Author Archives: nhartwel@usc.edu

Hello Operator Song

Main Piece:

“Miss Susie had a tugboat, the tugboat had a bell. Miss Susie went to heaven, the tugboat went to hell-o operator, give me number 9! And if you disconnect me, I’ll chop off your behind the refrigerator, there lay a piece of glass. Miss Susie sat upon it, it went straight up her ass-k me no more questions, I’ll tell you no more lies. The boys are in the bathroom, zipping up their flies are in the meadow, the bees are in the hive. Miss Susie and her boyfriend are kissing in the D-A-R-K! Dark! Dark! Dark! Dark! Dark is like a movie, a movie is like a show! A show is like a TV show and that’s not all I know! I know I know my Ma, I know I know my Pa! I know I know my sister with a 40 acre bra! My Ma gave me her nickel, my Pa gave me a dime. My sister gave me her boyfriend, who kissed me all the time. My Ma took back her nickel, my Pa took back his dime. My sister took back her boyfriend, and gave me Frankenstein. He made me wash the dishes, he made me sweep the floor. He made me clean his underwear, so I kicked him out the door! I kicked him over London, I kicked him over France! I kicked him into Hawaii where he learned to hula dance! So hello operator, give me number 10! And if you disconnect me, I’ll sing this song again!”

Background:

Informant is a first year student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Seattle, Washington. She learned this song at elementary school as a child.

Context:

The informant was telling me that she had a song from her childhood stuck in her head all day. I asked her which one she was referring to, and she then sang this.

Commentary:

This song was such a familiar piece of the informant’s childhood, and seemingly everyone who grew up around her also knew it. Additionally, some of the informant’s friends who did not grow up anywhere near Seattle knew this song, with maybe some slight variations, and even those who did not know this specific song had their own version with a similar rhyme scheme or tune.

 

Lake Shark Legend

Main piece:

“I live kind of by a lake and there was this myth, or kind of belief, that there was a giant shark that was super big and was swimming underneath the lake. And there was even… like, someone made a fake news thing about it.”

Background:

Informant is a first year student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Seattle, Washington.

Context:

The informant and I were speaking about legends from our hometowns on evening, and she shared this recent one she had heard.

Commentary:

This legend revolves around the common archetype of some non-native wild animal living beyond the scope of human civilization in a major city (similar to the legend of the crocodile living in the New York City sewers). What is interesting here is that despite all common sense telling people that a large, saltwater shark would not be swimming around in a freshwater lake, the fear that this legend incites is enough to get people to share it. As was taught during the Legends unit of Tok Thompson’s Forms of Folklore course, legends contain not factual truths but rather compelling possibilities. Lakes are often mysterious places, because no one really knows exactly what lies underneath the water, so to hear even the possibility of a shark is enough to make the community fearful. In addition, it is interesting to see that this shark was taken very seriously by the citizens and even by reporters, and was not cast aside as a mere legend. It was later disproved, but when the story first hit it was a genuine fear of the community.

An article regarding the lake shark can be found here.

 

Colombian Ghost Story

Main piece:

