Informant: There were actually, like, 2 ghosts. I think one of them was a little girl, because where her school was built there used to be a community pool. I was told that there was a little girl who had passed away or drowned there. And then she haunted the foundation of the school. So in one of the classrooms, either the Science or English room, on the same day every year it floods kinda. And that’s the same day the little girl passed away. So, the teacher of the classroom always says the little girl is still there.
The informant is a twelve-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in sixth grade.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my ‘sister IO’. I asked if she knew of any ghost stories or places that were haunted. Recently, one of our other siblings ‘sister NO’ started attending a new middle school. IO shared what NO had told her about her new school (which is detailed in another Main Piece).
It’s an urban legend that haunts a middle school, a transitional time for students. New teachers. New peers. New School. Legends have the ability to provide meaning in a chaotic social environment. The role of spirits play a large part in our culture, challenging our perceptions of linear time and dimension. Spirits have also been seen as a way of changing mentalities and conflicts that appear between theology and popular thought. They are a reflection of our own social insecurities and change that remains incomprehensible. Ultimately, legends and supernatural phenomena become a way of coping and interpreting the unknown and dealing with situations that remain beyond human control.
Piece: “Uhm think about this, my dad told me this story about this one monster and I’ll tell you what the name of it is, so lake Mendota, its called Bozho, so its like a serpentine snake like creature, its like the monster of lake Mendota, my dad said that in all lakes of Wisconsin. Delavan lake, Lake Geneva, whatever, theres a monster that has access to all the lakes, so if you swim past the designated area like the buoys and shit. It can get you, its too shallow near the shore so it cant swim there, he told me this so that I would stay within the buoys.
Background information:The informant is a close friend of mine from back home. (Wisconsin) He lives in the town adjacent to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, so he is very familiar with the area.
Context: The informant first heard this tale as a kid. His dad used it to scare him from swimming outside the buoys. The informant remembers it because he lives on the lake, so he always has a reminder.
Personal Analysis: I’ve never heard of this lake monster, but I can definitely see why it was used to prevent kids from swimming past the buoys. What scared me from swimming in the lake as a kid was a short story a person had told me. A man had said that if you swim out past the piers, the seaweed wraps itself around your legs and drowns you. Although it’s not a sea monster, seeing the sea weed sway with the current certainly personified it enough to scare me.
My Grand Aunt Marina, my grandfathers sister, swears the following legend of “La Llorona” is absolutely true. She knows there have been other stories about La LLorona but hers is the “god’s honest truth”, the real story. She told it on Good Friday at a dinner at my grandmother house
When they would go out to the country for a family camping weekend near the Magdalena River, my aunt said “that on nights with a full moon if you went to the river at dusk or dawn you were sure to see a Llorona/The Crying Woman. She tells me that a young woman drowned her own children in the river because her husband did not care for them and had abandoned them for younger woman (Marina rolls her eyes at this point of the story and murmurs “typical”). Marina continues but more feeling her voice… “no matter how hard she tried to forget her husband, he had left them without any money and had taken all of their meager belongings. She tried to find work but with four young children to take care of, it proved to be impossible and in a moment of desperation after hearing her children cry all night from hunger, she drowned her children at dawn, letting the river take away their bodies downstream and when she saw her child were no longer with her she cried out in grief and after no longer able to bear the pain she kills herself. St. Peter finds her at the gates of heaven and deems her unworthy for purgatory or even hell because of the gravity of her sins and was sent back down to earth and to find her children. For this reason she roams around at dusk and dawn, crying as she looks for them.” Marina assures me that she had heard La Llorona on many occasions down by the Magdalena River but only saw her once. This is where Marina gets super serious and lowers her voice to almost a whisper… “One early morning she woke up and saw it was only dawn, she tried really hard to hold back her need to go to the bathroom but was unable. She thought if she was quick enough nothing bad would happen but on the way back to the campsite through the misty dawn she saw a woman wearing rags down by the river crying. She says she felt her blood run cold and ran to the campsite arriving in a cold sweat!” Seeing La Llorona is considered a bad omen and Marina says she was inconsolable all day, finally the family headed home that day to find that grandmother Celestina had passed away. She never went camping to the river again. Marina finishes the story with tears in her eyes because she says that she felt some kind of responsibility for Celetistina death. My Abuelo thinks this is absurd mainly because Celestina was very old and lucky to have survived as long as she did. He cannot collaborate his sister’s story because he was already living in the U.S. but Marina swears it is the God’s honest truth “te juro ha dios” and she is very Catholic. My Abuelo said he did have a dream where his grandmother Celestina talked to him at length, telling him all that was to come in his life, the night before she past away.
Analysis: Although there are some aspects of the supernatural and personal loss, overall I found the story very melancholy and haunting. The way she spoke of La Llorona made me believe that she believed what she had experienced was true. She was so upset during the retelling, she had to get up and leave to the restroom, when she came out she was dabbing her eyes and refuse to tell me any more stories. I feel fortunate to have been allowed to have such a personal retelling.
INFORMANT: “So, La Llarona, sometimes in English it’s referred to as “the Woman in White,” and basically it’s a story about a woman who, um, was in love with a man but he didn’t love her back so it was unrequited love, so she drowned her two children in the river in order to be with the man that she loved, but he didn’t want to be with her. So after being refused by him, she then drowned herself in a river in Mexico City. And so, basically with the whole heaven and hell aspect of life, she’s kind of stuck in the in-between, and she kind of wanders around at night in Mexico City, so today a lot of parents use this story as a way to keep their kids from wandering out at night. Or else La Llarona will come and kidnap them. Basically she is said to appear at night around rivers in Mexico, and that’s it. I heard about it in Spanish class and then I went home and asked my mom about it, and she was like ‘oh, yeah.'”
COLLECTOR (myself): “How did your mom learn the story?”
INFORMANT: “I think growing up. It’s a traditional Mexican story that a lot of Mexican parents will tell their kids growing up.”
This legend appears to be a Mexican story within the widespread genre of ‘legends parents tell their children to keep them in line.’ This breed of legend seems to exist in almost every culture – I suppose childrens’ fear of the supernatural is culturally ubiquitous, because they’re more compelled to obey their parents if there’s a supernatural risk involved.
This story was also an interesting case because my friend Taylor is Mexican-American but not very in touch with Mexican culture. She told me that she felt her mother purposely tried to separate her from her Mexican heritage, so she was never told this story as a child, even though her grandmother told it to her mother. In fact, Taylor didn’t hear about the legend until she read about it in Spanish class. On a related note, Taylor did not know Spanish until she took classes in school, another point that makes her feel alienated from her heritage.
ANNOTATION: Several films have been made about the legend of La Llarona, including the Mexican movie La Llarona (1960) and Her Cry: La Llarona Investigation (2013).
The informant doesn’t remember where he heard this rumor, but he thinks it was probably from a friend’s mother during his childhood. He doesn’t think it’s true now, though. In my opinion, I think this is a popular statement told to children by their parents so that they let their food digest before they get back in the water to swim. Another popular belief is that you’ll get cramps if you swim right after eating, so maybe the parents who say this more extreme belief are just trying to protect their children from painful cramps.