Author Archives: Connie Mak

Contemporary Legend – Minnesota

“I heard this from more than one person but one girl that told it to me said that it was, um, her cousin that this happened to… So she said that her cousin was, um, babysitting in a suburb of Minneapolis which is like a big metropolitan area in Minnesota and, um, that she… you know the parents left and whatever and the kids were asleep and she was just hanging out in their den. And she was on the computer, watching TV, stuff like that. And then there was this statue in the corner of a clown, it was a like a short little like not a big statue or a person-sized statue just a little statue of a clown just standing in the corner that she thought was watching her. So she was really freaked out by it and, like, she moved around and felt like it was like looking at her so she eventually left the room but she had to go back in to get something or maybe she wanted to watch TV again or something and she felt like it had moved a little bit. And so she was really freaked out by this clown so eventually she just went to call the parents and she was like ‘you know, you have this clown statue in your den and it’s, like, stupid and do you mind if I move it because it’s really freaking me out. I feel like it’s watching me and I wanna just put it in a closet or something.’ And then they were just like ‘Wait, like, …what?’ And she’s just like ‘You know, in the corner of the den. It’s like a little clown statue.’ And then, they’re just like ‘We don’t have a clown statue in our den.’ And then she’s like ‘It’s like a, like a, like a…midget-size!’ And they were like ‘GET THE KIDS OUT OF THE HOUSE RIGHT NOW!’ And then the next day, there was a news story about a midget that had escaped from an insane asylum that was like in another neighborhood. Which, it clearly was not a true story ‘cause I heard it from like two other people but this girl was totally convinced that this happened to her cousin and that her cousin was really freaked out and they never found the guy that was watching her and it was a real person.”
Sarah does not believe in this legend because she heard multiple accounts of this occurrence from different people in different areas. As a result, the story became less believable for her because the chances of an escaped midget from an insane asylum happening in all those different places are not as probable. The cousin was around 14 years old when this incident supposedly occurred. When I asked Sarah why she thinks this story keeps circulating, she says that she believes this story attracts interest because there is often a fear among young teenage babysitters taking care of the children all by themselves in someone else’s house. I agree with her because the role of the babysitter is to protect the house and the children and this responsibility can be quite daunting for an adolescent who might not be able to defend herself in the chance that a stranger sneaks in and hurts them. Babysitting at night is especially scary because the babysitter is usually unfamiliar with the children’s house and any noise can easily raise suspicion and paranoia about its source.

Holiday – Sweden

“So it’s on December 13th and my mom wakes me and my sister and my brother up early in the morning, um, before my dad wakes up and we, um, me and my sister dress in white gowns and we have a crown with, um, lights on that are… lit up I guess? and my brother also wears, um, like a hat, a pointy hat… kinda like a magician’s hat it kinda looks like that and uh, we all go upstairs with freshly baked bread and we wake up my dad with a song and bread. My mom usually sings it. The song is sung in Swedish. My mom’s uh half Swedish, half American, and she grew up in Santa Barbara, California but since her mom was Swedish, her mom brought a lot of the Swedish culture into their family. So this celebration has been taking place for at least two generations in my family. One of the stories is that um on Santa Lucia which is December 13th, this woman came to Sweden um with lights, with actual, like, real lights on her head, like candles and she had bread to give to the poor. No one really knew where she came from but she was dressed in white and everyone just kinda saw her as a savior, an angel or something that helped them. So the crowns we wear…well, now they have like battery-powered lights but they symbolize the crown that she wore. It’s just something we do every year and it symbolizes the spirit of Christmas in the form of like sharing and caring with others.”

I think the costumes, the baking of the bread, and the song are an effective way for the Swedish people to remember Santa Lucia because they are reenacting the past. I also agree with Anais that this holiday is also a good chance for families to teach important values to children such as the idea of helping others because the story of Santa Lucia honors a woman who gave bread to the poor. It is also reasonable to argue that this holiday creates gender roles because traditionally the girls are the ones who bake the bread so it instills the conception that females are responsible for preparing the food.

Dinner Etiquette – India

“Um, well at the dinner table in the Indian culture…uh…everybody shares food. It’s not, like, in America where, a lot of the times, everybody just kinda has a plate and they have food on their plate and they’re just eating. In the Indian culture, the food is in the middle of the table and everybody just takes a little bit at a time and if they want more, they just take more. So everybody’s sharing from the same dishes in the middle. And so, a lot of the times, you need to… keep it neat. I don’t know how else to say it but you have to be polite in how you take the food. So if, um, if there’s like a bowl of rice that everybody’s sharing, um…in the middle, there’s a large bowl with like all the rice that’s been cooked for dinner. There’s a large spoon that you just take the rice with and you put it on your own plate. And um, like a lot of little kids…or, just a lot of people would normally just dig into the middle of the bowl and just take what they want. But there’s like a matter of politeness where what you’re supposed to do is take the spoon and, um, take what you want from a side of the bowl and keep going from that one side so you don’t disturb the rest of the rice and don’t mess it up so it looks nice for the next person who’s going to eat from the bowl. This I learned from being scolded by my mother one time at dinner and, you know, it just seems like common sense to me now because after I was scolded I realized what I was doing and it made sense. So from now on, like that’s what I do, I just take it from the side and I think it’s common sense to me now and even to my little sisters, I scold them now for just like messing up the food and not being polite about how they take it. A lot of it is um just the fact that you’re eating together as a family and sharing the food, I think that that is really important for the Indian culture compared to any other culture and um, just um, being kinda disciplined in how you eat. ‘Cause in the Indian culture, we eat with our hands but we don’t make a mess, you know? You don’t eat like a pig…you only use your right hand to eat and you tear bread with your right hand and your left hand never gets dirty. So it’s just like a certain amount of discipline that you have when you eat with your family.”

