Author Archives: jxwang

Three-foot-high, Solid, and White

Context: The informant is a family friend who relates a story that he heard from an associate he met when he lived in the Philippines. I know the informant personally and have no reason to doubt that his telling of the story is accurate. The story was told to the informant in District 2, Barangay Gamu Centro, Isabela Province, Luzon, The Philippines in November, 2014. The language in which the story was told to him is in English.


Me: Have you heard of any strange or supernatural stories in your life?

Informant: Yes, I have. So, uhh, the last person in the world I would have suspected to, um, tell me a story of that sort is a very good friend of mine, let’s, uh, call him Kay. Kay grew up in a working class family near, uh, the docks in Liverpool. His father and uncles worked in a factory nearby. And, uh, Liverpool is actually the Beatles hometown, and as a teenager he told me that he used to occasionally catch their act at the Cavern Club.

Me: When and where did you meet Kay?

Informant: I met him in, umm, let’s see here, uhh, I believe it was 2014. He was our landlord in the small village on the island of Luzon in the northern Philippines. We lived there for, uhh, a year in a tidy little cottage behind Kay and his wife’s house.

Kay met and married his wife in Dubai, let’s call her, um, Jay. Kay then quit his job as a power plant engineer for the Saudi Arabian national oil company, and, uh, they moved to Jay’s home village in the Philippines to take life easy.

Kay was a big man, a real tough man, who had worked in the murderous heat of the Saudi oil fields for about, uhh, 25 years from what I recall. It’s hot in the Philippines, too, and when we first met him, Kay was dressed in his daily uniform of, um, a pair of loose shorts and flip flops. I remember how *chuckle* Kay bragged that he hadn’t worn a shirt in ten years, and I *chuckle* I never saw Kay in a shirt once during that year we lived in his house.

Me: So what was the story that Kay told you?

Informant: I’ll get to that, but first you have to know that, uh, there was nothing fancy about Kay. He was a westerner, and, um, he prided himself on being tough, belligerent, outspoken, and being able to design and build anything he could imagine in his wonderfully creative mind. You can imagine my surprise, when he told us this story:

Jay, Kay’s Filipina wife, was, um, how should I say it, somewhat superstitious. She wouldn’t wear red when lightning prowled about during the typhoon season, and, uh, undoubtedly had all the supernatural fears and phobias typical of her neighbors. Kay didn’t fear anything, but he loved Jay and wasn’t too surprised when one day she told him about, get at this, the chicken.

Me: The chicken?!

Informant: The chicken! First it was Jay, and then it was their teenage daughter, let’s, uhh, call her May. They both saw it. Not an ordinary chicken, mind you. They had each seen a three-foot-high chicken walk through their house, out the kitchen door and disappear. A three-foot-high white chicken. *chuckle* It didn’t make a sound, didn’t look right or left, just walked from the veranda, through the sitting room, into the kitchen, out the door, then disappeared.

And, um, this didn’t happen just once, mind you. The chicken showed up from time to time, no special time a matter of fact. Not on Christmas or a birthday! First, Jay and May saw it independently; Jay saw it when May was at school, and then, uhh, Jay saw it when May and her sister-in-law were out back scrubbing clothes in the wash tub. But then, Jay and May *chuckle* saw it together at the same time! A three-foot white chicken calmly walking through their house. 

Kay didn’t see it! He didn’t believe in it! But he just went along with it so as to not make waves with his wife and daughter. Let them see whatever they want to see was the way Kay handled it.  He was totally accustomed to the often unusual beliefs of his friends and relatives in the village.

But that all changed the day Kay was in the house alone, tinkering with the ever problematic air conditioner in the, uhh, sitting room. He turned away to grab a screwdriver or wrench from his tool box, and there it was: A three-foot-high, solid, white chicken strolling through the sitting room not ten feet away! The chicken didn’t make a sound, didn’t look right or left. It just, uhh, sauntered into the kitchen and out the door to the yard. Kay didn’t believe it, but there it was. All of his experience working big power projects in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, all his drinking and brawling before he met Jay, all his settling down to his farm and taxi business in the Philippines. None explained the three-foot chicken!

Kay didn’t tell Jay and May about it at first. He dismissed the whole thing, until it *chuckle* happened again! Again! And Again! Finally, he had to admit it to Jay and May. They just nodded. They understood. As they said, that’s just the way things happen in the rural Philippines! *laughs*

And after a while, the chicken, uhh, didn’t come back. Kay and Jay and May were all glad about that. Kay especially because the three-foot white chicken was the one thing in his life he never figured out.

Now I, uhh, left out one tiny little detail. Very recently before the sightings of the supernaturally large chicken, Kay’s brother unfortunately passed away. Maybe, just maybe, those dots can be connected!

Thoughts: The story told is an example of a memorate. The informant related a supernatural occurrence as it was told to him by a close friend. The informant also originally wrote down the story to preserve it. I am further protecting the integrity of the story by recording it in the USC Digital Folklore Archives. The story illustrates how supernatural events are perceived differently by persons of different cultures. For example, the wife and the daughter (Filipinos) easily accepted the supernatural events, while the husband and father (Westerner) initially rejected it. The informant told me that this doesn’t suggest that the wife and daughter are not intelligent or perfectly capable individuals. They are simply a product of their rural Filipino culture. The informant himself is at a loss to determine the veracity of the story, and so am I. Furthermore, the informant has no reason to doubt the integrity of the friend who told him this story because he knew the storyteller to be honest and forthright. This is an example of how our credulity is heavily influenced by our personal relationships.

