Author Archives: Miriam Bedrin

The Origin of Chinese Valentine’s Day

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Taiwan
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/15
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English, Japanese

Context:

The topic of Disney’s Mulan came up in a conversation between the informant and me, and the informant said that she knew the story that inspired the movie. I asked her to share that story as well as other Chinese or Taiwanese stories she knew and recorded the conversation for collection purposes.

Transcript:

Informant: Okay, so in ancient China they believed, um, that stars are actually gods, just like, um, ancient Greek people. So there are, I think, these two stars that are especially bright. One is from the constellation of Altair, and in Chinese they call it like the “cow star,” “the coy boy.” Like the “boy who farms cows.” Okay, I’m going to call it “cow boy,” but it’s not that type of cowboy. The “cow boy star.”  And there’s this other star that’s called the “weaver star.” The “weaver girl star.” And that star’s from the constellation of Vega. A very bright star too. But these two stars are located across from the milky way. There’s this vertical milky way, and then the stars are on the two sides. Yeah, and so there was this story that the cow boy and the weaver girl, they fell in love with each other, but love is not allowed in the holy court of the Chinese gods. Like the highest god mother. So the highest god mother discovered that her granddaughter, the weaver girl, actually fell in love with another god, like a boy. And then she was angry, so she like kind of put the cow boy into exile, and she like abandoned, made him become a human, so instead of a god. So he reincarnated or something, he became a human, and his job was farming cows, so he’s still a cow boy. Um, but he had a friend who was also a god. And then this friend… Okay, his friend was Taurus, which is like the “golden cow” or something in Chinese. His friend golden cow spoke for him and then the god mother got angry with the golden cow as well, so she abandoned, she exiles Taurus as well. So Taurus became cow boy’s cow in the, in the human world. But Taurus knew what was going on, but the cow boy forgot everything that happened when he was a god. And then, um, so one day the weaver girl was very unhappy, so she tried to work very hard in her job in the hopes that her grandmother would let the cow boy come back again, and her job was to weave clouds. So she weaved some very beautiful clouds. Um… And then one day, I think the goddesses wanted to come down to the world of the humans to take a shower because apparently there was this really beautiful pool that they wanted to take a shower in. Or river. I don’t know. So they came down and took a shower. And when they came down, the Taurus who morphed into a cow spoke to the cow boy and said, “If  you go now to this poolside you will find a lot of women’s clothes, and you should go and take the one that is red. And if you take that one you will find a wife.” And then so the cow boy listened to his cow and went to the poolside and took the red clothes. So when the goddesses, or like fairies… Yeah. Maybe fairies is a more apt, uh, description. So when the fairies were done taking showers, they went back, but because the weaver girl, because she didn’t have her clothes on, she wasn’t able to return. And then the cow boy appeared with her clothes and asked if she would marry him. And, um, she was actually… She was at first very angry with him. But when she looked at the cow boy again, she discovered this was her… her lover from the past. She was really happy, so she agreed, and so they married, and then lived as a family in the human world and her job was to weave. His job was to farm cows. And then they were really happy together. Until the god mother discovers that her, the god mother’s granddaughter, the weaver girl, was with this guy again in the human world! So she was utterly angry. And then she came down and wanted to take, um, the weaver girl back to the world of the gods. And then the cow boy and their two children were very sad. They were horrified to be separated from the weaver girl. And so they were crying, and they were like begging. And um… Apparently the god mother was a little moved by this, so she allowed the cow boy and their two children to return. But she manually separated the cow boy and the weaver girl with like a river. I think she tore up the sky or something, and that’s how apparently the milky way formed. The milky way was there to separate these, the pair of lovers. And um… And said the cow boy and the weaver girl could only meet for one day in a whole year, and I believe that’s on July the 7th? I don’t know if the two stars actually converge on July the 7th. Maybe they do. Maybe they do like go into the milky way on July the 7th. I don’t know. But um, so reputedly, on July the 7th a bunch of birds, um… holy birds. Let’s see… Cranes! Okay. Cranes that signify happiness and love, right? A bunch of cranes would come and form a bridge so that the weaver girl and her husband and their two children can meet on the bridge for one day in a whole year. And… yeah. So that became the origin of the Chinese Valentine’s Day. And then these two stars would be just on the night sky.

