Tag Archives: ghost story

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.

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.

The Golden Arm

A is 54 years old. She was born in Ft. Waldon, Florida and moved to Sylvania, Georgia at 2 years old. She’d been there all her life until last year (2021). A has a thick Southern accent that’s very pleasant to listen to. She told me this story, or rather instructions on how to tell the story, in conversation. It’s a ghost story that’s meant to be performed around a campfire.

“There’s one that’s like an old campfire tale, if I can remember how it goes… ok so this woman had a golden arm and this man knew about her right, and he had plotted and planned on how to get that golden arm to sell it and make some money off of it so he went and… he went to try and get it from her while she was asleep and she woke up and he ended up killing her, well as the story goes he killed her, got the golden arm and buried her out in the woods by the swamp and he was… one night out with some friends talking and all of a sudden… after his friends had left… he kept hearing something and it was the woman saying “I want my golden arm…” and remember this is by the campfire and it’s dark so each time you repeat that line “I want my golden arm” you have to say it louder and louder (laughing) and then you pick someone that’s sitting near you and you yell out “you have it!” and grab ‘em! It scared the bejesus out of me every time I heard it! I was probably 13 when I first heard it, you know we went on family trips with friends… on weekend trips out by the river so… I used to tell it too.”

According to John Burrison (see Burrison, John A. (1968). “The Golden Arm” The Folk Tale And Its Literary Use By Mark Twain and Joel C. Harris. Atlanta, Georgia: Georgia State College. pp. 1–23) The Golden Arm or ATU 366 (see http://www.mftd.org/index.php?action=atu&src=atu&id=366) is a very old folktale that has been documented for 200 years but its oral tradition goes back further. The belief underlying the tale is that the dead “can find no rest until its physical remains are intact.” The lesson of the tale may initially have been respect for the dead, but variations have made it a cautionary tale about greed. There are many variations across different cultures where the missing item is not an arm, but some other body part. In media, the tale was told around a campfire by Andy Griffith in a T.V. show. A version similar to the one A told me was a favorite of Mark Twain’s and can be found in How to tell a story and other Essays (https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3250/3250-h/3250-h.htm#link2H_4_0003) For more about Mark Twain’s version and a fun but somewhat unrelated story about a ghostly Twain and copyright law please see https://marktwainstudies.com/happy-halloween-twains-favorite-ghost-story-and-twain-speaks-from-the-netherworld/

Ghosts of Interstate 295

Content: 

D:  I didn’t really hear about it growing up because 295 wasn’t built until I was in high school. 

And the sightings of the ghosts and stuff really started happening after, you know, I moved away, but then, you know, I started hearing about ’em when I was going home and you know, then they started showing up in newspaper articles and stuff like that. But you can, you can research that, you know, online. 

Me: Where did you hear about the ghosts?

D: I think family. Yeah. I mean, people that lived in the area. This would be more like they might know somebody that saw a sighting or, you know, or saw it in the paper or, um, you know, saw the police down there and stuff like that. I think my dad, you know, knew about sometimes when the police were called to the area and stuff. Um, because they would see these Indians on horseback and, you know, people would, would call and report just like, “Hey, some kids are out here, you know, playing around on horses, you know, by this highway and they don’t need to be down here, you know?” And then, um, but other sightings of ’em, they were clearly Indians, but 295 was built over an Indian burial ground and they discovered it when they were building the highway and they managed to get the approval to just keep going anyway and finished it out. And so it disturbed a lot of graves and a lot of activity was kicked after that, but they claim that people can hear the chanting and stuff like that too. 

Me: Chanting in the same area?

D: Oh yeah. I mean the same, the same apparitions. They hear the chanting and they follow the chanting and then they see apparitions of these, you know, Indians on horseback and stuff. 

And there’s, and there’s multiple sightings. It’s not just one or two people that have seen it or one incident that happened. I mean, it’s happened over and over and over. 

Background: D was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1963. She moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1981. Virginia’s Interstate 295 was completed in 1987. 

Context: This story was told to me over a phone call. 

Analysis: In my conversations, I found that stories of ghosts traveling along highways and interstates is relatively common in the United States, particularly in the southern states. However, most of that lore revolves around one major story that someone experienced, and the following stories of others. This one, however, doesn’t seem to have a central or first experience. Like D said, everyone knew someone that had seen the ghosts of Interstate 295, but no one knew who saw them first. 

