Author Archives: JudyTsai

The Bell Witch Haunting

“The legend of Bell Witch is a famous haunted house story in Tennessee.  There was once a farmer named John Bell who moved to a farm land in what is now known as Adams, Tennessee.  One day, John saw a strange animal in the field, so he tried to shoot it and it disappeared.  After that incident, the members of the family began hearing strange noises around the house.  The noises got worse and the family started hearing voices as well.  Soon, they were physically affected when the spirit would actually pull their hair, slap their faces, throw things, and much more.  After the presence became extremely unbearable, John decided ask around to receive help.  No one was able to get rid of the spirit because it was so powerful.  In the end, John got very sick and the spirit finally killed him after it poisoned him.  Today, it is believed that some areas in Adams are haunted because of Bell Witch.  Visitors have supposedly heard voices and sounds of laughter.  Also, people have taken pictures on the property, but the developed pictures would show a man standing behind the visitor in the picture.”

This legend is popular in Tennessee, so my informant heard about it after she moved to Tennessee from Texas several years ago.  Her friends and neighbors also mention the Bell Witch legend occasionally because of its popularity.  Theresa learned more about the legend after the movies Bell Witch Haunting and An American Haunting were made.  The movies provided her with a more thorough understanding of the story and the haunting that went on in the Bell house.
Because she has been exposed to this well-known legend as a Tennessee resident, my informant thinks about the story when the topic of haunted houses comes up.  Haunted houses remind her of the legend of Bell Witch, so she shares what she knows with people who don’t know the story.
Even though she shares this legend with those unfamiliar with it, she does not believe that it is true.  She does not believe in ghosts, so she does not think that the incidents that happened at the Bell house had to do with spirits and witches.  Although the tale of Bell Witch contains many supernatural occurrences, she does not have any explanation as to why the Bell family was taunted by a spirit.
Since I do believe in ghosts, I think that this story is highly credible.  Some of the incidents in the story do not really make sense, but I think that the Bell family could very likely have been haunted by Bell Witch.  There would not be a legend like this or recent incidents if none of this were true.  The fact that there are museums, researchers, and attractions dedicated to Adams, Tennessee reveals the legitimacy of the legend.  Visitors have experienced supernatural confrontations that relate back to the Bell family.  I do think that the property is haunted, even though I’m not quite sure I believe the entire background story.

Fitzhugh, Pat.  “The Bell Witch Haunting.”  The Bell Witch “Keeping the Story Real.”  16 Jan     2007.  21 April 2007 <>.

“Boys will be boys.”

My informant learned this saying from an old television show that he used to watch.  This saying has become part of his daily speech.  Almost every conversation he has includes his saying “boys will be boys” to the point that the person he is talking to is extremely puzzled.  He says it in situations in which they saying makes no logical sense, hence the confusion of the person he’s talking to.
My informant likes this saying for the irony and confusion.  He knows that it doesn’t make sense when he says it because he says it at the most random times.  When he says it, it somehow relates back to the conversation, but not necessarily.  It leaves people speechless because they don’t know how to respond.
For my informant, “boys will be boys” provides him with a sense of nostalgia because it reminds him of watching television as a child.  Because he learned the saying from watching a television show, the saying reminds him of childhood and the fun times he had as a child.
My interpretation of “boys will be boys” is quite different from his.  In his case, he says it for the sake of saying it.  I believe this saying represents how boys act, and many people interpret it this way as well.  This saying is a way of asserting that boys are stupid and immature.  Boys can act like complete idiots.  This saying is just a more polite way of explaining how boys can be.  I think that this saying is very useful in life when talking about boys.  It isn’t as harsh as saying how boys act.  By saying “boys will be boys,” people know what someone means without saying something in a blunt manner.

“Don’t use your cell phone at the gas station because you can cause an electrical spark and everything will blow up!”