Analysis:

This story provides an explanation for the Chinese celebration of Valentine’s Day. It has an elaborate exposition, and the actual basis for the holiday does not get revealed until the very end of the story. It tells the story of two lovers who a divine entity tried to separate and their eventual being allowed to have a relationship, but only on one day out of the entire year. The story sends the message that love cannot be mitigated by distance and by the efforts of outside parties if the couple’s feelings are strong enough.

The Story of the White Snake and Her Lover

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Taiwan
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/15
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English, Japanese

Context:

The topic of Disney’s Mulan came up in a conversation between the informant and me, and the informant said that she knew the story that inspired the movie. I asked her to share that story as well as other Chinese or Taiwanese stories she knew and recorded the conversation for collection purposes.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: A long time ago, there was this monk that was really proficient in his Buddhist studies. So, people who are proficient in the Buddhist studies, in Chinese culture they believe these people will reincarnate carrying the knowledge of the previous life with them. So this monk, one day he went to the market and saw that a butcher was about to kill a white snake. And white snakes in Chinese culture usually symbolize, I’m not sure, but they symbolize something… not bad. Maybe luck. So he saved the white snake from the butcher and released the snake. And in traditional Chinese folklore, they believed that if something lived for a long time, like even a tree or a grass or an animal, if they lived for a long time, they eventually developed intelligence, like a human. So this white snake lived a long time and, um, was able to, like… It became intelligent. And so she wanted to, it was a female, she wanted to return the kindness that this monk bestowed on her in saving her life. So she followed the monk, and the monk had a student. And she fell in love with the monk’s student. So she morphed into a human, a woman, and the student fell in love with her. And she also loved the student. So they married, but they married after the monk died. So the monk already died when they married. And they had a child, and they were really happy, until the monk reincarnated. Um, so he came back to find his student, only to find out that his student was married to, um, the white snake, the human form of the white snake. So, um… We can call it a phantom, though “phantom” usually implies that there isn’t a material form. So um… The actual term is “yaoguai,” which is like a phantom, but with actual form, physical. So he found out that his student married this phantom, and he was worried that the phantom might be a bad phantom, because there are bad and good phantoms. And so he told his student that his wife was actually not a human, but a huge white snake. And so, and then he told him… I think he gave him a tool, that if he used the tool to look at his wife at night, he would see that his wife was… He would see the girl’s original form. So the guy went back and saw that his wife was actually a huge white snake, and he was like terrified! So I think he went back with his son, and he abandoned his wife and his child and went back with his teacher, with the monk. But I think they were still in love with each other. And then, um, the white snake wanted to save… Well… She wanted to retrieve her husband, so she kind of flooded the temple where the monk was, and so the monk thought she was a really bad phantom. And the monk was stronger than the white snake, so in the end he defeated her and kind of entrapped her under a tower, um, and said that she couldn’t ever come out again unless this tree before her tower bloomed with flowers. But, um, that tree never bloomed, so it’s like impossible. You’ll never come out again. But! Time passed, and, um, their child went… He studied really hard, and he went to take this national test, in which he got number one. And then if you scored the top, then you get a flower, like a fake flower, from the emperor. So this child got the fake flower and then went back to the tower to visit his mom and hung the fake flower on the tree. And, um, and then this was kind of like the tree bloomed with a flower. And so his mom got released, and the family reunited happily ever after.

Me: So where did you hear this story for the first time?

Informant: I don’t know. I think this was just a really old folklore that, like, people just generally tell each other. Like maybe in kindergarten story time. Or maybe my parents told me as a bed time story, or something like that.

Me: And what, like, do you think is like the message behind the story?

Informant: Message?

Me: Or is there one?

