Author Archives: swatson

El Chupacabra Sighting

Context: My informant, JP, is my uncle. He grew up in Texas and hearing legends of El Chupacabra from his friends. He has told this story many times in the past to family and friends, and shown the accompanying video. While I’m not sure he actually believes it, he always tells the story as if it is entirely factual and a real account of a chupacabra sighting. This piece was collected over the phone as he told the story to me and his girlfriend. In the text, I am SW and B refers to JP’s son (my cousin) who was approximately 11 at the time.

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JP: “Well first of all, you gotta know what the chupacabra is. And literally translated from Spanish it means ‘goat sucker.’ And it came about that, I don’t know, years and years, probably a century or two ago, the farmers down in um… Mexico and south Texas, some of their goats would end up dead in the field, and like the blood would be sucked out of them. They looked to find out what was doing this, and the… the whole tale of the chupacabra. It wasn’t just goats either, there were cattle and other things that were dead and all the blood was sucked out of them. Anyhow, there’s been sightings over the years, a whole bunch of times, of people seeing the chupacabra. And, and various descriptions of them. I used to think that stuff was just fantasy and just kind of make believe, and kind of funny. Until one night, when B and I were going to um… Jack in the crack. We were hungry at about 12:30 at night. So we were going down to go get some tacos and whenever I turned onto the big street, there it was running down the middle, the median of the street, running the opposite direction we were going. It was el chupacabra. It was about the size of a coyote but it had no hair on there, and it ran like kind of like a deer, kind of hopped with the back legs and stuff, it was kind of weird. And I told B I was like ‘oh that’s the chupacabra! I saw him before that is him!’ And it looked just like the descriptions that people talk about, I mean big teeth that are sharp and… and long and um kind of a dog-like face but wasn’t a dog. I mean, kind of looked like it but not a whole lot like a dog. And there was no hair on this thing, and it was kind of a brownish, blackish color. And the ears were set farther back than like a coyote or a dog too. And they were smaller. So anyhow he was running that way so we went back around, and um, pulled into this space – cause we saw him cross the street. And we pulled into the… behind the fire station where we saw him go in. And we were looking, and um… this is whenever the video actually started right about this point. And we were looking and then all of a sudden we saw it! It was there, we just caught a glimpse of it but it took off running. So we had to whip back around and get back out onto the main street, drive down about an eighth of a mile, and then turn into a neighborhood, and then come back towards this big, massive park where we saw the chupacabra. And we um, we turned on the street to see it. And we were looking… couldn’t find it, couldn’t find it, and then B goes ‘there it is! There it is!’ and it was in the park! So I drove over the curb, into the park at 12:30 at night in this big grassy area. And the chupacabras going and we were following this thing and it was running from us. And we have video of this thing because like I said, I used to think it wasn’t true, but then we actually saw him. And… the way it was running it was weird it looked like… it ran more like a deer. But, like I said the size of a coyote but no hair and it was kind of blackish, and big teeth and the eyes were really big too. Yeah the eyes were big. Anyhow so we were chasing, he was running away from us and we were flying in the car going probably about 30 miles an hour through this park trying to chase this chupacabra. And it was zigging and zagging and we were zigging and zagging in the car going left and right. And B is laughing and he’s getting thrown all around and I was like laughing too. I’m like going, I was like ‘oh my god, get this on video! People are going to pay money to see this, this is evidence right here!’ So…  and then we made a, at this point that chupacabra made a hard left bank and took off and there was a whole bunch of rabbits right there. And um, but he was too afraid running away from us that he didn’t go after any of them, he didn’t try to suck any of the rabbits off or anything. So anyway, he took off running into this neighborhood, and we were flying we jumped over the curb, then went back into this neighborhood area and down the alley. And then that’s kind of where we lost it. It… heading over in that area. And then um, B was laughing so hard he wet his pants in the car. But it was, that is the honest god’s truth, and I have video evidence to prove it. And his eyes… it might have been the way that our headlights hit it but his eyes glowed. I mean they were like glowing things, like a yellowish, greenish kind of color. And we’ve seen him two other times, and actually one time we saw him in the daytime. But the other times that I saw it was in the nighttime. And um… even like about a year or two after that we saw it again. And it was, it was the same one because it had the same kind of black um… brown spot on it.”

