Author Archives: Steven Cassettari

Three to a Match

Do not have three people light a cigarette with the same match: My informant said he heard this expression originally from a family member who was a former smoker. According to this belief having a third person lighting a cigarette from the same lighter is considered bad luck. This belief stems from WWI when soldiers would light cigarettes with matches at night. When the first solider lit the match an enemy sniper could notice the group. While the second one lit his cigarette the sniper would prepare himself and aim down the sight. The third man would be the unfortunate man shot by the prepared sniper because having the third man light his cigarette gave the sniper enough time to take a shot. This belief persisted long after WWI ended and my informant said his relative continued following the rule until the relative quit.

Don’t have three people light a cigarette with one match

This story seems like it could have some truth to it, but it also seems to have been build up over the years as well. Maybe it could have led unnecessary death, but once the war was over there would be no reason to continue. However, it did showing that meaning beyond practicality was eventually assigned to the ritual. There are also factors that make the original story seem a little unlikely. For instance the first two cigarettes would still be lit and the third soldier would just have to use a different match according to the custom. This could still lead to an enemy sniper waiting for a new match, but no mention of that is made in the custom, just that 3 to a match is bad luck. Either those problems were not addressed or they weren’t deemed important enough to be part of the ritual.

The Windy City

One of the most common nick names for the city of Chicago is the windy city. There are many stories for how it came around, but my informant said there is one that he said he is partial to. He  told me the story of how Chicago is notorious for having lying and crooked politicians for almost all the history of the city. When Chicago started booming people gave it the name windy city because all its politicians did was blow hot air with their promises. The politicians words were as worthless as wind to the people after all the broken promises. He learned this story from his AP US history teacher.

This story is a formative myth for the identity of the city because the windy city is used very commonly to refer to Chicago. Part of the identity of the city is tied into the phrase windy city. This also expresses the dissatisfaction that the citizens had with their leaders in the past, but currently as the legend is told they hold a certain pride in how their politicians were so crooked or they wouldn’t retell the story. It was become part of the foundation of the city itself.

Miss O’Leary’s Cow

One of the most important events in the city of Chicago’s history is the time it burned done in 1871. On October 8th the fire began and the fire started in Miss O’Leary’s barn and a reporter at the time jokingly said that the cow kicked down a lantern while O’Leary was milking it. This wasn’t true though as she was actually with her husband in bed when the fire started. Despite the fact that it was a joke and the reporter even admitted it was people still blamed O’Leary. According to this story this led her to have a miserable and lonely life. When she died she was said to have died with a broken heart because of all the blame laid at her feet. My informant first heard this story from his high school history teacher. This legend was taught near Chicago because of the personal connection to the event. He knows that there isn’t much truth to the whole story, but he still likes it as a result of it having a local connection.

This story is probably told in order to create a sense of identity of people in and around Chicago. It is similar to a formative myth because while it wasn’t about the founding of the city, it was almost totally rebuild except one building and it was the rebirth of the city.

The Legend of Resurrection Mary

This is a legend of a woman a long time ago in the early 1900s who was killed by a hit and run driver. She was buried at resurrection cemetery. Soon people would start seeing her in the street by the cemetery. People would almost hit her and sometimes even would hit her but she nothing if they went out. There was also a bar by the cemetery and people have reported meeting a girl there who asked them to drive her home. She would give them directions and they would end up outside of the cemetery and when they turned around to look back at her she was gone. My informant said this story was told often at sleep overs when trying to scare others. Despite this fact the spirit is supposed to be kind as spirits go and does not have a reputation of killing like many other ghost stories.

This legend has typical elements of a ghost story, a gruesome death and encounters with spirits, but it also defies them by not involving some sort of revenge or returning to attack others twist on it. It also is tied to the area as it references a specific graveyard which makes it more real for those in the area.

Hang Loose

Hang loose like the balls of a moose

My informant learned this expression at Carroll College in Wisconsin. People said the phrase when they were going to go out to party. Sometimes hang loose can mean to relax, but in this context is was to let down your barriers and party hard. This was a common expression among the students especially on weekends. My informant has not used the phrase very often since college as my informant said it was more of a youthful expression.

This expression could have come into existence as a result of two cultures combing. The vulgarity of it and the sentiment came from a college environment where people were encouraged to party and drink, especially as the drinking at was 18 in Wisconsin at the time. The “ball of a moose” part came from being in Wisconsin where moose sightings would have been much more common than in other states like California or even Illinois where my informant was from. The balls moose are evidently very loose and it fit well in the area combined with the demographic the saying appealed to.