Author Archives: Nancy Liu

Contemporary Legend – New York

“So at a pet store in New York, they sell baby alligators and then people buy them because they’re cute when they’re little. Then they start growing and people don’t know what to do with them, so some flush them down the toilets and others leave it outside near the drain things. Now people say that there are alligators in the sewers in New York and that they’re albino because there’s no light down there. They’re like white alligators because they don’t get any sun.”

Claudia heard this a few years ago from one of her friends when they were at dinner one day. She says that they just went on a tangent and started talking about strange things and her friend knew about the alligator story. According to Claudia, this story is very popular and a lot of people know it. She thinks that this story is usually told to amongst adults when they just find out and want to share an interesting, not mundane story. They know that it is not true, but they still tell it for entertainment reasons. It probably dates back to the early 1900s when sewers were being developed and improved in New York City.

She also thinks that people tell it to children when they are little because they would believe this more than adults. This urban legend could be used to scare kids to keep them away from the sewers. I believe that this could be partially true because some children like to play around the sewer drains along sidewalks. In order to keep kids away from it because it is unsanitary and could be dangerous if someone slips, parents may tell this to their kids as a preventative measure.

This urban legend also comes up in the movie, Alligator, which was released in 1980. It was directed by Lewis Teague and written by John Sayles and is based off of the legend of alligators being flushed down toilets into city sewers. The movie adds its own flare to the story by having the alligator become a giant, man eating reptile as it drinks in an experimental growth chemical that is dumped into the sewers. This is only part of the nature of folklore for people to add their own bits to it.

I also believe that this legend came from sewer workers who might have seen something while working down there in the dark. There is always the possibility for an alligator to end up in the sewers. This legend also exists in Europe where they have intricate underground sewer systems. Since sewers are an unknown place to the majority of the population because most people have not been in the sewers, it is only natural to come up with stories about the unknown. It adds excitement to everyday life and there is nothing that people can do to prove each other wrong unless they really want to climb into sewers.

Annotation: Sayles, John. Alligator. Alligator Associates. 1980.

Contemporary Legend – Santa Cruz

“You know there’s this haunted house by my home. Some woman went crazy and killed her husband and two sons and umm they never found her and she went missing and some say she still lives in the house. But the house is definitely deserted. It’s a big white Victorian, broken window on a hill in a huge dirt lot. You hear noises when you go near the house. It’s all in your mind.”

Samantha heard this story from her friends in Santa Cruz when she was in the eighth grade, so she was about thirteen years old. She says that the story is at least twenty years old because she knows thirty-eight year old people who knew about it when they were in high school. This story is usually told at night when teenagers want to scare their friends, especially after a scary movie. This legend would be very frightening to hear after watching a horror film because it is closer to home. If they have nothing else better to do and are not too scared, then they will go visit the house because it is in the neighborhood. Samantha thinks that all the sounds that people hear are in their minds. She says that bored teenagers probably came up with this legend in order to scare their friends one day.

I believe that what Samantha says has some truth to it. Since the house is a beaten down, Victorian styled home, it has that eerie feeling to it that makes the story more plausible. Being deserted, no one is quite sure of the house’s origins, so teenagers most likely just made up something to compensate for the lack of a real story. Only teenagers from Santa Cruz would know about this story unless they told it to visiting friends and relatives because it is mostly confined to the area where the house is located.

Riddle – United States

“It was a Sunday in a mansion. There’s a family living in this big mansion, there’s a mom, a dad and three kids. Okay. The butler’s in the house. The maid’s in the house. The mail got delivered. The parents went out to the opera and came back and all the kids were dead. Who killed them?

The mailman because mail doesn’t get delivered on a Sunday.”

Alexa first heard the riddle at a softball retreat in Chicago in the tenth grade while doing community service with friends. She was cleaning up the campsite, taking away branches, leaves, and trash that should not be on the campsite. She and her friends were looking for ways to pass the time and her friend, Jared, started telling these riddles. She does not really know where the riddle is from but she believes that all riddles have some kind of truth behind them. She thinks that this might have happened in the 1900s, when someone showed up at a house who was not suppose to be there and murdered everyone. Alexa says that this riddle is pretty generic and it spreads quickly because it is often told in any circumstances where people are just waiting around. These riddles make people think a little bit and so, it helps get peoples’ minds off of thinking about the long amount time they have been waiting for something.