Informant: Maybe be good. There are good phantoms who try to save people’s lives. Or it might be that like, um, life living as a monk without a wife might not be, uh, the happiest thing to do. Like you maybe want a wife or a child or a family, instead of keeping on studying, studying, studying for lives after lives after lives.

*laughter*

Me: Oh my god… Studying for lives after lives after lives…

Analysis:

In this story, the pair of lovers, the snake and the monk’s student, only meet accidentally when the snake tries to find the monk for saving her life. The monk, who earlier saves the snake, later opposes her when she enters a relationship with his student. The story shows interesting changes in relations between people through this case. The phantom’s getting released from the area under the tower despite its improbability demonstrates the futility of trying to keep lovers apart when their feelings for one another are strong. Her release also furthers the theme of chance, as she had to depend on her son receiving a flower as a gift and hanging it on the tree to be released.

The Story of Mulan

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Taiwan
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/15
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English, Japanese

Context:

The topic of Disney’s Mulan came up in a conversation between the informant and me, and the informant told me that she knew the story the movie was based on. We later met to talk about it and other Chinese stories, and I recorded the conversation for collection purposes.

Transcript:

Informant: The setting is a very very long time ago, in the dynasty of which the name I do not know. There was, um, this family, Mulan’s family, and she doesn’t have a brother, or, um, an older brother or a younger brother. The only man in her family was her father. And… The dynasty went to war with another country. So the emperor gave out a draft for all the laymen to come to the army. And since Mulan’s family did not have any, uh, males other than her father, her father was kind of like required to go to the army. But, um, Mulan’s father was very old, and Mulan was worried that if her father went, he wouldn’t be able to, like, he would never come back. So instead, she disguised as a man and went into the army by herself. And this is actually a very, uh, rare act in ancient China, because women at that time were expected to be gentle and soft and weak. But, um, she did this, and then, um, joined the army, and I don’t think anybody discovered that she was actually a woman. And she fought the war, and reputedly she got safely back home. So that was nice. And you would think that in ancient China, those who worshiped gentleness and kindness would criticize her actions, but she actually wasn’t criticized. And that’s because this brave act of hers displayed, um, filial piety and a lot of love for her father, and that was like a more important value for women, to be loyal and pious to their family. So, that’s the end of the story.

Analysis:

“The Story of Mulan” upholds loyalty to one’s family as a more important priority than staying consistent with societal expectations regarding one’s behavior. The story also focuses on a female character who defies gender roles and portrays her positively. It also includes elements of identity concealment and deception through Mulan’s disguising herself as a man. The poem Ballad of Mulan is regarded as the first instance the character appeared in print. Mulan also appears in modern works such as the 1998 film Mulan by Walt Disney Pictures and the television show Once Upon a Time, which airs on ABC. Mulan’s character has remained popular for centuries, and knowledge of her story has spread far beyond its origins in China.

Dining Etiquette

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/1/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context:

The informant, who is Buddhist, gave a presentation at a recent retreat on spirituality that I had gone on. I asked to meet with him to talk about other Buddhist principles and lore that he had not gone over at the retreat.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: So, again, I was raised Buddhist. So my parents are Taiwanese Buddhist, which is a very specific like type of Buddhism. It’s a kind of pure land Buddhism, where it’s like, borderline spiritual, like religious Buddhism. Like a savior type of Buddhism, as opposed to, like the origin of Buddhism in India, which was more about self cultivation. One of the things that they espouse, or like, one way of practicing that Buddhist practice, is not eating meat. Because, you know, obviously if you eat meat, you are then thereby, you know, perpetuating the suffering of animals, or other living beings. So that makes sense. So there’s no beef, no chicken, no pork, no fish, no eggs… Actually they do eat eggs. Um, but then they go a step further, actually, and there’s a rule where you don’t eat garlic. Or you don’t eat anything that would like, smell bad. Which is so interesting. And like, my dad would always like, “Oh, make it vegetarian, but no onions.” And I was like, “What? Onions aren’t meat.” And he would be like, “But it’s the Buddhist thing to do.” And I’ve heard various, like, folklore as to why that is. Um, one of it is, like, so silly, like “Oh, you know. You don’t want to offend someone with the smell, so you don’t do it.” Because other people would be offended by the smell of onions, apparently. That’s one story. And then I recently heard, recently being like a year ago, where I heard a whole different story that was fascinating to me. Which, now, reflecting on it it doesn’t make any sense. But, the whole premise is, like, those types of foods tend to be like roots, so you would need to, like, harm the Earth by physically digging at it, like opening up the Earth, to get these, like, vegetables. Or like these very pungent, um, foods. So that’s like, ginger, garlic, onions. But then I’m thinking like, doesn’t that include like, carrots?

