Horror Story/Joke: The Coffin

Main Piece:

The following was transcribed from an interview between the interviewer and the informant.

“Okay, so, one time when I was in the boy scouts, um, we all wanted to be told a horror story. So, the person in charge said okay, they had a story about a coffin. And it was the middle of the night. All the kids were, you know sleeping when they heard a creak. And, um, so we, everyone got up to see what the noise was, and they, you know, there was a coffin in the middle of the way, and no one know where it came from. And then suddenly, it started moving towards us. And at first, everyone just thought, okay, someone’s playing a trick. But then it just started to you know [imitates the noise of the coffin moving] ‘thump, thump, thump.’ And started getting closer to us and closer. And this is crazy, you know, so we started to run, and for some reason, we got stuck in the house. And it came in the house. [imitates noise again, ‘thump, thump’] And we were like, everyone was just stuck in a corner and was scared and didn’t know what to do. And just when it was about to, you know reach where we were, um, someone just put out a cough drop to stop the coughin’.”


I collected this piece of folklore from the informant, my father, in an interview inside the informant’s house. The informant heard this while he was in elementary school. He remembered that everyone laughed after hearing the story and afterwards, he would tell other people the story.


This “horror story” slash joke uses the play on words of coffin and coughin’ in order to fool the audience and surprise them in the end. This demonstrates a type of joke that kids are usually interested in which is word play. It also is drawing on the enjoyment of tricking an audience to believe one thing until the punchline. The mild punchline in this case also makes the story accessible to children.