Author Archives: sophiaba

Bloody Mary Legend

Informant-Wesley Ball: Legend told to him by his brothers while he was growing up in Marion, Indiana. Wesley Ball is a 50-year-old male from Marion Indiana. Conducted via phone interview.

“When I was growing up my older brothers used to tell me the story of Bloody Mary, I later learned they had learned it from someone in the neighborhood. The version they told me was that when I went to bed, if I had a dream about Bloody Mary, she would scratch me in my sleep. For a while they would come into my room every night and just talk about Bloody Mary. They told me that I would dream about whatever I heard before I went to bed so I would stay awake for hours trying to get rid of the image of Bloody Mary they had seared into my mind. They said that Bloody Mary was a ghost who lived in our town of Marion (Indiana). She used to live their and one day went crazy and killed her own brother, that’s what they told me. Bloody Mary prayed on little boys like her brother, my brothers said ones that looked especially like me. She would come to you in your sleep and you would wake up with scratches, and sometimes she even killed. I’m not sure where they created the legend since now that I am older I know its often told very differently, but apparently the story is still told in Marion today.”


The History of the Real Bloody Mary: The Bloody Mary legend is based of Mary Tudor the daughter of King Henry the VIII. He was famous for killing his wives. Mary saw much of the crime her father committed and was even disowned by him. When she became Queen of England she burned people at the stake and caused rebellion across the country, the people eventually gave her the name “Bloody Mary”. Some legend states that she even thought she was pregnant but never had a baby, and that is why so many of the Bloody Mary legends include standing in a mirror and saying “I stole your baby Bloody Mary”.

Radford, Benjamin. “Do You Believe in Bloody Mary?” DNews. N.p., 13 Oct. 2013.

Web. 27 Apr. 2016. <



Thoughts: I was raised with a different Bloody Mary legend, the classic. Where you stand in the mirror and say Bloody Mary three times with the lights off. I often did this with my friends for the thrill, of course nothing ever happened. I have never heard this story of Bloody Mary and I believe that the legend is probably only around Marion where my father grew up. I was shocked that such a different encounter existed, the boys seem to have just taken the name from the classic tale.


Mimi and the Spirits

Informant: Catherine Calhoun who discusses via email interview with me the tales of her mother’s connection to the spirit world and ghosts. An important piece of folklore to her family as it is the reason my mother and I believe in connections to the afterlife.

Mimi Feels The Spirit:

Sophie’s grandmother, my mother, Judy – or Mimi as she is affectionately known – has always had a connection with loved ones in the afterlife.

She treats it in a very matter-of-fact way.  She’s not afraid.  She’s somehow comforted by family members communicating with her from the grave.

When my Aunt Margaret – her sister-in-law – died suddenly at the age of 40 in a plane crash in the Amazon jungle, the funeral was a terribly sad event.

But in the middle of the service, Mimi felt a strong, cool breeze and heard bells tinkle – something no one else experienced.  And she smiled in the midst of all of the sadness.  She told us later that she knew that Aunt Margaret wanted her to know that she was at peace.

Many years later Mimi’s beloved Aunt Barbara died.  They had been very, very close.

Auntie Barb was the always the best-dressed gal around, even as she neared 100.  She was consistently coiffed and manicured and the most engaging person in a room.  She was, without question, the family grand dame and matriarch.

After she died, Mimi drove up to the lakehouse that had been in her family for more than 80 years.  A house where she and Auntie Barb spent many mornings on the deck sipping coffee and watching the sun reflect off the waves.

Mimi went to bed and was woken with a start about 2 am.  She looked out on the deck and saw a woman trying to get into the house from the sliding glass doors off the deck.

She peered out and saw that the woman was wearing a bright blue striped robe and clutching a white coffee cup.

And despite the fact that it was the middle of the night and she was alone in the middle of nowhere, she did not feel fearful.  She stood up and began to walk to the door.  But when she got there, the woman was gone.

She stepped outside and called out.  Nothing.

Two days later she returned home and was going through some of Aunt Barbara’s clothes to send to the Salvation Army.  She flipped through the racks and her hand – and her heart – stopped.  There it was, that distinctive blue-striped robe.

Mimi knew that Auntie Barb had returned to the lake to tell her that she was ok.

And maybe she just wanted one last cup of coffee on the deck looking out at the lake.

Thoughts: I love these stories about Mimi because they explain the connection that I sometimes feel to those who have passed away. I have had similar things happen to me after the death of my other grandma and my mother has also. Our family does not believe in ghosts but rather in the fact that there is some sort of connection between those who are alive and those who have passed. This story is countlessly told on my mom’s side of the family and important to our family folklore.

The Big Question

Informant: My mother, Catherine Calhoun, this is the story behind her favorite life lesson that eventually became mine. She tells is constantly and it has become a staple of our family. This story was obtained via email interview.

Tale, The Big Question: 

“I’ll never forget the day, at a stoplight at the corner of Western and Addison in Chicago.  A six-year-old Sophie, strapped into her booster seat behind me, pipes up.

“Mommy – I have a question.”

This was not unusual.   We often talked about everything as we drove around town. She was a curious kid, always full of questions, one of the many things I loved about my daughter.  But what was unusual was what followed her proclamation.

