Author Archives: Amanda Suarez

The Rake

Informant: Okay, so, I don’t really know if this is true, but I read these stories online, called creepypastas, like you. And there’s this one called “The Rake.” Have you ever heard of it?

Collector: Oh my gosh, yeah!

Informant: So The Rake is like this creepy thing that some people say looks like a dog, others say it looks like a deformed human. No one really knows. It walks on all fours, and it’s just, like, naked and scary.

Collector: Ew! I remember seeing, like, someone’s drawing of it and it scarred me.

Informant: It’s so scary! Yeah, so like apparently it’s a sign that you know he’s coming for you if you can feel him like sucking your soul out of your ear. And so, I read the story, and one night I was lying in bed and I swear, like—Something—I felt this breeze in my ear! And I was like, “What is that??” And then it was like this sucking and I was with my friend and I hit them and was, like, yelling their name!

Collector: Ah! That’s crazy!

Collector’s Notes: Creepypastas have taken the Internet by storm.  I personally love them, as I’ve always been a fan of scary movies and ghost stories.  Pretty much what they are, are stories where the author is very hard to find, if known at all.  These stories, all scary, are passed around from user to user, and are sometimes even spoken aloud for YouTube videos, in a way that is almost like a podcast.  I’ve heard of the story of The Rake, but I’ve never actually read it or listened to it being read.  Every creepypasta changes a little bit over time, and different Internet users put their own spin on things, but generally what my Informant told me is what I’ve heard.  In class, we talked about people transferring ghost stories into their own real-life experiences.  This was called a memorate, and I believe that’s a way to explain what happened.  In class, Professor Thompson talked about how people experience things that they don’t understand and so they use popular belief to make sense of it.  Because the Informant had read the story, and it was late, they were more likely to apply that explanation.  That being said, I believe them because I’ve always believed in ghosts and paranormal activity.  It’s a widely held belief with little to no religious or scientific support, but many people believe it nonetheless.  This story proves it!



Sex Circles

Informant: I actually have another folklore story. So, the musical at my high school was great. So, what happened was there was like a patriarchy with males and females. And so there was the male tradition and the female tradition. And so, once the show started…well, before every show we’d have a Grand Master. You know, for both men and women. And that’s always elected the year prior. It’d be whoever was going to be in the musical the next year.

Collector: Oh. That’s a little bit presumptuous!

Informant: Well, I mean, if you’re in the musical as a junior, you’re probably going to be in it as a senior.

Collector: That’s true.

Informant: Yeah, and so we had our own chants as well. I don’t know what the women did.

Collector: I wouldn’t expect you to know!

Informant: We all had to do our first assignment. It was that we had to give a name to our penises.

Collector: Oh!

Informant: That was our first assignment. It was due by the next performance.

Collector: Like homework!

Informant: Yeah it was homework, right? A lot of guys were like, “Oh, I already got that.” And then our second assignment was that we had to go to our musical crush and whisper our “name” in a context to them. Some had harder times than others. And then the last thing we had to do was before our final show we had to draw our “member” on some place on school property.

Collector: Oh my God.

Informant: So, it was great. Normally janitors found them before Monday morning, so they would all be cleaned already. But the ones that we hidden well enough, they’re still there.

Collector: Yes! Did yours get to stay?

Informant: I think so because I drew mine very small and on the back of a security camera.

Collector: Smart! What a genius. What name did you pick?

Informant: Mayor Dipschtick.

Collector’s Notes: It’s funny that the gender roles played out in such a unique way.  Automatically, the two sexes separated, and formed their own little secret groups with assignments.  All these assignments, however, were based on things that technically involve the opposite sex and sex in general.  This addresses the sexual tension between the two groups and how they chose to cope with that.  Also, I’ve reported other instances of “marking” school property, but never in a way quite like this.  Adolescents feel the need to leave a physical reminder of their presence at their schools, as if they’re saying goodbye in a way that can remain permanent.  Also, I think that it’s interesting that the whole thing played out as kind of a metaphor for their school life.  There was a Grand Master, who acted like a teacher, and there were assignments that needed to be completed in a certain amount of time.  Maybe this was a way of them turning something that they didn’t quite understand, like sexuality and tension, into a format that they could deal with, like a classroom.





Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Collector: So tell me about frat initiation.

Informant: Well, it’s mandatory for every guy in the house. You have to welcome your new brothers. Normal initiations are like, everyone gets in a circle, you chant something. Every brother in the house has to accept you. If they don’t, they have to, like, speak at that time. Like, if there’s a reason.

Collector: It’s almost like a wedding.