Since the boom of cell phones, my informant’s dad has been telling her to take precaution and not to use her cell phone when filling up at the gas station.  As a very informed physicist, Dr. Loo is always up to date with new information that he reads in the paper and on the Internet.  He passes on any information that he believes his daughter must know.  This urban legend is one of the few pieces of information that she actually attempts to remember because it actually affects her when she thinks about using a cell phone.
My informant, a very cautious teenager, never takes too many precautions.  She believes in any information that could have any element of truth, even if it’s not likely.  Whenever she goes to the gas station with a group of friends, she never lets a friend use a cell phone while at the station even if the person who wants to use his or her cell phone isn’t the one filling up the car.
She spreads this legend around because she thinks it’s possible, but not entirely true.  She believes that it’s a safety issue, so people can never be too safe.  The reason she tells people to avoid using cell phones at gas stations is to let them know the possibilities of danger.  She doesn’t want her friends to die at the gas station over a silly cell phone call.
I believe that this urban legend is in fact realistic.  It makes sense that cell phones can be a danger at gas stations.  According to a CNN article published in 1999, “a cell phone’s battery could spark and ignite gasoline fumes if the cell phone were dropped in proximity to a gas pump.”  Just the possibility that dropping a cell phone near a pump could cause a spark is enough information to say that using cell phones at gas stations is dangerous.  Because people are so busy with so many places to go, they tend to be more impatient, which sometimes make them more clumsy and careless.  They try to do several things at once, like filling up and talking on the phone at the same time.  There’s a risk of accidentally dropping cell phones, which relates to the legend.  Even cell phone manuals are taking caution and warning people to switch cell phones off when refueling.  The Nokia 6133 User Guide states to switch cell phones off at refueling points.  If cell phone manufacturers are warning the public that using cell phones at gas stations is a potential hazard, then I believe that this urban legend is definitely legitimate.

“Exxon warns dealers of cell phone risks.”  24 June 1999.  19 Feb 2007     <>.

“A person needs a face; a tree needs bark.” (人 要 脸 树 要 皮)

 人  要  脸,树 要 皮

rén    yào    lǐan,       shù   yào    pí

person needs face,       tree needs bark
A person needs a face; a tree needs bark.

My informant immigrated to the United States about 30 years ago.  Before he moved to the US, he was well educated in Taiwan.  While in college in Taiwan, he learned many proverbs that he still remembers to this day.  Whenever he comes over to my house, I hear his profuse use of proverbs during conversations with my parents.
Michael uses “a person needs a face; a tree needs bark” to describe actions made by other people.  When he witnesses or hears about someone doing something wrong or shameful, he uses this perfect opportunity to say the proverb.  Instead of saying what everyone else would say, like expressing their thoughts on the wrongdoings of a person, Michael would use the proverb to describe his opinion.  Also, he would tell this proverb to his children whenever they broke rules.  He believes that words can be a very powerful form of punishment.  Leaving his children with this proverb, his children would contemplate the meaning of it and learn that they need to save face and act with dignity.
Michael believes that using proverbs as part of his vocabulary is valuable.  Not only do proverbs connect people to the past, but they also reveal knowledge that a person has.  Because Michael is from Taiwan, he has the traditional belief that people need to save face.  People need to have a good reputation and be respected by people.  Just like a tree and bark, a person cannot endure life without a face, both literally and metaphorically.  When people aren’t respected and admired, they live a less cherished life.
Proverbs can be very powerful, and I think that using this type of proverb to teach children is very effective.  Words can hurt more than actions, and with this proverb, words are more important than punishing through grounding.  This proverb reveals values that Chinese people hold.  As Michael said, the Chinese treasure respect and honor.  “A person needs a face; a tree needs bark” perfectly describes Chinese beliefs without coming out to say it directly.

“Don’t worry about it.”

My informant started hearing this saying two years ago during his junior year of high school.  People were saying it everywhere, and he couldn’t help but say it too.  “Don’t worry about it” became part of his more used expressions.  Eventually, all of his friends started saying it too.  It became one of the phrases that they would know when to use.  They used it so frequently that they would answer any question or comment with “don’t worry about it.”
He uses the saying when, obviously, he doesn’t want someone to worry about something.  He replaced “it’s alright,” along with other phrases, with “don’t worry about it.”  He started saying it even when it didn’t really apply.  If a person asked him a question and he didn’t feel like answering, he would just reply with “don’t worry about it.”
He does not know what he would do without this saying.  He has begun to rely on it so much because it allows him to answer even when he doesn’t know what to say.  It’s also become special to him because it’s pretty much an inside joke between him and his friends.  “Don’t worry about it” is accepted as an appropriate way of responding his friends, but not so much with others.
I think that this phrase is just a way of avoiding things.  Some usages of it is fine, but when someone answers back with “don’t worry about it” when there should be an actual answer, I think that the person is just trying to avoid questions.  I think that my informant and his friends shouldn’t rely on this saying when they’re having conversations with other people.  Replying with “don’t worry about it” after every few questions can become quite frustrating, especially when you need answers.