Author Archives: Rachel Liu

Gift your partner shoes and they’ll run away from you


C is a 19 year old Filipino-American college student living in Los Angeles, California.

This conversation took place in my room as a group of my friends were hanging out and I inquired about any folklore or proverbs they knew. This superstition was thrown out following another friend and the informant bouncing superstitions off of each other.

C: If you give your partner shoes, you’re also not going to stay together because they’re going to like run away. 


This superstition reminded me that I had actually heard this one prior. I’m not sure where I heard it previously, but it seems to be a common piece of superstitious advice to not gift shoes so as not to drive the other person away. I think it’s very interesting too because shoes are also not a likely gift since you would need to know the shoe size of the person you are gifting to, which is not a common fact to know.

If you split the pole with your partner, you’re not staying together

C is a 19-year-old Filipino-American college student living in Los Angeles, California.

This conversation took place in my room as a group of my friends were hanging out and I inquired about any folklore or proverbs they knew. This superstition was thrown out following another friend providing one as well.


C: If you split the pole with your partner, then you’re not going to stay together. 

Me: Wait what do you mean like split the pole?

C: Split the pole like, a lamppost or something, you’re like holding hands and like that. It’s just like a superstition. 


This superstition was especially interesting because I have accidentally done this to a couple before and it made me think about whether or not I had somehow caused a breakup without meaning to. I think relationships superstitions are really interesting because it seems like the idea might originate from the fact that the parties are willing to let something break their “bond” apart. Additionally, the pole may be seen as a physical barrier between the two that may be predicting a barrier that comes in the future and results in the relationship falling apart.

The Foolish Old Man


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


Y: The Foolish Old man removes the mountain – the story goes, this story became famous after Chairman Mao used it in his speech or writing. 

The story goes that in old times, there was an old man who was 90 years old. He lived near the mountains called the Tai Ha Sang and Wang Mu Sang, the two mountains. Basically, he was angry because the mountains blocked his view and he wanted to move them. He wanted to dig up the mountain. Because the mountains are kind of far away, even though they look near, when you go to them it’s pretty far. It takes about a year to, basically it takes time to go to the mountains and he can’t really dig up the mountain because he can only dig up some rock and dirt each time. So people laugh at him and say you’re so old with limited timee left, and you can only remove a little bit of dirt and rock at a time. How can you remove the mountain, its impossible. And he said, Oh, although I may not be able to accomplish in my lifetime, my kids can continue it and my kid’s kids, my grandkids, can work on it after. So if I have generations working on it, eventually we can succeed.

Me: mhm.

Y: yeah. So generations and generations continued to work on it, working on removing the moutanins. Eventually the gods heard about it and were impressed by his perseverance, so basically the gods seperated the mountains.

Me: Ohhh, they did it for him.

Y: Yeah so the gods separated the mountains. 

The moral is that if you are determined to do something, the perseverance will eventually help you succeed.


This story focuses again on the morals in Chinese culture to persevere, as well as to respect the wishes of your ancestors. It is also a direct example of advising to respect your elders because those who told the old man that he was too old were proved wrong as his legacy persisted past his lifetime. This long line of families all follow the wishes of the original protagonist before the gods reward them for their actions. I think it is also interesting that my informant remembered it because of a speech from Chairman Mao. Mao notoriously appealed to the lower class and therefore I think it is telling that he references this folktale in order to appeal to this audience. This fable also gave way to a figure of speech that references the hardship of the old man.

“The Foolish Old Man Moves a Mountain – Xu Beihong – Google Arts & Culture.” Google, Google,

Graffiti Ghost Story


J is an 18 year old from Canada who has parents from the Philippines. 

This conversation took place over a zoom call after I asked her if she had any ghost stories that she knew of. The story is from her cousin and was told to her at a family party. 


J: I remember parts of it, but there’s not a lot of details.

Me: That’s okay!

J: Let me think from the start, I first heard this story like a couple of years ago, when I was younger cause my uncle was like do you wanna go visit a haunted park. And it’s not like a forestry park it like by the, because they have lakes, it’s this nice park area around a lake. And um… I was curious because I had never heard of this. And he was like Oh, here I’ll tell you the story um, it’s from one of my Kuya’s friends, and my Kuya is my cousin. They go driving places, so obviously his friend was with his other friend and their girlfriends. So they were like, it was like late night, probably in the summer time, around the time I heard it. What happened was, they were just there for the evening but obviously it got dark really quickly and the girlfriend, the main guy’s girlfriend had been picking flowers so she had like a few in her hand and she was sitting passenger seat. And they were about to go. But like, it was really weird because their cards weren’t starting. And obviously you know when you get that vibe that something feels really off… but you can’t really tell what’s up?

