Author Archives: Audrey Looby

The Chupacabra

“Um, it’s like a Mexican thing, I think. It’s like a little…it like eats little children at night as well as like chickens. It’s like a, what is it, it’s like a half, I don’t know what it is exactly. Chupacabra… Um, wait for it, wait for it. It means in Spanish ‘goatsucker’ and they drink the blood of livestock and if you’re a bad child and go out at night, they’ll eat you. It’s like a little thing. It’s like a little animal, but it’s like a made up, it’s like a, it has some like little animal that eats things. It’s creepy.”


The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is originally from northern California, from the San Francisco area. Her father is from England and her other from Switzerland, while she was born in California. She studies Computer Science and Computer Engineering. She enjoys playing in the marching band on campus and playing water polo. Though she has lived in California her whole life, though has taken many trips away from it, including a few to Mexico.


The informant was asked of urban legends she knew of, ones she had heard stories of or perhaps encountered. She thought of the Chupacabra, which she had heard about growing up, seen in a Scooby Doo episode, and had met believers of the legend in Mexico.


The Chupacabra is an urban legend whose renown has spread outside the country of origin. Though few outside Mexico believe it exists in their own countries, many believe it possible it lives in Mexico, or elsewhere in Central or South America. The informant does not believe in it, believes it is a made up story, but despite this disbelief, and likely the disbelief of many of those around her, that has not stopped the story’s popularity.

The urban legend is surprisingly contemporary with the first sighting in Puerto Rico in 1995. Popular media, like Scooby Doo and other conspiracy mediums, ran with the idea. Some claimed supernatural origins, others extraterrestrial.

Descriptions of the creature’s appearance vary widely. The creature is often described as an animal, sometimes as big as or bigger than a man, sometimes as small as the goats it supposedly sucks. Sometimes it is described like a bear with spines on its back, with large eyes (the better to see at night with). It is usually considered “heavy” or dense and muscular. At times, the chupacabra seems more alien than animal.

The one thing all of the sightings agree on is that it kills livestock, particularly goats—its name means “goatsucker” in Spanish. It has been known to kill hundreds of livestock at one time. If the legend is in fact not real, then it was most likely thought up as a way to explain the slaughter of hundreds of animals, either by some animals or even humans themselves. Now, whenever there is an attack of this nature in the Americas, and even elsewhere in the world, the Chupacabra is to blame.

There are some beneficial side effects to this legend. It can now be used to warn off bad children, that if they misbehave, the Chupacabra will come and eat them. This struck the informant the most, saying multiple times that it will eat children, especially children who wander off at night when they should be in bed asleep. The Chupacabra may even start to transform into a tale, with the moral being to never break curfew. This is a nice example of urban legends being used by parents to get their kids to behave in the right way.

Water Polo End-of-game Etiquette

“Sometimes you actually shake hands depending. When you do that, the goalie’s usually the first person, then everyone lines up behind them. […] You get out of the pool and do it, walk along the side. Um, I don’t know.”


The informant is a student to the University of Southern California, studying Computer Engineering and Computer Science. She is from the San Francisco area, though her father is from England and her mother from Switzerland. She started playing water polo her freshmen year of high school—though she had enjoyed swimming before that—and she has now been playing for 6 years. She is a member of the recreational water polo team at USC and plays about 4 tournaments a year, along with a few other scrimmages.


The informant was asked if there were any customs of water polo games, like how to thank the other team for playing, and this is the answer she gave. though there are no official rules requiring this shaking of hands, every team knows to do so, be it high school or college. She learned of this custom after her first water polo game in high school.


In almost every sport, there is a certain etiquette at the end of a game, a way to thank the other team for a good game. In soccer, many teams exchange jerseys, but few other sports take it this far. Most have a similar custom to water polo: both teams line up, often with the goalie—if they have one—leading. As the teams walk down the lines, they shake or high five hands, depending on how much time the teams want to spend. Sometimes phrases like “good game” are said.

The purpose of this custom is to prevent the teams from going off with bad feelings at the end of the game. Even if the other team fouled like crazy or played a weak game, both teams must come together and congratulate each other on a game well-played. It shows respect for the other players and the game itself. Though the teams were on opposite sides does not mean they need to have hostile feelings off the field or out of the pool.