Me: And potatoes?

Informant: And potatoes! [Laughter] So, um, but that was something somebody told me. And again, it comes from the place of like, mitigating suffering and not causing harm, even to the Earth. And like, I can see how someone would espouse that folklore, and just be like, “Yeah, makes total legitimate sense.” But, for me I was a practicing vegetarian, but I didn’t buy the whole onion thing ’cause I didn’t get it.

Analysis:

This dining custom embodies the Buddhist principle of not causing others unneeded suffering, similar to the practice of vegetarianism. The extra explanation about preventing harm to the Earth also espouses this principle, though the informant pointed out a flaw in that explanation. The informant did not subscribe to this practice himself, though he learned it from his family.

The Golden Rule

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/1/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context:

The informant, who is Buddhist, gave a presentation at a recent retreat on spirituality that I had gone on. I asked to meet with him to talk about other Buddhist principles and lore that he had not gone over at the retreat.

Transcript:

Informant: So I’ve heard this in various forms. It’s the Golden Rule. Uh, which is to, “Do unto others what you would like done to you.” And this is the kind of, uh, general rule of thumb. And that’s something that like I think my parents espoused on me. And I grew up as a Buddhist, so a lot about, you know, the passion, kindness, love, in that form, was always definitely valued. What was interesting is, I’ve heard it in a different form, one time at a Buddhist summer camp. Um, it was flipped around to say, “Do not do unto others what you would not like done to you.” Um, the whole premise being, like, don’t, you know, don’t project your beliefs or values onto another person, um, because the previous iteration of that would have you projecting, like, “Oh, I like this thing. So thereby you must like this thing as well.” But that’s flipped to be the other way, where you don’t assume you know what they would like, but recognize what you would not like, and then respect those boundaries in other people as well. And I think, I think that’s a good way of flipping it. And I think it’s also a very Buddhist way of flipping it, in that like… Oh, you know, to mitigate suffering for other people, recognize where suffering comes from and like, just don’t do it. But definitely the first time I saw it, I think was like a poster in the middle school, a really like, tacky, general quote that people have. Like inspirational things. And then like, I read it and I was like, yeah, that’s a pretty good proverb.

Analysis:

The Golden Rule is a teaching from the Christian Bible that concerns how to treat other people. The informant shared with me the Buddhist version of the Golden Rule. The teachings between the two versions are similar, but the Buddhist version focuses on how to not treat others rather than on how to treat others. The Christian version of the Golden Rule is popularly known and used, and, like the informant mentioned, many people learn it at a young age. Versions of it appear in various places, from Bible verse Matthew 7:12 to Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies to the song “3-Way (The Golden Rule)” by The Lonely Island. Versions of this principle taught by other religions, however, are lesser known.

Armenian Pothole Joke

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Armenian
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Alaska
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Armenian, Italian, Turkish, Russian

Context: The informant, who is Armenian, and I were having a conversation on April 24th, the anniversary of the Armenian genocide. She shared this Armenian joke about a man who falls into a hole with me during this conversation.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: This one is really funny. It’s just kind of like a… it’s just… a parody. Basically, the story goes, um… A guy who was drunk is walking along, and he falls into a hole. Nevermind why there was a hole in the middle of a… road in Armenia, but apparently there is. So he falls into it, and… he tries to heft himself out the first time, and it doesn’t work. He’s like, “Alright,” and tries it another time. He tries to heft himself out, “Huh!” He’s exhausted. It’s not working. And then he says, “Alright. I’m going to try one more time to get out of this hole, and if it doesn’t work I’m just going to go home.” But… he’s already trapped in a hole. He can’t get out. So the point… that’s the whole funny thing about it.

