Author Archives: Paige Zimmerman

Batman Leaves Church Early

Context: The respondent first saw this joke posted on someone’s social profile.

H.K. : What do you call Batman who leaves church early?
P.Z. : What do you call Batman… um, bats in the belfry. I literally don’t know.
H.K. : Mm ‘kay. Christian Bale.

Thoughts: As cringe-worthy as this joke may be, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had been stumped by this riddle, as it had modern pop culture references that I’m unused to hearing in riddles. Like many other jokes or riddles though, it used the traditional play on words format.

Elfin Forest Ghost

Context: The respondent was told this story by her mother, who had supposedly encountered the ghost while driving along the road to Elfin Forest (San Diego, California).

M.A. : Oh, you know, my mom, actually I do have one that my mom told me. Like a real one, you know?
P.Z. : Yeah, pop off.
M.A. : It’s in Elfin Forest, ghost. I don’t know too much, but I know it is a lady and she uh walks around, always a white dress, she always walks around the Elfin Forest road, um, in a white dress. I guess she just haunts that area. I don’t know her history, but I know my mom told me she saw her once.
P.Z. : The road, is it like a, a foot path, is it a street?
M.A. : I believe it’s a street. Yeah, the road that you drive to get to, the little like swervy one.
P.Z. : Okay I’ve never like been up that way, I just know of it.
M.A. : Yeah, it’s it’s like a little swervy road, kind of isolated. And the lady walks around it, I heard. Yeah. And I think also the ghost has been seen on the trail as well, like on the path.
P.Z. : Um, woman in white, just wandering Elfin Forest. Sounds soothing.
M.A. : Yeah, it’s like a whole thing that Elfin Forest is haunted.
P.Z. : Did, your mom just saw her? Did she get attacked, or —
M.A. : No yeah she just saw her. And then she like turned around and drove the other way.

Thoughts: Elfin Forest is a picturesque trail area in northeast San Diego. I’ve had many friends visit this place for photos or day trips, but I had never heard of this particular ghost. It seems fairly traditional, a woman in white haunting some area, but there were not extensive details on the origin of this ghost story.

Escape the Box Riddle

Context: The respondent learned this riddle as it was passed from friend to friend in elementary school.

M.A. : I have a riddle? Do I just tell you the riddle?
P.Z. : Yeah, tell me a riddle.
M.A. : Okay, so you’re stuck in a metal box, yeah?
P.Z. : Okay.
M.A. : And there’s no exits, um, and no way out. In the box, you have a table and a mirror. So how do you get out?
P.Z. : Alright, so I have heard this one —
M.A. : Oh, God
P.Z. : So I’m not gonna guess, but I want you to say it.
M.A. : Okay, so to get out, you look into the mirror, and you saw yourself. Okay? And so you take the saw from the mirror, and cut the table in half. And then who halves make a whole, and then you climb out the hole. That is the amazing riddle, thank you.
P.Z. : Bravo. So where did you hear that one?
M.A. : Okay, so I heard it from my brother, who heard it from, I have no idea. I’m assuming probably like school, or friends —
P.Z. : Was this like middle school, high school, elementary school?
M.A. : Um, I was definitely in elementary school when he told me this.
P.Z. : Okay, so that’s also, I heard it from my school around the same time, so —
M.A. : Yeah, I know I was young.

Thoughts: Like the respondent, I had also heard this riddle from a friend in elementary school. It did have slightly different wording, but that is seemingly inconsequential as the crux of the riddle remains the same. Riddles seemed extremely popular as some of my teachers would encourage us to share some in a weekly riddle competition. This had always remained my favorite and in my memory because of the deliver and double entendres.

Spanish Moss

Context: This story is meant to be told as part of a performance. Usually children or campers, the group will all collect a piece of Spanish moss. They will then slowly start peeling off the layers of the moss, eventually revealing the red strands mentioned in the story.

