Author Archives: Erin Hodgkins

The Ghost of Frankie Silver

“The town that I am from in North Carolina, it’s called Morganton and it’s in Burke County, and one of the famous citizens of Burke County is named Frankie Silver and she was the first woman to be hanged… I thought it was in North Carolina, but it might just be in Burke County… I am not entirely sure, but she was accused of murdering her husband and chopping him up with an ax and then burning him in a stove, like the stove in their house…
And so she was found guilty and hanged. I think she wasn’t hanged in Morganton. I think she was hanged at the state courthouse, but I think the trial was in Morganton in the old county courthouse, which is still standing. They don’t use it as a courthouse anymore, but it has like a museum inside of it. It’s pretty cool. But supposedly, her ghost, you know, still kinda haunts where her house was. I think it’s not quite in Morganton. It was more out in the woods kind of up the mountain, but my mom told me that supposedly where she was buried, which I guess has since kinda been lost… no one really knows where it is anymore… is kinda out towards my childhood home. There was a road off of the main road that was kind of…I think it was just a gravel road called Buckhorn Tavern or something real rustic like that… and that supposedly is where her grave is according to my mom.”

The informant grew up in North Carolina and lived there his entire life there until moving to Los Angeles around three years ago, where he currently resides.
In regards to Frankie Silver, there is speculation to if she was innocent or not, or even if it was just self-defense. This happened at the turn of the century though, so a lot of the speculation comes from women not having as many rights as they do now, meaning that even if it was self-defense, she could have been “doomed at the onset once she was accused” (according to the informant).
While the informant claims to not believe it now, he admits that he probably did as a child, being that he was into ghost stories then. However, he also admits that he didn’t really understand who she was until he was much older. He learned who Frankie Silver was as the children in Morganton/Burke County are required to read a book called “The Ballad of Frankie Silver” by Sharyn McCrumb in middle school.
The informant also cannot distinctly remember what would happen to you if you saw the ghost, but he figures it has something to do with her being unjustly hung.

The informant relayed this to me while in the passenger seat of his girlfriend’s car as she drove us all back up to Los Angeles. I have known the informant since he moved to Los Angeles.

I find it interesting that the informant knew about legend of Frankie Silver, but did not fully understand it until reading a book based off of it. In this case, the legend was enhanced/more distributed because of the authored literature based upon it. While the informant was able to distinguish what he knew as the legend and what he knew as the book, I am sure that the two often get confused or even fall under the same heading of “By Sharyn McCrumb.”
That being said, there is no way of telling how much of the book influenced the informant’s version of the legend or how much it has changed since the book was published.

Dussehra and Diwali Festival

“Dussehra and Diwali both are basically celebrated for the triumph of good over evil. So, mytholoigcally speaking, there were two gods, Ram and his wife Sita. Sita was kidnapped by Raavan, Aasur as they called it, a Satan in maybe English. So now, Raavan kidnapped Sita and took her to a place where Ram had to, you know, cut down trees, go inside the forest, look for her, and then kill many people. People as in like, the bad people obviously, and then when he found Sita, he brought her home and killed Raavan. Raavan had ten heads, so he was called Dash Aasur. Dash is ten and Aasur is a devil, so Dash Aasur, as in the ten headed bad guy. He killed Raavan and that’s why we celebrate Dussehra, where we make a statue of Raavan and burn it. We burn it so that we can tell people that they need not be scared, he’s dead, and it’s the triumph of good over bad. And then, there is the festival called Diwali, which is ten days after it. It is a part of Dussehra. So, after Dussehra, you have Diwali, the festival of lights. People lite candles, like lanterns everywhere, candles everywhere, and then they decorate their houses with flowers and colors just to celebrate.”

In India, there are around fifty festivals that are celebrated all around the year. However, half of them are more regional, while the others are more nationally celebrated. Essentially, most of the festivals are known, but not all are celebrated in every state. These two in particular take place at the end of October through the first week of November.

As are a lot of their festivals, color plays a huge role in Dussehra and Diwali. For these festivals, it is more elegant than some, but still has to be colorful. You are not supposed to wear black because Indians view it to be ominous, which would go against the festival’s idea of good defeating evil.

The informant relayed this to me while we were re-shelving books in the stacks of Doheny Library at USC. She is one of my co-workers.

It is very common around the world for celebrations to revolve around their gods, but I was surprised when she described the festival being based on a myth before telling me about it. I feel that it is very uncommon for people to discuss their myths in such a way to other people, already acknowledging that others do not believe what they do. However, I found that she was more open to discussing and sharing it with me because of her approach, even though she does believe in the gods.