Me: When do people usually tell this?

Informant: When everyone’s very drunk. And sitting around in a circle. That one… and the one about the… Most Armenian jokes revolve around someone who’s drunk. The majority of them.

Analysis:

This joke is an example of humor that would be used at a party. It derives its humor from the ridiculousness of the situation the subject finds himself in and from the subject’s illogical thinking. It also references the impairment in thinking that occurs when one is drunk.

Scary Story: The Message

--Informant Info--
Nationality: U.S. American, Russian Heritage
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/6/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian

Context:

The informant and I had recently gone on a retreat together to a wooded area. At the retreat, we participated in a nighttime ghost story telling session with some friends, and my informant was talented at performing ghost stories. I later asked her to share some ghost stories with me again, and I recorded the interview for collection purposes.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: Once upon a time… there was, um… You know, I don’t know if, in the story… I don’t know if it ever tells you who it is, ’cause it’s written from… When I read it, on like, Creepypasta, although the first time I heard this story, it was not on Creepypasta. It was, someone told me in my highschool art class. That was when we were sharing scary stories one time. In my highschool art class. When I was like, “You guys, let’s tell scary stories.” I think it was Halloween.

Me: I feel like… I feel like you’ve had too many instances, where you were like, stuck somewhere, and were just like, “Let’s tell scary stories.”

Informant: Yeah… I think it was Halloween. That’s the first time I heard about Creepypasta. It’s because, we were telling scary stories, and then I was like, “Where do you guys get this stuff?” And some guys were like, “Creepypasta.” Um, but yeah. The first time I heard this it was socially. Um, so, okay. Anyway. Once upon a time… There was, let’s mix it up and say, a teenage… boy this time, who was home alone. Um, his parents were gone for the weekend, and he was alone and he heard something in his house when he was up in his bed. And he got nervous, and he thought, “Okay. It was probably something.” But then he heard the sound of something heavy, like, coming up the stairs. Like this like sound of something, like a really heavy person, thumping up the stairs. And he was like, “Okay, maybe they think it’s an empty house. I’ll just lie in my bead, and I’ll like pretend, and I won’t do anything, and maybe they’ll leave and maybe they won’t notice.” And he heard it creep closer to his door, and closer to his door. And he like lay himself flat against the bed under the covers and he thought, “Maybe, it’s like a thief. And maybe if I act like I’m sleeping, like they’ll just, they won’t harm me and they’ll leave.” And then, under the covers, he looked through the door, and saw this… huge caveman looking like… like this caveman, this big bulky, hairy caveman, with like this prehistoric face. And he was like, “What?” And he was like, “Maybe, okay, like it’s a caveman. He’s probably not that intelligent.” And he was like, getting really nervous and scared. And he was like… sweating. And he was like, “I’ll stay under the covers, and maybe he won’t notice me, and he’ll leave…” And so, and he heard the caveman walk to the wall, and like, make some scratching sounds, and then the caveman sat down on the other side of his room in a chair. And he was like, “Okay… Maybe he’ll leave…” And like an hour passed. And then like another hour passed, and he stayed under the covers, and like, he was just peeking just barely under the covers, and the caveman wasn’t leaving. And he, like, was waiting, and waiting, and at some point he decided to just look under the covers just a little, and then he realized the scratching noise, was the sound of the caveman writing something on the wall. And he looked up at the wall, and it said, “I know you’re not asleep.” The end!

Analysis:

This story plays off of the listener’s fears concerning violation of privacy within one’s home, the unknown, and being watched. Its ability to invoke shock from an audience in such a short span of time makes it appropriate to tell both verbally and digitally, as shown by its being shared through multiple platforms. The informant’s explanation as to how she became exposed to the story suggests that it is usually performed at night, the time of day scary stories are usually associated with. The story itself also takes place at night while the main character lies in bed trying to sleep.

