Author Archives: atzhang

Johnny Appleseed

I also remember the tale of Johnny Appleseed—and as a kid I used to think of him every time I ate an apple and threw away the core. So the idea is that this guy, supposedly called Johnny Appleseed, traveled across the nation on foot and planted apple trees whenever he went and carried a whole bag of apple seeds. When we learned about him in elementary school the teachers said that he loved nature and animals, and respected the land, so it was kinda inspirational to hear about his kindness. Apparently he loved all living things, and wouldn’t even harm a fly. So he also gave away apple trees to settlers who were moving westward, and helped them with food and shelter—he was a really benevolent story.
When I grew up, I thought this was mostly a legend or that it was some made-up story, but it turns out that he was a real guy, and his real name was John Chapman.

Context: This was an over the phone interview with another classmate of mine who told me about her experience learning about this legend in her childhood. All text was transcribed from audio.

Johnny Appleseed’s benevolent actions paint a brighter picture of American expansionism and Manifest Destiny, which occurred during his lifetime. He symbolizes this spirit of pioneering, and conservationism and generosity, which reminds me a bit of Thanksgiving tales where settlers and Natives feasted peacefully and learned from each other, which may be an over-idyllic picture.

Bloody Mary

“Okay so when I was younger, in like elementary school or something probably around third or fourth grade I would be scared to go into a certain girls bathroom because the older girls, like the girls in fifth grade, would tell all the younger girls that this girl named bloody Mary lived in the front bathroom of the school. One time I went in there, and to mess with me, they turned the lights off when I was using the bathroom and made ghost sounds so that I would think bloody Mary was coming to get me, and I avoided that bathroom for like the entire rest of the year because I was afraid that I would get sucked into the mirror because that’s what they said would happen if she caught you looking at her. They also would try to get girls to stand in the bathroom and say bloody Mary three times in front of the mirror as a dare which became a big thing throughout the school and if you would do it, it was like you were super cool and not afraid of anything.”

Context: This was an over the phone interview with another classmate of mine who told me about her personal experience in elementary school. All text was transcribed from audio.

This legend (as told through personal significance) speaks to the significance of evoking fear through the supernatural, and how middle schoolers are often gullible or easily manipulated into fearing certain things. It can also be a cautionary tale/dare that is often enacted during gatherings to see who “chickens out,” acting as a litmus test for social standing.

Paul Revere

“So I went to high school in Boston, and we talked about Paul Revere in history class, probably because of our location and being in a city with so many historic sights—we even got to go on a class field trip downtown to see some of these sites he visited, such as the Old North Church, where Revere’s lanterns were hung as a first warning.
What I understood was that during the Revolutionary War, Paul Revere was summoned as a rider to carry messages across cities, and one day he got wind that the British soldiers in Boston wanted to go and arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were founding fathers, so he rode through Arlington and Medford (right by where I live) and yelled “The British are coming!” So that they’d be aware of this threat and could escape.
Later on I learned he didn’t actually yell that famous phrase, but I think the rest of the story mostly adds up.”

This was an in-person interview with another classmate of mine who told me about her experiences with this historical legend during high school. The text was taken from and recorded during our conversation.

Paul Revere’s legendary ride served as a symbol of bravery and patriotism, representing resistance against imperialism and tyranny. It also serves as a nice source of historical pride for the New England region with its many similar figures.


“The story of Chupacabra is pretty common in Mexican culture–my parents and friends and all would joke about it or tell stories about it. The name means “Goat Sucker,” and it’s like a cryptid kinda like Bigfoot, that sucks the blood out of farm animals, so a lot of farmers kinda are in on this legend too. Basically what would happen is that if a farmer would go to sleep and awaken to see a dead animal with two teeth marks at its side, it would know that the Chupcabra killed that animal. And so my parents would sometimes joke, “Oh, don’t stay out too late because otherwise the Chupacabra will come and get you” so there was an element of fear too.
I didn’t hear about this too much as a serious story, but the legend is mostly like in northern Mexico or the southern USA, since I guess there’s a lot more agriculture and farmers there. Although, one day I was watching a TV channel and I heard that one of the neighboring towns, Cuero, Texas, had a Chupacabra sighting, and they said they found part of the head (of a kinda wolf-like creature) that was found outside her home.”


This was an in-person interview with a friend of mine who told me about his experiences with this legend from his culture. The text was taken from and recorded during our conversation.

While descriptions of the Chupacabra vary, the legend almost serves as a cultural manifestation of the fear of the unknown/supernatural. It can be a way to make younger ones obedient by instilling fear, and taps into the similar types of cryptid legends like Bigfoot in the American West.

Korean Fan Death

“So, growing up in a Korean household, I’d heard a lot about the dangers of leaving a fan on overnight. My grandparents, and to a lesser extent, my parents told me to turn off electric fans or to open a door/window before falling asleep. I think they believed that keeping the fan on in a closed room would somehow suck all of the air out of the room and suffocate you, as if the fan were a living creature.

I wasn’t sure where this started, but I’d heard about it stemming from wartime efforts where the government tried to limit electricity usage by convincing people to turn the fans off, something similar to how in England during WW1 they tried to get people to eat more carrots for vision or something.
You know sometimes it happens on the news, like every year they’ll report on it, but it usually turns out that each case actually has a different underlying reason, like natural causes or something. But asked my dad if this happened back in his day and he does remember this one case when he was a child, where they said that there was a bunch of people who died with electric fans on during a heatwave in the 1990’s, and they had a doctor say that “this type of death occurs when one is exposed to electric fan breezes for long hours in a sealed area, and . excessive exposure to such a condition lowers one’s temperature and hampers blood circulation, [leading] to the paralysis of heart and lungs.” I’m not a doctor, but I think it might’ve just been due to the heatwave at the time.”

This was an in-person interview with a friend of mine who told me about his experiences with this myth/legend from his culture. The text was taken from and recorded during our conversation.

Interpretation: This shows how, even though it’s scientifically disproven, a belief can persist in a culture by being passed down through each generation by word of mouth. The significance lies in its power of superstition as well as how it reflects culturally specific fears.