I ask my sister what the deal with telling me about sidewalk grates was.
“Oh yea, all sidewalk grates and vents at the supermarket and all that stuff have witches in them, everyone knows that. No but really, you have to avoid those because if you step on them someones going to grab you and kidnap you and cook you in a stew. I don’t know, I probably just said that to scare you. I am your older sister after all; wouldn’t want you to get too comfortable.”
My sister is older than me by four years, and it seems she created this folklore herself, fakelore, in order to establish her superiority over me. She manufactured this story as a way of scaring me and proving to herself that she had power over me. In fact, this is a function of folklore seen in many cases, such as American tales of American superiority, be it Davy Crockett over Mexicans or folklore of Pilgrim and Indian battles.
It is also interesting that she chose grates and vents as the location of the witches. Grates and vents are liminal spaces, filled with the unknown, and that makes them perfect for being the residence of scary creatures that would prey on the fears of children.