Tag Archives: crime

Detroit’s East Market – Legend


My father told me about living in Detroit. His side of the family is almost all Italian (Sicilian, more specifically). There was a saying that “You always know someone in the Mafia”, even if you weren’t aware of it. Detroit is notorious for high crime rates, or at least it was when my father was younger. He himself knew that his uncle was friends with people in the Mafia, which made many family members very uncomfortable. My father assumed that this meant he didn’t have to pay for protection (to the Mafia) for his liquor store, which many other store owners had to do. 

My dad knew a story about a newcomer to Detroit – someone who moved there without knowing what the situation was like. He sells their house and buys a new one in Detroit, with hopes of making it in the motor industry. Unfortunately, his perfect view of the city is shattered upon arrival, where robberies are rampant and terrible shootouts happen every day. The newcomer is terrified and keeps moving to new neighborhoods, asking for police help each time. The police prove more than useless and it becomes clear that they have little to no control over the city. Eventually the man, who has been robbed and mugged multiple times, is ready to give up on his dream. Just then, he stumbles into a new neighborhood. People are selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers out in the open. The newcomer is baffled – how are they able to do this and feel safe? He figures this area is more affluent and can fund their police better. But when he asks about the police, he gets laughed at. “The Mafia protects us,” respond the vendors. Apparently, this was the area in the city most tightly under the Mafia’s control. Crime was almost completely eliminated. My father referred to this place as the Eastern Market – one of the first farmer’s markets. He visited himself and testified to its truth – it was safer than most other places in Detroit at the time.


My dad heard this story from his parents, who warned him about going in certain neighborhoods because of high crime rates. My dad knew it to be true himself after visiting the area. The story reminds them that oftentimes there’s a whole lot going on that you don’t see – his uncle was a good example of this. A different relative was put in prison for obstruction of justice related to Detroit crime. He worked for the police. My father took dangerous places very seriously, especially after working at a Detoir emergency hospital where he saw gunshot patients and stabbed patients constantly.


There’s an inherent warning in this story, and a forced acceptance of the way things are. The story’s purpose is to help children (maybe more mature children) understand the city they live in, and come to terms with the fact that someone they know might be involved in crime. They must also come to terms with the fact that the police are not, in fact, safe people to talk to. They can easily be bribed and were not effective at all in eliminating crime. Finally, the story helps the children remember that the Eastern Market is one of the safer areas in Detroit.

Escape From Alcatraz

Text: JC: So there’s an ongoing FBI investigation into the escape of these three guys even though it happened years ago. And there’s never been conclusive proof found about anything like how they escaped, did they escape, or did they die in the water of the bay. Because people have tried to study what the tides may have been like that night, and have said they they could have been swept out into the ocean. Or, that the tide could have taken them to Angel Island, which is this island in the middle of the bay. And so people wonder if they could have escaped by making it to that island, and then somehow survived, and then gotten back onto the mainland. I don’t know there’s a lot of speculation surrounding Alcatraz in particular and I think because it’s part of the history of our region and a really famous mystery, coupled with the fact that the FBI has spent decades investigating in it and has never found anything else out.

AT: How many versions have you heard of what happened

JC: I’ve heard that they died in the water and got swept out to see, I’ve heard that they have escaped onto an island, I’ve heard that they swam to San Francisco and escaped there…

AT: Have you ever heard that they have been sending postcards to their families from other places?

JC: No, I’ve never heard that.

AT: Oh really, that’s the version that I heard. Anyways, what do you personally think happened?

JC: I think they escaped.

Context: JC is a 19 year old history major at the University of Southern California. A resident of Walnut Creek, California near San Francisco and an adamant history buff, JC is well versed in a lot of local legend surrounding his famous and historically colorful place of origin. The exchange above took place over coffee when I asked JC if he knew and slang from the Bay Area. He gave me legends instead.

Interpretation: I like the exchange above because it not only discussed the various folklore surrounding the three escaped inmates from Alcatraz without bias, but it even contained an additional folkloric exchange in which JC and I swapped stories. Alcatraz is interesting because, due to the amount of press coverage and movies made based off of the famous escape, people often forget that nobody is actually sure of anything that took place of the night of the alleged escape other than the fact that there was an escape attempt. Any other information about the escape treated as fact is not fact at all, rather folklore that speculates what could have happened.

This legend is another example of a local legend, for it is tied to Alcatraz itself. It also fits the spirit of a legend extremely well due to the fact that various versions of what actually happened all have a questionable truth value, one of a combination of the possibilities has a strong chance of being proven valid is the FBI investigation continues. Additionally, it is easy to see how the legend of the escape from Alcatraz has taken on a mind of its own, for people often hold a strong opinion of what happened to the prisoners without any evidence to back it up. This is another example of the way that folklore works, often selecting the value of a particular story based off of factors such as order of hearing the specific recounting or who specifically told them about which recounting and choosing based off their relationships to the people.

The Golden Spruce, Kiddk’yaas


“I think he got away on a kayak or something? Haha I have no clue how it got to that point but I know he disappeared, I think maybe someone helped him.”

There existed a tree off the coast of Vancouver that was considered sacred and highly meaningful to natives to the region (the indigenous people). The tree, called Kiidk’yass, was a bright gold spruce tree among a sea of green ones. A man who lived in the region grew very frustrated with society / the world, and wrote a manifesto detailing his issues. As a means to bring attention to his manifesto, he cut down the golden spruce tree. This caused an immense amount of anger and response from locals. The man was arrested immediately. However, on his way to court for his date of trial, he disappeared. The informant says he heard that the man was set free by someone else and kayaked away from Vancouver, never to be seen again.



The informant struggled to remember details of the story: why exactly the tree was sacred (beyond being stunningly stark in color), the man’s name, and the course of events that led to his identification and arrest. He was told the story by a family member, who heard it from a friend. Despite being born and raised in Vancouver, he didn’t have any personal connection to the idea of the tree, and neither did anyone in his family. He said the sacredness of the tree was mainly recognized by true natives — people who’s descendants were the first to populate the area.



In researching it further, the story of the golden spruce is rather well-documented by a book, The Golden Spruce. Filling in the details of the informants story, the man responsible for the crime took action as a statement against deforestation and industrial logging. He did in fact escape on a kayak, but the destroyed kayak was later found on an island. It is unknown if he died or purposefully left things behind on the kayak and was able to escape. Further information and another perspective on the story can be found in this book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Golden-Spruce-Story-Madness/dp/0393328643

Knock-knock Joke – Amy Fisher

A. Knock Knock.
B. Who’s there?
A. Amy Fisher.
A. Amy Fishe…?
B. … BANG!
This was only a couple years after a girl named Amy Fisher went to the door of the house of a man named Joey Buttafuco, whom she was having an affair with. She asked him to leave his wife and when he refused she went to his house and shot his wife in the head. This can be an example of a kind of disaster joke, these are risky because for a certain time after the initial incident, people can find the joke inappropriate.