Author Archives: Kaitlyn Prado-Barker

Rock Hair Superstition

The following is from a 20-year-old USC student.  She is describing a superstition she was taught.  I will be represented by K and she will be represented by A.

 

K: So, tell me about some superstitions you have.

A: Uh, yeah, so… my… my grandma used to tell me, back in North Carolina, if it’s raining… with- when the sun is up, like it’s not cloudy and it’s raining- and you look under a rock, you’ll find the color of your future husband’s hair… It’s… true story.

K: So, what does this piece of folklore mean to you?
A: Uhm… to me it means that… uh, my husband’s going to have brown hair… and every day I look for him… Thanks Grandma!

Context:

This conversation took place in my living room with a group of people.  The informant brought up the superstition taught by her grandma and I asked her if I could record it for this project.  She agreed and we all listened to the story.

My Thoughts:

Like most superstitions, it is clear that this one is not necessarily accurate, but something fun to believe in.  The informant’s grandma told her about this when she was younger, probably trying to give her something to believe in and look forward to as a lot of adults do with kids these days.  We see this in a lot of Disney films with the idea of believing in a better future and looking forward to a happily ever after.  It is likely that this belief is meant as a happily ever after type.

Fans and Heaters

The following is a superstition or belief of the informant based on stories from their parent.  I am represented by a K and the informant is represented by an S.

Piece:

K: Alright, so go ahead and tell me about your superstition.

S: Uhm, uh, my mom used to always tell me that I wasn’t allowed to keep the heater or a fan on, uhm, like when I’m going to sleep. Uhm… and it was always like a weird thing ’cause I always get really warm at night, uhm, especially in Virginia, where I’m coming from.  And, uh, so like she was always saying like, uhm, that apparently, like the – the blades of- of- of a fan, could like… attack you… or like suck you in in the middle of the night. And she said that- she was always like- it’s dangerous!!! So, it’s just something that I think about a lot whenever I like leave my fan on in the summer- and I’m like – I hope I don’t die tonight! Sorry mom!

Context:

The informant is a 20-year-old sophomore at USC.  We were sitting in a room with a group of friends, going around and sharing traditions or superstitions we all had.  When we got to her, she mentioned this story.  She was sitting on a couch in a living room setting in the Village apartments.  We were all just talking and eating food.

My Thoughts:

This is definitely a belief told by the informant’s mother to keep her daughter safe.  While the informant’s mother could be scared of fans, she most likely told her daughter this belief in order to keep her as safe as possible because fans can definitely be dangerous.

The Banshee

The following is a story about an Irish legend.  The informant is represented by the letter S, and I am represented by the letter K.

Piece:

K: Tell me about the Banshee.

S: So, the banshee is… uh… and Irish legend. And it’s, it’s this spirit of a woman… who has this long, silver-white hair… like down to the floor.  And she’s always brushing her hair with this comb.  And her eyes are red- from like centuries of crying and grieving over people who- who other people have lost.  And uhm…uhm… and basically, the Banshee is the uhm, warning, that somebody you’re close to is going to die.  So if the Banshee comes to you, someone you love- is gonna end up dying.  And uhm, the Banshee is the…. kinda the predecessor to the… what is it? The Coach de Baron… What is it? The Cóiste Bodhar. Uh, which is… the… the coach that takes you to death, so… yeah, the Banshee is very scary. She wails. And if you hear the wailing, then you know… that somebody’s gonna die.

Context:

We were sitting at a dining room table on Easter Sunday.  We had just eaten dinner and celebrated the holiday.  We were sitting around and just talking and sharing stories and folklore that we knew about.  The informant is my friend’s younger sister, so she lives at the home we were at and she was sitting with her friend, with me, her brother, and our other friend sat across from them.

My Thoughts:

The Banshee seems to be a legend that is meant to kind of scare people into always being alert and always watching out for their family.  It was interesting because when I collected this piece of folklore, the informant told me that her dad’s friend had actually heard the Banshee at one point and then someone they knew died shortly after.  The informant seemed to strongly believe in the Banshee from hearing this story of the person her dad knew.  This goes back to the idea that with legends you never really know if these people or things exist/existed because there are stories of them existing, but there’s no proof they never did or that they don’t.  The Banshee seems to have some similar characteristics to La Llorona, actually, which was also interesting.  It’s possible that both of these legendary people are the same and the context of each story is different from culture to culture, but there’s a mass belief in this spirit of a woman with long hair that grieves. With the Banshee, a lot of the context I received from my informant and from her father, who followed up with some context is that the main thing about the Banshee is that you hear her, but you don’t really see her, which I also thought was very interesting in relevance to our class discussions about ghosts and spirits.  It seems as if in American folklore we’re much more scared of seeing actual ghosts, but here there’s a clear fear of hearing the Banshee.

