Category Archives: general

PAC ghost

April 14, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Elaine, High School Theater Teacher

Type: Scary Story, Superstition

Folklore/Text: The PAC Ghost: “A long time ago, on a cold and windy night, a tech theater student was working late at night in the rafters of the Jesuit High School performing arts center. Suddenly, lightning struck the building and the student was flung from the rafters, 90 feet above ground, into the orchestra pit to their demise. Their body was never found, but we believe that they became a ghost to haunt Jesuit theater productions to come. Now, every time a door closes randomly or a gust of wind blows throughout the theater, we know that the PAC ghost is watching over us. This is why we always leave one light in the center of the stage at the end of the night, so our ghost friend can find his way around.”

Explanation/Context: While growing up I thought that my high school theater was the only school that attributed a ghost to the strange happenings around the performing arts center, as it turns out, theaters around the world experience this phenomenon as well. Theater buildings are often very historic and carry years of storytelling in its walls – the pieces that were put on linger just as hauntingly as an apparition might. There is an undeniable folklore with tragic mishaps in the theater, dating back to gladiatorial performances in ancient Europe; the most notable theater mishap, of course, being Abraham Lincoln’s assassination while he was watching a play. For centuries, the idea of leaving a “ghost light” in the center of the stage once everyone else has gone home has been customary in protecting the space from bad energy. In this case, though, the tale of the fallen student from the rafters has darker connotations that have warranted an even further superstition that any unexplainable noise or movement comes from that deceased students’ spirit. 

Snow day wishes

Date: April 15, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Gavin, younger brother

Type: Tradition, Practice, Folklore

Folklore/Text: Snow Day Wishes: “During the winter in Portland it is really fun when it snows because there is no school and I can sled all day with my friends. When I really want a snow day to happen, my Kindergarten teacher taught me to sleep with a spoon under my pillow, my pajamas on backwards, and to perform a Snow Dance to the sky before going to sleep. It worked about half the time, which is good enough for me.”

Explanation/Context: Snow days were a huge deal in my childhood because they only happened every couple of years and there was a huge hill near my house that all of the neighborhood kids would slide down when there was no school. The silly little practices that we were all convinced were the perfect equation to conjuring up a snow day are actually products of folk tales and Native American rituals from years past – Native peoples have a profound relationship with nature, so special dances, songs, and ordered actions are certainly believed to be closely related with the outcome of weather and yielding crops. The Snow Dance is a real ritual that continues to be practiced today, especially in the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe tribes in Utah who experience harsh winters each year. 

Wood eye joke

Date: April 24, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Father

Type: Joke

Folklore/Text: Wood Eye Joke: “My dad first told me this joke as a kid, but I definitely tell it better. A boy was involved in a terrible accident that caused him to lose his eye, and since he couldn’t afford a glass replacement, the doctor offered him a wooden eye instead. The school dance was coming up, and after many failed attempts at trying to get a date because of his new look, he decided to go alone to try to cheer himself up. While sitting in the corner during a slow song, he notices another girl sitting alone as well. He gets up and approaches her, saying, “Would you like to dance with me?” The girl is overcome with excitement, replying, “Would I? Would I?” The boy is offended and angry by her insult, retorting back, “Stink breath! Stink breath!” This joke is definitely a crowd favorite. You can switch up the insult at the end, but you would always die laughing every time I told it to you.”

Explanation/Context: After doing lots of research, this joke has actually been told hundreds of times with a multitude of variations dating back to the early 1900s, when it was first published in the joke section of the New York Times. I always find it so interesting when jokes are passed down from generation to generation, like a game of comedic telephone, where the punchline slightly changes with each person you tell it to. When you Google search, “Wooden Eye Joke,” approximately 20,000 results come up. Due to the length of the buildup before the punch line, there is room for variation and changes in circumstances, but the butt of the joke remains the same. This is similar to music as well, where many adaptations of a song may be released over the years, but the chorus, chord progressions, and lyrics tend to remind the same. 

Fancy S

Date: April 21, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Will, friend

Type: Symbol

Folklore/Text: “Fancy S”

Explanation/Context: I first learned how to do this symbol in second grade art class, when my art teacher showed me that I could make the letter S out of six parallel lines. I was never very good at art, so this made me feel like the coolest kid in school. My older sister, four years older than I, started writing her name (Jasmine) with that fancy S in the middle as her signature, which inspired me to start writing my name (Kenzie) with this fancy S instead of a Z. My informant, Will, described this symbol as the “trademark of middle school,” a representation of youth in the mid 2000s. Will went to a large public school in Chicago, while I went to a small private school in Portland, Oregon – despite coming from very different backgrounds, this cultural icon of adolescence means the same thing everywhere. 

Pork and Sauerkraut

Background: The informant is a 55 year old mother of three who was born in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Chicago when she was 28 years old. She participated in this tradition in her own childhood while she lived in Pennsylvania. Most often, her grandmother would make the meal and serve it at her home.

Context: The context of the piece is sitting at a restaurant and the table next over was eating pork, reminding TC about her own childhood tradition. She appeared nostalgic for her own childhood.


TC: It reminds me of when I was younger, my grandmother would always make pork and sauerkraut for New Years Eve. The family would gather in her house in Pennsylvania, where I was born. I think it’s, uh, a German tradition that is supposed to provide the family good luck and wealth  in the coming year. It makes sense as, I believe, my great-grandparents, on that side, are from Germany, which is where my grandma picked it up.

Me: Do you make it for your own family now?

TC: No, no I don’t. Honestly, it’s something I never did after I moved away from Pennsylvania – like to college and work. I think, in a way, it’s more reminiscent of my grandmother and childhood. Usually, my family now will have turkey dinner on New Years Eve, which is like having a bountiful upcoming year.


Informant: She views it as something rooted in the past, as an integral part of her childhood and her relationship with her grandmother. She doesn’t think about reviving it because there are already new traditions in place with her children.

Mine: Traditions, though they may fade away, can still remain integral to how one views themself. Even though the informant no longer eats/makes pork and sauerkraut, she still considers it to be vital to who they are as a person because of how it affected their relationship with their grandmother. As such, the tradition embedded special memories into the food and always serves as a reminder of childhood. Having a tradition can transform something “ordinary” into a symbol of remembrance – no matter how far away they become from participating in it. Additionally, past folklore can serve as a template for creating new traditions. The idea of having food on New Year’s Eve has the same spirit – providing wealth for the upcoming year – but is in a more modern form. Interestingly, the use of a turkey dinner may showcase the high prevalence of Thanksgiving in how traditional foods from that holiday are spreading to other parts of the year.