Author Archives: kohanian@usc.edu

Right Foot First – An Ice Skating Superstition and Ritual

The following informant is a 22-year-old student who competed in ice skating throughout her childhood and well into her teenage years and continues to ice skate recreationally now. She is describing a common superstition she and some of her teammates have. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: One superstition that I have always had when I used to ice skate was that I always used to put my right skate on and tie up the laces before putting on my left skate. I made sure I always did that.

K: What would happen if you put your left skate on first?

S: I just had this belief that if I put my left skate on first, then I would not have as good of a skate, or I would mess up and risk hurting myself. I always thought oh my god you have to put your right skate on first

K: Were you the only one to have this superstition or did your teammates also share it?

S: I’m not sure if other people shared my superstition specifically, but some of my other teammates had similar superstitions. Like my friend J, when she steps on to the ice, she always puts her right foot down first and never the left first for the same reason I put my skates on right first. I, and a lot of the other girls, also followed her superstition as well. Which is probably where I got my superstition about skates.

K: Would you only do this before a competition or anytime you put on skates and stepped on to the ice?

S: Oh, every time I put on skates and went on the ice. I’ve been doing it for years now that I don’t have to worry about accidently putting my left skate on first because I have trained myself to always put my right skate on first and step with my right foot first.

S: One more thing, I am not sure why my superstition has to do with the right-side, maybe it’s because I’m right handed… but that doesn’t really make sense because my friend J is left handed… I honestly don’t know

Context:

This conversation took place at a café one evening. The informant brought up superstitions and I asked if she would like to participate in the folklore collection project. The conversation was recorded and transcribed. Although she only acts out the ritual when she ice-skates.

Thoughts:

I find her superstition about always doing things on the right side first very fascinating, along with her reasoning, that she later disagrees with. But maybe she is not wrong, It seems pretty obvious that if you are right-hand dominant that you would consider your right side to bring good luck and your left side to bring bad luck. But how would this explain her friend. Or maybe in our everyday life we tend to go from right to left, like reading English, her first language, you always read right to left, reading left to right just would not make sense.

The Legend of Camino Hall

The following informant is a 22 year old student from the University of San Diego. In this account she is describing a legend about one of the buildings on her campus. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: There is this urban legend that someone, umm… like killed themselves in either the Camino bathroom. Thats like one of the residence halls but you know also where the administration building is. Umm… yeah so apparently, she had gone to class, this was a girl, and she was going through a hard time and she just like went to the bathroom, like in the middle of class. And people were like “what the fuck, why did she not come back” and then they were like “oh she is probably still in the bathroom”. So they went to the bathroom and she was just like hanging from the ceiling. So like it may or may not have happened, most people believe it, but like some don’t.

K: So when did this happen?

S: Like right when the school opened, like around that time, the school was established in 1949

K: How did you hear about it?

S: oh, just people were randomly talking about it when i transferred, like that first semester, and i was just like what the heck why are we talking about this right now. It was the older students telling the new ones, it was very random, and i don’t know if it was to scare us but i was just like “thank you so much for this information, what do you want me to do with it”

K: did they ever say why she killed herself?

S: no one knows why she killed herself

K: What did you take away from this?

S: I was kind of just like taken back, because i had just transferred, and so i was kind of like um so why are you telling me this. but i had not thought about it since they told me, so… yeah, its not something i think about often.

Context:

This conversation took place at a café one evening. I was visiting the informant at USD, and after providing a different collection of folklore, she launched into this story. As we were in a public space, people overheard the conversation and a few even nodded in agreement, like they were validating what she was saying.

Thoughts:

This is a particularly interesting legend for a couple of reasons. One is that out of my own curiosity I tried to do some research to see if there are more details on the internet and the search came up empty. This by no means insinuates that what she is saying is false, especially because the group of not so subtle eavesdroppers seemed familiar with the legend. But in the age of the digital realm, it seems odd there is no account of it only. The other interesting aspect is how the legend is used now. She explained that the older students tell it to the new students while they orient to the new campus. This seems like a mild form of hazing, in that in order to complete your transformation as a student of USD, you have to get mildly scared by the older students first.

The Mean Ghost

The following informant is a stay at home mom from Upland. Here she is describing interactions her good friend had with a mean ghost in their home. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as KA and I am identified as K:

KA: Okay so my girlfriend is telling me about this ghost story that she lived in this house in Fontana and there was this ghost and he was like a mean ghost because he would like… it would be scary, you know, things would break and weird noises and stuff. and i think it was an old man that had died there, so she said that they got used to him, but it was not a nice ghost. and i think it was either in the garage or house, but he was there, and so they just lived with it

K: did they ever try to move or do anything about it?

KA: no they never tried nothing

K: do they think it was the previous owner?