It clearly expresses the idea of violence, exhibiting the characteristics of a riddle. Riddles are often used to express ideas that are not polite or socially acceptable. No one takes riddles seriously, so it is okay to incorporate violence into them. They are taken lightly and no one thinks that the teller is being rude or creepy. I agree with Alexa when she says that the origins come from an actual murder. This could very well have happened and people could have taken the ideas of the murder and turned it into a riddle. It was probably not created right after the murder took place, but instead after the risible moment when humor about tragic events becomes acceptable. If it was made in the grace period, people would not have accepted the riddle and continued to share it with others because the topic was still too sensitive.

Contemporary Legend – South America

“So there’s this animal that sucks blood if you go too far into the jungle. The chupacabra. It’s a big deal in South America. My friend Mallory, was working in the Peruvian jungle when she worked there for a semester and they always warned her about it when she went out at night. I heard it was like a goat and a head of some sort of lizard or something.”

Samantha heard about this creature from her friend, Mallory, over Thanksgiving Break 2007 because her friend was just there. Mallory told Samantha about it because it was out of the ordinary and something that she only heard of when she was in South America. People in Peru are warned about the chupacabra and are told about its blood sucking ways. They tell it to everyone there because they want to prevent anything bad from happening in the jungles. Samantha thinks that the chupacabra is a very strange and interesting creature, but she does not think that it really exists.

In South America, there have been findings of dead farm animals that had the blood sucked out of them. I think that the natives who have caught a glimpse of the animal might have created an obscure description of the creature and shared it with their neighbors who then in turn, shared it with others. The natives made this animal up to explain the unexplainable. Legends are sometimes created as a result of uneasiness and anxiety. They have no idea what kind of natural animal could do this to their livestock, so they made up a new creature. I believe that it is most likely a deformed animal that resembles a reptile at night.

Holidays and Celebrations – Armenia

“at birthday parties for my family, we have the ENTIRE family over…i mean like…a loooot of people. and we play music and dance, perform music for the family, drink tea, coffee. usually the parents make all the kids show off their talents which is usually musical talents. then after the kids leave to go hang out somewhere else in the house. the parents start singing like traditional armenian songs together or just 1 of them does and they all listen. so basically, parents use their kid’s birthday as an excuse to throw a party. they have it for older people too but the big ones are usually just the kid ones, the big parties. the ones for the older people are just like close family or immediate family i should say which still ends up to be pretty big. and like all the families bring food so we have alllooooot of food and usually  you don’t throw yourself a birthday party.100% of the time everyone else throws it for you, so whether you like it or not, you’re going to have a birthday party. “ohh, it’s osheen’s birthday today, let’s make dinner and go to their house.” all the celebrations are basically the same: christmas, easter, birthdays, new years. the only thing changing is what we have for dinner and of course like prayers and whatnot. we have a lot of traditional food and i guess we try to have as much a variety as we can at the table. usually the room where the dinner is served (the dining room) isn’t even the room we eat in. it’s just all the food is in the dining room. you go, get a plate, serve yourself then everyone goes back to the other room and “chills.”

Osheen told me this story about how he celebrates birthdays and holidays over AOL instant messenger one night when he could not sleep. He says that this tradition started in Armenia and Iran a long time ago because his parents lived in Iran. His parents brought over the tradition and kept it going even though they were in the United States. He is certain that most Armenian families celebrate birthdays like this. He has been a part of this tradition ever since he was born. After he experiences it a few times for either his birthday or other peoples’ birthdays, he realizes that they are always the same and knows what to expect. He also says that it is like the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where everyone shows up to celebrate an occasion.

It is obvious to see that the Armenian culture is very festive and it always includes a lot of people because the size of families is quite large. It seems to me that they have a very close bond with all of their friends and family because they spend a lot of time with each other. They do not leave anyone out and everyone feels comfortable going into each others’ homes unannounced. Food also seems like a main aspect of Armenian culture. According to Osheen, there is always a lot of food, meaning that they enjoy cooking and eating. It heavily emphasizes the role of women in the household as they are usually the ones preparing the dishes. Not only do birthdays define a national culture, it also defines gender roles within Armenian families. Moreover, Armenian parents are very proud of their children as shown through their requests for their children to show off their talents. The parents want to show their friends how accomplished their children are.