Author Archives: Lauren Bohmholdt

Visited By a Passed Relative

Context :

JH is 23 years old and from San Francisco, CA. They are a USC graduate I met a few months ago. They lived in San Francisco for a majority of their life before moving to Los Angeles for school. They consider themselves very superstitious. Growing up, they were really close with their grandmother, and it was very hard on them when she passed away.

Text :

“I meditate a lot, and I think that there have been times in my meditation experience—especially when I was dealing with grief, like the loss of my grandma and such—that I felt like a presence was there. And I remember, I was like on a family vacation and I was like sitting in the living room having a horrible day in this like rental house and I was meditating and I was really grieving my grandma because it was only a couple months earlier. Then, all of the sudden, I literally felt like two hands on my shoulders. At first, I thought it might have been creepy, but I didn’t feel a creepy presence, I felt a comforting presence. It felt like my grandma was reminding me that she was there.”

Analysis :

When people hear the phrase ghost stories, they immediately associate that with bad thoughts or bad omens. But that isn’t always the case. For example, as seen with my informant, encounters with the divine can actually be a good thing, and a sign that it is okay. Lots of ghost stories have to do with these supernatural beings keeping people out of what they consider their homes, but for JH, their grandma is keeping her close. On a deeper level, this is a way that people can justify the emotions their having or find closure. Since JH was so close with their grandma, believing they encountered her after she passed away and was reminded of her presence goes to show how affirming ghost stories can be. Looking at ghost stories through that lens can give us a different perspective on how they are being interrupted, and stray away from painting ghosts in such a negative light.

A Frog, A Bankteller, and A Loan — Long Joke

Context :

W is my 17 year-old brother. He was born and raised in Utah, like me. Since I was the oldest, W always tried to find ways to one-up me. He still does so. This is a long joke my grandfather told him the other day so he shared it with me.

Text :

“A frog wants to get a loan so he can buy a house. One day, he goes into the bank and approaches the bank teller. She has a name tag that says: Patricia Whack. The frog asks Ms. Whack for a loan, but she refuses him. The frog assures Ms. Whack that he knows the owner of the bank because his father is Mick Jagger, so he will allow the loan. He gives the bank teller a button as collateral. Patricia goes into the bank owner’s office and explains how a frog claiming to be Mick Jagger’s son is asking for a loan. The bank manager asks if he left anything for collateral, and Patricia holds up the button, but she doesn’t know what it is. The bank manager laughs and says, ‘It’s a a knick-knack, Patti Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man’s a rolling stone.'”

Analysis :

Long jokes take long set-ups, and most of the time, they don’t pay off. For this long joke, it takes a whole extra level of knowledge to understand it. My grandfather enjoys telling long jokes because he gets pleasure out of hitting the punchline right on the nose, so it’s no surprise he told this one to my brother. The end of the joke parodies the “This Old Man” song as well as popular culture. If you weren’t familiar with the song or its lyrics, chances are, you wouldn’t understand the joke. Only a small audience will find the joke amusing. Since I grew up hearing that song, I recognized the ending immediately and it made me laugh. If I showed this to a friend who grew up in a different country where the song wasn’t played and Mick Jagger wasn’t a figure in popular culture, the joke would not have been funny to them. It goes to show how jokes work with certain cultures versus others by bringing in aspects that are unique to that said culture.

“A Plane has 500 Bricks. 1 Falls Out. How Many Are Left?” — Long Joke

Context :

W is my 17 year-old brother. He was born and raised in Utah, like me. Since I was the oldest, W always tried to find ways to one-up me. He still does so, and when I called him the other day, he told me he wanted to share a new joke he heard from a friend (so of course I asked if I could transcribe our call).

Text :

W : “Okay, so there’s a plane and it’s carrying 500 bricks. 1 of the bricks falls out of the plane. How many bricks are left?”

Me : “499?”

W : “Correct.”

Me : “That wasn’t a joke.”

W : “Just listen. Okay. You have a fridge and you need to put an elephant inside. What three steps do you take to put it in the fridge?”