See also: D directed me to the following link, which she felt accurately illustrated her memory of the lore: Posted by blogger in RVA Ghosts. (2021, November 8). The Haunting of the Pocahontas Parkway. The Haunting of the Pocahontas Parkway – RVA Ghosts. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://rvaghosts.com/the-haunting-of-the-pocahontas-parkway/

The Kong-Kong Gwishin

Background: This story is passed around between students. The informant relays that this story was especially common in “doksuhshil,” a Korean building used for overnight studying where students could rent out cubicle-like spaces for a day and study until 3-4 AM, and “hakwon,” the prep schools that are extremely commonplace in Korea. 

Context: The informant conveyed this story to me over a video call, during nighttime in his house. He adopted a steady but story-telling tone, drawing out words for dramatic effect and making use of pauses. 

Relation to story: The informant states that this story was common especially around finals seasons and during high school/university tryout exams (Korea, unlike America, has necessary exams to get into certain universities and high schools). He mentions he first heard it from a classmate, then continued to hear it throughout his academic career. 

Text:

*(Notes: The informant will be referred to as “G” in the following text. Furthermore, this was originally told in Korean; it appears here in its translated form, translated by the interviewer.)

G: The name of this story is the Kong-Kong Gwishin. (TL: Kong-Kong Ghost) It was in a high school somewhere. There was a very hardworking student, but they were always ranked second. Even if they spent the night studying, they would always rank second. So, this student one day, they really wanted to rank first, so they spent nights and days studying, but again they ranked second. And, their seatmate who didn’t really seem like they studied at all, always was first. So, one day, they started to have somewhat of a competition. 

I: Both of them?

G: Probably one-sided. The second-rank student cared a lot more about it, probably. So, one day, the second-rank student called the first-rank to the stairs, and pushed them, thinking “If only they weren’t there, I could become first.” As such, the first-ranking student fell to the bottom of the stairwell and died. In the exam after that, that second-rank student finally placed first. They felt guilty, but their greed to be first was so great that they said “There’s nothing that can be done about it,” and thinking that way, they continued on. 

I: That’s so hardcore…

G: All over ranks. I mean, I guess I get it. But still. One day, that second-rank student was staying late in school and studying. Then, all of a sudden, all the way at the other end of the hall from the classroom, kong…kong…kong…kong….drrrrk. “Nobody here~” The one they had pushed to death with their own hands, that voice of the first-rank student, was echoing around the hall. After that, kong…kong…kong…kong….drrrrk. The door to the next classroom opened, “Nobody here~” and again: drrrrk. “Nobody here~” The student started to be scared, and remembered: Ah, if you meet eyes with a ghost, it’s said you’ll die, and quickly hid under their desk so their eyes didn’t meet the ghost’s eyes. Kong…kong…kong…kong…finally, the ghost was in front of their classroom. Suddenly, the door opened drrrrrk and at that moment, the student made eye contact with the ghost. The student died in that instant, and they heard “Found you~” before they died. 

I: How’d they die if they were hiding under the desk? 

G: That’s the scary part. See, the first-rank student had been pushed off that high stairwell, and fell backwards. Since they were falling backwards, they ended up landing on their head, and so their ghost hopped around on their head—kong….kong….kong…kong…—and had opened the door that way. 

I: So the ghost was already looking straight at the student from the moment they entered the classroom? That’s so scary! I definitely would’ve made that same mistake…

G: Yes, exactly. So, that’s the story of the Kong-Kong Gwishin
Interpretation: The environment and context of this story add significantly to the terror. The informant explains that this was frequently told in doksuhshils, which were often in tall office-style buildings with equally high stairwells; this makes the horror of the first-rank student falling down the stairs all the more real. (Note that Korean schools also almost always have several stories, as compared to American schools which do not always have them.) Since said doksuhshils were also frequented by late-night studiers like the student in the story, they also likely felt a thrill as they imagined this same horror happening to them, an interesting break in the monotony of work. This story also reads like a warning to not let greed consume your life, especially in relation to studies. Korea, being a heavily academic-oriented society, places immense importance on entrance exams for schools. This stress and pressure this brings drove the second-rank student to do a horrible thing, excusing it under the guise of it being necessary to succeed, and they suffered the consequences. The surprise of the gwishin finding the student because of their own murderous actions, even though the student hid, imparts the message that one cannot escape the consequences of their actions and warns students studying to be careful to still remain decent people even under stress.