Author Archives: Laurel Goggins

Benches for the Dead

This folklore was collected after three other ghost stories were collected from the informant. Previously discussed folklore also included a dead child (or children) in some capacity. Halfway through this collection, We realized that a lot of the ghost centered folklore in Brentwood, Northern California had to do with children.

C: There’s a garden at my elementary school dedicated to um–JC Dugard is the lady who got put in some guys basement so it’s not her. But there’s this girl who went to the school and her, and her sister, and her family were going on a snow trip and they died in a car crash.

And, I don’t know why, but there’s this garden in the middle of school dedicated to her now. And people reported, like, “Aww, ghost!”

L: It’s her ghost!

C: It’s her ghost!

L: Lotta ghosts.

C: Lotta dead children! There’s also a bench at the front of the school dedicated to this, um, she actually was buried at the same time. But um, I never really realized what happened because no one really talked about it, but like, allegedly her father, like, snapped and killed her, possibly her sister and himself. That or like, one of the daughters’ survived. Like, “ooh, you get a bench.”

Brentwood isn’t the only place that memorial benches are erected in honor of someone’s passing. Institutions all over the United States engage in the same practice. My proposed reason for why memorial benches are so popular is two fold. The first reason being that the bench is large enough to be regularly noticed by people passing by. The second, is that the bench is inherently useful to the living, as it provides a place to sit.

Twelve Grapes

The informant recounts a Peruvian good luck tradition preformed on New Years Day.

A: I just googled twelve grapes, and it is a thing. Apparently it’s Spanish. So that’s fun. 

L: Tell me about twelve grapes. 

A: You eat twelve grapes, for good luck. One for every month of the year. 

L: When do you do it? 

A: When the clock strikes to the next year, so like–
L: Oh, so it’s a New Years tradition?

A: Mm-hmm. Eat grapes. And like that, but in a cup *Shows me a picture of twelve grapes in a sparkling wine glass*


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 the Southern states of America that also revolves around food and prosperity.

The informant had looked up the origins out of this tradition out of curiosity and discovered that the apparent origin is from Spain. However, the informant grew up in a Peruvian household. It’s interesting to see how this tradition has most likely spread through Spain’s colonization of South America, and has been passed down from generation to generation over the centuries.

Peruvian Time

The informant explains the difference between “Peruvian Time” and “English Time”.

A: I didn’t know this was an actual thing until I looked it up. If you say– if you invite someone over to, like, a dinner party or whatever, if you say it’s at six it’s customary for people to show up thirty minutes to an hour later up to two hours later. And it’s not considered, like, a problem. They call it, “You’re arriving at Peruvian time”. 

It’s because, during dinner parties, if you say at six, you don’t expect to serve anything until eight anyways. And if you say, uh, show up at English time, you show up on time.

When hearing this, I understood why people would show up to functions an hour to an hour and a half late. The party isn’t in fully swing, and dinner usually isn’t served until an hour or two into the event. However, I found it incredibly hilarious that if you want someone to show up on time, you have to say, “Show up on English time”. This gives me the imagine that Americans are seen as these very punctual, straight laced people by Peruvians.

Suitcase ’round the Cul-de-sac

The informant recounts a Peruvian tradition used to bring good luck during travel.

A: You run a suitcase around a cul-de-sac in order to have good luck while traveling. 

L: So anyone of any age does it?

A: Yeah. Not that I was the only one that did it by choice. I was told to do it. 

L: By who?

A: By my mother.

L: Do you know if it’s a family thing, or a cultural thing? Or is your mother fucking with you?

A: No, I think it’s a cultural thing. 


When I first heard this, I thought my informant was messing with me. However, this is a very real tradition that is still practiced by people today. It seems like this tradition was born from people wanting to do something silly and fun before they travel as a way to bring them good luck.

Golem of Prague

The informant tells the story of a famous golem from Prague, its demise, and its supposed future reselection when the Jewish people need him.

M: When I was very young, my grandpa told me a story that he heard from his folks, about the, uh, golem that lives in the old new synagogue attic– of the attic of the old new attic in Prague. Basically like, my understanding of it– I’ve done more research about it in recent years, because its really interesting. 

  But the way I always heard this story growing up is the rabbi of that shul, um, he built a golem, who, i think, originally helped out with, um, like farm work. And helped out in the fields, with the upkeep of the synagogue, so he made him out of clay. And um, put a — he made a necklace that had the word for “life” around it, and he put it around the golem’s neck. So that brought the golem to life, and he, like, kept the shul safe from burglars. He helped out around town. But no one ever saw him except for the rabbi. 

Until one day, he fell in love with a, um, with a German girl. 

L: The Golem?

M: The Golem, yes. And Um, that meant, that a bunch of, uh. . .  anti-semites descended upon the village trying to, like, kill the Golem and his maker. So, what the rabbi ended up having to do is take the necklace off of him so he wouldn’t get killed ‘cause he convinced everyone that the golem didn’t exist. 

And legend has it that the Golem is waiting in the synagogue for the next time the Jewish people need him, to keep us safe. 

When I heard this story, I like how it fits in with the overall feeling of other Jewish folklore this informant told me. In a separate conversation about another piece of folklore, the informant told me that there is a lot of anxiety and worrying about other Jews in Jewish culture. And the golem, as a protector figure, really showcases and highlights this anxiety. Not only is the golem worried about the Jewish people in this story, but the Jewish people in the story are also worried about the golem and do not want to see him die.