Tag Archives: Family Legend

Family Haunted House


“Gee [grandma]’s house is lowkey haunted, it’s messed up. The man who Gee got the deed to their land from, we call him Old Man Hattfield. When my mom and my aunt were growing up they would come home from basketball games really late at night, and one night they came from the back door. They came around the corner and my mom swears that she saw a man at the top of the stairs, and then by the time that my aunt and Gee got over there the man was gone, they didn’t see him. Obviously my mom was freaking out, she was scared to death. So they all went upstairs, there was nobody up there, the windows weren’t open, there was no way anyone could’ve gotten there. They think it was Old Man Hattfield, my friends still refuse to go upstairs at Gee’s house because they think it’s haunted by Old Man Hattfield. . That’s one story. Gee has another story about this dress. So when they bought the land it was from debt, so I think with the deed to the land came other things like this pocket watch and this wedding dress. It’s this white wedding dress, and I don’t know who’s it was, but Gee had this dress up until maybe 10 years ago until she finally got rid of it. She’d wake up in the middle of the night and swear she saw a woman wearing this dress at the foot of her bed. So eventually she was like, “I’m tired of this, I’m gonna burn this dress.” So she sets it out in the burn pile. But then she’s going through their stuff at least five years later, and the dreams had not stopped. So she didn’t know what happened, she thought the dress had been burned. Then she found the dress inside the house in a drawer, and she’s like “what is this? How is this dress here?” And she asked Papa and he said “Yeah I saw you put it in the burn pile but I put it back in the house.” They burned it after that and the dreams stopped. 


GR is a 19-year-old college student from a small town in Arkansas. His grandma, Gee, has told him this story, and many members of the family believe that Gee’s house is haunted. 


The figure of a ghost woman in a wedding dress is a pretty common one. She’s seen in La Llorona, a ghost women who walks around in a white dress, and there are many other versions of the “White Lady,” female ghosts in white dresses. The white dress is commonly associated with wedding dresses, and in this story the ghost is in a wedding dress. The wedding is a huge important ritual for a community, and it’s a large moment of shifting identity for women. They go from being part of one family to another, from being in the pre-reproduction phase of their life to being ready for reproduction. From a maiden to a wife, soon to be a mother. Weddings are a moment of liminality, where magic often happens. Ghosts are another figure of liminality, where they’re not quite alive and not quite dead. They’re not in this world, but they’re not in the next. The ghost bride can represent anxieties of when the marriage ritual goes wrong, just like how the ghost comes about from the death rituals going wrong. The wedding ritual is very important to a community, because it brings about new members of the community, but it’s also very anxiety inducing for the bride, because a lot can go wrong in this new identity and in the moment between the two identities. It’s also frightening for people to see these ghost brides because weddings are often supposed to be a large celebration of happiness, and people don’t like to acknowledge when they are not. However, oftentimes throughout different cultures weddings are not a moment of happiness for the bride. They could be just an economic situation, they could’ve been forced into the marriage, they could be a child, the marriage could tie them potentially forever to a bad person. There are a lot of negative things that can be associated with marriages, but people like to turn away from those. That’s why the ghost bride comes out, as a representation of all the anxieties that moment of liminality can bring. Studying a specific ghost bride figure can also tell you a lot about women’s place in that specific culture. 

Family Ghost Friend


The informant is a USC student who has lived their entire life in a neighborhood near the USC main campus. Their family is of Mexican origin, and this story is about a ghost that has haunted their family throughout the generations. We conducted this interview in the basement of Taper Hall during our shared ANTH 333 discussion section, and so this story is what the informant could think of as a story to tell off the top of their head.


Int.: Okay, I’m recording.

LH: Okay, so basically this story, I don’t know who came up with it, but it like ran amongst like my little cousins and I when I was growing up, I used to live very close to USC campus. And I remember one day, my mom would tell me just randomly like, “Oh, your little friend stopped by your blah blah blah.” And I was like, “What do you mean my little friend?”

LH: I was like, 11 when this happened. I was like, “What do you mean, my little friend?” And the story goes basically that like, in my family, we had an uncle who like died tragically in a fire when they were still in Mexico.

[Interviewer laughs in surprise]

LH: I know this escalates very quickly. He died very tragically as like a kid in a fire and blah blah blah, and everyone in my family thinks that my grandma is cursed. Like, we think that she like dead ass has like something on her, like, witchcraft. And so the story is that once like, my uncle died in the fire, he had been like haunting my grandma like ever since and like following her around.

LH: And so every time we would go to like, my grandma’s house, the vibes were so gross. It was so cold in there. It was–it felt like you were being watched all the time. And my mom would say that, like all the little kids in the family at the time, would have like the same constant imaginary friend whose name was Pablo.

LH: And she was like, yeah, like your little cousin saw your–or like Pablo the other day and I’d be like, “Who the fuck is Pablo?” Like, what are you talking about? Until one day my old–My other uncle he was like, “Yeah, you had this uncle who–” blah blah blah, this and that. And basically like, to this day we tell this story to like the little kids because like, my grandma’s house has always felt so, like, grody and like, weird, like, the vibes.

LH: The vibes have always been off and so to this day, every time we get, like, a new little cousin in our family, or like, someone else in the family would be like, “Yes, you know, my grandma’s haunted but she has like this little boy following her. But yeah, that’s like, pretty much the sum of it.

Int.: That’s crazy.

LH: Yeah.


