Tag Archives: children’s game

Bumper Skiing Urban Legend


“When we were little up in Canada, when it would snow, which seemed like a lot, and the snow would get packed down on the streets in our neighborhood, me and my friend would put on our ski clothes…and we would hide in the bushes near a stop sign. Then, when a car would stop at the stop sign, we would sneak in behind the car, grab the bumper, squat down so our feet were on the ground, and when the car would start to go we’d basically be skiing behind the car. And one time, when I was little, I was probably eleven or twelve, someone told me the story of the kid who was bumper skiing one time and got his finger stuck in the bumper, and the car pulled his finger right off!”


 M grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, but currently lives in Seattle, Washington, The United States of America. He called the activity from which this urban legend stemmed “bumper skiing,” which, from his description, seemed to be a regular and popular activity when the weather conditions were right. The ‘someone’ he mentioned telling him the story was one of his friends; he also did not know the specific identity of the boy who lost his finger in the legend. When asked if this legend influenced him or his attitudes and behaviors towards bumper skiing at all, M said: “Well, I was a little more careful where I put my hand!”


To me, this urban legend seems to serve two main purposes. On the one hand, it seems like a way to acknowledge and even emphasize the dangerous play taking place and create a greater sense of risk. That the boy in the story is unnamed creates a sense that it could happen to anyone. It also perhaps allows for a way to externalize and discuss personal fears and anxieties around the practice more indirectly. However, this legend is also clearly a cautionary tale about the harm that may be caused by improperly bumper skiing. M’s telling of the context surrounding bumper skiing indicated that it was a somewhat secretive form of play with little to no adult supervision. For M personally, the legend had a tangible effect on how he partook in bumper skiing, making him more conscientious of his own safety. The spread of this legend could create a way for children to check in on and enforce each other’s safety by drawing on a general sense of folk authority and knowledge.



When asked about the legends that his abuelita would tell him during his family visits to Mexico, MS responded:

“She also told us about the chupacabra. It’s one I actually asked about because my brothers and I played this game called Poptropica when we were younger. It had all these islands you could visit and one of them was the ‘Cryptids Island’ where you had to track down these urban legend creatures, like Nessie and Bigfoot, and one of them was the chupacabra, so I wanted to ask her about it. She said that yeah, her parents had told her about it growing up. So, if people found their goats or livestock with these puncture holes in their necks, they blamed it on the chupacabra.”

When asked what he could recall about the chupacabra’s appearance, MS responded:

“So in the game, it looked like this f*cked up looking, blue dog thing with spikes and sh*t. But, I think abuelita said it was more reptile looking.”


MS is a sixteen year old who has grown up in Los Angeles, CA. His abuelita immigrated from Mexico to Sacramento, CA in 1961. She then returned to her hometown in Mexico in the ’90s. Here, MS is recalling legends he had heard from his abuelita when his family visited her in her hometown during vacations.


This entry from MS highlights the role of non-native media in shaping perceptions of folk legends. As MS mentions, his initial interest in the chupacabra stemmed from its portrayal in the popular online children’s game, Poptropica. This brings forth the question of what role non-native media plays in shedding light on this folklore and what responsibilities it has while doing so. In this case, exposure to the legend in the context of a video game spurred his curiosity to explore the origins of the chupacabra further. However, from his description, it is clear that Poptropica’s depiction of the chupacabra adheres more to the North American imagination of what kills livestock: wolves. This visual description is distinct from the versions of the legend that tend to be seen in Puerto Rico and Mexico, where the creature is described as more reptilian. The choice to portray the chupacabra as more dog/wolf-like brings up another question of responsibility: How should Poptropica, an online game that claims to be an educational resource for children, balance its commercial interests with its goal to educate?

Childhood Rebus/Drawing Game: A Story that Makes a Puppy

Text/Transcript: While drawing out the featured image, the informant said this: “There once was a man with no arms. And then he was attacked by bees. And so, to escape the bees, he jumped into a pond. But he had so many stings that he didn’t know what to do, so he ran to the police department, but they didn’t help him, because they can’t help with bee stings. And then he went to the fire department, but they couldn’t help him, cause they don’t help with bee stings. And so they told him to go to the hospital, so he ran all the way across town to the hospital and they put two little bandaids on his bee stings. And then you have a puppy.”

