Contemporary Legend

“So when we first built my house, it was finished on New Year’s Eve and we moved in. There was a really weird howling sound in the house, like there was a window open or something. And it just so happened the power was out that night. Anyway, we had candles everywhere and we kept hearing this howling sound but all the windows were closed. So we all went upstairs, and it was really cold upstairs. We found that all the candles upstairs had been put out in all the rooms. We didn’t find an open window but we definitely hard the howling sound all night. I don’t know, I thought that was really spooky.”

As a result of this first experience in their house, K.D. and his family now think their house is haunted. Now, whenever K.D. or any of his family members hears the howling, they attribute the howling and spookiness to the house ghost. Thus, this account marks the beginning of an urban legend. The howling they continue to hear every once in awhile at night has reinforced this urban legend.

K.D. thinks the howling is really scary; it creeps him out whenever he hears it. He says the first time was just especially scary because the power was out, it was eerily cold upstairs, and all the candles were out in the upstairs rooms. K.D. is not really sure whether or not he believes in ghosts, but when he hears the howling he cannot help but think there has to be at least a possibility that ghosts exist. He is unsure why the ghost is haunting them; he thinks maybe they built their house on haunted ground. He kind of regards this urban legend as his own personal urban legend, and it has made him think that maybe urban legends do have some truth to them.

K.D. tells this urban legend whenever other people start telling ghost stories, which is usually at night. For instance, he has told the story to cabin-mates at sleep-away camp, while on camping trips with friends and family, and during childhood sleepovers. Whenever people ask about his house and/or the building process, he answers their questions and also brings up this story about when they first moved in.

Urban legends usually have creationary figures (Big Foot, vampires, aliens, ghosts) in them. This urban legend is no exception since it contains a ghost in it. Legends tend to resonate with the audience, which is why people keep performing this particular genre of folklore. I know that I personally enjoy hearing about urban legends. They tend to scare me a little bit, but I am fascinated and always want to hear them. I agree with K.D. that these kinds of stories are spooky and I also do not know if I believe in ghosts. Legends show what a group might consider believable or acceptable. This urban legend shows others in the world that Americans may allow belief in ghosts.

K.D.’s urban legend is an example of a memorate. This is a personal experience of his and he and his family put it into a traditional framework. The howling and the candles being extinguished despite no open window being found is difficult to explain. So, it was put into a traditional framework to explain this phenomenon. Howling and the extinguishment of candles is associated with ghosts, so when he and his family experienced it, they automatically said it had to be a ghost. When they told other people about their experience, other people also automatically assumed the howling and extinguished candles had to be the result of a ghost’s presence in the house. Personal experiences translated into a traditional framework strengthen the legend. So, now people have even more “evidence” behind ghosts being the culprit behind howling and candles getting mysteriously put out. Now people will even more strongly associate howling and candles inexplicably getting extinguished with ghosts.