I love this story for how it reveals the family structure of the informant as one that is strong and large. From a folklore studies perspective, it reveals how folklore often spreads through family structures and reinforces cultural beliefs–such as the belief in ghosts–in the process. The ghost in this story arises from a family legend–that of the boy who died in a tragic fire. It also shows how children influence the folk beliefs in adults, not just the other way around. Because the family children all have similar or the same imaginary friend, it reinforces the belief in this ghost and continues this legend. In a way, it keeps the memory of the boy who died alive. The ghost becomes disembodied from the real boy in terms of actual facts, such as what the boy looked like, how he behaved, and more, but the shared idea of him continues to change as the imaginary friend persists throughout the family.

Can you get me a glass of water?


The informant, JB, is my older brother who is twenty-four and currently lives in New York City. We both grew up in a small town in Tennessee surrounded by our close family. The story I interviewed him about is very well known throughout our family and is centered around our grandfather and his supernatural experience in rural Kentucky.

Main Piece:

JB’s summary of the story- Papaw was at a little store/restaurant in Kentucky, and he sat on a stool and ordered a Pepsi at the counter. While the lady was opening his drink an old, straggly looking man with long white hair and a long white beard sat down beside him. He asked papaw to order him a class of water, which he did. The man drank the water and then got up and walked towards the door. As he reached for the door, he looked back at papaw and said something he couldn’t understand. He got to go after the man and see what he said but the mysterious man had disappeared, and no one outside seen him. Three or four years later, in the middle of the night, Papaw was woken up by someone pulling him out of his bed, and I think the first few times he assumed it was Mamaw or mom messing with him. The last time was really aggressive, so he was wide awake and at the foot of his bed was man from that little restaurant with a long white beard and hair. He looked at papaw and said, “I’ll come back one more time, just one more time” then he disappeared; at the time, Mamaw was wake in the living room and didn’t hear or see anything.

Interviewer- Who told you this story for the first time?

JB- Papaw told me when I was younger, but Mamaw and mom referenced the story all the time. Mamaw always that she believed it was true because of how scared papaw was after it happened. She always said it was some kind of angel.

Interviewer- So what was your interpretation of it?

JB- It sounds like some kind of omen, but the time difference is weird since the man came back just a few years later but it’s been at least forty years since it happened. Maybe the 3rd time will be before he dies.


My grandpa’s supernatural encounter can be categorized as a folk legend since he, and the rest of our family considers it to be true. This is my family’s most passed around piece of folklore, so we all develop different interpretations of what this meant.  The way that I interpreted the legend was that of warning, and moral upkeep. Although the story is unique to my grandpa, it contains common motifs of folklore like a figure with a long white beard, the significant group of 3s, and proverbial warnings. Folklorists have consistently found that supernatural legends often develop during times of stress or change as a way to cope. Given my grandfather’s religious background, the man could have represented a pure figure, like an angel, coming to check on the state of his soul. Along with that, the threat of the man coming back at random could act as a deterrent of immoral acts. Although I don’t know if my grandpa was engaging in bad behaviors, it is common for spirits to function as a way to externalize negative feelings, perhaps guilt in this case.

The House on Florentine Street

Background information: My mom is a second-generation Filipino-American, meaning she was born here in the US. Her parents immigrated from the Philippines when they were both relatively young, and my mom’s family grew up with a lot of relatives in San Francisco, CA. 

Mom: At my lola’s house in the city, on Florentine Street, they always told me that sometimes there would be an old man sitting in this one specific arm chair in their living room.

Me: Who was the old man?

Mom: No one knows who the old man was…but the house was very, very old, maybe he lived there before my lola and our family. He wasn’t ever harmful but they would just see him sitting there all the time. She told me he must have just stayed in the house after he passed, because it was still his. But he was never scary or bad, or anything like that.

Me: Did you ever see the old man yourself?

Mom: I don’t remember ever seeing him. But maybe sometimes I would feel his, like, presence or something similar. But nothing was ever bad about it.

In Filipino culture, many people are very respectful of the supernatural, and of spirits of the past that they may be intruding on. While, of course, the idea of ghosts is often very scary and unnerving in Western culture, my mom’s family and many other Filipinos/Filipino-Americans have more of a neutral view of ghosts from the past co-existing in the same space as living people. This mentality is seen in the way my family still showed respect and gave the old man his own space, while accepting the fact that he would continue to stay in the house.

Barrel Maker Family Legend

This was collected during a discussion section for this class on March 27, 2018 in which we were instructed to exchange folklore with each other. We could share whatever we wanted, so there was no prompting from me about this legend. This was told to me along with several other people in our discussion. WL is the informant, PH is myself.

WL: Okay so this is a family legend, the legend of my …. great-great-great grandpa. Maybe even further back in the family, I’m not sure exactly. I’ll just call him my grandpa. He was a barrel maker. My whole family left Russia at the turn of the 18th century, they were all Jewish, it was anti-Semitic Minsk, Russia. My dad told me this. So, my grandpa: barrel maker, strong, long beard. A Russian cossack comes up to my grandpa, throws an anti-Semitic slur at him, and pulls his beard. Grandpa replies, “Thanks for putting me in my place,” basically, puts his hand out to shake….but my grandpa is really strong–

At this point, I had to leave the discussion to make it to my next class, so the recounting was interrupted. We agreed she would finish telling me another time. On April 8, 2018 I showed the informant how much I had written down to jog her memory.

PH: It ends with your great grandpa extending his hand to shake

WL: Okay so my great great grandpa, whatever it is…his is around like the beginning of the 19th century…extends his hand to this Russian Cossack and is like, “Oh thanks for putting me in my place” etc etc and ends up BREAKING this dude’s hand because he was such a strong barrel maker…. My dad tells this story pretty much at any event where the entirety of his family is over.