Tag Archives: ghost

The “Phantom Gator” of Fort Myers Florida

Text: “According to this legend, The Phantom Gator was once a real alligator that roamed the swamps many years ago. One day, it was caught in a poacher’s trap and killed. However, the spirit of the alligator refused to leave its home in the swamp and instead stayed behind as a vengeful ghost. It is said that The Phantom Gator can be seen on quiet nights, swimming through the dark waters of the swamp, its ghostly form visible just beneath the surface. Those who have seen it describe it as an eerie sight, with glowing eyes and a shimmering, translucent body. There was also a related story about a neighbor boy being attacked by the ghost of this alligator and I was told as a child to not go near the reserve where this attack occurred. I obviously didn’t really believe in the ghost alligator necessarily but I was absolutely terrified of the reserve and the whole swamp area and did not go near it.”

Context: It sounded as though this legend was more of a friend group thing but interestingly enough JD claimed it was first told to him by one of his cousins when he was very young (8 or 9). JD, being superstitious was adamant in telling me he “never went near the swamp” that the phantom gator reportedly resided in, even though he was not too quick to believe a ghost alligator was the true danger. But, out of his friend group he seemed to believe the story the most and feared the swamp it related to the most. He said some of his friends had went over near the swamp to explore but he didn’t come along just because he didn’t want to risk anything. He thinks he was so afraid because he got told the story when he was young and only told his friends about it later in life when they were already more mature and grown up.

Analysis: When being told this legend I thought it was very possible that it may have been created as a cautionary tale to warn people about the dangers of the swamps and the alligators that inhabit them. Alligators are common in Florida and can be dangerous if approached or provoked, especially for children who may not be aware of the risks. In this context, the story of the Phantom Gator may have been a way for parents and elders to scare children into staying away from the swamps and avoiding dangerous situations. By instilling a healthy respect and fear of the alligators, parents may have hoped to protect their children from harm. It was likely that the story would have been passed down orally through generations, with each teller adding their own embellishments and twists to the tale. It may have also been shared among different communities and social groups, becoming a popular topic of discussion and a way to bond over shared folklore and mythology in a more general sense. This definitely seemed like a more small scale legend, but because the group that spreads it believes in it and it has yet to be proven untrue, it should be considered a legend. I also think it is likely that similar legends pop up all around Florida by parents hoping to deter their kids from wandering into potentially dangerous areas like swamps.

La Llorona

Category: Legend/Tale (Depends on if the person believes in spirits, but more of a Legend)


Summary: If a child cries too much they would be taken by la Llorona. La Llorona is a crying woman who does something bad to bad children. “[I]t’s always a woman and … she’s [always] weeping and generally 9 times out of 10, it was always involving children.”

*for more details read script below


L is my mom who was born in Mexicali, Mexico and then moved to the US with her family when she was young. She heard about la Llorona from her parents and interprets the story of la Llorona having to do with females crying and children misbehaving.


This oikotype of la Llorona doesn’t have to do with water like Carbonell says is included in many Llorona stories. Instead this Llorona focuses on females crying and children misbehaving, which are themes in other oikotypes as well. In a sense, this version seems similar to the Boogeyman but with a crying aspect. It does go with what Carbonell says is the more common role of la Llorona since she plays a role as the bad guy.

L implies that la Llorona kidnaps children with the part about the Olympics. This is more common with other oikotypes of la Llorona and the name itself shows hispanic identity since it’s in Spanish. On the other hand, there is the more unique interpretation L takes of la Llorona with her siblings when one of them cries a lot. Instead of calling someone a cry-baby, her siblings use la Llorona instead, which may also be a coincidence since “a female who cries” is literally the same name for la Llorona, the figure in legends. Since L’s family uses it to keep children from crying after a certain time it means that L’s family values one’s toughness and ability to adapt quickly rather than sympathise.

Interesting Side Note:

  • L also implies that la Llorona can be an aspect of God’s punishment on bad children in the latter part of the conversation.
  • As a Mexican American, I know parts of Mexican and Hispanic culture from my mom but definitely not all. I didn’t even know about la Llorona until I learned it off the internet and then asked my mom about her. Having this conversation let me know why my mom didn’t bring up these stories: they’re replaced by other, “American” folklore like “Stranger Danger!”, the Boogeyman, etc. Said replacement is an interesting side note.


Me: Ok, so what was this about la Llorona, like what-what’s the kind of story and then I guess how did you have it in your childhood and life?

L: So la Llorona, I grew up with it. My parents introduced it to us and I am the youngest of four and generally when the topic of la Llorona came up, it was not a good thing. Ok? You try avoiding having la Llorona brought up and the way it was brought up in my childhood was if… and I am the youngest of four siblings and if you got hurt, there was what parents would deemed an appropriate amount of time for you to sit there and ball your head out and cry and, you know, appropriately, you know, let people know that you’re hurt and you’re crying. But then if you went on beyond that reasonable amount of time and you were just doing a drama and you were just playing it up and you reached the excess point, they would politely say, ‘look enough is enough and if you don’t stop you’re crying at this point you’re going to be visited by la Llorona.

Me: And by they you mean your parents?

L: Your-your- no. My parents would say you’re going to be visited by la Llorona. And la Llorona is always a woman, as implied you know, from the verb, you know, weeping and it’s a woman plural, I mean it’s feminine because it’s la LloronA.

Me: Ends with an A.

