Author Archives: Mehmet Donat

Turkish Good Luck Charms 

Background Information: 

The informant is a residential real estate developer who learned a lot of traditions and superstitions from their mother. They currently live in Detroit, Michigan but emigrated from Turkey. 

Main Piece: 

ME: Hey GD, would you mind telling me a bit about what you would do for good luck when selling your homes?

GD: Well… what I would do when initially trying to sell a house… elephants are supposed to be good luck. It’s a set of seven elephants from Turkey, and they are like a graduated size, starting from a big one all the way down to a baby one. I would always put them together in a room in one of my spec houses to bring good luck in selling the home. 

ME: Do you have any idea where this comes from or how you found out about it?

GD: Well I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but uh I imagine it is cross-cultural. Only because we have friends from India and they do the same thing. Uh but I got it from my mother who is Turkish. And obviously seven… seven is a lucky number too right, so. 

ME: Would you do anything else to try and sell your homes?

GD: So whenever I present any of my new homeowners with their keys, I always put their keys on an evil-eye keychain that I buy from Turkey. 

ME: So what’s the significance of the evil eye?

GD: So the evil eye… it’s basically like a mirror. If there are, you know, legend has it, that if there are people that give off bad vibes their vibes can affect things, and the evil eye will reflect their bad vibes and give it back to them… It basically reflects evil back to the evil person.  


This interview happened a month ago at my home. 


It is interesting to me that the informant does not seem to know a ton about the origin of their superstitious beliefs, yet they still use them in their business, and partially credit their successes to these artifacts. It is also interesting how the informant brought up aspects of multiculturalism through folk artifacts. According to the informant, the seven elephants signify good luck in their culture as well as the culture of their Indian friends. The origin of the elephant as a good luck symbol actually does not originate from Turkey at all, but instead comes from Hinduism and the god Ganesha, and elephants are commonly used in Feng Shui practices as good luck. For more information see here: Cho, Anjie. “Uses of the Elephant Symbol in Feng Shui.” The Spruce, The Spruce, 24 Feb. 2022, Looking at the evil eye, it’s origins surpasses even those of the Ottoman Empire. Researchers think that the first evil eye amulet was created in 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, or what is now Syria. The origin of the modern-day blue evil eye beads first appeared in multiple locations around the Mediterranean at around 1500 B.C. For more information see here: Hargitai, Quinn. “The Strange Power of the ‘Evil Eye’.” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 Feb. 2018, It is very interesting that these two charms, which are very widespread in Turkey, are neither original to the region, nor originated in the region. 

The Ghost of Temecula 

Background Information: 

The informant is a current student at USC and one of my good friends. They grew up in a smaller town in Southern California called Temecula. They never experienced this legend but they were told it via their neighbors.

Main Piece: 

ME: So can you tell me about the ghost of Temecula?

BF: So basically when I was growing up, the myth was that there was this ghost of Temecula, and like back in the old day, in the old town, which we have, which dates back to the early 1800s. Basically there was this cowboy who had a really bad interaction with the Native Americans, the Pechanga Indians, who were living there. So basically the story is, that he (the cowboy) upset them and got his head chopped off. Then the spirit of this cowboy came back to life and became a part of the tribe. And so if you ever did anything that upset the Native Americans, or disrespected them, or you didn’t treat the native land the right way, there would be this ghost, this cowboy, who is beheaded, on a horse. And even though he didn’t have his head he had a hat that was floating above his head. And basically the spirit would come and haunt you and torment you for like a week, if you ever disrespected the natives or anything like that. So that was something our parents always harped on. They would tell us, “be respectful” or “do good things, otherwise this ghost is gonna come haunt you”. 

ME: Did you ever see the ghost?

BF: I’ve never seen the ghost, but my neighbors will swear on their life, that when they were kids and they would like kick up dirt or do something stupid, and then in the night they would see this ghost come in through the doorway of their bedroom, he would like shapeshift through the wall, and he would just torment them for a week.

ME: That sounds pretty scary

BF: I’ve never experienced it, nor do I want to experience it, but that’s the myth from good-ole Temecula, and my neighbors are insistent, to-the-day, that they saw the ghost. 


This interview happened in-person at my apartment. 


This is an interesting interaction because the informant did not experience the ghost themselves, but due to the persistence of their neighbors, they believe it too. I think that this legend is largely focused on scaring little kids into not getting into any mischief, however I think it is interesting that the Native Americans are involved in this legend. The Native Americans within the legend seem to represent nature itself, which I feel like is a theme that occurs in other stories. Immediately when I heard this story, I thought of the legend of the Headless Horseman from the novel, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The Ghost of Temecula has a near-identical description to the Headless Horseman. The Ghost of Temecula seems to have different motivations from the Headless Horseman, and do not share much similarity past their description, but it is still very interesting. To read more about the Headless Horseman, follow here: Irving, Washington. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Wildside Press, 2004.

The Ghost of Mrs. Kissle

Background information :

The informant is a friend who is from Connecticut and has a second home in Vermont. 

Main Content: 

ME: So could you tell me about your murder-ghost story? 

