Author Archives: June Rutherford


Um, in Russia, we believe that there is a little gnome-like creature living in your house, and you have to, if you’re like, if you are, if you got robbed or something like that, or, if something bad happened to your house or you don’t have enough money or something like that, or you keep losing stuff that’s the main thing, then, uh, you have to like bribe the little gnome guy and everything’s gonna be ok, he’s gonna protect your house. And, I believed in him until I was like 13. Because, when I was like 11 or 12, I was in a camp, in a summer camp, and there was like uh, like I’m pretty sure it was a fire extinguishing door, like you know, like, just was like a little door on the wall, right? I’m pretty sure the fire extinguisher was stored there or something, but it could never open. And I believed that the little gnome, I thought that the little gnome guy lived there, and one day, I leaved – I left. I left, um, little snacks below the door, and the snacks disappeared and I was like, oh my god, it was the gnome guy.

People are looking for explanations for things they can’t explain, like. My mom still, or like even I, even I still do it I can’t get rid of it. When something disappears, like when I can’t find something I say, “Devil devil, you played with it, can you please give it back now.” And, in Russian, and like, just because, the moment when you say it you’re already desperate enough and you’ve looked for so long, that there’s a big chance you’ll actually find it, after saying the phrase. So because of that, it’s like, it almost has a 100% success rate so you continue doing it. And like, when I’m on a call with my mom and I say I lost something she’s like, oh have you have you tried saying the phrase yet?

Background: My informant is a recent immigrant from Russia. They recall having always had this knowledge and having continued the tradition of appealing to the Domovoy (a name which they later provided to me) until the present.



Context: This piece was collected in an in-person conversation in my apartment.

My thoughts: This legend reminds me of several other “house spirits” that I am familiar with. I was surprised at the benevolence which my informant described this creature as having. The invocation of this creature whenever an object is lost seems to be an extension of what my informant called “explanations for things they can’t explain,” a cry for supernatural aid when all natural means of finding a thing have been exhausted. I was interested to hear about my informant’s own encounter with the gnome – their brief story is a wonderful example of a memorate, of their witnessing their snacks disappearing and fitting that occurrence into their existing belief in this creature.

Century Apartments Ghost

Um, ok so, here in Century Apartments, um, there was a woman, who um – now this was heresay, told to me by someone at a pool party, uh when we first moved in, and my roommate and I looked it up, and there’s, reported in the newspaper, more specific details confirming that this was true, there was a woman who lived in this apartment and did not know she was pregnant, um…

ME: Wait this apartment?

Not this apartment, but this apartment complex, and she did not know she was pregnant, and the legend goes that she gave birth in her shower, um, and the legend goes she didn’t know she was pregnant, but she gave birth, and uh, I keep saying “as the legend goes” but the story is she strangled the baby, or like suffocated it, and then tossed it down the trash chute, um, but, there, there was a baby found by a custodial worker in the bottom of the trash chute, um, and uh, she definitely get in legal trouble for this, um, and now we believe there’s a ghost in this apartment building somewhere, um, my neighbors did a pendulum thingy to uh … I believe the ghost is named Melvin with she/her pronouns, that’s what I recall, that was the name and … but there’s allegedly a ghost in the building and it’s allegedly the baby.

Background: I was, admittedly, one of the people who had contacted the ghost via pendulum, prior to being aware of the death of the baby in my apartment complex – we connected our prior belief that there was a spirit in our apartment to the new knowledge that an infant had died there. My informant had heard about these happenings secondhand, and this was his recollection.

Context: This piece was collected during an in-person conversation in my informant’s apartment, which is in the Century apartment complex.

My thoughts: This piece is an excellent example of a memorate. A group of people (of which I am one) noticed unexplained things happening, such as doors slamming, things not being where they were placed, and other such phenomena. This group initially fit this into a framework of belief in which ghosts are often the cause of these things, going so far as to engage in a pendulum ritual to try and communicate with it. Upon learning about the death of a child in the same location they already believed a ghost inhabited, they group fit that death and their ghost belief together.

Fuck, I missed!

So, a plumber and a priest go golfing. The priest and the golfer drive up to the first hole, get all their stuff ready, get their clubs, they stand up, got their club in hand. The plumber’s up first. He goes to swing, looks at the ball, gets focused, tests for wind, stares at the hole, brings back his golf club, swings! And he misses completely, and screams out, “Fuck, I missed!”. And the priest says, “Oh, sir please, I wanted to have a good time with you, I wanted to come out here with you and play golf. Those words really make me uncomfortable, and I’d really prefer if you just didn’t say them.” So, the plumber’s like “:Oh yes, yes of course I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry priest.” So, he lines up his second shot. Club on the ground, in front of the ball, he’s got a big back swing … misses by a mile! And he says, “Fuck, I missed.” And the priest says “Sir! These words are against my faith. Please, please don’t continue with this, I can’t take it, I won’t still be out here with you.” And he says “Oh, I’m so sorry father, I’m so sorry, I really, I’ll stop.” Takes his golf club in hand, really focuses on this one, really lines this one up, he will never miss this one, swings it back … misses farther than he’s ever missed before, and he screams out, “Fuck! I missed!” And suddenly, clouds, dark looming clouds appear over the horizon, and these low, mumbling, growls of thunder, and suddenly lightning comes down, strikes and kills the priest! And you hear this loud, growling voice booming from the sky. “Fuck! I missed!”