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Analysis:

My uncle loves telling this story as his firsthand encounter with a legendary monster. I’m fairly certain the animal in the video is actually some kind of coyote or even a large rabbit, and I have a feeling he knows that too. However, it makes a very engaging story to tell at parties or to friends. The way my uncle tells the story with so much gusto and detail shows his love of being seen as an engaging storyteller and the life of the party. The traditional legend of El Chupacabra is fairly common in Texas because of its proximity to Mexico and high population of Mexican immigrants. The fact that my uncle has his own story shows the intermingling of folklore between traditionally separate national folk groups. It also shows humanity’s propensity for using supernatural stories to explain things that they otherwise can’t, even if a normal animal would be a much more logical explanation.

For another description of the chupacabra, see Lewis, Robert. “Chupacabra”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 18 May. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/topic/chupacabra

“The Head Nod”

Context: 

My informant, AW, is my 15-year-old brother. He is homeschooled, and participates heavily in gaming culture. He told me about “the head nod” during an informal interview at home. He says the head nod is universally known amongst all guys, and is the only way to greet each other. I refer to myself as SW in the text.

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AW: “Have you ever heard of the head nod?”

SW: “I’ve heard of the head nod.”

AW: “You have? Do you understand any of what it means?”

SW: “Not really, please explain the head nod to me.”

AW: “Ok so the head nod is if you go something like… I don’t know how you put this on to paper but if you like *he does the very slight upwards head nod of greeting* – the head nod. If you’re walking by someone and you um… yeah if you’re walking near… if you’re passing a stranger in a hallway and it’s one on one you to do this. If you’re in a crowd and you accidentally lock eyes with people you have to do this. It’s just… it’s just law. But, if it’s someone you do not know or… yeah if it’s someone you do not know it’s generally just a sign of respect or I acknowledge your presence and I acknowledge I was staring at you or something. And it’s just a *he does the slight downwards head nod of respect* or something like. If it’s someone you know, or you’re trying to get attention from someone, it’s *he does the upwards head nod*.

SW: “So it’s like a… a downward head nod of respect with people you don’t know, and an upward head nod of like a ‘hey’ with the eyebrows if it’s someone you do know.”

AW: “If it’s someone you know and you’re about to talk to them it’s like ‘hey’ *he proceeds to do the upwards hey head nod* but if it’s someone you know and you don’t want to talk to them it’s just *he does the downwards respect nod*.”

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Analysis:

Folk gestures are a very small thing, but arguably make up one of our most important ways of communicating with others. A known shared gesture helps link members of a group without anyone even needing to say anything. AW says that all guys know about head nod culture, and it is a way to show respect and communicate familiarity. It also is a way to differentiate who is “one of the boys” and on a peer level, versus someone you have a more formal relationship with.

Resident Evil and the Umbrella Corporation – A Covid Conspiracy Theory

Context:

My informant, AW, is my 15-year-old brother. He is heavily involved in multiple online gaming communities that exist on Discord and other social platforms. This piece was collected during an informal interview at home when I asked him to share something unique to the gaming community. He has heard about this conspiracy theory from many friends and in various internet forums. I refer to myself as SW in the text.

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Main Text:

AW: “There is a huge conspiracy theory going around about corona, and, relating to game called Resident Evil. And um, in that game it is basically a post – well not post but the apocalypse just happened, and um, you’re trying to stay alive and find whatever vaccine you can find, try to get out of that city or something but the entire city has turned to zombies, basically. And you and maybe one other person are still alive. But um, anyway the logo for the Chinese government is like a, or whatever Chinese… the logo for the Chinese… I don’t remember what it is exactly but it’s a… something that had to do with China and covid, and the logo for that uh, lab or brand or whatever it is, is like an umbrella. And it’s blue and white striped in the middle. The logo inside the game for the Umbrella Corporation which is the people who manufactured the vaccine, is that exact same logo just red and white. And people were saying that like… the Chinese whatever it was is the Umbrella Corporation and manufactured the vaccine and they’re gonna turn a bunch of people into zombies and stuff. And there was also, there was another thing that proved that theory, or conspiracy theory, that I don’t remember… But… I think it was like the logo and… I can’t remember but something else related it back to that same company. But that, a lot of people had fun conspirarizing – conspiring. 

SW: Did people actually believe it? Or was it like a…

AW: “Oh there was definitely people who actually believe it. But it was mainly, it mainly just started out as a joke and a ‘hey this is a funny coincidence!’ and then there’s the people who take it a step too far like ‘oh my gosh I actually believe this.’ So that was fun.”

SW: “Where did it start? Did it start like, within the games or did it start on discord or reddit or where did it come from?

AW: “I think it originated off of reddit.”

SW: “Most conspiracy theories come from reddit.”

AW: “Yeah. It was probably off the ResE reddit – Resident Evil reddit. But it… it spread everywhere. Like if you knew what Resident Evil was you know about that.”