LA: So there’s this family called the Kissels that used to own my ski-house in Vermont. They had a similar setup that we do, they had the grandparents, the kids, and all of their kids came as well. But there’s now a movie about this story called The Two Mr. Kissels with John Stamos. And um, they didn’t do any of this in our house, but there’s this crazy story from 2008. So they went crazy because they worked in finance, and one guy got killed by his wife in Hong Kong, because she gave a kid a poisoned smoothie to give to the dad, and he died. She rolled him up on a carpet and put him in a storage unit, and then the other dad killed him in his basement in Greenwich, because he wanted to be killed, not kill himself, for insurance purposes. And the Grandma died in my house, and she was fine, she never did anything bad, but my mom would always tell me that Mrs. Kistle was gonna get me when I would go to sleep. My mom and my aunt would terrorize me about it and always tell me that there would be a ghost in the house. 

ME: Was there anything specific about Mrs. Kissel, or were you just scared that she was going to “get you”

LA: They were just like, I don’t know, not something a mom would normally do, they honestly just wanted to freak me out before I went to bed. Then I would stare at the ceiling all night thinking about a bad ghost that was gonna come get me, but my grandma would always tell me that Mrs. Kissel was a good woman, and her kids were the ones who were fucked up. 

ME: Did you ever see a ghost in the house? 

LA: No, I think I almost was trying to convince myself that I would see ghosts there sometimes because of how much she was on my mind. My brother and I would sleep on bunk beds and I would always stare at the ceiling and look for her, but I never saw her. 

ME: Do you tell a lot of people about this experience? 

LA: I never talk about it in the house or in the state of Vermont because it scares me too much. I can only talk about it in other states. 


We had this conversation in-person while eating lunch.

I think this is a really interesting legend because the legend stems from a real horrific murder, which I think holds a tight grip on the informant. Even though the informant, nor any of her family, have ever seen the ghost, it seems to be a large topic of conversation, and the informant is still scared to speak about it to this day. The fact that there was a real murder story gives the ghost story much more credibility and certainly adds to the fear factor. To learn more about the murders, read here: Fishman, Steve. “Kissels of Death .” New York Magazine, New York Magazine, 28 Apr. 2006,

Czech Christmas Tradition

Background Information: 

The informant was born and raised in Australia, but has roots in the Czechia. She is describing her childhood in Sydney.

Main Content: 

ME: Hey can you tell me about your experiences during Christmas. 

SP: So on Christmas Eve instead of Santa Clause coming St. Nicholas comes and if you are a really good child you get an orange or an apple from him, and if you are a really bad child the equivalent of Satan comes and basically kidnaps you forever, and if your orange or apple is really sweet that is like the best present you could’ve gotten from Saint Nick and it means that you are gonna have a really good year. 

ME: Does the apple or orange specifically have any significance?

SP: Umm, Oh! Its actually an apple, orange, or golden pig. The golden pig is actually the one that has the most significance and basically when I was little, ummm,  on Christmas eve my grandma would sprinkle golden fairy dust to make the trail of a golden pig, and then that would lead to our stockings which would have either an apple or an orange in them, and that was basically our parents way of telling us that we were good children that year. 

ME: Who started introduced this tradition to you?

SP: So basically my mom’s family is Czech, so my grandparents on my mom’s side and I just got brought up with it. 


This conversation happened in-person. 


I think it is really interesting to see different Christmas traditions from different backgrounds. It’s interesting that the children receive gifts on Christmas Eve, instead of Christmas morning. This tradition is very different from the modern American gift-giving. Considering that on Christmas Eve, the two outcomes for a child in this tradition is either receiving a fruit or being kidnapped by the devil, it is very different from the conventional American tradition of receiving exuberant gifts if you were good, or getting a piece of coal if you were bad. 

A Unique Passover Tradition

Background Information: 

The informant is a friend of mine. They have been born and raised in Southern California, but his family has familial roots in Israel and Morocco. Their grandmother emigrated from Morocco to the US. 

Main Content: 

ME: So can you tell me about your family’s unique Passover tradition? 

YS: So during Passover dinner, we leave an extra table, or not an extra table, an extra chair, at our dinner table and we leave the front door open when we do the Haggadah, which when you tell stories. And we use the extra chair as a way to signify our dead family members being there with us. So whenever, we like pray, at that time at the table, we like bless our dead family members.

ME: That’s really cool, is it a common tradition or is it just something that your family does?

YS: I’m pretty sure its just my family, my grandma like grew up doing it and taught is to do it too. 

ME: Do you believe that the spirits are really there or is it more just for symbolism?

YS: Yeah, we believe that the spirits are really there. One year, when I was younger, there was like wind happening and our door like flew open and it was really windy in the house. My grandma told us, “That’s my husband!”.

ME: Wow, really crazy, thank you. 


This interview happened at my apartment. 


This tradition is really interesting because it takes a formal religious tradition like Passover, and adds its own touch to it. It is even more interesting because the informant’s family actually experienced the ghost or spirit of the informant’s grandmother’s deceased husband, which really cemented their belief in the tradition. The informant told me that their grandmother grew up practicing this tradition in Morocco, before she moved to the US. I am not sure if this is widely practiced in Morocco or not, but my informant claims that it isn’t. Regardless, I think that this is a really great way to honor dead family members and still feel a connection with them, and even physically interact with them, as in the case of the informant.