“If you die tomorrow – and believe me, Mommy, I do NOT want you to die tomorrow – what is the one thing you’d want me to know.”

I remember gripping the steering wheel tightly and thinking, wow, this is a real question.  A profound one.  And from a six-year-old?  What would I say?

But it took only a moment to realize what I would want her to know.

“Sophie, the one thing I’d want you to know is how important it is to be able to take care of yourself.  If you can take care of yourself you can make good decisions.  Decisions that aren’t based on someone ELSE taking care of you.

Because Prince Charming may show up – or not.  He may get sick and die.  But if you work hard and are able to take care of yourself you can not only make a good choice about a life partner and have a strong, equal relationship – but you can also be confident that you can handle whatever life throws at you.”

Do I think a six-year-old Sophie could really process all of that?

Probably not.

But it’s a small teachable moment we’ve played over and over in our family narrative.

And something I still believe to be true.

And hopefully she does too.”

Thoughts: This is one of my favorite family stories because it really describes our family. My mom and dad are separated and my mom is the main supporter of our family. She was raised with the value to always be able to take care of yourself and never depend on a man and thats what she did. She is the single most inspirational and important woman in my life and I hope to be half the person she is someday. This story describes a deep value that I hold dear to my heart as well as my mother and its also a funny and strange story because of how young I was. It eventually morphed into a sort of family proverb “Never wait for Prince Charming” that my mom still says to me.

Proverb: Never Wait For Prince Charming 







Folk Song: Cantos para romper la piñata

Informant: Nicolas Williams, my good friend at USC from Mexico City, this song is a traditional folk song that is typically sung on his birthdays and festivities where there is a pinata. I collected this folklore during an interview.

Folk song:

Dale, dale, dale,
No pierdas el tino,
Porque si lo pierdes
Pierdes el camino

Dale, dale, dale,
No pierdas el tino,
Mide la distancia
Que hay en el camino

No quiero oro
No quiero plata
Yo lo que quiero
Es romper la piñata

Echen confites
Y canelones
Pa’ los muchachos
Que son muy tragones.

Ándale María
No te dilates
Con la canasta
De los cacahuates.

Ándale Juana
No te dilates
Con la canasta
De los cacahuates.

La piñata tiene caca,
Tiene caca,
Tiene caca,
Cacahuates de a montón.

Ya le diste uno,
Ya le diste dos,
Ya le diste tres
Y tu tiempo se acabó.

Translated into english it is: 

Hit, hit, hit,
Don’t lose your aim,
Because if you lose it,
You’ll lose the way.

Hit, hit, hit,
Don’t lose your aim,
Measure the distance
That’s on the way.

I don’t want gold,
I don’t want silver,
What I want is
To break the piñata.

Throw candies
and mints
For the kids
Who are very greedy.

Come on, Mary,
Don’t delay
With the basket
of peanuts.

Come on, Jane,
Don’t delay
With the basket
of peanuts.

The piñata has pea,
Peanuts by the ton!

You’ve hit it once,
You’ve hit it twice,
You’ve hit it thrice,
Now your time is up.

“The piñata is a seven-pointed star that represents the seven deadly sins, on your turn you’re supposed to be blindfolded as you strike with the stick, representing that faith is blind and overcomes evil. We sing this song as the child is going to swing at the piñata which is traditionally at parties especially for birthdays and festivals. I remember singing it at every birthday as a child and my family still sings it today. Though this is a common song, its special to my family because we change the lyrics from Jane and Mary to members of our family and sometimes add our own lyrics like inside jokes to make everyone laugh.”

Thoughts: I have never heard of a song associated with hitting a piñata which has become a part of American culture as I used to have them for my birthdays also but I never sang a song. This song seemed to be associated with a lot of memories for Nicolas as he got very nostalgic telling me about his past celebrations with his family in Mexico.

La Leyenda de la Llorona

Informant: Nicolas Williams, who grew up hearing this story from his mother. It always scared him but its a common story in Mexican culture and he loves telling it. Collected via interview.

La leyenda de la llorona (The Weeping Woman): “This tale was told to me by my mother when I was growing up and is a well known story in Mexico. The story goes that there was a woman who was really beautiful and because of this she thought she was better than everyone. So she wanted to marry the most handsome man in the entire world. Then a man came who seemed perfect and he was handsome and wealthy and a horse rider. So they became engaged and they got married and had two children and the perfect life. Then the husband started leaving for a long time and only coming back for the children not the woman . The woman was mad at her children for getting all the attention and started to hate them. One day the woman saw her husband with another woman. She became so upset that she threw her children in the river and drowned them. My mother would always yell at that point and start acting like the woman crying for dramatic effect. The woman then killed herself from sadness. They buried her but the story is that there was crying coming from her grave, it was La Llorona crying asking for her children. The people saw a woman in a white robe and because she was crying they called her the weeping woman. My mom told me this story because she did not want me going out alone at night and she said if the woman caught me she would drown me. It definitely scared me and everyone knew not to wander late at night because of La Llorna.

Thoughts: This reminds me of a story I was told about a witch who lived in a windmill by my lake house. We were not allowed to go near it at night because there was a creek my parents were scared my cousins and I would fall into. So they said there was a witch that stole children. La Llorna is a well known Mexican folklore unlike my story but I still see the similarities in parents creating stories to protect their children.