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Analysis:

The covid-19 pandemic started millions of conspiracy theories that spread like wildfire online. I think this is because many people are looking for any source to blame for the pandemic, and would much rather unite against a known common enemy than try to fight an invisible virus. As AW mentioned, this particular theory mostly started as a joke based on a coincidence, but as it spread further it began to become an actual belief. This shows how exposure and stories from friends make you more likely to believe something, even if you normally wouldn’t. It’s interesting that it spread to basically everyone who knew about the game, showing how compelling folklore becomes part of the formal culture it is attached to or based on.

Gamer Folk Speech

Context:

My informant, AW, is my 15-year-old brother. He is heavily involved in multiple online gaming communities that exist on Discord and other social platforms and revolve around multiplayer online games such as Valorant and Overwatch. This piece was collected during an informal interview at home when I asked him to share something unique to the gaming community. I refer to myself at SW in the text.

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Main Text:

AW: “Whenever someone is doing really or someone just made a crazy play or an insane play or something like that, um, people would say like you’re popping off or you’re cracked or… um I mean this ones fairly normal but you’re insane or something like that. And people have taken that super far… instead of saying you’re insane people will literally say like ‘you’re absolutely bonkers. You’re mentally unstable.’ Meaning that you did something insane and stuff like that. So yea there’s a lot of terminology like that, that every gamer will understand.”

SW: “Where do you learn it?”

AW: “Um… literally just from talking to people a lot of social cues, a lot of – how I guess you would learn language. It’s just… you don’t ever ask you just kinda know eventually.”

SW: “Why is it important?”

AW: “Cuz every gamer knows it and every gamer says it. It’s… a lot more acceptable to say ‘you’re insane’ or ‘you’re cracked’ than it is to say ‘wow that was a really good play, good rally. That was… that was a good effort. You, you played that very smart.’ Like no one ever says that you say ‘dude you’re insane you’re cracked.’ Or, or you simply just say ‘sheeeeesh.’”

SW: “Which means what?”

AW: “It can mean a lot of things. But in the gaming culture specifically, it’s just a surprised reaction or a… an admiration of something. Like if someone just did something insane you’d go ‘sheeeeeeesh bro.’ Or like… or if someone does something like, super sus, if you know what that means, that’s another word that – yea if someone does that you’d just go ‘sheeeeeesh bro. Sheeeesh.’ It really can be used for anything, it has so many meanings it’s just like, an exclamation. 

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Analysis:

One of my favorite parts of the internet is how quickly folk speech spreads and how some sayings are universal while others only exist within a very specific group. I think the main purpose is to distinguish members of the group from outsiders. As AW mentioned, these phrases are picked up naturally as you spend more time in the community, so it becomes a way to tell how long someone has been in the community. In the gaming community, it’s probably especially important to form a group identity since most people have ever met each other face to face. Gaming folk speech seems to be largely focused on making things more hyperbolic, which might reflect the group culture of being more energetic and dramatic in both your manner of speech and your actions. This probably happens because you can’t rely on body language in these conversations, so you must come up with standardized ways to verbally express emotions of excitement or congratulations that might otherwise be expressed simply through a cheer or a high five.

Legend – Stepping on the School Seal

Context: 

My informant is a 21-year-old female MSU student from Southern California. She heard this story from a friend who went to a different university, though she couldn’t remember which one. This story was collected when we were on a phone call and I asked her if she knew any school lore. 

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Main Text:

JV: “Ok so one story I remember hearing about from a couple years ago. I can’t remember the school, but according to A, at their university there is a place where the school seal is on the ground and some distance away is a statue of the school mascot. The story goes that if any graduating senior steps on the seal, they have to touch the statue within five or ten seconds or they won’t graduate… Apparently, A saw a guy step one foot on the seal. He paused, yelled a curse, then dropped everything he was carrying to sprint for the statue.”

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Analysis:

Many schools seem to have superstitions surrounding stepping on school seals prior to graduation. School traditions and lore are one of the ways to build community and are especially important at large schools where students otherwise do not have much in common. Stepping on the deal bringing bad luck might reflect an inherent respect for the school and its official representations, which need to be honored and not metaphorically sullied by people stepping on them. Having a way to “break the curse” provides a fun ritual for students to witness. However, it’s also interesting to note that even students who would probably say they don’t believe in magic will drop everything to participate in the ritual as they don’t want to jinx themselves on the off chance that it might actually be real. For another description of traditions surrounding stepping on school seals, see Laskowski, Amy. “The Myths and Legends Behind the BU Seal.” May 9, 2019. http://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/boston-university-seal/