“I was in Colombia, cause I’m from Colombia, in this house which was an antique house… that was first colonized a hundred years ago by the Spanish people that colonized Colombia a long, long time ago… probably more than a hundred years ago, I think it was a thousand. And… a long time ago… And these people used this house as a place to stay because it was so big, and we would always stay there, um… in Christmas, cause that was our family house where all our cousins would come, and we would be in the pool and it’s really hot weather. So… ever since I was growing up, I literally have gone to that house since I was two years old until today… not that much today actually, umm… I… I would always hear from my older cousins ghost stories, like things moving, things touching them, like everyone in that town said that house was haunted, which is not like, the most reassuring thing in the world. And they would never tell me much cause I was always really scared, but I honestly don’t remember this story, like I don’t remember doing this, but when I was little, my mom was showering in her bathroom and she left the towel on her bed, and I was, like, just talking to her through the shower, cause I was like probably… seven years old. And I was talking to her through the shower, and she finished showering and she was like, “Isa, pass me the towel that’s on my bed.” And then I turn around to go… this is what everyone has told me but I have no memory of this. I turn around and I like, get really scared and jump and try to grab her, and she’s like, “Isa, what’s wrong?” and I’m like “No, no, no, mom.” And she’s like, “What’s wrong? Pass me the towel, I need to get dressed.” And I’m like, “No, no, no, mom. I can’t.” And she’s like, “Why not?”… “I don’t wanna wake up the man that’s on the bed.” And my mom’s like “What do you mean ‘the man that’s on the bed?’ Isa there’s no fucking man on the bed just get the towel” and she’s very paranoid about this shit also… so she got very scared so she’s like, “Isa go grab the towel! I don’t care. There’s no man. Go grab the towel” and she said that I was literally pale, and like reached as slowly as possible to not wake up the man on the bed, and grabbed the towel and ran to her and just sprinted out of the room. And I have no memory, but I have memories from other years before this, do you know what I mean? Like I was eight, like you have memories when you’re six. And then apparently my mom got freaked out so she told my dad, and like, they’re like “That’s kind of weird” but no one was really denying it… cause like honestly if you believe in ghosts, you believe in ghosts.”

Background:

Informant is a first year acting student at the University of Southern California. She was born in Medellin, Colombia, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and at age 12 she moved to Paris and later Hong Kong. She spends her winter and summer vacations with her family in Colombia.

Commentary:

This is a family ghost story that has its roots in a larger community belief. While the informant herself has no memory of this event, she still believes it is fully true because it is corroborated by both her family members and the community around her. Since it is coming directly from those she trusts most, it becomes that much more real to her, whether or not she remembers is occuring. From an outsider’s perspective, it might not have the same truth value because the familial connection is lost, and it therefore may be easily overlooked as just another tale told to instill fear.

 

A Hidden Town Legend

Main piece:

“There’s a lake near my house, and even though it’s a man-made lake and it’s super shallow and shitty there was a whole thing that there was a whole town and village under it. So there was myths that sometimes if your boat ran onto the ground it’s not like you were hitting the bottom of the lake it was you hitting a building or a house that was there before.”

Background:

Informant is a first year student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was told this legend about the lake by her house when she was growing up.

Context:

The informant shared this story one night in our dorm.

Commentary:

This legend is easy to disprove, yet it is still popular amongst the locals. The informant knew that the lake couldn’t possibly have a secret town hiding beneath the water, yet still tells this legend because it explains an interesting how the lake came to be. Having this little story makes her hometown more unique, and adds intrigue to an otherwise ordinary place.

 

New Orleans Ghost Story

Main piece:

“So my cousins were staying in New Orleans, which is known for ghosts and everything, and they in their house and they hear a knocking outside saying “Hey, this is my house! Let me in!” and the door handle kept turning and shaking and so the people came downstairs cause they thought someone was trying to break in, and they thought it was just a drunk woman or something knocking on the door and everything. And the doorknob was shaking and they could hear it perfectly and then it was quiet for a short time and they open the door and there was nothing on either side, like nothing was there. And so they’re like, “what the fuck?” and they look it up and the house is haunted and they’re like “Oh my god” and then it happened again the next night. The same exact thing. And no one was there when they opened the door again. And the neighbor said that it happens to that house a lot and like it’s a ghost, it’s not anyone.”

Background:

Informant is a first year student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was told this story by her cousins.

Context:

The informant told me this story one night in her dorm room.

Commentary:

The informant learned this story from her cousins, who were the original experiencers. Although she was not there at the time of this encounter, she believes it to be true and fully believes that a ghost was present. Because this story came directly from a member of her extended family, it is much easier for her to believe in its truth value than it would be if it came from a stranger. From an outsider’s perspective, this story may not seem as compelling and may be easily disregarded in terms of factual truth, but for the informant it is very real.