamed toward the back. That is when my mother looked out again and the cow head man had disappeared.

“This figure, man, or whatever it is has always followed my family and I around.” (when she said this, I asked her what she meant by that, and she continued to tell the story.)

“You see, no matter where we moved to, my mother or me or one of my sisters or brothers said they saw the same man. The last time I saw him it was here (Her current home). I was in the back bedroom, asleep. I was waiting for my husband to arrive. I woke up exactly at 12 midnight. It was weird because my body just woke up on its own, anyway, when I looked over to the window there he was, with his cow head and those huge black eyes. He was just staring at me. I was so afraid. I could not move. There was a point when he looked away from me and that is when I ran right out of there and told my sister. My sister yelled at it and that was not good. You aren’t supposed to test them like that. It’s crazy because it just doesn’t leave us alone.”

 

Context:

The informant is an elderly Caucasian woman born and raised in Tennessee. She first heard about this entity from her mother when she was a child. According to her she has also witnessed the entity with her own eyes. She is not sure why it follows her family around.

 

Analysis: It seems that this story is one shared by many members of this woman’s family. They have all claimed to have encountered this entity in some way or another.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A Tame Sort of Trance

During high-school, my dad studied abroad in Brazil for a year. He stayed with a family of Lebanese immigrants who showed him both Brazilian and Lebanese traditions, and always included him in everything. Growing up, I heard tons of stories from his time there. The Brazilian stories were relatively tame – beaches, clubs, schools, etc. But the Lebanese culture was of particular interest.

Driving home from lunch one sunny afternoon, I ask him and my mom if they have any stories that I could use for my folklore project.

“I was just thinking about my experiences when I was a teenager in Brazil with a family of Lebanese immigrants who were Druze, and had the belief of many paths to the mountaintop. But they also had a uh.. a spiritualist element. And after I’d been there several months, they let me go to a family ceremony which was on a Sunday. One of the uncles would go into a trance and kind of channel spirits and try to get insight into some of the issues facing the family. So he would stand there and close his eyes, and appear to be communing with the spirits. And everybody would be quiet and sitting around, um, and then he would speak to them. But that was all in Arabic so I didn’t understand a word. Um.. But other than that, then they would say he’s asking about some problems we’re having with the business or this or that, and he would get some direction. They…they had these kind of sessions where one or more of them would kind of be in a sort of trance-like state. So I remember viewing that and thinking that was sort of interesting.”

Whenever I think of communing with the spirits, I picture ouji boards or fire-and-brimstone preachers in the deep south flailing around with snakes on their arms. I picture people getting real serious and asking about life’s deeper questions. It’s quite funny to picture this fairly frequent occurrence, where a member of the family would go into a trance and just ask advice for everyday problems. Obviously, the whole thing was treated seriously, as my dad had to earn a certain amount of trust before he was allowed to attend. But even so, there’s a lightness to it that is not normally associated with channeling spirits.

 

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Duppies

Panteha’s mom is from Jamaica, and taught her many legends and folk beliefs from Jamaican folklore. The following is a description Panteha shared with me of folkloric figures called “duppies”:

“So duppies are like, they’re like spirits…so there’s like good duppies and bad duppies. So like a duppy is basically like, someone’s soul that’s still stuck on earth and has been basically just like causing trouble. And there can be like, good duppies that like, they can give you good luck or whatever. But like, obviously no one talks about that; all they do is talk about the bad duppies. And my mom used to do this like, really scary voice when she was talking about it–she was like, ‘duppies sound like this! they sound like this,’ it’s like when Danny’s doing the ‘red rum’ [in The Shining]. They’re supposed to have these crazy like, nasally voices…

You know how like uh, like you have a day where you wake up and you stub your toe and burn your tongue on coffee and like, all these small little things happen? That’s supposedly like, bad duppies just like causing shit for you. And so when that would happen like, literally eating a spoonful of salt is supposed to stop that. So like, I remember like, one specific morning when I was really young, I fell out of bed and like hurt my ankle and like whatever, like burnt my tongue and tripped andy mom was like trying to force me to eat a whole-ass spoonful of salt and I was like, “no,” like I’m not gonna do that. Um and then, ugh, what else…My mom actually didn’t tell me this cause I think she um, didn’t wanna tell me cause I was like a little kid, but I heard from one of my uncles that like, you can shame a duppy or like, scare away a duppy by like, shamelessly exposing your genitals.”

Many cultures hold a belief in malicious or irksome spirits of some kind, which cause trouble for the living but can usually be warded off with certain practices or precautions. Salt often figures prominently in magical remedies for evil spirits’ acts, across cultures. In Jamaica, as in many Caribbean and Latin American countries, West African and indigenous mystical practices coexist with Christianity. Panteha’s mom is an observant Christian, but simultaneously maintains a belief in folk beliefs like that of the duppies.

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