The following informant is a manager at a large electric utility company in Southern California. Here he is describing a legend about ghost that inhabited a closet in a bedroom he shared as a child with his brother. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as T and I am identified as K:
T: When I was a child, maybe 8 or 9 years-old, my sister who was a little older told me and my brother about someone who had died in the house and that he lived in the attic above our bedroom. Because there was an opening in our closet to the attic, we always thought this ghost was trying to get in or out of the closet.
K: Did you believe your sister when she told you this story?
T: Heck yea, and from then on, we could never sleep with the closet door open.
K: Did you think closing the door would protect you?
T: Probably not, but it was better than leaving it open and waking up in the middle of the night to see a ghost in the closet.
K: What was the opening in your closet to the attic?
T: There was an opening in the ceiling of the attic that was closed with a lid. You could open the lid and gain access to the attic. One day, my brother and I gathered enough courage to climb up there and open the lid. Because I was older, I ended up opening the lid and looking but I didn’t see anything.
K: Did you ever actually see a ghost?
T: Never, but it didn’t matter. The thought of seeing a ghost was enough to instill fear for a long time. We did once have someone attempt to break into our house through our bedroom window at night and at first, I thought it was the ghost making noise. The robber got spooked and ran away. After that, I really couldn’t sleep thinking about a ghost in the closet and a robber at the window. I had some rough nights sleeping as a child.
K: Do you believe there is a ghost up there?
T: Definitely not, and I even recently went up there to take a look with a powerful flashlight. There was nothing up there except an attic. I did have my doubts as a child, but I always convinced myself that it wasn’t real. Regardless, I would always close the closet door.
Context: The informant told me this tale while we were sitting on his couch talking about scary stories as a child. He recalled this story and indicated he had forgotten all about the closet ghost until telling it now.
Similar to the informant, I don’t believe in ghosts, but it is important to note that he changed his behavior as a result of the folklore. Although he was adamant he did not believe in ghosts, he still closed the closet door. This precautionary action likely made him feel better and probably allowed him to sleep easier. It was interesting how a robber was initially mistaken for the ghost, and he used the term “spooked” to describe why the robber ran away. It felt like in an unusual way, this fictitious ghost may have provided protection in his mind and possibly create a benevolent aspect to the ghost.