GJ: I was in fourth grade. That summer, we moved into a bungalow. The very first day when we were moving in, there was a ring at the doorbell. I opened up the door, and there was this little girl who asked “is there a little girl here?” She had seen my little sister. They went up to play, and I joined them… I was only a year apart from my sister, so we were pretty close. This neighbor from down the street, she proceeded to tell us how her best friend had lived in this house before us, but on the day of her birthday, after her birthday party, her mom committed suicide and hung herself in the basement. Of course, we were really freaked out by this, so we were like maybe she made this up. So we go downstairs, and there were all the streamers and birthday decorations still hanging downstairs. Needless to say, we were scared of the basement. It was an unfinished basement that was very dark, and there was a big part of the basement that you couldn’t see from the bottom of the stairs, and that happened to be where the laundry room was. The laundry room was in front of where the stairs let out, and the rest of the basement was just dark. We… of course, this might have been led by fear, but we were convinced we heard sounds in the darkness, maybe even bits of light, enough to make us race back upstairs. It was quite some time before we worked up the courage to turn the lights on and start playing in the basement. Gradually the fear went away, but that was what it was like when we first moved in for several months.
Context: GJ is a Canadian immigrant who moved to Los Angeles from Toronto, Ontario when he was in his thirties. He grew up in Alberta. Because of his parents’ divorce and his father’s work flipping houses, he frequently moved around. His family prides themselves on being logical, and as such, when I first asked for folklore, he said that he didn’t have any because all of the things he was told were either “religious or true.” It took some pressing before he told me the ghost story detailed here.
GJ: “There had been a teacher’s strike right before that, so I was at a different school. Months passed and it went into the summer so I never got the contact information from my previous friends that summer, so I didn’t have any friends.”
Analysis: This legend of a ghost became a memorate… the story GJ heard about the death in his basement became translated into his own personal experience when he began experiencing things that verged on paranormal, such as the blinking lights and darkness. His avoidance of the basement could be read as ostentation. The fact that GJ was isolated moving in might have contributed to the way that he interpreted the story. He went from being in a large social circle to having no one. The fact that the very first person he meets in a new, unfamiliar neighborhood tells him a frightening story about the very place he lives in might have made him even more scared of it. The girl telling him this story caught him at a vulnerable time in which he was scrambling for security and belief, similar to how college students find themselves questioning whether or not they believe in ghosts. It’s a moment of turmoil in which he had to reinvent himself and redefine his own beliefs. Later, he regarded the story with more of his self-defined rationality, but the evidence remains that he thoroughly believed it at that point in his life.