Bob and Mary Still Live Here?

Context: The event happened some time during 1997. The informant was a young volunteer missionary for her church working in rural North Carolina. Part of her work involved knocking on doors and talking to people. Although most people were not interested in her message, virtually everyone they contacted was kind and respectful. The visit described in the following story was unlike any other that she encountered during her 18-months service as a missionary.


Me: Tell me something strange that happened to you. Where were you and what happened? 

Informant: So I was a missionary for, um, a year and a half, and you get assigned to a place, uh, where you don’t know where you’re going to end up. You could end up in Russia, Japan, Argentina, or North Carolina. And I happened to have ended up in North Carolina. So they sent me there for a year and a half. And you spend about two to four months in each town, and you get transferred to different towns. And your main, main goal, main purpose there is to teach people who are interested, teach them about our church. And during the time I was a missionary, I eventually arrived at this old house in Sailsbury, North Carolina.

Me: What was so special about this house?

Informant: Ok, so we are at this old house with the antique furniture. I’m like 21 years old. I have this young lady, a companion, with me who is very scared and nervous and doesn’t say a thing. And I’m making small talk with the people who live at the house, asking them about their house. And they start in on ghost stories

Me: Ghost stories! Now we’re getting somewhere!

Informant: I had no idea what I was getting into. And with the most normal looks on their faces and the most sincere tone of voice, no exaggeration, no drama. Um, very matter of fact, um, they start telling me, oh yeah, there’s ghosts in this house. And I kind of froze. And I said, oh, *laughs* that’s interesting.

Me: That is interesting. Tell me more.

Informant: And they start pointing things out and they say, yeah, the rocking chair over there on the porch. He said, the old owners, the original owners of the house were, let’s say, you know Bob and Mary, and you know Bob comes and he’ll just sit on the porch. We’ll just see him out there in the evening, every now and again, I mean, just rocking in the rocking chair. I said, oh really? They said, yeah. And then they tell me that they see Mary, she walks over — and see that tree over there? Um, and that little street? So Mary just goes walking across the yard. And then, uh, they’re up in the attic. So we hear them up there, they’re kind of moving things around and we often hear that. 

Me: How did you react to this?

I wasn’t really scared because I don’t believe in ghosts, and I believe that if you don’t believe in things, you won’t see them. But my companion was petrified. She was sitting in her chair frozen, and I looked over at her, and I could tell that she was scared out of her wits. Um, and I tried to change the subject, but they kept going on in this very matter of fact way, telling me about all of these times they had seen Bob and Mary, and they said, they’re just part of the house. And we just, um, we just, you know, we’ve gotten used to it and like, it was no big deal. And so I started to kind of laugh, to laugh off the situation because I can see how nervous my companion was, and I didn’t want her to be scared. 

And it’s dark in this house. They had turned the lights down. I mean, it was just like one of those old, um, it’s different in North Carolina. It’s just different in the South, just older houses with, you know, the dim lighting. And so I started to laugh a little bit and said, oh *laugh* that’s kinda funny. You know, houses have stories, you know, something like that to laugh it off.

Me: But they took it seriously, didn’t they?

Informant: Super seriously! The man turned to me and he said, do you think we’re lying? That we’re just making all of this up? And I said, oh no, no, no. I didn’t want to offend them. Um, I tried to handle it as best as I could without offending them. And these people were not, um — I met a lot of people out in the country who were very, uh, very poor and very uneducated. And these people were not that. These people were middle-class and educated. They were intelligent people with a lot of books around, and you could tell they were educated. 

But anyway, that guy just turned on me and basically accused me of saying that he was lying. And so I could tell that this was just going to be uncomfortable. So as soon as it, you know, seemed okay to leave, we, uh, thanked them for their hospitality and left and never went back to that house again. 

But when we got back to the car and we’re driving back, my poor little companion was just shaking. She had never left home before. This was one of her first experiences away from home, and she was utterly terrified. *chuckle* And while we were in the house, I could see her kind of looking around the room a little bit to see if maybe Bob and Mary were going to show up. And she had been worried that they were just gonna, you know, come into the room and take a chair.

Me: And how did you feel about it?

Informant: I was definitely shaken up, too. Not that I thought I was going to see a ghost, but, uh, it’s just really — it was a strange situation to have intelligent, educated people sit there and tell you in your face that they have ghosts in their house and see them frequently. And, uh, it’s hard to know what, what to say. So my conclusion is I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t think they were lying, but at the same time I thought about it a lot afterwards. And I thought I would never see a ghost in that house because I guess, because I’m not a believer. *laughs* So, um, maybe it’s if you’re open to it and you let yourself go there, maybe you’ll see something, but, um, I don’t think I ever would. So that’s my ghost story.

Thoughts: This story surprised the informant and myself because neither of us expected belief in ghosts to be associated with middle class, educated people. In this case, it is educated, middle class people who see ghosts on a regular basis. An important element in the story is the man’s irritation, and his accusation that the informant thought he was lying. This would indicate how deeply he held his beliefs in ghosts. Another interesting element is how nonchalant the residents were regarding ghosts in their house. They grew accustomed to it, somewhat ritualizing it. The informant didn’t know how widespread these types of beliefs are in the South. The story presents a conflict of belief: the missionary doesn’t believe in ghosts, but the residents accept ghosts as part of daily life. I personally do not believe in ghosts but found the entire discussion between the resident and the missionary fascinating. I certainly would have liked to question the residents myself and find out more details about their belief in ghosts — and more about Bob and Mary.