KA: I think so, I think it was someone that probably lived there and died and he did not want to pass on to the other life so he stayed there . And she told me that and I was like what, no, but she said no we have a ghost. and I’m like okay

K: so did you believe her story?

KA: oh yeah, I believed her, I believe in ghosts, yeah most definitely they are out there. there are good ghosts and there are the ones that don’t want you in their… they feel like it’s their house, their ownership and you’re in their house so yeah

Context: The informant told me this story while we were sitting on her couch having a conversation at night, and as she was telling me the lights in her house actually started to flicker and make that buzzing noise.

Thoughts:

I’ll be honest, I did not have much to say about this piece, frankly because I was little scared. She was telling this story at night and like her, I don’t necessarily believe wholeheartedly in ghosts, but as she tells me, the lights flickered and made noise, and I genuinely thought she brought that ghost into her house. It was a very strange experience, but it reminded me of the idea that you don’t have to fully believe in something to know something is not right. Like not believing a house is haunted but still not wanting to walk through it.

The Boy and the Devil

The following informant is a stay at home mom from Upland. Here she is telling a tale her grandmother used to tell her when she was a young girl. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as KA and I am identified as K:

KA: This is a story that I heard from my grandmother, it happened in Mexico and it was about a little boy, that he was out, like in the ranch area and he had… sorry, was walking and he came across this man on a horse! And the boy asked him hey can you give me a ride? and the man said yeah I’ll give you a ride! So he got on the horse, and he started riding on the horse, and then he is talking to the man, and the man starts telling him “oh” … I don’t exactly remember, it’s been a while, but he he just… actually he did not really talk to him too much, but he started noticing that his head was changing like a horse, and his feet were dragging and his legs, well… it was the devil, it was the devil. so, the boy just jumped off and ran. So, it was kind of like, you know, he came close to the devil.

K: how old where you when you heard this story?

KA : um, i must have been maybe like 10,

K: Do you know why she was telling you the story, was there a take away?

 

KA: Well its saying that because the devil comes in different forms, he could come as anything, he could come as a friend, he could come as like you know a human being, which in the story he was like a human being, and it turned out to be the devil, because the head started to enlarge like a horse and then that is when he noticed that he got all scared and took off. and also like you don’t go with strangers you know

Context: this informant told me this tale while I was at her house, she sat down on the couch and started to tell us a story

Thoughts:

I think this is meant to be a cautionary tale, as evidenced by what KA said about don’t go with strangers. I think it could possibly be an appropriate way to address these issues with young children, without introducing them to all of the harsh realities of the world.

Clowning – The Internet Trend

The following informant is a 16-year-old high school student from Upland. Here he is explaining an internet trend and challenge called Clowning. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as GR and I am identified as K:

GR: So, there is this thing on the internet, last year, that clown trend where everyone dresses up as clowns, it went viral. So, at our game that was broadcasted on TV, there where clowns that had weapons at our school during the football game, and I hopped the fence with my friends to go see and there were seven clowns chasing me so I ran out and got caught by the cops

K: I’m sorry, I am little confused, what is this clown trend

GR: Alright, so I don’t know who started it, but the clown thing or clowning, people were just dressing up as clowns and just like scarring people and all that, and people would take it to the extreme with like holding knives and stuff and um.. like it was just weird. And then you like take pictures or videos and post them on social media.

K: Was there a purpose, or do you have to accomplish something doing this trend.

GR: Not really, it was around the time they released the trailers from the rehash of the IT movie and around Halloween too.

K: Oh was it to promote the movie?

GR: No it was just around that time

K: So are there any rules, do you have to dress as a specific clown, or go to specific places?

GR: No there aren’t rules, well…other than dressing as any clown you want and walking around and scaring people, and if you want to post it, post it. Oh and it’s like mostly teenagers and like college people.

K: Okay, so just for my understanding, this Clowning trend was where people dressed up as any clown and went to a public place to scare people… with weapons, or without… and then post it to social media

GR: Yeah, pretty much, it was pretty viral around that time to, a lot of people were doing it.

K: Did you or your friends participate?

GR: No… I did not … but I knew some people … they were my friends, between 15 and 18

K: What did they do specifically?

GR: They dressed up as clowns and went to down town in Upland and the Colonies in Upland, and just walked up to people and scare them and walk around

K: And what was your opinion about this trend?

GR: Honestly I thought it was kind of stupid, there is no point, like you don’t do anything, but my friends liked it.

Context: While having dinner with my cousin, he overheard me talking about the Folklore collection project and chimed in with this story while we ate. It was actually quiet amusing, as he tried to explain this internet trend to a room full of adults and an interviewer who does not understand social media

Thoughts:

I really struggled with this piece of folklore. At first, I was not sure if it could be defined as folklore. But when you think about it, it has multiplicity and variation, because there are no specific rules and it’s a viral trend, as well as its arguably artistic communication and it is done in small groups.