Tag Archives: family story

Curiosity Buried The Man

Context: S is a Peruvian man in his early 60s. S spent around the first 13 years living inside of Peru before moving to Germany where he lived until his late 20s when he moved to California. Although having lived in California for most of his life now, he still has a close connection to Peru and Germany through his family. This piece was collected during a phone call.

Intv: “Can you think of any stories that came from somewhere local?”

S: “There was this one story about a guy who was buried alive.”

Intv: “Oh my gosh, like someone who you knew?”

S: “Not me personally, and I’m not really sure, I used to think it was someone my family knew, but I can’t be sure. Anyways, There was this guy, who was terrified of being buried alive.”

Intv: “I mean, I would be scared too if it had happened to me.” 

S: “Oh yes, but for him, it just was all he thought about, he would wake up in the middle of the night because of nightmares about it. One day he decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and he went to his family with a series of rules and tests to make sure if he died, that he was dead. They were supposed to use a mirror to see if he was breathing, wait three days, and a number of different things. So of course all of his family promised him that they would do it, and make sure he was dead. But the man keeps wondering, what if, what if, so he decides to test it and fakes his death, with the plan to reveal himself before being buried. However, and this is what I can’t remember so well, but something happens, I believe the coffin lid closes on his head and knocks him out, and he ends up buried alive.”

Analysis: Being buried alive is likely something that everyone fears, making this story immediately relatable. I think that’s intentional as it’s trying to convey an important message, something that is behind a large number of folklore tales, like how the boy who cried wolf teaches one not to fib and lie. This story, however, is more like a long version of the phrase “curiosity killed the cat.” It’s a cautionary tale regarding unhealthy obsessive pursuits. 

Buried Alive

This story um… is from our Paine side of the family and it goes back to I believe around 1727, the year 1727. And we had a relative named William Winston and. . . he wasn’t a wealthy man, but he worked hard, but he was relatively poor. And he lived up in Northern Virginia and he met a woman who he fell deeply in love with. She was. . .she became his paramour. She was all he had hoped for in a mate and he decided this is going to be the woman that. . . I. . . I am going to marry, and her name was Sarah Dabney. And, so he started courting her as they did back in that day, and the courting process went on for quite a while. Um. . . long enough for him to save up a lot of the money that he had and he had made from work in order to buy her what was going to be one of the most beautiful rings that anyone in Northern Virginia had ever seen as an engagement ring. And. . .they were going to get married in mid spring, and it had been a terrible winter, and William Winston lived in a small, small house. You know back then it was probably a shack. But, the poor weather continued and it snowed and then the snow to rain and sleet for quite a while but he and Sarah went ahead and got married. I think it was. . . late. . . late April of 1727 if I am correct on the date, and word got out that she had this incredible engagement ring that he had gotten for her that was (you know) a sign of their betrothal. And, the word got out. . . and she fell sick with pneumonia and he thought um she became really really sick and. . . to the point to where the doctors pronounced her dead. And this was like a month. . . this was not long after they had been married. And he was devastated, he was totally traumatized. And he buried her . . . I guess he buried her in a somewhat shallow grave and the word had gotten out that his wife who had this beautiful ring. . . that this–this laborer who had married a woman and given her this just almost priceless wedding ring–that she had died.

And  three–I guess they would have been equivalent to highway men,robbers, grave robbers–after she had been buried, they dug her up, and because the ring fit so tightly on her finger that they couldn’t slide it off of her finger, and they cut her finger off! Well he was back in his home, and they dug her up in this dark and stormy night, and he’s (you know) probably sitting at his little table in his little shack with the candle flickering and the wind howling and the rain beating and the roof leaking and you know just crying into his hands. . . and there was a scratching at the door! And he’s– and he (you know) he’s just just sobbing and the scratching continued and it got louder and louder and louder and he finally realized somebody or something is scratching at my door! And he got up and he went to the door and he opened the door and there was Sarah and she hadn’t died, she had been buried alive! When they dug her up and cut the ring off of her finger it. . . it. . . it resuscitated her enough, along with the oxygen that she was able to breathe again. . . and that’s the story. And they lived happily ever after after that.

The Floating Lady

Background: My informant is a 19 year old girl with Mexican heritage. She describes this paranormal experience that happened to her great grandmother in the 1970’s and again years later. When her grandmother tells this story to the family, everyone becomes a little uncomfortable. 

