Tag Archives: fakelore

Tahoe Tessie

Background: The informant frequently visited Lake Tahoe growing up. She knows a lot about the Lake itself and told me she’d heard this legend.

SD: So this is the story of Tahoe Tessie, uh, named after Nessie which is, uh, the more colloquial name for the Loch Ness Monster, they like to call–I don’t know who they is in this scenario–the people of the Loch, I guess, like to call her, I believe it’s a woman, I believe that the Loch Ness Monster is a female according to the lore. But yeah, so it’s Tahoe Tessie, it’s Lake Tahoe, the supposed monster that lives in Lake Tahoe, I would assume it’s akin to the Loch Ness Monster–kind of a vague, dinosaur-esque crypted. No one has confirmed a sighting, I don’t believe that anyone actually believes in it, uh, but the lake is one of the like deepest lakes in California, uh, or the US I think, uh, there’s an underwater forest, all that good stuff.

Me: And how did you hear about Tahoe Tessie?

SD: I don’t know, actually. I think it’s just, you go somewhere a fair amount, you pick up the lore. Who knows which time I picked it up?

Me: Do you think many people believe in Tahoe Tessie?

SD: Uh, I really don’t. I think it’s just more people making fun of the Loch Ness Monster, uh, and making their own thing out of Lake Tahoe. But I think it’s a legend, so maybe I do think some people think it’s true.

Context: This piece was collected during an in person conversation.

Thoughts: It’s interesting that a very tourist attraction like Lake Tahoe has developed their own legend, and the informant–being a tourist–picked it up on one of her trips there so it’s not just a legend perpetuated by the people that live or are from there. This legend is passed on as perhaps a way to entice people to visit and make it even more of a tourist destination. It builds on the idea that it could be true and would exist in our own world. Since the informant said there have not been any confirmed sightings, I wonder if people have memorates that they perhaps told others and it caught on that way. It makes me think about what would be considered an official sighting if this idea is believed by some people. Or maybe it was a creation simply for the tourism industry, in which case Tahoe Tessie would be fakelore. This is an example of cryptozoology.

For another version of this legend, see History.com’s page on the Loch Ness Monster: https://www.history.com/topics/folklore/loch-ness-monster

Superstition: Don’t Play With Matches, ‘Cause You’ll Pee the Bed

Main Piece: 

“Don’t play with matches, cause you’ll pee the bed. Yeah, that was a major way of disciplining me when I was a kid. So that I wouldn’t play with matches when I was a kid.”


My informant experienced this almost as a threat that his parents would make in order to make sure that he didn’t burn himself. He grew up in rural Virginia, the youngest of many much older siblings, so the potential to embarrass him was higher than if he had only younger peers. My informant describes his interpretation as follows:

Collector: “Was there ever any explanation of, like, why you’d pee the bed or…”

Informant: “No, I think it’s one of those things where, you know, it’s really embarrassing for young children to pee the bed. So, basically they’re saying don’t play with fire, but if you personalize it- attach this embarrassing situation to it, the child will be like ‘Oh, I’m not gonna do it because I’ll pee the bed.”


This rides a blurry line between folklore and fakelore. My informant didn’t know where his parents picked it up from, meaning it could well be something they come up with as a personal solution for their son playing with matches. Regardless, the nonsensicality of it makes it an interesting case-study, because it’s clearly something aimed for kids that would only work on kids. However, it’s not something that kids would really be tempted to spread between each other. As such, it’s something of a targeted message that emulates the nonsensicality of children’s folklore that Jay Mechling observed, as well his statement that children’s folklore is preoccupied with “gross-out” effects such as peeing, but cannot actually fall into the category of children’s folklore.

Practical Joke: Eating an Orange Like a Monkey

Main Piece: 

Informant: “It comes from my dad. I remember distinctly, I was probably four and he said ‘I’m going to show you how to eat and orange like a monkey.’ And this is how you do it. You take an orange and you orient the stem perpendicular, and you cut it in half so that you see, you know, the typical cross-section if an orange with all the sections in a radiant circle like a sun. So, then you pick up- you do this to each side of the orange -you pick up the half of the orange and you take your little four-year-old teeth which grow into sixteen-year-old teeth and you go around the orange, you dig the flesh of each section out with your front teeth. Particularly good when you still have your front teeth but you don’t have your side teeth because you’ve lost them. So, you scoop the orange meat- pulp -out, going around the perimeter of the orange. Then, what you do is you take the orange and you squish it in half. So, you know, it’s a straight line on the top and you’ve got a semi-circle underneath it. Does that make sense?”

Collector: “Yeah.”