Informant: Kind of. Like, it’s a ceremony, there’s chanting and stuff. And normally no one speaks because there’s four months before for them to tell you no and that you’re not gonna be in the frat. But, then again, that depends on the frat. Or if there’s that guy who’s like “Well he didn’t do this!” and everyone’s like, “Well is that good enough reason? He’s witnessing our initiation. Could you have brought this up earlier?” Yeah, ‘cuz initiation is secret in fraternities. I mean, that’s the whole point of them. Sororities are the same way. Normally brothers talk about it after college. Some even keep them secret throughout their life and only talk about it to other frat guys.

Collector: Oh wow.

Collector’s Notes: This is the second case of marriage-like ceremonies in Greek life at USC.  There seems to be a fascination with having the people involved make lifelong unity vows, like matrimony.  I especially liked the fact that this specific account included a sort of “speak now or forever hold your peace” part.  Then there is the chanting that makes another appearance.  This, as I’ve noticed in previous accounts, helps to create a sense of unity and brotherhood, because it’s something that everyone can easily learn and be a part of right away.  Another thing that’s important that the Informant said was the part about secrecy.  In class, we talked about the importance of knowing who’s in the community and who’s out of it, and establishing how that distinction is made.  For fraternities and sororities, I think it’s the secrecy involved.  They have a vast repertoire of chants, songs, handshakes, and sayings that no one outside of the group gets to see, hear or even know about.  That is really important to them, and is a large part of their identity.

Dead Baby Jokes

Informant: I know a lot of dead baby jokes, unfortunately.

Collector: Do you remember any of them offhand?

Informant: I do, actually. They’re all coming back to me. Um, what’s red and silver and keeps running into circles? Or, sorry, circling into walls?

Collector: What?

Informant: A baby with forks in its eyes.

Collector: (gasps). Oh no!

Informant: What gets redder and redder and shorter and shorter?

Collector: What? (muffled by hand over mouth in fear)

Informant: A baby combing its hair with a potato peeler.

Collector: (screams).

Informant: (chuckles at Collector’s reaction).

Collector: These are horrible! I have not heard these before. Like, I’ve heard dead baby jokes before but much more tame!

Informant: Oh yeah. These got terrible.

Collector: …Do you have any more?

Informant: Yeah. Why’d the baby fall out of the tree?

Collector: Why?

Informant: Because it was dead. Why’d the koala fall out of the tree?

Collector: Why?

Informant: Because it was stapled to the baby. Why’d the giraffe die?

Collector: Why?

Informant: The tree fell on him.

Collector: Oh my God.

Informant: Which, you know, doesn’t make sense because why are the giraffes in Australia?

Collector: Yeah. Where’d you hear these? Just in high school going around?

Informant: Yeah! Well, I found them all online.

Collector: You found them online?

Informant: You just look up ‘Dead baby jokes’ and there’s your repertoire of however many dead baby jokes.

Collector: So you took time out of your day to look these up?

Informant: Yep! I took time out of my day to find them. And I told them to people and the ones that I just told you were the best of the best.

Collector’s Notes: We talked a bit about dead baby jokes in class when we talked about humor, and we noted that they come up a lot in booms of baby births.  I also think that it is another way of breaking the tension that comes with talking around taboo topics, such as death, and more seriously, infant death.  It something that has always been a part of our culture, but is seldom really talked about.  People avoid talking about it at all costs, really.  But people can use these jokes to bring up a taboo subject, and talk about it in a way that isn’t tip-toeing around being politically correct or PG.  It’s also a display of a dichotomy of themes.  Mostly people connect babies with the idea of purity and innocence, and murder as the complete opposite.  We take something soft and sweet to heighten to effect of the really horrible topic by contrast.  Also, I think that they’ve been perpetuated because of the clear divide about feelings toward the jokes.  Some are very, very offended, and others think that the conservative need to lighten up and “take a joke.”

What else is interesting about this is the combination of cyberlore and actual word-of-mouth.  In this case, the Informant went online to find jokes that they could later share in person with their friends at school.  I imagine it was a trend and therefore there was more effort put into finding and sharing them.  This is a way that the internet and person-to-person interaction mesh into one being.





Getting “Pinned”

Informant: Oh my God, she got pinned?

Collector: What is that?

Informant: So, when someone gets pinned in a sorority basically what happens is— well, first of all, nobody knows who’s being pinned except for probably the girl’s close friends. So, all we get told, as like the laymen if you will, is that there’s a pinning. “Please wear red if you’re in a relationship and if you’re not in a relationship, wear black.” It’ll be different for every sorority, I’m sure, but the general principle I’m sure stands true. For my specific sorority we sing one of our sorority songs and all of us girls grab hands.