Background: My informant recalls being told this joke by her dad, with whom she did not have a good relationship with and who she believes told it to her in an attempt to maintain his image of being fun and cool in front of his children.

Context: My informant first told me this joke in a one-on-one conversation when it was dying down, and reports that she usually says it when a conversation is stagnating.

My thoughts: I thought this joke was very funny when I first heard it, being from a Christian background myself, although it is unclear where my informant’s father heard it, as neither she nor any of her family has ever been Christian. In my interpretation, this joke pokes fun at how pious and up-tight clergy are, both by showing the priest’s annoying tendency to censor the other golf player, and by demonstrating God making the same sort of mistake (and the same sin of foul language) that the plumber makes.

Nail Soup

Basically, it’s about this homeless man, who, all he has in his pocket is a nail, right? So he’s walking around trying to get help from people and like ask them for food, cause he’s like all out on the street it’s like nighttime he’s hungry and he’s alone. So he goes to, door to door, and is just like “Hi can I have something to eat, Hi can I have something to eat,” and everybody shuts him out and then he get sup to this woman, and he knocks on her door and she wants him to get away, and then he tells her, um  … “I bet I can cook you the most delicious soup you’ve ever had with just this nail,” it’s just a metal nail, right? And she’s like, like “I don’t believe you” and he’s like “just let me try,” and so she does. So he walks inside, and he goes into her kitchen, and he gets a pot and fills it up with water, and he puts it in and it’s boiling, and he puts the nail in, and she sits down and they just start talking a little bit about themselves, but she’s still a little wary cause she doesn’t know, and as he’s cooking he’s just smelling it, and tasting it, and he’s like “mmm, this is really coming together”, and then he’s just like “ but you know what would go really good with this if you really wanna make this a great nail soup is some carrots.” And, so she’s like, “I have some carrots,” and so she pulls out the carrots and they cook it together and chop it up, put some carrots in the soup with the um, nail, and as he goes through he’s like, “You know, some celery would just make this great,” and after adding a couple more vegetables, potatoes, celery, obvious, all that stuff, um, he… talks to her and he’s just like, “You know, I’m getting really hungry. The best thing that you can do is just to like, dip some bread in the soup, and then it’s so good.” And so she pulls out this big loaf of bread, she’s like, “I have bread here,” and so she breaks the bread with him and they eat, dippin’ in together, and he, um … and they’re like having this great time, and he’s just like, “This always remind me of the times I used to eat nail soup and just have a nice glass of red wine,” so she pulls out the red wine, she pours them some glasses and she’s having a wonderful time with him, and they’re just talking about their history together and he’s like “Ok, soup is done!” And he slips the nail out, puts it back in his pocket, and then he brings the soup down, and they share the meal, and she’s like “I had such a lovely dinner with you, and it was just such a lovely meal, you should come back some time to make me nail soup,” and then they leave.

Background: This informant recalls being told this story as a child by her mother, who is Lebanese. She remembers not being able to spend much time with her mother, but each night hearing a children’s story before bed. She cites it as a Polish folk story. For them, it is a story about compassion and sharing, and the joy that comes with it. This informant has previously related to me that the sharing of food is very important to them, as well as important in Lebanese culture.

Context: This piece was collected during a conversation about childhood stories had on the inflatable mattress in our apartment living room.

My thoughts: When I was told this story, I half-remembered hearing a similar tale during my own childhood. Upon further research, I realized that the version I had been told was the “Stone Soup” oikotype, in which a stone takes the place of the nail. I agree very much with my informant’s assessment of the meaning of this tale. I’d be interested in learning more about why the soup in each version of the story starts with the ingredient it starts with.

For another version of this tale, see the following:

Yeats, William Butler (2010). The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats Vol II: The Plays. New York City: Simon & Schuster. pp. 109–119. ISBN 978-1439105764.


It’s definitely something that Filipinos, like would tell people about, um, because it’s like, witchcraft was a really big thing in the Philippines, or it still is a really big thing in the Philippines, so people who are like mangkukulam like are, people who like put hexes or curses on you, and like, sometimes these people are like shapeshifters or like, have like made deals with the devil and stuff, so. Still, there are like, there are people who will be like don’t go near her she’s like, a mangkukulam and it’s mostly people who are like clinically insane and like, have attacked people but like, literally like, entities who use their energies towards evil intentions, like karmic energy, things like that.

Background: My informant, as is their family, is Filipino, and they speak Tagalog often with their parents and siblings. They recall their family telling them this story, as well as TV shows in the Philippines that dramatized creatures of Filipino Legend, as well as other Filipino supernatural events.

Context: This piece was collected in an in-person conversation in my apartment.

My thoughts: Based on the accused mangkukulam usually being a woman, this legend may have a similar function as North American legends concerning witches; that being, to demonize and punish women who don’t fit into the patriarchal role set out for them.