Me : “Um. Open the fridge. Put the elephant inside. Shut the door?”

W : “Correct again. Now what four steps do you take to put a giraffe in the fridge?”

Me : “Open the fridge. Put the body of the giraffe in, then his neck. Shut the fridge door?”

W : “You forgot to take out the elephant.”

Me : “Oh my God.”

W : “So now, the lion king is having a birthday party and all the animals in the jungle are invited. Who didn’t show up?”

Me : “I don’t know.”

W : “The giraffe. Because it was in the fridge.”

Me : “Wow.”

W : “Sally is adventuring through the jungle. She comes across a crocodile infested lake. She gets across without getting eaten by crocodiles. How did she do it?”

Me : “She walked around the lake.”

W : “No. She just walked right through the lake because the crocodiles were all at the lion king’s party.”

Me : “I am so confused.”

W : “Last question. Once Sally gets across the lake, something falls from the sky and hits her on the head, and she dies. What hit her on the head?”


W : “A brick.”

Me : “From the plane……?”

W : “Yes!”

Analysis :

This is a great example of a narrative joke, in my opinion. The way that its told is intended to throw the listener off so they don’t see what’s coming next while simultaneously using specific jokes to make the listener assume they know the answers. The long joke is circular, ending right where it began with the brick falling out of the plane. Jokes are used to make the listener laugh. Some jokes, however, are used to make people think and then laugh at the fact that the joke went right over their head. With the long joke my brother told me, he worded it in a way that would make me feel confused the entire time while also feeling like I outsmarted him, just for him to completely make me feel stupid at the end. He once again succeeded at one-uping me.

The Legend of the Golem

Context :

JH is 23 years old and from San Francisco, CA. They are a USC graduate I met a few months ago. They are a practicing Jew and heard a lot of Jewish legends growing up from their family.

Text :

“There is a pretty Jewish legend that I was always told. The legend of the Golem, which I’m probably going to butcher and my rabbi will be mad about it. It’s basically that this person made this man out of clay in order to protect his town… I think it was the rabbi who made the man out of clay. He wrote a word onto his head, I forget the word. But he was this six or seven foot tall man made of clay that was supposed to protect the town but ended up terrorizing it. He’s still in the attic of the actual place he was made, the clay man.”

Analysis :

Legends are interesting to analyze because they balance between the lines of real vs not real, and they can possibly be true. With the story of the golem, it remains a legend because although the clay man is still supposedly in the attic, it can’t necessarily be proven. People come from all over the world to see the attic, the way people would go out searching for bigfoot or the lochness monster. Originally, the golem was created to protect his people, but ended up terrorizing them. This bares similarity to the story of Frankenstein, which isn’t necessarily a legend. I’m unsure what the message of the golem is or if there even is a message since my informant didn’t fully remember the legend. Like bigfoot and the lochness monster, the golem is a legend about a large creature who ends up terrorizing humanity, leading to the humane fear of the “other”.

“Steve is Acting Up Again” — The Made-Up Ghost


J is a 35 year old woman from The Bay with three young siblings. She is my co-worker and a graduate student at USC. When anything unexplainable happened in her house growing up, her family would blame it on a ghost named Steve. Although she has never seen a ghost or had a divine encounter, she believes they are real.


J: “My mom and I had this thing where we would say there was a ghost named Steve in the house for a long time. And anytime something would happen, we’d be like, there’s Steve. Oh, Steve’s acting up again. If a light flickered or if you heard a sound or if you couldn’t find anything, like that kind of stuff. Unexplainable things that no body wanted to take responsibility, we’d blame it on Steve. We didn’t ever see him, or anything, though.”


Many people use encounters with the divine as ways to explain what they deem the unexplainable. By doing so, they can find an answer for everything. In terms of the way J was using Steve, it was a bit similar. She and her mother blamed “unexplainable” things on Steve as a joke, even when those things could be explained. The reason they did this was comfort humor. By attributing everything to Steve, responsibility was lifted from their shoulders. It was also a way for J to take a break from carrying the blame for everything her siblings did.