T.A. : Okay so going up there’s a lot of Spanish Moss around where I lived and I was always told that story behind Spanish moss. And this is like a campfire story that we would always tell. You would pick up Spanish moss from the ground end and um when youre telling the story, you’re peeling the Spanish moss. You can get to the center of it. And I’ll tell you the secret now. And you peel the Spanish moss, and in the center it looks like a piece of red hair. Like Red hair at the very center of it, and that’s, so you peel back. The stuff and it looks like, uh, a strand of hair. It’s red, it’s like very red. Spanish moss isn’t red, it’s like green. Um, but the story that’s told with it, it’s like this Native American girl who’s, who is the daughter of a chief. And she had this gorgeous, long red hair. It was beautiful, it flew in the wind and she was very much desired. Um, but she was in love with this other man, and she wanted to marry this man in the tribe, but um, all these other guys wanted her and her father was like no, you need to marry this guy, dah-duh-duh-dah-duh, basically, and, um, so then one day when she realized that she, like, would never be able to be with the love of her life, that she was, you know, too beautiful, or her hair was too luxurious. Like, she, she didn’t care what she looked like, she just cared that she loved this man, and was tired of other men being like, ‘no, like you’re mine because of this.’ So, yeah, basically she was tired of being, of people being like ‘no, you have to marry me because you’re so beautiful,’ dah-duh-duh-dah-duh, and all this stuff, and her dad was like ‘you have to marry these guys that want to marry you.’ She just wanted to marry the one that she loved. And so she goes to the edge of this cliff. Um, it’s like a plateau. So there’s like a valley underneath it. And she takes her hair, and takes like a stone or something like that, like a sharp knife—
P.Z. : Something sharp.
T.A. : Yeah, and she grabs her hair and cuts it off. And all of her hair falls into this valley and onto all these trees. Right? And she throws herself off the cliff and kills herself. Um, which is tragic end to the story. But also, but she cuts all her hair off, throws it into this valley, and then at the end of the story, at the end, by this point you see the red strand of hair and it’s now —
P.Z. : Under the moss?
T.A. : Spanish moss. You see all of her beautiful long red hair still in the Spanish moss today.
P.Z. : And it’s like the original story of —
T.A. : Yeah, of like why it’s there.
P.Z. : And you heard this in your hometown?
T.A. : Um, so like whenever, my family’s a big camping family, and like going through summer camps and stuff too, it’s a campfire story people tell. So you’d pick up Spanish moss off the ground, and you’d go oh have you ever heard like the story about Spanish moss? And then you tell it.
P.Z. : And Texas… What part of Texas?
T.A. : I’m from southeast Texas.

Thoughts: This was the first time I encountered a modern myth. It was also one of the only pieces of folklore I collected that included a sort of performance with the story telling. I thought that this was fascinating because it took an everyday item found in the area and transcribed deep value to it based on this creation myth. It also was fascinating that it remains popular for people of all ages to hear and tell this story, as it can be used in any group setting when one is outdoors and encounters this very common flora.

Donkey Lady Bridge

Context: Donkey Lady Bridge is located on the east side of San Antonio, and is a popular story amongst children that often becomes an inspiration for dares. The bridge passes over a creek.

G.G. : So, my story, it like comes from San Antonio, where I live. It’s basically um it started in the like the 1800s, some people say 1900s, like 1950s, but a lot of town folk say it’s like 1800. Basically, um, a farming family lived outside of San Antonio back then which is now on the east side of San Antonio.
P.Z. : Alright, so older, it was more spread out.
G.G. : Yeah. So like basically the farmer set fire to his home, murdered his children and left his wife horribly disfigured. And so and the wife, she survived, but her fingers were melted down to stumps creating hoof-like appendages, leaving the skin on her face charred and gave her an elongated, donkey-like appearance. And so, grieving the loss of her children and betrayal of her husband, she haunts Elm Creek and those who try to cross ‘cause like there’s a bridge. So that’s why we call it Donkey Lady Bridge.
P.Z. : Okay so it’s like a particular bridge in your hometown?
G.G. : Yeah I actually took my sister out to it.
P.Z. : Is there like, are there supposed to be noises when you’re here? Are you supposed to see something…?
G.G. : Uh okay uh, okay so —
P.Z. : Or is it just, sort of like, you said you brought your sister there..?
G.G. : Like, you’re supposed to hear her, you know? And I feel like I heard a different story of it like the story that i heard whenever I was like a kid. And like everyone hears it because it’s like it’s from our town. And so it was kind of like um, it was kind of like this love affair and the family, I guess the man tried to get rid of his family by setting the house on fire or something like that…
P.Z. : Some sort of affair —
G.G. : Yeah and so that’s why he killed his whole family but then like she obviously came back and like haunted him and she killed him and stuff. And um oh there’s also this, no, no I’m getting that confused with something else. Anyway yeah so now she like kind of protects that area by Donkey Lady Bridge. She doesn’t want anyone coming onto her land because that’s like where her children and her house was, you know? She doesn’t want any of the other farmers because I guess he was a big man in the community so that’s why she haunts that area, guards that area. So Donkey Lady Bridge, you’re supposed to go there and park. And then she’s also because there was also something about her that she ran out and drowned in the river too. That was another story of her and so like you’re really supposed to go out on a rainy night and then um park your car at the bridge and you’re supposed to hear her, just hear donkey noises, hear like the hooves or something, you know or something that’s just there. And that’s pretty much it, I don’t think there’s ever been any reported sightings or anything like that.

Thoughts: I grew up in a fairly urban area, so to hear of a story relating to a specific creek or bridge was a new experience. I thought that it was interesting that just one storyteller could personally recall multiple versions of a singular legend. Also, it was interesting that this has become a sort of story to bond the community, like when she mentioned that she brought her sister to the bridge to show her where the popular urban legend took place.