Band bus trip activities

“Under tunnels we yell. Uh, if the bus driver brakes too quickly or suddenly, we sing the bus driver song: ‘My father’s a bus driver, a bus driver, a bus driver, mhuhm…’ That gets um explicit. Um, people go up on the mic and, uh, tell jokes. [They introduce themselves by saying:] ‘Once upon a time, my name is’ and like your name, or like your name name cause you got like name names and like names. Um, [people respond:] ‘Why?’ and you say something funny, or not funny, depending. And then, like normally, they’ll boo you or ‘head, head, head, head’ which means go to the toilet.”


The informant is a member of the University of Southern California Spirit of Troy. She is a sophomore, both in the school and in the band ranks, studying Computer Science and Computer Engineering. She plays alto saxophone and has travelled with the band to the Weekender and to Notre Dame.


The informant was asked about band folklore, and what they do on bus trips. As trips can be hours long, groups such as the band usually have unique ways of passing the time. The Spirit of Troy is no exception.


The first custom the informant mentions is that if you are on a bus and go under a tunnel, then for the duration of that tunnel you yell, at the top of your lungs. This helps make trips more interesting, as you can be having a conversation with someone sitting next to you, then both of you start yelling. This also serves to wake up anyone who dares try to sleep on a band bus. The act of yelling is also a very important part of band culture. During practices and any band events and gatherings, there are ample opportunities to yell. This all adds to training for game days, where band members are expected to operate at full spirit for 12 hours at a time—shouting cheers, orders, and cadencing all to keep spirit and hype up. The yelling in the tunnels is just yet another way of continuing this.

The informant also mentions a song the band sings if the bus driver slams on his brakes noticeably hard.  She starts singing the first few bars before mumbling off and claiming that it’s too explicit. The band has been trying to work on its image in recent years, cutting down on curse words and inappropriate behavior that goes on hidden from the public eye, in fear that these should become public. As a result, many band traditions have had to be trimmed down and made presentable to anyone who might hear them. This song is one other. It once used to trail off into  curse words and sexual images, but no longer. Though no G-rated version of this song has been created as of yet, something will likely replace it soon.

The purpose it serves is no different. On long bus trips, it is customary for whatever group happens to be traveling to sing songs together. Some favorites include “99 bottles of beer on the wall” or “This is the song that never ends,” all of which are written to take a long time to finish singing and to fight off the boredom for those extra few minutes. This band song has the added entertainment value that everyone must be paying attention to the bus driver’s driving in order to know when to start, and also the ability to make fun of the bus driver if he brakes too quickly. There are supposedly many verses to this song, allowing time to pass more quickly.

Then there is the tradition of “On the Mic.” The buses the band takes always have a microphone hooked up, to allow leadership to make announcements without having to shout over 50 rowdy college students. This mic becomes available to the band’s use during the trips for entertainment. The most important thing to remember when going on the mic is to introduce yourself properly, following the pre-ordained script. As someone walks up to take the mic, the band shouts “Who are you?” That person is expected to respond with “Once upon a time my name is [insert band name here].”

This brings up the topic of band names. Every person in the band is given their own band name, often referred to as their “real name” while the other name they have is “the name on your birth certificate” so as to avoid confusion. The name is often based on some trait, and it often ties back to a popular reference. They are often only a few words long, but can be entire verses of a song. Everyone is given a name as a freshman in band, almost always before their first band trip, so they are able to participate in this tradition. You are not a member of the band unless you have a band name.

The bus members respond to the person on the mic with “Why?” The person then goes on to tell a funny reason why that’s their band name. They are then expected to either make an announcement if they are leadership, or tell a joke. If the joke is judged bad, which it almost always is, then the bus shouts “Head, head, head!” or they should be ashamed and go hide in the toilet. Everyone is expected to go up on the mic, at the very least once a year. This ensures that all bus trips will have ample entertainment and jokes to laugh at, or at least aggressively boo.

The Story Behind the Shaka

“Oh it was just a guy who, the story behind the shaka is that there was a guy who was really sweet in Hawaii and he used to wave to everyone, and I think one day, he lost the three middle fingers in his hand and so he would wave at people and it would only be his thumb and pinkie finger, and that’s how everyone would wave back the same way and that’s ow the shaka was invented.”


The informant is a 19 year old, studying psychology at the University of Southern California. Her ethnicity is half Filipino, half Japanese, and she is second generation American. She was born and grew up in Hawaii. She lived in suburban town called Ewa Beach, on the island Oahu. Contrary to Hawaiian stereotypes, she does not know how to surf or swim well, nor hula dance, though she enjoyed drag racing and playing volleyball. She spent half of her education in private schools, and half in public school.