Scary Story: The Sound in the Night

--Informant Info--
Nationality: U.S. American, Russian Heritage
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/6/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian

Context:

The informant and I had recently gone on a retreat together to a wooded area. At the retreat, we participated in a nighttime ghost story telling session with some friends, and my informant was talented at performing ghost stories. I later asked her to share some ghost stories with me again, and I recorded the interview for collection purposes.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: I’ll tell another one! Here,  I’ll tell one that I did not tell at the retreat. I think I told most of these at the retreat… But ok. This one. It’s very short. Once upon a time, there was a teenage girl… *laughs* She was, not babysitting, she was home alone and, um, and her parents were gone. They were… doing something. I don’t know. They were gone for the weekend. Okay. That’s the story. They were gone for the weekend. She was home alone, and suddenly she heard a sound. And she couldn’t like, she heard a sound and she was like, “That’s weird… What is that sound?” And she was trying to figure out what was making it. It was kind of like this thump thump thump sound. And she was like, “Weird…” And she would just go back on Tumblr, and then she would hear it again a few times. Like thump thump, thump thump. And then she like walked around the house, and was like, “Huh…” She was like, “Is it like a tree? Like a branch banging against the house? But that’s not what it would sound like…” And it was like, late at night. It couldn’t have been like, kids bouncing a ball anywhere or anything. So she just like, let it go. And she like, heard it again. Thump thump thump thump. Thump thump thump thump. And she was like, “That’s strange…” But she let it go. She just turned on her music. And she went to sleep. She did not die. She was fine. The next day, um, her parents came home. Um, oh, it’s not as scary as I imagined it would be. But anyway, her parents came home, and everything was fine. And she kept wondering what that sound was. She even like experimented. She like, moved some things around. Smacked a branch against the house to figure out like, what it was, but nothing was making that same sound. And she was like, “Huh… I guess I’ll never know what it was.” And then, her dad went to go open the window, and the window was locked. And as he tried to open it a few times, it made that thump thump thump sound. And that’s when she realized that the sound was someone trying to like, break into her house. The end. That’s like, a more real fear, I guess.

Me: Yeah, but like a lot of, um, a lot of horror stories are based off of, like, real life fears. So yeah, that makes sense.

*pause*

Me: And I guess part of the, like, horror of it is that she doesn’t know who it was.

Informant: Yeah… Or that she didn’t even realize until like, later.

Analysis: 

This story feeds off of the listener’s fears concerning plausible situations, such as the possibility of being a victim of crime. The main character does not even figure out the source of the unknown sound until after the situation she was in danger during passes. The story takes place at night, playing off of people’s fear of the dark and of the unknown. The story’s nighttime setting is also appropriate considering that ghost stories are often told at night.

Scary Story: The Car Had Lights

--Informant Info--
Nationality: U.S. American, Russian Heritage
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/6/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian

Context:

The informant and I had recently gone on a retreat together to a wooded area. At the retreat, we participated in a nighttime ghost story telling session with some friends, and my informant was talented at performing ghost stories. I later asked her to share some ghost stories with me again, and I recorded the interview for collection purposes.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: Once upon a time… I think I told this one too, but anyway, there was a woman, driving in her car. She was just driving home on her way from work, it was like a thirty minute drive, and as she was driving, home, she started to notice something weird. She noticed that at every turn she took, the truck behind her would like, would keep taking the same turns, and go on like onto the same freeway as her. And she started to get suspicious because she started thinking that this truck driver was probably following her. So, she even started to like, she like took some random turns and even went in a loop, and she realized that it kept following her. And then, it started flashing its headlights at her. It would, like, flash its headlights a few times and then stop. And then she started getting freaked out, so she started speeding a little bit, and it started speeding after her. And she took like a sharp turn, and it took a sharp turn after her. And it kept flashing its, um, headlights at her. And so she started getting freaked out. So she decided she would call the police before, like, she drove home, and tell them to come to her house so that they would be there when she came so they could, like, arrest the truck driver right there are then. So, dangerously, she dialed… No, you know what, not dangerously. She used wireless… Like, um, speakerphone. Wait… yeah, okay. It doesn’t change the story. Anyways. She called the police and told them, “There’s a truck driver following me, following my car. Like, come to my address, it’s something something something street. And the police replied, like ‘Okay. We’re on our way.'” And so she got home. She got out of the car, and the police were there. And the truck driver… And the truck driver drove up behind her, and she pointed at the truck driver. And she was like, “There! That’s the man who’s been following me. Like see! I told you he was following me. He followed me all the way home.” And the police were like, “Sir, what’s going on?” And he was like, “There was someone in the car, in the backseat, and he was trying to kill you. And every time I saw him coming up with his knife, I would flash my headlights at him so that it would like, blind his eyes so he’d get back down.” And then they opened the back door, and there was a man with a knife. And they arrested him, and everyone was safe. The end.