 

For another version of this story, see p. 9-19 of Elliott O’Donnell’s 2010 Banshee (Project Gutenberg)

Ghost in the Gym

The following is a ghost story from a friend of mine.  I am represented by the letters KP and he is represented by the letters KM.

Piece:

KP: Okay, go ahead and tell me about the time you saw a ghost.

KM: So, I was in first grade… I was wasted. No, I’m just kidding.  I was in first grade, and it was like that after school thing where none of the parents wanted to pick us up, so we’d all just chill. And, there was like a- I was hanging out with a fifth grader I thought was so cool- I was like Oh my God, y’know, and he was like “Oh my God, like let’s go into the gym when there’s no one in there, and it’s like the lights are off.” And I was like, “yeahhh, like let’s go into the gym.”  And so, we went in there, and the lights are off, and we’re just like fucking around, and I was like, “ooh, like I feel so like … rebellious… mehhhh.” And… so, I got up on the stage ’cause our gym also had a stage- it was like a multi-purpose room- and… I was like.. “ohhhh! I wanna get up on stage where the principal stands,” like I’m making fun of- and then I look inwards at the stage and it’s like pitch black, and there’s like- ’cause there’s no light.  And- when I looked in, I saw… the like-like this image of… a woman… and she was like- crying. I could hear her too, like… crying.  She had her arms outstretched and she was just slowly walking towards me, with her arms like this… and I saw it, and I stood there for about 5 seconds ’cause I was just like frozen and then I said – “okay, we’re getting out of here,” booked off the stage as I was running across the room, I remember looking back and still seeing her. And then, when I got to the door, I looked back one final time and she was gone, and I pushed outside, and there was daylight, and I was like – couldn’t breathe- and I was like “Oh my God.” And everyone came outside and was like, “what’s wrong?” and I was like “y’all,” like, “I don’t know what the hell I just saw, but huhdehmeh,” and they were like, “whaat?” and I just was like- it was- and I couldn’t sleep for like two weeks… so… yeah.

KP: Have you had any similar experiences since then?

KM: No, not with ghosts

Context:

The informant is a 20-year-old sophomore at USC.  We were sitting in a room of friends and we were all hanging out and relaxing.  He had told me about this ghost story before, so I asked if I could record it for this project and he agreed.  Again, we were with friends, so everyone felt a little creeped out by the end, but we were all fine.

My Thoughts:

I think it was super interesting to collect this data from a friend.  As we talked about in class, hearing ghost stories from your friends makes the stories a lot more believable and realistic. Because the informant is my friend, I do believe this story.  The woman he mentioned did kind of have a lot of similarities to La Llorona, and when I asked him about that, the informant did mention that it felt somewhat familiar.

The Púca

The following is a story about an Irish legend.  The informant is represented by the letter S, and I am represented by the letter K.

Piece:

K: Tell me more about your folklore.

S: So, uh, the Púca is an Irish legend, and supposedly, this… creature, uhm, takes you in the night, and you – uh, it forces you to ride it around the country, of Ireland, obviously. Uhm, so a lot of people would use this to get out of trouble. Say they- they went to the bar, and the next morning, they come home at 6 o’clock, in the morning – I think I said that- and their wife’s like, where have you been? And… they say, “I swear… I left the bar at 10 o’clock, but the Púca took me on a crazy 8-hour ride around the country and I’m only just getting home.” And you know, obviously, they probably got too drunk and fell in a ditch or something, but- but uh, the Púca was a good escape for them.  So, uh, if ever I’m- I’m in that situation where I’m supposed to be home and I’m not, I’ll just tell my parents that the Púca took me on a ride around the country.

K: And who told you this legend?

S: My dad.

Context:

We were sitting at a dining room table on Easter Sunday.  We had just eaten dinner and celebrated the holiday.  We were sitting around and just talking and sharing stories and folklore that we knew about.  The informant is my friend’s younger sister, so she lives at the home we were at and she was sitting with her friend, with me, her brother, and our other friend sat across from them.

My Thoughts:

It’s clear that this legend is like the informant mentioned, a large way in which people can get themselves out of trouble.  Since the creature only seems to take people on a ride during night time, it seems like a very feasible excuse for children to say why they came home late or for husbands to explain why they were at the bar so late.