USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘The Bad Lady’
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The Bad Lady

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

I’m Caucasian with a lot of European descent. Grew up in Florida, and my family was originally from New York.

Piece:

So there’s this woman called the bad lady who lives in swamps in Florida and she’s supposed to be like this Native American spirit who hunts down children who are behaving badly. And what she does… which is like REALLY ridiculous is she kidnaps you from your parents and then puts you in a cage and hangs you above her pit of crocodiles, or alligators cause it’s Florida- her pit of alligators. Then she takes off your shoes and rubs a feather against your feet so that your toes start like twitching out. As the alligators below are like snapping at them. And then if you’re a really bad kid, she’ll continue to do it until one by one the alligators bite your toes off. And then you have to go back to your parents as this toeless child to remind you never to be bad to them.

My parents told me this story but they weren’t the only ones. Other kids in my neighborhood heard about it too, older kids. I think the first time I was threatened to be sent to The Bad Lady, I was like 4… by my parents. But then other kids sometimes would like bully the younger kids and be like “oh well if you try to play with us, we’re going to call The Bad Lady. We’ve been there. We know what she does.” And then they would like pretend to take off their shoes and stuff.

Piece Background Information:

I definitely think that like all the moms in the neighborhood got together and just invented this story. But I feel like it had to have come from somewhere so there might have been some background of either like a woman who did weird things in the forest or just like a legend of like a spirit. My mom insists that she(The Bad Lady) is real to this day.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in Ronald Tutor Campus Center on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Although, as the informant believes, The Bad Lady was most likely conceived of by the mothers within the informant’s town, and thus an urban legend, the fact that all the mothers and the older kids spread and hold up the story lends itself to Dundes’ definition of folklore in that there is multiplicity in stories about The Bad Lady as well as variation, in a sense. This variation is, in my opinion, due to its similarity to the story of La Llorana which is also told to kids, usually by parents or those older than them, to keep them from misbehaving.

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