Author Archives: Haley Winters

Il Malocchio (The Evil Eye)

“Il Malocchio”  is the gesture of “throwing the horns” in the air to ward off bad luck. My informant is half Italian, and the Italian side of her family would always do while she was growing up. It’s a second nature, reflexive gesture.
My informant says that occasionally family members will text her messages telling her to “throw the horns” out of the blue. She does it without thinking, because she’ll know that that person must have just crossed someone who told her bad news or she was speaking to a “Negative Nelly.”
But if the gesture is used for evil it could come back to you, like bad karma. My informant tells me her sister will use it if someone would cut her off when she is driving. That’s misuse of the evil eye.
She and her family would also make the gesture to ugly looking animals, insects, or halloween decorations. It bascially means “Stay away from me, evil.”

No Soap, Radio (Joke)

Two elephants are in a bathtub. One elephant says to the other, “Please pass the soap.” The other elephant says, “No soap, radio!” 

My informant  first heard this joke from her father, who’d been telling it for as long as either she or he can remember. My informant told me that her father used to say this joke to her all the time, and it would always make her laugh. It wasn’t until she turned 12 or so that she realized she had absolutely no idea what the joke meant. She would ask her dad again and he’d just laugh and say the punchline again, “No soap, radio!” As if it were incredibly obvious. After bothering him about it for a long time, she finally told me her that he, in fact, had no idea what the joke meant either. It was just something someone had told him years ago and had stuck with him. The point of the “joke” is that there is no punchline, it’s just a practical joke, meant to provoke a reaction from the person who hears it. Either the person hearing the joke will assume a false understanding of the joke–“Oh, hahaha, I get it!”–and thus becomes the butt of the joke himself, or they will confess that they don’t get it, and therefore feel left out.

The joke is best when told with a wingman. Way when the joker says the punchline, the wingman laughs, which encourages others to laugh–even if they have no idea what they’re laughing about.

My informant tells me her entire immediate family knows this joke, and once in a while they’ll employ it on an unsuspecting stranger. “Everyone always falls for it and laughs the first time,” she said, “and so even after, when you’re on the ‘inside,’ it’s never mean-spirited…everyone is always embarrassed about the time they laughed!”

Capax (Legend)

My informant’s mother is Colombian, and her father taught at an American school in Colombia. They met because her dad was her mom’s English teacher at night school for adults. They took their honeymoon in the Amazon jungle. The villagers in Leticia (the city bordering the jungle) had a story about a man who traipsed through the jungle wearing nothing but a loincloth. He was rumored to live in the jungle by the fruits of his own labor, howled like a dog, and carried a dagger. His name was Capax. My informants father swears that he saw Capax for a short instance back in ’78.

“Pique et pique et tout les grammes…” French children’s rhyme

Pique et pique et tout les grammes
Bora bora ratatam
Ans, vam, dram
Pique et pique et tout les grammes 

This is the French equivalent of “eeny meeny miney mo,” a rhyme used to pick a person for something, like who will be “it” in a game of tag, for example. It’s said in the same tune/rhythm as the American version. My informant went to elementary school in Paris, France, and this was done every recess. To do it, everyone gets in a circle and puts their foot in the middle. Whoever’s in charge taps each foot one at a time while everyone chants. On the last word, whoever’s foot she’s pointing to is “it.”

When I asked my informant what it meant, she shrugged, “I’m pretty sure it’s just nonsense. People say it differently, like I recently talked to another French girl who knew it as, “piquee piquee colegram, bour et bour et rata tam, ans vam dram piquee piquee colegram.” That doesn’t mean anything either. It’s exactly like eeny meeny miney mo, except no one knows how to spell it.”

The Story of Josh Friar

This story is told at a summer camp in rural Pennsylvania.

Over by the lake, there used to be a huge house. It belonged to a man named Josh Friar. Josh was a very strange man, and very reclusive. He stayed in his house all year round, only leaving once a month to do his shopping in Towanda (the local town.) The townspeople always waited expectantly for his visit every month, for although he was strange and a recluse, every month he would have a new, beautiful woman with him. Blonde women, brunette woman, tall woman, short women–all different, and all stunning. One month Josh brought a particular beauty into town. She had fiery red hair, and bright green eyes. Everyone agreed she was the most beautiful woman Josh had ever brought. 

The next month, however, Josh didn’t come to town. Nor did he the next month. On the third month that Josh did not come to town, the townspeople decided to form a party and go check on him. They hiked out to the lake in the woods, and knocked on Josh’s door. There was no answer, but the door was unlocked. The men shrugged and opened it. Immediately they were overpowered by a hideous stench. It was so vile that several of the men ran outside and vomited. Despite the smell, several men still went inside. As they entered the dark house, the smell got worse and worse. Some had to leave because they couldn’t take it. Finally, someone found a light switch. When they turned it on, one of the men screamed. Everything in the house–the carpet, the walls, the furniture, everything–was covered in human flesh. It was so awful that some of the grown men cried or ran away. The few that remained decided they had to keep looking for Josh. They saw a staircase, and started to climb. As they climb, the smell got worse and worse. One man passed out. Finally, they reached the top of the stairs, and opened the door. Inside the room, sitting on a rocking chair, was the beautiful redheaded woman. And in her lap was the head of Josh Friar.

And one some dark nights, like this one, they say that he still walks these woods–the decapitated Josh Friar, searching for his head, with nothing but a green lantern, the same green as the bright green eyes of the woman who killed him.
This was a ghost story told at my informant’s childhood summer camp every year, usually at a bonfire on the Fourth of July. The camp policies didn’t allow most traditions, such as camp songs or stories, except for this and a few more told only on this night. Only one of the oldest, most experienced campers  will be allowed to tell the story, and every year, the camper with the honor does his or her best to make it new and exciting, even though everyone knows the story already.

At the last part, a green light will start flashing from the woods behind the speaker, to the screams of campers. This is done by another senior camper, and it is considered an honor.