Me: Yeah.

J: It’s- it’s summer, it’s warm and foggy and for some reason the car headlights are on but the car isn’t starting. So they’re on a call with the people in the car beside them, trying to start, and theirs isn’t starting either. And then um, what made this even weirder is that before they had been going to their cars, there’s like this warehouse for like government supplies or something by the lake. And this is like the most important part of the- the second most important part of the story because on the outside there’s graffiti on those walls of like… you know like… a stencil?

Me: yeah!

J: It was graffiti stencils of like, there was an AR gun, like a rifle type, and at the end there’s a flower symbol beside it. And then, so there’s just a flower and the gun. That’s what they saw the time before. And while they were starting up, their lights flicker from one of their cars and then, apparently they said they saw a figure. Like someone standing there. They didn’t really describe if it was like, in heavy details, but like I think it was a woman like type. But all they said was they saw someone vaguely shaped like a person in those shadows.. Which is kinda like.. Sus. 

Me: uugh.

J: So like obviously, you’re really scared. And like apparently the girlfriend’s flowers had wilted like.. A lot when they saw the figure. And they were freaking the heck out. But they managed to start the cars and they left-they left. They’re fine. But obviously you have a scare if you see a person at night.

Me: is this in Canada?

J: yea, this is in Canada, sorry my bad.

Me: it’s okay

J: I don’t remember the specific park name because I don’t really go there. It gets worse, cause like, see I wish I could show you the picture but I can’t find it. But it was kinda black, and kinda smudged. And creepy vibes. In an abandoned warehouse. And apparently, I was talking, we were talking to the same friend recently, like the guy, like this year at my cousin’s party and um, he said that you know, there was graffiti beside it when they went back, and you know what it said?

Me: uuuuhhhhh

J: It said- it said, have you seen him. 


J: In big fucking like jagged letters, it’s like UGH.

Me: I would never go back.

J: I would go back at night.. Just to like.. See it. 


Like many, this informant was more likely to trust the ghost story because it came from a familial source and because it came with a recent follow-up that was accompanied by a photo. Photographic evidence as well as something being persistent or consistent across multiple occasions makes ghost stories much more believable. This may be due to the fact that it appears to be less likely to be an isolated incidence but rather one that may have a common source to a couple of incidents. Graffiti and abandoned locations tend to have a reputation of being haunted, possibly because people are expecting that other people are inside of the location. After its abandoned, your mind and your senses are hyperaware of the fact that it used to be inhabited and may use this against you to cause you to think that you see someone or a shadowy figure. The wilting flower was also an interesting piece of symbolism towards a ghost, something that is no longer alive much like a wilted flower. I also think that it was very interesting that my initial response was that I would no longer visit that park, while my informant seems intrigued and wanted to find more proof for themself of the ghost. 

“The Big One”


B is a 17 year old Taiwanese-American high school student who is from Northern California.

This happened online through a discord call after I brought up things we learned in elementary school. This was sparked by a TikTok I had seen criticizing what many kids are taught in the US education system.


B: Wait did you guys also learn about the- like giant earthquake that we’re like super overdue for?

Me: YEAH NO I remember that it was crazy and like… the fact we’re still waiting on it

B: No it’s terrifying I always forget about it and then remember it like.. randomly. Didn’t the teachers like… call it the Big one or something like that? It was weird we were all just like told that California was mad overdue for a giant earthquake from the San Andreas fault.

Me: No exactly, it made me so paranoid as a kid and like- we definitely also watched that movie called like San Andreas or something with the Rock in it after we learned about it… like why would you show a bunch of 5th graders that, I was terrified.


As someone who has lived in California all my life, it is so interesting that this is a shared experience with others who grew up here. While it is a scientific fact, the way that it is told to children as “The Big One” makes it a sort of inside joke to those who know about it. I remember bringing it up to college friends who did not grow up in California and they are always horrified to hear about it. On the other hand, because I have known about it for so long, I am noticeably more numb to how concerning the threat actually is.