S: In the early 70’s, my great grandmother lived on a lemon tree farm that she had used to provide for her family. She says that the farm was vast, there were certain places on her farm where you could look and see nothing but tall lemon trees. One night when my grandmother was playing outside, she came back inside crying to my great grandmother about a lady standing in the orchard and staring at her. My great grandmother went to the front door of the house and looked out to see what my grandma was talking about. She saw a lady standing outside staring into the house. My grandma says that this would not have been strange usually, as where she was located in Mexico got extremely hot and it was not uncommon for people to go to her orchard and cool off under her trees. But she noticed that this lady had been levitating a couple inches off of the ground and says she became terrified. She saw the same lady many years later a second time when she had immigrated to California. My mother had been very young at the time and was helping my great grandmother babysit her cousins since their parents went out for the night. The babies had all fallen asleep so my mother went to her room to go to sleep herself. My great grandmother was leaving the kitchen to go to her room when she noticed a figure standing over one of the babies. She initially thought it was my mother messing with babies, so she started yelling at her to stop. This yelling made the figure turn around and she saw an old woman staring back at her. My grandmother then says that woman went to the living room window, opened it and crawled out all while my great grandmother was screaming at her. She had thought she was dealing with a kidnapping situation at first, until she reflected on the events and she recalled that the lady had been slightly floating off of the ground just like the lady she had seen many years ago in Mexico. My great grandma, she’s no stranger to paranormal events. She even claims that one night when she was washing dishes, she felt someone roughly tap her shoulder twice, so rough that it made her drop the dish she was holding into the sink. But when she turned around nothing was there. My great grandmother is now in her eighties and tells the story with just as much fear as she did when she was young. 

Me: Is there any reason why she thinks this happened to her?

S: She thinks it could be a bad omen. My grandma, the one who first saw the lady outside when she was a girl, got into a really bad car accident and she’s had schizophrenia ever since. And when she appeared the second time, the cousin she was looking over ended up losing his future baby when it was barely a month old. So my grandma believes that the floating lady’s appearance signals that something bad will happen to them. 

My thoughts: It appears to me that many times, paranormal superstitions and omens, especially ghosts, may be localized to a small folk group, especially the familial level. It’s not uncommon both through the grapevine and in the media that there are cases in which a specific entity follows a person or family around and can latch on to them, sometimes over generations, and sometimes localized to a specific town or house. This speaks to the belief that ghosts may exist outside of time but are made real through their liminal connection to the living world. I believe that stories with ghost attachments are common in cultures that emphasize familial bonds such as Mexico because they are more likely to perceive connection as something important and real that can transcend the boundaries of the living realm, as evidenced by the tradition of El Dia de los Muertos. Even if the supernatural connection is a negative thing, such as in the story above, the paranormal experience still serves as a form of wisdom and warning to those who can perceive it.

Don’t put your shoes on the Table

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.

Interviewer: So i’ve always thought it was bad to put my shoes on the table, but you think there’s another reason not to, right?

Informant: haha I mean I don’t know if I actually believe it but my mom always told me that if my shoes touched any table, it would be 10 years of bad luck. It scarred me for life since I’m pretty superstitious… but i still used the same tactic to get my kids to behave haha

Informant: and how did that work out for you?

Interviewer: It actually worked like a charm haha, i told my kids one time and then they started policing each other about it any time one of them would put their shoes on the table. 


My informant is a woman in her 50’s, originally growing up in Denmark and moving to the United states in her early 20’s. She has been a mother a majority of her life and travels with her kids at least twice a year. 


I talked to my informant over a facetime call during the 2020 coronavirus epidemic. We had planned to meet in person, however, our meeting was cancelled due to the virus. 


I think it;s interesting just how much folklore comes out of parents trying to scare their kids into behaving. The whole “7 years of bad luck” for breaking a mirror or walking under a ladder all have similar vibes and it makes me think that superstition arose out of children believing the surreal stories their parents would tell them as they grew up.

Food for even the Mice

The informant is my grandmother from Taiwan, her hobbies are going to church and cooking. She says because Chinese tradition is very custom and done in certain ways it is weird to “stray” off on doing certain traditions. However, our family has done many of the same traditions, except starting from my great-grandparents time (4 generations), we had done some of these Lunar New Year traditions differently.


When I was growing up we would prepare a separate meal for these specific mice. Although we do not do it anymore because our house is clean and there are no mice around, it was very common during my time when we grew up. The specific mice we fed were called 錢鼠 (Qian Shu). Because their name had money in their names, we would hope that after feeding these mice, we would become prosperous.

The mice are called Asian house shrew/money shrew in english. This was interesting because even my father did not know or believe that these mice were actually real. My grandmother had to convince my father that they actually existed, but they are not seen anymore. This came as a surprise to me, because during this time my grandparents were under Japanese rule and that these traditions did not come from them, but they were extremely poor during that time. Feeding random mice for good luck seems very weird for me, especially since they did not have a lot of food, to begin with. However, seeing as it all panned out well, I guess feeding the mice did help!