Collector: In a circle?

Informant: Yeah so the pinning ceremony is just the girls in the sorority and everyone’s standing in a circle…Or, as close to a circle as we can get. (laughs) Everyone is holding hands like do in, like, church you know? And there’s a candle being passed around as everyone’s holding hands. So, as it comes to you, you let go, and pass it right. And as we’re singing this song, we’re passing this candle and if the candle stops on you, you’re the one being pinned.

Collector: Oh, so someone next to her would have to know.

Informant: Yeah. So that’s why I’m assuming the close friends know because the guy plans it with the close friends.

Collector: And then the guy’s just there?

Informant: So, then when it lands on you, you’re like, “Ah!” and everyone freaks out. And then those friends have coordinated something with the guy so then they’ll take the girl outside, and like we’ll go to the doorway. Depending on what the guy has planned for his end, like the second part of the ceremony, he could come in and get her. Typically though, for all the ones I’ve been to, is the girl freaks out and the friends walk her to the doorway and we all like get to stand and watch like, in the doorway as the guy comes up. It depends. The ceremony really does change. But the other thing that does hold true is that every guy in the fraternity of the guy who’s pinning the girl gives one red rose.

Collector: To that girl?

Informant: To that girl. They’ll walk up in a line and by the end of it she’s holding like sixty or seventy red roses.

Collector: Oh my God.

Informant: And then the main guy walks up the line too, and his best friend does a speech for him. It’s kind of a pre-engagement.

Collector: Yeah it seems very matrimonial.

Informant: Yeah they do this and it’s great. And then the girl’s best friend will come up and do a speech and it’s very, like…

Collector: Does he actually pin anything on her?

Informant: Oh, forgive me. There’s the actual pinning part of the ceremony. So, basically after the guy gives a speech and he’s like, “I wanna be with you” and the girl’s like “Oh my God!” And then the guy takes off his fraternity pin from his shirt—all the guys are dressed up in, like, sports coats—and typically a guy in the house will come out with a guitar. After the guy’s best friend does a speech and the guy does a speech, he takes off his pin and puts it on the girl’s red dress and he says that she means more to him than his fraternity.

Collector: Awh! So, it’s something that everyone, like, wants?

Informant: It’s something that every girl in a sorority who has a boyfriend in a fraternity would want.

Collector: So they have to be, like, “dating dating” beforehand, right?

Informant: It’s typically people who have been dating for like two years, three years. So, like, college sweethearts, you know? It’s like seniors usually.

Collector: So, I guess it’s kind of acceptable to have her be more important than the fraternity at that point.

Informant: That’s the whole point of it, is that like, at the end of the day he’s had his time with the boys and now he’s saying, like “Here, babe. It’s your turn.” Like the few that I’ve been to, the girl seemed genuinely surprised.

Collector: Oh, really? I would think you would at least have a clue.

Informant: Yeah! But I think that’s the important part, the concealment. They do a really good job of that. Like, the surprise of being pinned is the most important part. And as I’m growing older I’m realizing that it’s cool because it’s the fact that your boyfriend pretty much wants to marry you.

Collector’s Notes: Every time I interviewed someone who was involved in Greek Life, something that represented a marriage ceremony came up.  I think it’s because that is the next big liminal point in these adults’ lives.  In a way they’re preparing themselves for it.  I also think that the color scheme of dresses is interesting.  In class, we talked about how red symbolized the post-romantic woman and black was like the crone, or older, no longer sexualized woman.  I think that, at first, this seems out of place, but then I remember that these girls had already donned their white dresses when they were initiated into the sorority.  So, those “married” and sexualized (with a relationship) wear red and those who are “married” and not sexual (not in a relationship) wear black.  It makes more sense that way.  Also, history lends itself to a lot of examples of guys giving some sort of romantic symbol to their girlfriends, whether it be a class ring, a letterman jacket, a promise ring or even an engagement ring.  These symbols represent “ownership” to a certain degree, and a longer commitment in mind.  It represents the future.  Something else that can represent the future is the circle the girls get into beforehand.  The circle symbolizes the never-ending cycle of life and time, and it makes sense that as one girl moves from one stage of life (maidenhood) to another (married life) that the girls would symbolize this with a circle.  The singing is another unifying thing that I’ve noticed from every Greek interview.  Song seems to be an ancient and timeless way for people to bond in an easy way.  The candle I’m taking to symbolize love, like I’ve seen in past interviews.  The burning flame represents “triumph over the darkness” or in this case, the blackness that is representing single life.  Because we’re a reproductive centered culture, this makes a lot of sense.  All in all, with the love-representative roses and songs, this seems like a really beautiful ceremony.