Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (HH).
CB: “Can you tell me about Fort Ord?”
HH: “Okay so i heard this story about the old Fort Ord barracks and how they got abandoned because there was this soldier who… um… was apparently was like ignored and really unhappy for a long time and he would like talk about seeing ghosts and a couple people thought that he was like maybe schizophrenic. But he…uh… he ended up hanging himself in the barracks in front of a bunch of his fellow soldiers. And then, after he died, a bunch of people would say that they could like still hear his warnings and like his stories of seeing things. And hear his footsteps. Its really simple and kinda stupid, but that’s what I heard about the old Fort Ord barraks. And thats why they had to shut everything down because it was like affecting their life and the government was getting backlash for it”
CB: “So, where did you hear this story?”
HH: “Um, it was from someone I knew in high school.”
CB: “What do you think is the meaning behind the story?”
HH: “Um, I think it was that um… the government doesn’t really care about our soldiers and their mental health”
CB: “Why do you think people tell the story”
HH: “I think that it’s still very much a problem. Like for soldiers who come back from active duty and they suffer from PTSD, they just don’t really have a lot of resources or outreach. Like they do now a little more that mental health is on the front line of peoples worries, but even now i still think soldiers are kinda shamed for having it.”
My informat grew up in Salinas, California, which is just minutes from Fort Ord. The fort was abandoned in the 90’s, and there have been all sorts of mysterious stories about the abandonment. The community had a very close relationship with the The old barracks of the fort are a known hangout spot for teens, and with that comes all sorts of ghost stories.
I had actually called my informant’s mother to interview her about folklore, but my informant overheard the conversation and told me this story. My informant and her mom were in the car, and they told me this story while driving around Salinas. The conversation was fun and casual.
I think that ghost stories naturally present themselves whenever there is an abandoned structure. I think that ghost stories are particularly common when dealing with american teen culture. However, I think that it’s really interesting what the stories reveal about what that culture values at that time. Most of the ghost stories that I’ve heard place little emphasis on who the ghost used to be, just on the death and the haunting. But this story explains a history of untreated mental illness as the reason for the death, and possibly even the haunting. It places a clear blame on the US government for neglecting their soldiers. A lot of the more recent movements for mental health awareness and help have been led by young people, and so it makes sense that the folklore that young people tell would begin to incorporate their values.