Author Archives: Tayler Somerville

Ghost of Curry Hall

TG is a 25 year old graduate student and cultural forensic anthropologist. She grew up in Maryland and currently resides in Tennessee. She was an active member at her university.

Context: TG claims that she had heard this story many times while studying undergrad and that although she has not experienced it personally, many of her friends have encountered the ghost first hand.

Transcript (discussed over the phone):

Collector: What is the background story of the ghost?

TG: Basically, while they were building the two freshmen dorms, Frazer and Curry Hall, they were doing some electrical work but they didn’t put the elevators in yet so the elevator shafts were just very deep dirt holes. One of the workers had brought their toddler to the site, which was a big mistake to begin with. The worker put the child down for a second and the toddler rolled into the elevator shaft in the hallway of the 10th floor and died. Plenty of people I know have said that in the same hallway of Curry, you can hear a child’s laughter and it was very disturbing.

Collector: Do you believe in the ghost?

TG: I believe in ghosts so yes. While it’s possible that students just hear laughter and assume it is the ghost, I don’t think it’s impossible.

Thoughts/Analysis: Although ghost stories are legends and therefore may or may not be true, the impact they have on people’s lives is very real. As the informant discussed the fact that students in Curry Hall could actually hear child’s laughter is something that they will tell their friends, family, and children. That is shown by the informant being told this story by her friends. This shows how legends spread and how socially influenced they are. This account by TG can even be considered a memorate, where personal experiences of residents turned into campus folklore.

Jumping the Broom

MS is a 60 year old mother of five from the South. She is strongly connected to her African American heritage and has been to many weddings in her family and community where the newlyweds jumped the broom.

Context: Jumping the broom is a tradition that roots from slavery where the newlyweds would jump the broom to commence their marriage since slaves were not allowed to marry. This was collected after dinner sitting at the table.


Collector: From your experience, what does it mean when a couple jumps the broom?

MS: Almost all of the weddings I have been to where the jumping the broom took place have been the same. What happens is, after the bride and groom kiss at the end of the ceremony, they turn towards the witnesses and the broom is placed before them. They first kiss the tips of their fingers and touch the broom. Then they hold hands and jump the broom together.

Collector: Since black people can legally get married now, why do you think African Americans continue to jump the broom?

MS: I think they still do it in honor of their ancestors and where they come from. Many southern folk keep the tradition going since slavery was especially prominent there. It also represents togetherness and is the first presentation of the couple as a unit, so it’s important.

Thoughts/Analysis: Traditions that come from historical adaptations are especially interesting. The tradition of jumping the broom was a result of the determination of African Americans to create and officiate their own families and lives. The way that African Americans today continue the tradition speaks to their continuous connection to their heritage. Heritage is not something one can simply adopt or take place in. The participants in this performance inherited it from elders in their family and will continue to pass it on. This is also a variation of jumping the broom, I have heard of this tradition before but never heard about the newlyweds kissing their hands and touching the broom.

Every Closed Eye Ain’t Sleep Proverb

MS is a 60 year old mother of five who grew up in rural Virginia.

Context: This was performed over dinner, talking about black and southern culture.


MS: My mother said this all the time.

Collector: I think I know what it is.

MS: I’m sure you do. It goes:

“Every closed eye ain’t sleep and every goodbye ain’t gone”

MS: She used this in two different contexts. The first is when she would be resting her eyes and we thought she was asleep. We’d talk around her and try to be quiet, but when her eyes were still closed, she’d recite that. When she fell ill she’d tell all her folks that. “Every goodbye ain’t gone” meaning she would see us again.

Thoughts/Analysis: This proverb can be used in a religious context also. MS’s mother was very religious and strongly believed that her and her family would reunite after death and that her soul would remain with them until then. Death/afterlife related proverbs vary over different culture but overall convey the same thing.

For variations of this proverb, see:

Nieri, Itabari. “Only in the Americas : Every Good-Bye Ain’t Gone : Family Portraits and Personal Escapades by Itabari Njeri .” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, February 25, 1990.,bye%20ain’t%20gone.%E2%80%9D.

Good Luck Coin

AW is a 19 year old college student. She is an undergraduate computer science major and is from Los Angeles County. She is Chinese American and has lived in LA all of her life.

Context: AW is a good friend of mine, so we sat down after dinner to discuss folklore she picked up across her life. She picked this practice up from her parents.


Collector: You have a thing with coins right?

AW: Ah yes!

Collector: Tell me about it.

AW: Coins, not just pennies, can bring good luck. But only if it is turned on heads. So if I am walking down the street and spot, let’s say, a dime or something. I will only pick it up if it’s on heads. Then it is good luck.

Also if I drop a coin in you guys’ apartment then I leave it there for good luck haha.

Collector: I picked up on that. Whenever we see a coin on the ground we just leave it.

AW: Yes for good fortune!

Thoughts/Analysis: This is a great twist on the typical finding a penny for good luck belief. I had never heard of leaving coins for good luck, only picking them up. I think this shows that both taking and giving money is necessary for good fortune. It might even mean that you cannot take and take without giving. Coins in general being used in this belief rather than just pennies might make someone believe they have more good luck because other coins are more valuable and you are likely to see them more.

For a variation of the lucky coin, see:

Brianna, and Brianna. “Find a Penny, Pick It Up and All Day You’Ll Have Good Luck.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 15, 2021.

Wedding Garter Toss Practical Joke

KS is a 56 year old father of five who grew up in and resides in Southern Maryland. He has been married for twenty years and has been to many weddings throughout his life.

Context: KS experienced this practical joke at a wedding of a good friend of his.


KS: You know the reception tradition of the groom going under the brides dress to take off her garter? Before it was time for my friend to take off his wife’s garter, he hid a pair of XXL bloomers in his pants pocket. When he went to take off the garter, he came out from under her dress with the bloomers instead of the garter. Everyone had a good laugh, the bride included. He went back though and took off the actual garter.

Collector: What do you think made him make that joke?

KS: Hmm. I think he wanted to take the pressure off of taking the garter off in front of his family, especially his parents. It can be hard to do things like that in front of them; I know some people who did not even like the idea of kissing their wife in front of the older folk. It definitely helped bond the families too. A good laugh can always do that.

Analysis: The tradition of the groom taking off the bride’s garter is similar to the bride throwing the bouquet to the bridesmaids. The way the groom throws the garter to the groomsmen is parallel to the bridesmaids catching the bouquet. It is seen mostly in American weddings. Originally, a piece of the bride’s dress was taken and thrown to all the guests for good luck.

For a variation of this practical joke/good luck charm and other similar wedding traditions, see:

Reade, Scarlett. “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something, Blue.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 18, 2021.