Author Archives: smit217@usc.edu

The Mammoth Shrimp: A Legend

In Galveston, Texas there’s this restaurant that has a huge giant shrimp as, like, I guess a statue or whatever and apparently, like, late in the 1800’s they went fishing and they literally caught this, like, huge giant shrimp that was like 4, 5 feet tall and like 6 feet long and, like, they caught it I guess and that’s what their whole, like, restaurant is, like, surrounded by, like, that whole superstition – or not superstition – that, like, the whole legend of that huge giant shrimp actually swimming in and living in the ocean right outside Galveston.

The Informant, my housemate, is an Econ major at USC. He was born and raised in Texas. The Informant told me about this local legendary catch at around midnight on 4/22 while he played PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, an intensive online battle royale game. When I asked if he thought the legend was true, he responded that he didn’t really know. All he knows is the restaurant’s fried shrimp is “fucking amazing.”

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/canadian-fishermen-shrimp/

Considering the largest shrimp on the planet are about the size of a person’s arm, this legend is almost absolutely false. In fact, this is eerily similar to a viral news story in 2013 that reported a 320lb shrimp caught along the Canada coast. Snopes declared this false, however, and showed that the photo was clearly doctored to replace a large catfish with a shrimp.

I enjoyed the story. I think it’s convenient to have the rumor be set in a time where records of such a catch would be spotty at best. When I was listen to the Informant speak of the huge giant shrimp of Galveston, I immediately thought of Randy’s Donuts here in Los Angeles, a drive-through donut shop that wields a massive 26-foot donut as a sign. Sadly, there’s no 26-foot donut either, with the largest one ever at 16-feet.

GamGam: A Ghost Story

It’s not exactly a ghost story. I mean, I didn’t really see a ghost exactly. When we moved into GamGam and PopPop’s house after they passed, I remember just feeling GamGam’s presence.  I can’t explain it exactly. I’d just feel like she was there keeping me company. 

One day, I was in the kitchen and no windows were open. There was a stillness in the house. Then I noticed that a note that was magnetted to the refrigerator was moving – and for quite a while. It never happened again, but I always felt like GamGam was there and wanted me to know.  It was very nice.

While the Informant’s story may not directly involve a ghost, it definitely involves paranormal activity. When I asked if she believed in ghosts, she replied an instant “absolutely!” She then equated ghosts and souls. She believes in old souls and new souls, relating natural wisdom to the age of a person’s soul. A ghost is an unsettled soul, with unfinished business, waiting for a new body. Essentially, ghosts are souls in transit.

This story means a lot to the Informant. She told me that one of the first things that GamGam, slang for grandmother, said to the Informant was that she was an “old soul.” A physical object being manipulated is a common motif in ghost stories, with the Informant’s involving the magnet.

I enjoyed the story. It’s a strange form of a ghost/spirit story. Instead of the intent to frighten, like in typical ghost story fashion, this one seemingly had a happy ending. GamGam just wanted to show the Informant that she was there, have her presence recognized.

Garden Grove Ghost

In March 1933 there was a huge earthquake and Garden Grove High School collapsed. There was a little girl, a Freshman, named Elizabeth and she was the killed when the wall caved in. She was trapped under the rubble in the Hall of Fame in Heritage Hall for hours begging for help, but no one came to save her.

 Nowadays, students say they can still hear her ghost pleading for help.

The Informant was born in the US and grew up in Garden Grove, a city in Orange County. Her parents are both from Vietnam. She is an Economics and Mathematics major at UCLA. The Informant, my girlfriend, told me this story as I distracted her from her own schoolwork on 4/22 at around 2am.

It seems like whenever there is a disaster or tragic event, up pops a ghost story. Ghost stories also appear to be a youthful storytelling technique. So, it’s not surprising that a ghost story exists about the tragic death of one of the areas high schoolers.

The informant grew up in the area, with many friends and family attending the school in question. Unsurprisingly, this ghost story spread via word of mouth from classmates. The story spread from across schools and across classes. The informant says she would never step foot into Heritage Hall because, even though she’s skeptical about the existence of ghosts, in the off chance that they do exist, she doesn’t imagine them as being friendly. Whereas the typical viewpoint sees ghosts as the wandering spirits doing the scaring, she views ghosts as the scared ones. They’re stuck, scared, and angry.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but my belief system on souls is more complex. I don’t question the tragedy that occurred, but if I take a step back and think about it, I question the idea of the “haunting.” For the sake of argument, if I were to accept there are ghosts, why would they haunt their place of deaths? If I were a spirit in the afterlife, I would want to stray far from my tragic place of death and be in the surroundings of my happiest moments.