Holi Festival

“It begins in March, so the first week of our New Year has Holi. It’s the festival of colors because in North India, like few states in the North, they say that colors make you look beautiful and initially, in medieval times and, you know, the early civilizations, they used to apply turmeric to look fairer. So, that’s how the concept of putting colors came in. Later, it got a little fancy, from yellow to green to pink and then everything. So, that’s how it is. Now, it is more of a water sport. I mean, people splashing water on each other and colors and everything. And, in India in fact, everything is closed. It is a national holiday and even if you don’t know each other, you can go on splashing water without anyone being offended.”

For the Hindu calendar, New Year begins in March. This is one of their many festivals, but this one more specifically honors color, which is very important in Indian culture. It is a very communal festival as well. There was even a celebration on the USC campus that the informant participated in with her friends.

Historically, the idea of applying colors came with the concept that being more fair was more beautiful. Since then, as she said, it has expanded to more bright colors representing individual things in Indian culture.

The informant relayed this to me while we were re-shelving books in the stacks of Doheny Library at USC. She is one of my co-workers.

Personally, I feel as if the Holi Festival has spread into American culture through the forms of “color runs,” where people run a 10k while being pelted with color. I also have seen it in one of Coldplay’s music videos, so knowledge about it is spreading quickly.

I find it interesting how much it has changed from the “original” tradition, yet that the color aspect has carried through while evolving in its own way. It is also interesting how Indians outside of India are taking the festival with them where they go, preserving their culture and allowing people to see and often participate in it with them at the same time.

Common Cold Prevention

“To prevent this, every night, what you should do is boil water, put flax seeds into it, cumin seeds into it, and there’s a special kind of leafy vegetable, which looks like mint but does not smell like mint. It is called “adulsa.” So, when you put that…it’s pretty pungent…. Like, but you just have to pinch your nose and drink it because it’s for your own good and if you drink that on a regular basis, your metabolism is such that there is good blood circulation happening inside you. You breathe better, you know. You need not do yoga basically, like it helps you cleanse your body well. People even believe that they will lose weight, but I don’t know. I don’t think so, in seeing myself. But definitely you will not catch a cold.”

In India, where the informant is from, there are a lot of variations in climate. It will start off maybe at five degrees Celsius and will increase to potentially forty-two degrees Celsius later in the day. On top of that, it is very humid, so you spend most of the day sweating through your clothes. The informant explains that at that point, no A/C can cool you and that most days you will sweat through your clothes within three hours. So, many Indians try to eat a lot of ice cream or milkshakes to combat the heat. However, they believe that when your head is hot, from the heat and the sunlight, and then you enter a cool place and drink something cold, your body cannot take the difference in temperature and it causes you to catch a cold. While they believe they know why they catch colds, the choose to use this cold prevention trick than trying to go throughout the entire day without attempting to cool off.

The informant assured me that this works and that she often drinks it for months during exam season. However, this is not something that she drinks all the time. Some people will drink it every other night for four years and decide they have built up enough that they will not get sick for awhile after. She does not believe there is a chance to build immunity against this, but she doesn’t think drinking it that much is helpful. For her, it depends on if she can afford to get sick or will have enough time to get well on her own that she drinks it, but she also believes it to be more psychological than physical. That being said, she still swears by it and drinks it as a safety procaution just the same because it has always worked for her.

The informant relayed this to me while we were re-shelving books in the stacks of Doheny Library at USC. She is one of my co-workers.

Personally, I feel like if Indians had the cure to the common cold, the world would have jumped on that awhile ago. Despite that, it sounds to me like the cleanse that has become a craze around Los Angeles. Those, as I am sure this drink as well, help you purge bacteria and such from your body. Unlike the cleanses in America though, you don’t only drink that for three days. Overall though, I think the psychological part plays more of a factor into preventing sickness than the drink itself does.

How to Heal Basic Wounds

“She [often a mother] boils butter for like half an hour and when the froth comes on the top, she scrapes it off, freezes it, mixes it with turmeric and a little bit of baking soda. Then, she will place it in a handkerchief till it gets wet and then apply it on the wound and keep it overnight.”

This way of healing a wound is one of the rituals that the informant claims comes from her home state of Mahrasha. She explained that they have a lot of rituals like this, but this one is the most effective. It works on bruises or cuts, even if you are bleeding. It is always applied in the way described if it is to work.

It is said that by doing this, your wound will heal overnight. However, the informant explained that it actually takes closer to a week of using this every night before it works. After a week though, it does completely heal the wound. She emphasized the fact that this will work only when not using other medication whatsoever though.

The informant relayed this to me while we were re-shelving books in the stacks of Doheny Library at USC. She is one of my co-workers.

I found it interesting that the whole treatment really does not speed up the healing process more than I would assume other forms of medication could on their own. However, I think that the butter mixture may help clean the wound better than other forms of medication might be able to, but I am not an expert and do not know for sure. It is interesting though that they would opt to use this home remedy over other forms of medication that you could buy at a drugstore. However, I think the idea of a mother going through the process of making it creates a sort of connection between her and whoever is wounded, making the healing process a communal thing.