The informant provided the story after being asked about Hawaii urban legends, or the stories behind a Hawaiian custom. She had heard the story from her friends and family on Hawaii, and considered it a well-known story amongst people who have lived on Hawaii for a few years.


A “shaka” is a hand gesture that is made by holding your palm flat and fingers open, then closing your rind, middle, and index finger—it is the American sign language symbol for the letter “y.” You then “wave” the shaka by twisting your wrist side to side. It is often thought to mean “Right on!” or “Holla!” or “Cool!” It can take the place of a ave hello or goodbye, as a much less formal salutation or farewell; this is often accompanied by a “What up, dude?” or “Later!” It is also sometimes used in scuba diving to mean “so cool” or sometimes to represent laughing. It is usually associated with surfer dudes in particular, but also just anyone from Hawaii, or even California.

The story the informant tells is how the shaka was created. Apparently, there was a very nice man who would wave at people with his thumb and pinkie finger, and everyone would wave back the same way. This portrays the so-called “founder” of one of the main symbols of Hawaii as nice and sweet. It is similar to countries describing their national founders with ideals everyone should strive for, like George Washington and the cherry tree and “I cannot tell a lie.” Just as George Washington was honest, Hawaii’s is friendly.

Whether there was actually a man who waved at everyone with only two fingers or not, no one knows—that is not what is important. It is the fact that this symbolic hand gesture that is an important part of Hawaiian culture needed a story to explain it. They made the figure who created the gesture a paragon of Hawaiian ideals (friendly, welcoming, nice). The fact that the story is still around demonstrates how important the shaka and these ideals are to Hawaiians.

Chinese Version of Robin Hood and His Merry Men

“So, this is actually a very famous story, and I am going to give you the 20 seconds version of it. Basically, there are a bunch of guys, they are like Robin Hood, right? Basically they, they, they rob the rich, give to the poor, stuff like that. There are actually a bunch of them, 108 of them. Um, then, you know, their plans grow bigger because, you know, the government at that time was very weak, uh, but then they decide to join the government because there are some uh other nations, people from other ethnicities, whatever, trying to invade China, so they decide to join the government to help the government fight and most of them die in that fight, that’s basically it.”


The informant is a 19 year old, undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, studying accounting. He was born and lived in Shanghai, China for most of his life. He spent his high school years at a boarding school in Connecticut, before coming to college in California. He still spends his summers back in China, where he likes writing music and working on potential future business projects.


The informant provided this story after being asked what is an urban legend of China, something that sounds like history but may not entirely be true. He has heard this story a number of times from friends or family members, and it has had a few books written based on it.


The informant, being well-versed in Western urban legends, immediately compares this story to Robin Hood, the whole idea of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. This idea is very popular in urban legends and even contemporary popular culture. There is Robin Hood, an outlaw, often previous lord, goes on daring pursuits to retaliate against the high taxes of Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin Hood is often described as charming, witty, good with the ladies, everything a man should be. There have been many Western spinoffs and movies made based off of his story. There is also the Tv Show Leverage, which brings the practice of stealing from the rich to give to help the poor to modern situations. This idea is clearly just as popular in Chinese culture as in many other cultures, because of its ideals of stopping corruption and even the stratification of the classes. The stratification between classes is an incredibly important in China, as the government is largely based in the ideals of communism.

In the Chinese story, the members of this group are willing to give up their valiant goals aside when China itself is threatened. This adds another layer to the ideals of China. It is alright to fight the government during peacetime and when it is in the wrong, but if the entire nation is threatened, then it is important to put aside differences for the good of the nation and the people. This demonstrates some of China’s strong feelings of nationalism, and even some of its militaristic pursuits. Even the way the informant tells the story, describing the enemy as “people from other ethnicities” shows the “us vs. them” attitude of many Chinese people. Asian people in general differentiate themselves very clearly from one nation to another, sometimes even getting offended if someone thinks they are from a different country.This story supports that.

Why 108 members? It turns out that 108 is an important number for Buddhism and Hinduism, as that is the number of beads on a traditional mala, or prayer beads. In Hinduism, there is also the belief that there are 108 sacred sites in India and 108 sacred places of the body. Having 108 members of a group adds a sacred justification to their actions, which would allow them to be more accepted in their—generally illegal—actions.

Like many noble battles, many die in the end. If the members of this group had not died in the end, they would have continued to disrupt the government’s plans once the war was over and little would have changed. Because they died, especially because they died in support of the government, the final message is to support the government. They get to die a noble death instead of being executed. This story is definitely folklore, but it might as well be propaganda for the ideals it supports.