USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘woods’
general
Legends
Narrative

Tailypo Horror Story

Informant:

J, a 22-year-old, Caucasian male who grew up in San Francisco, California until he turned 16. He now lives in Boise, Idaho. He spent his summers at summer camp with his friends.

Background info:

During summer camps, counselors and children would sit around a firepit at night and tell stories. While some of these were positive, most of them would be told with the aim of scaring people. This is one of the stories told to J during one of these sessions.

Context:

This was told amongst a group of friends sitting in a circle around a firepit late at night, slightly intoxicated, telling each other their favorite scary stories they heard as children.

Main piece:

“Okay… so there’s this guy who lives in the mountains all alone. His life is simple and quiet… This guy… he keeps three dogs with him for hunting and tracking, but… one winter… there is a huge shortage of game… As his storages begin running out, he spends all day looking for food with his dogs and his rifle. One day, as he’s looking for dinner, he shoots a rabbit and shares it with his dogs. Obviously, he’s still hungry. He’s like six foot – one eighty… He continues his hunt until he finds some strange tracks he’s never seen before, three long claws… This dude’s starving, so he follows them late into the night. Eventually, the tracks go cold… The guy looks around…, frantically looking for new tracks, knowing he won’t see another animal for a while… As he’s looking around, he sees something stalking on the branches of a nearby tree… BAM!… He shoots it… He begins looking around for the animal but cannot find it. He eventually gives up, as it is getting late, and decides to head back empty-handed. As he begins to lay down, he notices that one of his dogs brought something back with them – the tail of the animal! He boils it into a stew and enjoys the reward of a long day before falling into a deep slumber… *Chittering, clawing, and scratching noises*… The guy slowly awakens to the noises to see the creature at the foot of his bed. In an otherworldly voice, the man hears it demand its ‘tailypo’. The dogs begin to growl and chase the creature back into the woods and the man passes out… He wakes again in the morning, thinking it was nothing more than a dream… One of the dogs is missing. He spends the day searching for it, but as night falls again, he gives up and tries to catch up on sleep from the night before… *Chittering, clawing, and scratching noises*… The man JUMPS awake to find the creature at the side of his bed now, demanding more aggressively that the man return its ‘tailypo’. His dogs again chase after the creature and the man, terrified, eventually falls asleep. When he wakens, he realizes that this was no dream… Two of his dogs are now missing, and he knows the creature will return this night. He begins fortifying his cabin and sits up all day and night with his gun and his last dog at his side… *Chittering, clawing, and scratching noises*… The dog jumps to its feet and runs after the noise, barking… *Barking, cut short*… *Chittering, clawing, and scratching noises*… The man shakingly aims his gun at the door… The window near his bed shatters. BAM! The man fires his weapon accidentally. As he frantically tries to reload his rifle, the creature leaps upon him. Eye to eye, the beast once again demands the return of his ‘tailypo’… As the sun rises, the man is flayed beyond recognition. To this day, on the darkest of nights, the creature can still be heard whispering for its ‘tailypo’… *Chittering, clawing, and scratching noises*…”

Thoughts:

As I read back through this transcript, I wish it could better capture the feeling of this piece. As far as ‘scary’ stories go, this piece was among one of the best I’ve ever heard. It was exhilarating, and the ambiance of the environment in which it was told played into it with the cold, quiet, dark night with the flames casting shadows around us. I think the story was interesting coming from J, as he was raised in San Francisco, nowhere near the woody area described in the story. However, because it was told during summer camps, I believe it made it even more terrifying at the time (due to being told to children unfamiliar with their environment). There are many stories in which events happen in sets of three. The number of dogs, the number of times the creature visits the man, and the number of claws the creature had are all sets of three. The sound effects that J used during the story really made it come alive, which is why I believe most recounts of live stories like this do not capture the actual experience of the story.

Festival
general
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Stump Murderer

Folklore Piece

“So this is just an old ghost story from camp, in northern Wisconsin. But this guy who was an old janitor at the camp went out to the woods to start chopping trees to make room for this new court they wanted to build. So he started chopping down trees with an axe and he cut off his leg. So he only had one leg after that, and um, so he uh, filled that with a stump that he had found and used that as his leg. This scared the campers so much that the camp fired him and sent him away. But what ended up happening that next summer, a boy was taking a shower on his own at the shower house at night. And then he would hear footsteps and a log kind of dragging. The story is that each year he comes back once and takes one kid and buries them in the back.”

Background

“Yeah I like the story, It’s pretty morbid actually. I mean, like, here we have these pretty young campers, talking about someone chopping his leg off and stealing children, and yet, like, it’s totally OK, because it’s summer camp. How crazy is that, when you think about it, really? Like, ok, if I went up to some kid at a school, and I told the same story about a janitor working in the woodshop, like, I’d probably be arrested! It’s just funny to me. But, uh, yeah, I love telling this story”

Context:

“We’d usually do the whole campfire thing. You know, uh like we would get all the campers around at night and go around telling stories. We would tell this story one of, like, the first nights. It’s actually a pretty clever way to get them to, like, stick together”

 

Analysis: Upon first listen, I didn’t think much of this story. It seemed like a hodgepodge of a number of different classic folk-tales: the peg-legged pirate, the axe murderer, the former camper turned raging homicidal maniac, etc. However, I think there is something deeper to be found here. At the centerpiece of the story is this rivalry between the janitor and the camp. The camp’s work is what made him lose his leg, and yet the camp are the ones who banished him. Then, when he comes back, he takes retribution upon the camp in the form of taking kids that are alone. This serves two functions. First, it teaches the kids to respect the camp and its dangers, but more importantly, and implicitly, to never wander off alone. The informant mentioned later, once I prompted him with this question, that it is why they tell this story, for fun but also so that they don’t go wandering out at night alone.

As someone who did not grow up going to sleepaway camp, it was also intriguing to me that these nights of sharing scary stories around a campfire during summer camp actually happen. It sounds like a modern ritual to me if I’d ever heard one. The ambiance of the night time, the fire, and the stillness of the forest all provide the perfectly eerie ambiance for a scary ghost story, and now because of its association, one cannot come without the other.

 

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