Context: G is a 20 year old USC junior majoring in theater. They are from North Carolina and have been living in Los Angeles for three years. 

G remembers this rebus of sorts from childhood. It’s a simple visual story told while drawing. The ‘puzzle’ begins with an armless stick figure (the nose and mouth), then adding dots as the bee stings (whiskers), the circle as the pond (face), more circles as the police + fire departments (the eyes), a large circle as the hospital (the head), and finally ovals on the sides as the bandaids (the ears). G notes that she is not sure the ears were originally bandaids, and that she improvised that bit. They also added the body for fun – it’s not part of the original rebus.

G remembers being taught this by a classmate at some point in grade school.

Interpretation: Amusement is valued and simplistic in grade school. I think of this folk drawing as something children will do to entertain themselves; to make each other laugh. This pseudo-rebus, in particular, is reminiscent of an elementary school experience either lacking technology or with minimal technology. In the early 2010s, when my informant was in grade school, technology had not entirely taken over learning spaces. It’s especially fitting that this was drawn on the back of her release form, as she mentioned remembering drawing it on the back of worksheets. This is a kind of folk drawing/speech that requires children to be a little clever and, although it looks different depending on the person drawing it, it is intended to look like a dog and is amusing to young children because of that. It’s purpose seems to be both amusement and relationship-building, as it’s something passed to a classmate (presumably a friend) to share in that amusement. There isn’t any intended cruelty to the receiving end of the puzzle, it’s something to enjoy together.

Jinx! You owe me a __


Jinx! You owe me a soda


My information is from a childhood friend of mine. 

A friend of mine explains this phrase as something that would occur between two people, after saying the same thing at the same time. They mostly heard this phrase during elementary school, and they believe it is something that children mostly say rather than adults. They mention that “jinx” on its own is bad luck, therefore making saying “jinx” to possibly cancel it out.

My interpretation and Analysis:

This phrase above is folk speech and also a game that is not necessarily “started” by anyone in order to play, but rather something known and unspoken. In my interpretation it can also be seen as children’s folklore. Based on Jay Mechling’s writing, from Oring’s book on children’s folklore, they may often form games while hanging out or by being in school settings. Children tend to establish a person in power while playing games, and in this case whoever says “Jinx” first is a “winner”. Although I don’t necessarily think that the “loser” or the “jinxed” has to give the winner a soda. It seems more as satisfaction of winning a simple game instead of getting something in return. I interpret “you owe me a soda” as just a possible consequence that someone could add. I believe this because the simpler version of Jinx is not letting the loser talk for a while, which doesn’t require a physical prize and further emphasizes on the unspoken part of the game of Jinx. But overall, these different variations that could stem from “Jinx” seem to mostly rely on how fast you could say it.

Schoolyard Coin Trick

Text: “One trick I did consistently throughout my childhood, it was like the only magic trick that I ever knew how to do, it was learning how to pull a coin out of your mouth. So what you would do is you would put your arms behind your back, and pretend to put the coin behind your back and then you put like a finger in your mouth and then flick and a coin was supposed to come out. But, the trick of it, like how you actually do it is its not coming from your mouth, but it’s coming from your sleeve.”

Context: K is a twenty year old student who grew up in Virginia and currently attends USC. She learned how to do this trick from a friend on the playground when she switched schools.

Analysis: The more popular version of the above trick is to pull a coin out of someone’s ear, and it’s done through a similar trick of the eye or deception. Hiding the coin and moving it outside of the person witnessing the trick’s view. However, pulling a coin out of one’s mouth also has an allegorical relation. Recorded in the Bible In Matthew 17:24-27, the coin in the fish’s mouth is one of Jesus’ miracles. When the tax collector comes to Peter the apostle, Peter turns to Jesus and asks if he does not pay taxes. Jesus replies and explains why he does not, but instructs Paul to go fishing and tells him he will find a coin in the mouth of the first fish he catches to use for his taxes. In the 2008 United States census 76% of Virginians (K’s home state) identified as Christian, so perhaps there’s a relation between children hearing Biblical stories and trying to imitate them.