Informant: “So, you squish it in half and you hold it up to your mouth and you drain the orange juice that you can get into your mouth. So, then you take it down and then you fold it the other way so you still got a straight line, but now you’re taking the rest of the pulp- you understand what I’m saying? Like you fold it the other way and you do the same thing; you squish and you get all the orange juice out of the other half. And then what you do- now it’s all pliable, so you take your orange half, which is mostly peel now and some pith, and you turn it inside out and you eat each of the like sectional pith pieces one by one. And that- and then you do it to the other side of the orange -and that is how you eat an orange like a monkey. And I always did this my entire childhood.” 


My informant considered this something almost unique to her family, though she said that she thinks her father learned it from a kid he went to high school with. She described this as something of a practical joke with practical benefits for her father: 

“And then, about two years ago- I’m fifty-two, so when I was about fifty I said to my dad ‘You know, Dad, I’ve now fifty years old and I have never in my entire life seen someone eat an orange like a monkey except your children.’ And he said ‘Well, I learned it somewhere and as soon as I realized I had five children and as soon as the first one- as soon as I stopped peeling an orange for one through five then the first one would be hungry again. I knew I had to teach them how to eat an orange by themselves. Fortunately, I recalled how to eat an orange like a monkey, and I taught you all, and that’s how I escaped a life of peeling oranges.”

My informant says she did not proliferate this practice because she only had two kids- she didn’t mind cutting up two oranges.


This practice is difficult to interpret. Its marketing seems geared towards kids- eating like a monkey is fun for kids -so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was originally intended as a trick to get kids cutting their own oranges. However, the informant’s father learned it from a peer, not as a parenting trick, and applied it that way himself. I would tentatively suggest that this is folklore originating from children, given Jay Mechling’s analysis of how children’s rituals are often highly complex and absurd but treated with enough solemnity to follow the exact labyrinthine instructions. This also strikes me as a possible practical joke. Presumably, the goal would be to keep a straight face as you forced someone else through an intricate and increasingly ridiculous process. This seems likely as something taught by one high schooler to another.

Rain Song from Living Earth Camp


This piece is about a rain song that is sung at Living Earth Camp when it hasn’t rain in awhile. It stems from “native” songs, but there is no evidence.

Main Piece:

“L: I went to like a nature camp in the years I was in middle school over the summer. So it was like a sleepaway camp, but it only lasted a week. And it was weird because it was mostly white people, but they’d be like “oh this is the ancient song, this ancient rain song.” I don’t think they realized how problematic it was. We had this one time when it hadn’t been raining lately, like we we in a drought or something, so they took us down to the river and said “so we’re going to sing this rain song.” So you sing this when you are splashing the water around and it goes like “wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah, wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah. Washa-ta-day-ah-day-ah-day-ah.” And you do that over and over again. And it actually ended up raining the next day.

C: Wow, so it worked?

L: Yeah, so now I have all this white guilt singing it.

C: What is the camp’s name?

L: Living Earth Camp. And it was or felt very spiritual and connected to nature. But it was still like a $500 camp for a bunch of kids to cover themselves in mud.

C: Where was it?

L: Like an hour away from where I lived, so still in Virginia.”


The informant is a 19 year old girl from Charlottesville, VA. She attended this camp for 3 years in middle school and learned this song the first year she was at the camp when she was in 6th grade.


Rain songs that are based on “native” traditions never seem quite genuine, but the intention behind them is interesting. I thought it was curious that a rain song has to have roots in “native” folklore, and not from somewhere else. This reminds me of learning of tourist items that were labeled as “authentic” or “native.” I think a lot of people try to go back to the roots of Native culture because of it’s connection to the Earth and spirituality. Though there is more to Native culture than that, in today’s popular culture that is what is most projected. Since children are little, we learn that there are certain things to sing to cause things to happen. When we want the rain to come, we sing things like this – the rain song, to bring rain. When we want rain to go away, we sing “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” It is important to recognize when songs are a bit problematic like the informant did as well.

Tahoe Tessie

Main Piece

LL: “Over the break, I went to Lake Tahoe for the first time. It was really interesting because a lot of the shops there sell all these items about a lake monster that is supposed to have lived in the water for years and years.”

Informant: “How long is that?”

LL: “I think she – oh yeah it’s supposed to be a female…Tessie…is supposed to be a dinosaur from one of the later periods, who survived until modern day.”

Informant: “So does it basically have the same theories as the Loch Ness monster?”

LL: “Basically. [laughter] I think Tahoe wanted its own Loch Ness, and since it is one of the deepest bodies of water in the US, they can get away with making up the crazy things that live in there.”


Tahoe Tessie represents community that created an item of “fakelore” that has been accepted by many younger people, who did not know any better. Most of the imagery of the lake monster is lifted directly from the Nessie legend, but as I learned, Tessie is mostly depicted in a more feminine nature. She is often shown as smaller in size and in the presence of children. The creature was crafted as a gentle one, which could easily be marketed to families visiting the area.