Author Archives: Antonieta Vivas

Running Faucets for Cramp Relief

Context: I came home one day at the beginning of this year to all of the faucets running and I asked my roommate what was going on and she told me this story. So I asked her to re-tell me why she does it.

Piece: So basically, I don’t know where my mom… well let me tell the long version of the story. So you know when you are you they tell you not to keep the water running when you brush your teeth? They’re like “turn off the faucet to save water!” Well I would always say that, and my mom always left the faucet running when she brushed her teeth and I would be like, “Mommy, you’re wasting water!” And she has always said, “I have to leave the faucet running or I’ll gag or like throw up.” And I never understood that until I started like, when I’m on my period or nauseous for any reason and so I turn the faucet on and leave the water running. It’s supposed to help you like feel like less nauseous. Something about the sound of running water can like ease nausea. I feel like it might have been something my mom got from my grandma. It sounds like something my grandma would do.

Background: The informant is a 19 year old USC student of Pakistani and Indian descent. She is very close to her family and shares many traditions and beliefs with them. She learned this from her mother and does it whenever she gets her period cramps.

Analysis: This tradition is something I have never heard of before. It is a sort of remedy/ homeopathic healing technique. It is often said that water sounds are soothing, but this is the first time I have heard them help with pain. I have heard of soaking in hot water to ease pain, but it is interesting that this piece refers to sounds, which tackles the mental state rather than the physical.

Winchester Mystery House

Context:  The informant began to speak of odd places near her hometown and had this place as an example.

Piece: “So I am from San Jose California and there is a really famous house in San Jose called the Winchester Mystery house. And it’s supposedly by Sarah Winchester, who was married to William Winchester, I believe, and um she moved there after he died, I think. But he passed away and he was the manufacturer of this really famous rifle called like the Winchester rifle. So Sarah, after she died like thought she was haunted by the ghosts of the people who were killed with his guns, yeah which is a lot of people. So she built this house, and she just kept expanding it because she was trying to protect herself from the ghosts. So you go to this house and the architecture makes absolutely no sense because she just kept building and building and building so its super vast and she could protect herself from the outside. There are like stairs that lead to nowhere and doors that lead to nowhere and cause like it doesn’t make sense and there is this motif of spiderwebs throughout it like there are windows that look like webs and so like it really looks like a haunted house. I have been there and they actually take a lot of kids on field trips there now, which is weird. And it’s well known and a lot of people go there.”

Background: The informant is a 19 year old USC student who grew up in San Jose, California. She is very well versed in the Winchester Mystery House and has personally been there.

Analysis: This home is a ghost tripping home, attracting people to quest to find or see ghosts. This site in particular has house tours and advertising, indicating that it is in the commercial industry and makes profit from the stories about the home. The motifs in the house further add to the spectacle that attracts visitors, as well as adding to the feel of the environment. It is also interesting how there is an eerie quality to the odd architecture– such as the stairs that lead nowhere. The transitional, liminal quality creates the uneasy energy that plays into the ghost stories associated with the site.

 

A Pirate’s Favorite Letter

Context: The informant told this joke in passing, and I asked to hear it again because of the play on words.

Piece:

Informant: “What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?”

Collector: “I don’t know… what is it? Is it R?”

Informant: “Arr you’d think so but me first love be the C”

Background: The informant, a 20 year old college student at Harvard, says is one of his favorite jokes and he tells it often to entertain his friends. He says that he found this joke on Reddit.

Analysis: In order to understand this joke, you have to have the preconceived notion that pirates a stereotypically shown to say “arr.” Therefore, this joke shows how as a society there is a unified understanding of the pirate stereotype and that there can be these jokes on it. This joke catches on because of its spin on the more obvious stereotypical saying by pirates. It demonstrates also how phonetic similarity can function as a joke when recited with another meaning/spelling.

 

 

 

Hick’s Road Blood Albinos

Context: The informant was speaking of odd legends around her hometown, San Jose.

 

Piece:

Informant: Alright so, I’m from San Jose California, but specifically a small town called Almaden within San Jose, and there is this really famous road in San Jose called Hick’s Road and it’s famous because there is an urban legend… this is real, I’m not making it up… that the road is haunted and that there are blood albinos that live there. Basically there are these albino people that supposedly live there and who like suck people’s blood— like blood sucking albinos. And they’re supposed to live there. And when you live there you just like always hear about the blood albinos at Hick’s road and its supposedly really scary and people like die there and it’s like in one of the more rural areas and you drive there and there is just not a lot of stuff there and it’s kinda dark. Once you become a teenager it becomes kind of a rite of passage to like go with your friends and like brave Hick’s Road.

Collector: Do people actually die?

Informant: Like no! Not that I know of, everyone goes there and because you’re so scared you like imagine stuff.

 

Background: The informant, a 19 year old USC student, is from San Jose and has gone to Hick’s Road. The legend is part of her hometown’s dialogue and culture. It is a sort of rite of passage as a teenager to go to Hick’s Road.

Analysis: This legend is very reminiscent of vampires, but instead with blood sucking albino people. I have never heard albino folklore, so it is really interesting to see that the legend is basically a vampire story. The fearful nature of blood sucking and death that is part of the legend makes it perfect for a rite of passage. By going to the road as a teenager, as the San Jose folks do, you prove you are capable and that you are an adult. This also creates a bond amongst those who go together and those who have braved Hick’s Road, as if saying they are the ones who survived these legendary dangerous people. It is also important to note that she says the legend says that people die but then firmly states that no one has died from these creatures, indicating the liminal and truth questioning nature of legends. This site also attracts these locals in a way that resembles to ghost tripping but for the albinos that suck blood.

Venezuelan Salt Passing Superstition

Context: The informant was speaking about niche Venezuelan traditions.

 

Piece:

Informant: The other thing in terms of beliefs is when passing the salt, if someone asks you to pass the salt, you don’t give it to them directly in the hand because it is believed that if you do that you will fight with that person, so you essentially put the salt on the table instead of passing it directly.

Collector: And this is what you do?

Informant: Oh totally!

Collector: And who did you learn that from

Informant: Oh my mom, always. I believe it is only a Venezuelan thing— I know people from other places in Latin America and they don’t do it

 

Background: The informant, a middle aged Venezuelan woman, grew up in Venezuela and still practices many Venezuelan traditions. This belief is a superstition she strongly believes in, unique to Venezuela.

Analysis: This piece is a superstition that connects to other folkloric beliefs regarding salt. This belief/superstition probably stems from the taste of salt and how it is tart and not exactly enjoyable– implying that by passing salt, it passes bad energy. This piece is different from salt ideologies spread in America. For example, if you spill salt you must throw it over your shoulder or else there is bad luck. There seems to be a similar connotation to salt, and it conveniently correlates with the salty flavor that implies discomfort.