I agree with Preema Modi that although it may seem like common sense to be careful in the way one takes food, this concept really depends on what culture one’s from. This unspoken and unofficial rule helps reveal what the Indian culture values like discipline, respect and family cohesiveness. Dinner is an everyday affair that involves every member in the family. The fact that all the food is shared from the middle can, in a way, represent the idea that there are no boundaries between family members because the family is the tightest and closest unit. Thus, it is important to be considerate when eating because the way one eats affects the others. Eating habits reflect how well one’s family has disciplined him.

Contemporary Legend – Woodhaven, New York

“I used to go to PS 97 elementary school in Woodhaven, NY. Every year, at the end of the year around June, um, the whole school or…yeah, the whole school would go on a picnic to Forest Park and uh all the kids would be playing around and some of them would just like to go off and explore different areas of the park. Apparently, uh, these kids went off to like a further side of the park where they’re really not supposed to be. And um, they saw like a mummy running around and um and then they like lost him or something and then they tried to go after him and found the bandages and somehow there were blood stains. At the time, I actually believed them because I was only in the third grade and especially when they were like ‘Yeah and we found a knife too’ and…it felt kinda scary. I didn’t actually see the evidence but I believed them. I got even more scared when talking to my friends at another elementary school about it later and they were like ‘Yeah! That happened to us too! There was some crazy mummy running in that park’ and I believed them too.”

It’s not surprising that Mandy believed the mummy story because multiple accounts often confirm one’s beliefs about a legend. Her fear of the mummy reflects the age group she belonged to because children are more willing to believe in supernatural stories than adults. When asked what her teachers thought of the incident, she said that they didn’t believe the kids and were a little angry that they had run off to an area of the park they weren’t supposed to and were making up pranks to scare their peers. In addition, forbidden areas often raise children’s curiosity and tempt them to investigate the “real reason” why the area is forbidden. For them, safety concerns are only a cover-up and there always has to be a hidden paranormal explanation. The pressure from different peers confirming the event, as well as supposedly physical evidence, invites discussions of belief and whether this mummy really exists or if it’s just a kid’s prank.

Contemporary Legend

“Um, my high school is a boarding school… uh it’s like in the suburb area. Um, it used to be a Japanese concentration camp during the World War II. I think it became a high school in…1903 and then during World War II, it’s, like, occupied by the Japanese. And um, there’s this one story about a guillotine and um, well I’ve never seen it myself but uh supposedly in a locked part of the school property and students are not allowed to go there. I don’t know where it is exactly though. It’s like….I think it’s by the classroom block….but I’m not sure. And supposedly if you see it, you’re gonna get bad luck ‘cause you’re not supposed to and there was this one guy in my class that um got left back in the seventh grade for three years and people were saying that he saw it. He was trying to investigate it and it was really bad luck and that’s why he got left back for three years. But I’ve never heard him confess that he saw it. ‘Cause seventh grade was actually the first year we, um, started school in that school and um so everyone was like talking about that so my friends and I decided to ask one of the teachers. Um…so we asked him and he said he doesn’t believe it and that people are just making it up to gossip about something. And um at the time we felt like um…he was just trying to comfort us ‘cause we appeared to be really, really disturbed by it. I guess it was a big thing for us because not many schools have that history of being occupied by the Japanese in World War II and I guess it was something that was really interesting to them….like, to the seventh graders. Like, right now I wouldn’t really believe it but if there is a guillotine at my school, I wouldn’t be surprised ‘cause of the history. It was a Japanese concentration camp. That’s like true…everyone knows that. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they found something. But if you ask me, I’d tell you that I don’t think it’ll be there…it might be at a museum, but not at my school.”

I agree with Stephanie that because of her school’s interesting historical background, students would naturally be curious about any possible remaining traces of the school’s past. The guillotine is a common conversation topic especially among new students because it serves as a form of bonding experience and helps establish their identity as a member of the school. Knowledge of the school’s past and this guillotine legend excludes nonmembers and identifies those who actually go to the school. I agree with Stephanie that it is definitely conceivable that, given the school’s history as a former Japanese concentration camp, there might be a guillotine remaining on the school’s property. But at the same time, it doesn’t make sense that the guillotine (if it does exist) isn’t donated to a museum instead. It doesn’t do the school any good to keep it locked and hidden.