Bigfoot: A Legend

Okay so Bigfoot is this big giant black human ape furry creature. I don’t know what it eats, and I don’t know what it does but -um- Oh! I heard that it creeps up to people’s homes at night and watches them sleep and it doesn’t like to hurt people, but it seems to be really curious.

I’m not so sure about the Yeti, it’s like the thing – the abominable snowman – is the snow version of Bigfoot so it’s like big and white and scary. Much more violent and dangerous. I don’t really know where it lives, but it’s not the Pacific Northwest like Bigfoot. Honestly, if I had the time, I would probably go searching for Bigfoot.

The Informant is Vietnamese. She was born in the US and grew up in Garden Grove, a city in Orange County. She is an Economics and Mathematics student at UCLA. The Informant, my girlfriend, revealed her staunch belief in Bigfoot (and skepticism of the Yeti) as I distracted her from her own schoolwork on 4/22 at around 2am.

Bigfoot is a legendary legend. The mysterious creature has nearly become a pop-culture icon. Though Bigfoot is thought of as an American folklore mainstay, depictions of similar creature preexist the United States and even exist in other countries, a possible example of polygenesis.

The legend of Bigfoot can be traced back to Native tribes throughout the United States. In fact, accounts of similar looking and behaving creatures exist in the oral traditions of many Native American tribes. Even more interestingly, if we look at linguistic groups of native languages, each one has a different name for what is now known as Bigfoot, further suggesting that the legend is not one of monogenesis.

In Māori mythology, the Maero, a large and hairy wildman would prey on humans using stone tools and sharp claws. The Maero is a devil creature in Māori folklore, with the creature a sworn enemy of the people. Whereas Bigfoot is rumored to peer into people’s homes at night, tainting their feeling of privacy and security, the Maero is said to have ruined the tapu (sacredness) of the Māori’s homes.

I had no idea how old the legend of Bigfoot was or that various versions existed in other continents. I’m not a believer in the legend nowadays. It is theoretically possible that a species inhabited the forests thousands of years ago, but I believe they are long gone now.

For a more in-depth folkloric analysis on Bigfoot, see the article ‘”The “Truth” about the Bigfoot Legend”‘ by Linda Milligan posted here.

Wealth Mirror: Folk Belief

So in a lot of Asian cultures we believe in Feng Shui -um- which has a lot to do with balancing and good fortune or things that can cause uhh bad luck or harm you and, my family particularly, we have a mirror hanging above our front door from- on the inside side and the point of the mirror is that it reflects all the good wealth or good fortune that could be trying to leave the house and keeps it inside.

 Something really similar to that is we believe that -um- houses that are shaped triangularly, that are built right in front of a window or a room is bad luck so, for example, the house across from me from my bedroom has a triangular roof and my mom put a mirror in my window in the corner to ward off evil spirits. So mirrors can be used both ways, but its more meant to keep out the bad spirits and good spirits in.

The Informant is Vietnamese. She was born in the US and grew up in Garden Grove, a city in Orange County. She is an Economics and Mathematics student at UCLA. The Informant, my girlfriend, taught me about a use for mirrors aside from vanity in many Asian cultures as I distracted her from her own schoolwork on 4/22 at around 2:30am. Her entire house is set up to maximize energy flow. Although she doesn’t believe in the full power of Feng Shui (Qi as the lifeforce), she believes in the power of Qi.

Feng Shui dictates the placement of various items to correctly direct vital energies (Qi) to maximize happiness, health, wealth, etc. There are many directives with Feng Shui and most involve the use of mirrors to either amplify good energies or reject bad energies.

The cardinal sin of mirror placement is to position a mirror facing a door. This reflects Qi that enters right back out the door. The Bagua mirror, an octagon with wooden backing and an individual symbol on all eight sides. The concavity or convexity means the world; a concave mirror will absorb bad energy while a concave mirror will reflect it away. If a Bagua is placed inside the house, it must be concave.

I grew up with light influence of Feng Shui. My mom was always moving furniture around and reorganizing photos on tables to “improve the Feng Shui,” but I always thought it was an aesthetic thing. I’d be hard pressed to believe that a mirror can increase my wealth and good fortune, but if I run a cost-benefit analysis, there’s nothing to lose.