Me: I like that.

Informant: Real fear.

Me: Yeah…

Informant: That’s why you should always check the back seats of the car…

Context:

This story derives its horror from a scary situation that a listener could realistically encounter in real life. It also has a plot twist, in that the figure originally made out to be scary ended up saving the woman by following her, and the woman’s car, which she had thought to be safe, turned out to be dangerous due to its housing an attempted murderer.

Scary Story: The Clown Statue

--Informant Info--
Nationality: U.S. American, Russian Heritage
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/6/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian

Context:

My informant first told me this story when we were on a retreat together in the mountains. She told it at night when our cabin-mates were sharing scary stories. I met with her again at a cafe, and we shared more scary stories over coffee. I recorded this interview during that meeting.

Interview Transcript: 

Informant: Once upon a time, there was a girl. She was babysitting some children, and… so the parents were out and the kids wanted to watch T.V. in their parents’ room, but they were afraid of the clown statue. So they asked her… they asked the babysitter if she could cover it up with something, like a towel, or a sheet. And so she decided, being the good citizen she is, to call the parents and ask if it would be okay to cover the clown statue. And she did, she called them, and she talked to the father on the phone. And she said, “Can I cover up that clown statue? It’s kind of, you know, creeping out the kids. I just want to cover it with like a towel.” And he said, “What? Clown statue? We don’t have a clown statue in our room. Get the kids! Get out of the house! Save yourselves!” But by the time they got home, the babysitter was gone, the kids were gone, and they were never found. Because the clown statue was actually a serial killer. The end.

Me: I like it. So… where did you first hear that story?

Informant: I think I read it somewhere… I think I read it in some kind of magazine, and it was a bunch of urban legends, and that was one of them.

Me: I see… Um, what settings do you usually tell that story in?

Informant: Retreats!

*laughter*

Informant: Um, if it’s late at night, oh my gosh… If I’m working on art in the studio and it’s late at night and people are still working I’ll tell it. Like, ‘hey guys, let’s tell scary stories.’ Or like, if like someone is like sleeping over, or like when I was little and like camped in my back yard and invited friends over to camp. I haven’t camped in like two years though.

Me: That is a good story to tell while camping.

Informant: Yeah. I think, um, also some thematic information. It’s not really information, but it’s funny that there’s a lot of, um, like scary stories about babysitters specifically.

Me: Mhmm.

Informant: Maybe something to examine. There’s actually a lot of scary stories about teenagers specifically. Or like, teenage girls. Anyway, something I noticed.

Me: That’s interesting. I can understand the babysitters, because like, you know how it’s kind of a fear of leaving your children alone with somebody that you’re not familiar with.

Informant: Hmm… Or like, being a babysitter and like being in someone else’s home. Or like, needing to like be an adult and taking care of someone else’s kids, but you’re in an unfamiliar location.

Analysis:

The horror of this story is derived from the listener’s fears concerning clowns, murderers, and the unknown. Clowns are a popular symbol in horror stories, despite their purpose being to make people happy. Serial killers are also commonly used as horror story villains. Batman’s rival the Joker, who appears in the 2008 film The Dark Knight is a popular example of a villain who embodies these characteristics.