Author Archives: Laurel Goggins

The Salt Witch

The informant grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. Here, he tells the story of an old chieftain from the American Indian Omaha Tribe who encounters a witch after his wife’s passing.

N: There’s the Salt Witch. There’s a chief– I don’t know if he’s of the Omaha Tribe or not, cause there are some stories of chiefs of the Omaha Tribe. But, there’s a chieftain who lost his wife and he basically, like, shut down because his wife was dead. I don’t remember how his wife died. She just passed away, or something?

Um, but he retreated into his hut and the other members of the tribe were like “We gotta vote a new chief in. This guy’s doing shit all”. So one day he just came out of his hut, like, full war dress on adn just fucking leaves. And he, like, comes back a week or something later with a shitload of scalps, like heads, and a buncha salt. 

And the story– like the scalps are like, “Okay. He can still kill white people. Still strong” like whatever. But like, the salt part is he told a story about one night he was trying to sleep and he heard a ruckus. So he went out and he saw a young woman, who was being held down by an old crone about to chop her head off. And the chieftain ran and buried his tomahawk into the old crone’s head. Saved the young woman, and the young woman looked up at him and had his wife’s face. But then, when he reached down to grab her, she, like, disappeared, leaving a buncha salt behind. And he sorta scooped it all up.

Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens on New Years

The informant is from South Carolina and recounts a New Years tradition from the region.

T: On New Year’s Day, in the South, everybody cooks black eyed peas and collard greens. The back eyed peas are good for money. The black eyed peas represent the change and the collard greens is the cash. And that’s how much money, and it signifies that you’re going to get money all year long. So everybody cooks that on New Years. That’s just a staple. You go to someone’s house on New Year’s Day? That’s going to be cooking in the pot. Mama would cook that every New Years, no matter what.

Thoughts:

As I’ve collected folklore about New Years traditions, there are a lot of traditions that are centered around food. There is another folklore I collected from Peru that revolves around food and prosperity.

It’s interesting that even though black eyed peas and collard greens are given a special status on New Years, they are a very common food in the everyday diet of people from the Southern United States. It’s just for this one day they are considered special representations of wealth.

The Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion in San Jose, California. Built in 1886, the home was expanded until 1922. The home has been open to tours for almost one hundred years– beginning in 1923.

C: There’s like, the Winchester Mystery House. There’s this married couple, um. Forgot their names, but the guy made a very popular type of gun– I don’t remember the story exactly, but it’s the famous one. He died and left the house to his wife. And they made guns, which killed a lot of people and she felt really guilty about it. And it’s like “Oh, the ghost of the people whose my husband’s invention killed haunt this place,” so how she thought like, the ghost wouldn’t be able to get her is if she kept expanding the house. So it led to all, like, the weird staircases that lead to nowhere cause she’s trying to confuse the ghosts. And like, stairways that lead to pits and to walls and stuff like that, because she never stopped expanding. Until she died.

It’s like, going there, Oh if you go there, and they give like, haunted tours and stuff on Halloween. It’s just a cool place. It’s like, whoo, yeah, I’d feel guilty too if my husband made a weapon of small scale destruction.

Thoughts:
While the Winchester Mansion has become a kitschy tourist trap over the past 100 years, the myths and rumors surrounding it are just as real and haunting as the story of a woman continuously building up her home to escape the ghosts murdered by her husband’s invention. Originally, the house was a symbol of guilt and the fear of mortality. However, as the house became famous and more tourist-y, that symbolism has been softened. Ultimately, the fear of mortality is more approachable in Halloween tours.

Mount Diablo

Mount Diablo is a mountain on the Diablo range in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California. This mountain has been the reported site of many ghost hauntings, paranormal phenomena, and cryptozoology.

C: This is more like, local history than folklore, but Mount Diablo was like the big mountain range in the area. And everyone was like, “Oh! Why’s it called that?” Um–

L: Cause Diablo!

C: Cause Diablo! It was like . . . The Native Americans called it something because of like, the plant life on it–or something– and “Ah, demons” says the Spanish. This mountain has demons and thus said “Mount Devil”.

Thoughts:
It’s a chicken and the egg scenario of what came first — the paranormal sightings on the mountain, or the name of the mountain itself. Undoubtedly, one influenced the other into existence. It would be almost criminal to not have spooky stories about a place called Mount Diablo.

For more stories about this Mountain Range, please visit: https://museumsrv.org/post-1421/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20most%20famous,guise%20of%20an%20old%20hidalgo.

Peruvian Kiss Greeting

A: Peruvians greet each other by, uh, at least I do, by kissing — kissing the other person like, cheek to cheek on both sides.

L: Ah, like la bise in france.

A: Yeah. And whenever you go to, like, a gathering of some sort, you have to greet every single person. Like, when you enter they do that, and other people, when they enter are expected to come by and do that. And when you’re leaving its the same thing. 

L: Oh god, how do you–how do you–? Is 50% of that time just spent greeting and —

A: It takes like, ten minutes to leave. You don’t have to do it to, like, there are exceptions. Like, uh, you don’t have to do it to, like, people that aren’t Peruvian. You don’t do it to Americans. You don’t have to go looking for all the kids. Only the ones that are, like, are around. 
L: But it’s like, aunties, uncles, grandma, and grandpa are a must?

A: Mm-hmm.

Thoughts:

The first thing that came to my mind upon hearing this folk tradition was how similar it is to the la bise tradition in France. Both of these traditions are greetings where people kiss each other on the cheek. To learn about the similar French custom, please visit https://www.cia-france.com/blog/culture-french-traditions/la-bise-in-france/ .

The informant is Peruvian, so it is most likely that Spanish colonization brought this custom over the pond to this South American country.