USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘students’
Folk Beliefs
general
Myths

The Author of Ben-Hur

The rumor/myth: “The author of Ben-Hur, whose name is something Lane I think? (The only book ever written in Crawfordsville, Indiana.) His house is in Crawfordsville, and they say that on the grounds of this house is like every tree that’s like native to Indiana. I don’t actually know if it’s true though, I heard it from my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Harris. She was really weird.”

The informant, originally from Crawfordsville, told me this about the author of Ben-Hur, actually named Lew Wallace. He has never actually read the novel, but his teacher told their class about Wallace’s house in Crawfordsville. I think she told 5th graders this story to give them pride about their hometown, as it is a very small rural town that isn’t very famous to people that aren’t from there. Its truth value doesn’t seem to matter, and one could even say that it’s a sacred truth to the inhabitants of Crawfordsville. I imagine Mrs. Harris would be a bit offended if anyone challenged her on the verity of this statement, since it represents the mythology of Crawfordsville.

Humor

Saran-Wrapping

Standard saran wrap will cling to itself, and using this property, it is possible to temporarily trap a friend in bed my tightly wrapping a few rolls around the width of their bed while they sleep.

 

My informant learned this practical joke when members of his club water polo team started to talk about it.  His teammates were also playing for their respective high school teams at the same time, and a few of them had just returned from a tournament in San Jose.  During the trip, they had succeeded in pulling this prank on the only freshman that played on their varsity team.  While away from home, the whole team shared a room of bunk beds for when they needed to sleep.  Early in they day, they pulled the freshman’s bed out from the wall, to make it easier to unroll the saran wrap around the width of the bed.  Once the freshman had fallen asleep, the rest of the team unraveled several rolls of saran wrap around the freshman, holding him in place.  The rest of the team woke up five minutes before the freshman and watched him struggle and scream a few times before he saw the saran wrap holding him down.

My informant thought this was awesome and he decided he would try it himself as soon as possible.  He told me that this prank can work as long as you share a room and it works best if the victim is sleeping on the top of a bunk bed because it’s easier to maneuver the saran wrap.  The victim will wake up and try to get up like usual, but none of his appendages will respond because they’re held in place under the layers of saran wrap.  They’ll be terrified, trapped, and paralyzed for a few moments until they figure out what has happened.  He also suggested that it’s used because the culprits bond as they plan the prank and it’s funny to watch the victim struggle in bed.

This prank closely simulates the human condition of sleep paralysis.  Someone suffering from sleep paralysis will experience temporary paralysis after they wake up.  It occurs when the brain awakes from REM sleep before the rest of the body.  The paralysis can last for a few seconds to a few minutes, until the person is able to return to sleep or completely awaken. To a person that doesn’t suffer from sleep paralysis, waking up with the inability to move can be terrifying.  One’s mind immediately starts to imagine life as a quadriplegic before looking for any reasonable explanation for the immobility.

I have a personal experience with this prank because my informant attempted to perform it on me.  We attended a weekend-long winter camp in high school.  On the first night, I woke up, it was extremely bright and it felt like there were daggers in my face.  I immediately thought to sit up and stop whatever was hurting my face.  There was a little resistance, and I sat up and saw my informant and friends laughing.  I punched a few of them before turning over and going back to bed.  In the morning my informant told me the group had tried to trap me in bed, but they could not get the saran wrap tight enough to hold me down.  Also, the group grew tired of waiting for me to wake up, so they shined a flashlight in my eyes.  When that didn’t work, they threw snow in my face.  This accounts for the brightness and the pain I felt on my face.  I was upset that I had been awoken from my sleep and that my face hurt from being covered in snow, but I was also glad that the group chosen to prank me over anyone else.  In this way, this was a rite of passage, as I had gone from an outsider to someone that was involved in their prank.  Similarly, the freshman mentioned earlier was accepted by his team in the same way.

[geolocation]