Author Archives: Martha Croxton

The Char Man

“The Char Man is kind of an Ojai legend….he’s like this monster, this burned guy. He lives out by the campgrounds on Creek Road and if you get too close to the side of the road on the wrong night he gets you. I think he takes your skin or something? We talked about the Char Man a lot in middle school. People used to go out to the woods at night, like boys who thought they were gonna fight him. I don’t think he’s real, but its definitely kind of creepy.”

This legend was collected in Ojai, California. The region is rife with wildfires and forest fires, and is likely an expression of collective grief and fear of these natural disasters.

Saint Joseph and Selling a House

Informant: “If you want to sell your house, you dig a hole and you put a statue of Saint Joseph in the ground in your yard and then when you sell your house you dig it up. Its a real estate thing. You bury it upside down, it’s supposed to make it happen faster. Joseph was a carpenter and I think its related to the holy family fleeing to Egypt. Everybody I know does it, its just what you do when you sell your house.“

The tradition of burying a statue is a kind of Catholic folk magic practiced to bring about the desired outcome (selling of house). Saint Joseph is the figurehead associated with this, a way to request divine intervention in a real world situation.

The Rougarou

Informant: “Ok, I don’t know a lot, except that when I was a child, I had these, you know, grandparents that were both from Cajun country. These big Cajun families. One of them had seven siblings and one of them had nine. And so I had all these aunts and uncles who were Cajun aunts and uncles, and the two most mischievous of them were Clarence and Lawrence who were twins. They were about five-foot-eight and they were twins, and were always causing trouble, and they used to tell us all the time, all the kids, the next generation, the grandkids, that we better be careful and not go out late at night and behave ourselves or the Rougarou would get us. 

And the Rougarou was like a big, like wolf kind of thing, and he lived in the swamps. He got the children when they were bad or when they were out when they weren’t supposed to be, or doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing. It was a generally known thing in Cajun country, the Rougarou.

I was terrified as a child. It kept me in line a little but, until I was old enough to know that they were just old nutty Clarence and Lawrence, but it was pretty scary, like there was this big hairy creature in the swamp. And there were swamps everywhere, I mean, thats like saying in the backyard theres a monster.”

The legend of the Rougarou is a common one in Cajun country, and is used primarily to scare children into obedience.

Captain Dickhead

We call it Captain Dickhead. I’ve also heard people call it King’s Cup, but we always call it Captain Dickhead.

So there’s one can in the middle, usually a beer can, but something with a tab is essential. And 52 cards are spread in a circle around. Continuous circle, cause the circle has to be connected at all points. and the way it goes, everyone sits in a circle around the can and each person takes a turn drawing a card and each card have specific meanings.

Ok so king is categories and the way that works is the person who drew the king will say a category like “dogs” or “types of beer’ and then they’ll say something like ‘labradoodles’ and everyone has in the circle has to say something that fits in to the category. So the first person that takes too long to repeats something thats already been said has to take a drink.

Queen is question master so if you pull a queen you put it down in front of you and then if you ask anyone else playing the game a question and they answer it as long as you have the queen they have to take a drink…BUT if they ask you a question and you answer it then you have to take a drink and you give them the queen. So the queen gets passed around until a new queen is drawn… once a new queen is drawn it gets stuck under the tab of the can, of the beer. So every card, once it gets played, get put under the tab and then whoever cracks the tab has to drink the whole beer or whatever you put in the middle, and then you just sub in the new one. Also, if you pull a card and it breaks the circle you have to drink.

So we do Jack as ‘social’, so for social everyone has to take a drink, it’s just like we all cheers and drink. 

10 is waterfall, so the way waterfall works is whoever drew the 10, they start drinking then everyone else in the group starts drinking at the same time. So once the person that drew the 10 stops drinking then the person to their left can stop drinking, and then once that stops the person to their left can stop and on and on.

So whoever’s to the right of you when you have the ten gets screwed over because they have to drink a bunch.

Nine is rhyme, you have to say a word like “butt” and then everyone goes around the circle and says a word that rhymes with the word and when someone can’t think of a rhyme or repeats something thats already been said and whoever loses then they have to drink.

Eight is date that means you pick someone else in the circle and say “youre gonna be my date” and then whenever they have to drink because of one of the other cards then you also have to drink and it goes both ways. So once

Seven is heaven, so basically when you draw a seven the first thing you have to do it is stick your hands up in the air, and then everyone else has to stick their hands up in the air as fast as possible and the last person to do it has to drink.

Six is dicks, so all the guys take a drink

Five is slap the table – the last person to slap the table has to drink

Four is whores, so all the women have to drink

Three is me, so whoever drew the card has to drink

Two is you, so you get to pick someone to drink

And then Ace means youre Captain Dickhead, thats the titular card. So when you draw an Ace you lick it and you stick it to your forehead, like you slap it up against your forehead and as long as the Ace stays stuck to youre forehead, youre God. You can break all the rules, like you can say “Hey James, take a drink” and he has to do it. If you have to drink and you don’t want to, you can just pass and not take a drink. The same goes for rhyme or any of the other games, you can pretty much just play however you want to play.

I learned it from some friends in Louisiana, and we usually play at parties and stuff but I’ve also seen a lot of variations since I went to college. Ive talked to a lot of people about it, and they usually don’t recognize it by the name but they recognize it once it starts playing.

I was probably 15 or 16 when I first learned it, we usually play it at parties and stuff when we’re trying to get drunk because it makes you drink a lot. Its a heavily….heavily…yeah it makes you drink a ton. So usually like small groups no more than 8, usually with 8 or less we’ll play it and…yeah. It’s great. We like to just do it to get drunk and its something to do ya know, something to pass the time.”

This card game has a number of variations, and seems to change depending on the group playing it.

UFO Navy

So, my teacher is the like tech guy at school, and told me about a time when he was in the navy and they were on their battleship and they saw some weird, like…light, and it came down above the ship and stopped, like a big ball of light. And it like stopped over the ship and went around a little bit, and then it disappeared. Um…and so he talked about that a lot. And he and the whole boat saw it. 

We were hiking, and just like telling stories while we were walking and he brought that up. He definitely seemed to think it was a UFO…um…or something like that. I have heard that theres a similar like phenomenon called ball lighting or something like that so I would imagine it was that, but I wouldn’t imagine it would like stop above a ship….so…..thats weird. 

This is a fairly typical UFO sighting story. The informant believes it to be an explanation for a natural phenomenon, whereas the original storyteller believes it to be a UFO or alien spacecraft.

For more examples of UFO narratives see Bartholomew, Robert E. “From Airships to Flying Saucers: Oregon’s Place in the Evolution of UFO Lore.” Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 101, no. 2, 2000, pp. 192–213. JSTOR, Accessed 13 May 2021.