Contemporary Legend

Urban Legend- “Charcoal Man”

Setting: This campfire story was told to me one night my roommates and I decided to tell scary stories we had encountered as a means of sharing various folklore stories with one another. Nichelle Megowan and I who were listening to Emily Intersimone’s camp fire ghost story called Charcoal Man.

Emily asking me: What are you doing for your folklore special? Is it ghost stories or what?

Me: No it’s any type of folklore.

Emily: Any type?

Me: Any type

Emily: Can campfire ghost stories count?

Me: Yes it can!

Emily: I think my dad made one up actually. Do you wanna hear it?

Me: Talk talk

Emily: I can’t do the scariness but um…

Me: Do your version it’s all a part of folklore. That’s a part of folklore.

Emily: Ok so um… My Dad would always tell this story from first person point of view and he’s from rural Northern California. So he was in the Boy Scouts so he would say, “well you know I went Boy Scout camping and there’s this area this highway where the highway curves on this mountain with a bunch or Redwoods in Humboldt County and when we’d drive this to my grandparents house we would go on this one curve in Humboldt and he would always be like, “Charcoal Man”. Charcoal Man. Have you ever heard of Charcoal Man.

Nichelle and I: No

Emily: See I think my Dad actually made it up. And umm… or it’s like a weird Humboldt county Boy Scout. So the legend goes…That in Humboldt county there’s this one curve in the road with a hill, and one night some teenagers were driving, you know, driving late. For whatever reason the car veers off the road into like down the heel through the hill through the redwoods and the car catches on fire

Nichelle interrupts and sings: To Grandmother’s house we go… sorry

Emily laughs and says, “Yeah I know we’re all going to go to grandmas and Charcoal Man… And so the car catches on fire and they all die in the car. Or it might have been just one guy but I think there were teenagers involved. Um so….because of this fiery death there was this monster called Charcoal Man who lives you know or like his ghost who lived in like Humboldt County. And um so Boy Scouts would go camping and they would say that you could hear noises in the night and they would open up their tent and there’d be burning footprints leading up to leading up to a tent that had caught on fire. And they’d be like, “Oh my God!” And they’d like douse the fire out there’d be these burning foot prints. My dad totally made this up. But um… so that was the legend basically and my Dad you know would tell these stories about how they just barely escaped from this man made of burning coal.

Me: Who would he tell?

Emily: He would tell our sisters my sisters and I around the campfire. When we’re camping he’d be like, “You know when I camped, you have to be careful of Charcoal Man and he would always tell us at the end of Charcoal Man that that… and it was really scary at the time but he would always tell us “you think that was scary just wait until you hear about Pancake Man”. And we were always like, “Who’s Pancake Man?” And we never heard about Pancake Man.

Me: I think your dad forgot about Pancake Man.

Emily: Or I think, I think there never was a Pancake man. I think he just made it up. And he would just always add that at the end.

This camp fire, urban legend is definitely derived from the Intersimone family that has mostly been passed down to siblings. This legend can be seen as a way of entertaining adolescent children who are naivety plays a crucial role in believing made up ghost stories. This legend perhaps can also confirm a child’s need to rely on parental security, especially in cases where a child is in a new environment, like the forest mentioned in the legend, and they need their mothers or fathers to feel a sense of security. I found this legend to also be another way of making his daughters laugh, allowing Emily’s dad to share a bonding time with his daughters. I found this legend to be quiet comical and unique. I have not heard any other rendition like the “Charcoal Man”. However, I am sure as this story spreads many versions will start take on various forms as it diffuses across different groups.