L: So it’s always a woman and it’s always- she’s weeping and generally 9 times out of 10 it was always involving children. Ok? So that’s how I heard of la Llorona. That’s how it was used, but even amongst our siblings, even among siblings, it was not a good thing to be nicknamed or to be called out being la Llorona. And you would do this to push your siblings’ buttons, to get them irate. And that was the point where yeah- let’s say you pushed them, or you shoved them, or you skinned yourself playing soccer or-or you got a big bruise and you were just endlessly crying for no, you know, I mean ya it hurt, but then you’d go on and on and on. Well then, we would just nickname them like, you know, la Llorona. ‘If you don’t shut up about this, you know, you’re just la Llorona.’ It was a nickname amongst our siblings. More appropriately among us females because it’s a woman who’s weeping.

Me: So you and Tia [P].

L: Yes, me and Tia [P], and so my parents would use it, not a good thing. I would use it among siblings as a nickname, you know, kind of picking on you… to shut up… stop with the crying when it was excess. You would use it amongst siblings and me as an adult with you, my kids I really never had the occasion to use it. I contemplated it at times… but…

Me: Instead, dad would just be like, ‘No phone privileges!’

L: *laughs* Ya, I mean it-it’s- here in the United States you have other methods of controlling kind of, you know, bad behavior or excess, you know, crying or excess, you know, brooding. The only time I really contemplated it was as- as- a sign when we would go to the Olympics and we were among hordes of people and we really, I mean it would have just been a nightmare if any of you had actually gotten lost at one of the Olympic events with the thousands of people there. To hold tie to always, you know, be by a parent but we never really had to. There were other methods to do it. But that was the one time I kept saying, you know, maybe this is the time to bring out la Llorona just to instill the fear of God in them that they really, really have to hold on to a parent or else they’re going to get lost in the thousands of people…

Me: So like stranger danger.

L: Yeah, but I didn’t have to because we had stranger danger and I even saw that parents would put those little long leashes, I call them leashes and that’s probably not the appropriate name…

Me: *snorts*

L: But the little backpacks, right? With these long cords to attach to the parent or attach to the arm of the kid so the child doesn’t get lost. But we never even had to do that. So again, la Llorona, it was useful when I grew up by my parents, and it was not a good thing, and we used it growing up amongst ourselves as nicknames just to… uh…

Me: Mess with each other?

L: Yeah, push each others’ buttons. And again, as an adult I didn’t really have to use it because I had other methods other ways to try and curb that bad behavior or quiet that behavior we wanted.

Me: Gee thanks.

L: *laughs* Alright any other questions on la Llorona?

Me: Um…. Nope… not really. Gracias.

L: Ok, de nada.

When the resident house ghost wants pop soda too.

Category: Legend/Tale (Depends on if the person believes in ghosts or sees them as fanciful creatures)

Text: “[D]uring the middle of the night my family members would often go to the fridge, get a glass of pop, go back to bed. So when that would happen, whatever family member would do that, you know go down the stairs, open the fridge, get the pop, go up the stairs, go back to bed, every single time, afterwards there would be the sounds of that same thing happening but no one was doing it. Like it was-it was, there was a ghost that haunted the house and the ghost did other things but this goes whenever someone would do that afterwards. They would walk down the stairs, open the fridge, pour the pop, and then walk back up the stairs, but there was no one no one doing it. But it made the same exact noise and people could hear it from their beds. … And the ghost did other things, but yeah. They eventually moved out of the house cause it was creepy”


V is a college student who’s been told this story by family members who live in Hazelwood, PA. She interprets this story as an unresolved, creepy mystery of the house saying it could possibly be haunted by a ghost. She is not sure the identity of the ghost.

Interpretation: Ghost stories often deal with ownership according to Valk. This story is the perfect example of that since the ghost “haunts” the house V’s family lives in. However, V’s family is unsure who the ghost is, so the ghost is not of a known person or ancestor of V. This latter sentence crosses out a different common aspect to ghost stories. Though it may be a ghost of the prior house owner sine Valk also mentions ghosts possibly appearing due to changes in property owners. Telling this story shows some belief in the supernatural.


(V told this story to an audience of 3, one of which was me)

V: This is a story from my family in Hazelwood, PA. I think I’ve told you this before [P], but I don’t think I’ve told you… but anyways so it’s like this-this old house had been in the family for a while my family’s been in Pennsylvania like since, it was like-it’s in Pittsburgh, PA in the borough called Hazelwood but they’ve been there since like-like pioneer times. Like we traced it back like ancestry and my family’s lived there forever. Anyways so it’s really common to drink like pop soda instead of water, it’s like gross, but so during the middle of the night my family members would often go to the fridge, get a glass of pop, go back to bed. So when that would happen, whatever family member would do that, you know go down the stairs, open the fridge, get the pop, go up the stairs, go back to bed, every single time, afterwards there would be the sounds of that same thing happening but no one was doing it. Like it was-it was, there was a ghost that haunted the house and the ghost did other things but this goes whenever someone would do that afterwards. They would walk down the stairs, open the fridge, pour the pop, and then walk back up the stairs, but there was no one no one doing it. But it made the same exact noise and people could hear it from their beds.

Me: Mystery unresolved? 

V: Yeah that-that’s it. And the ghost did other things, but yeah. They eventually moved out of the house cause it was creepy, so yeah. That’s my story. That’s what I got.

Arkansas Legend Quest


“There’s this light, it’s in this town like thirty minutes north of us, it’s in the middle of nowhere on a field. The story is that there was a conductor on a train and this railroad goes along the side of this road, and apparently a conductor fell off and his head got cut off and he looks for his head every night, and that’s why you see a light on the railroad. If you drive out there you’ll see a light floating above the road, and apparently if it touches your car then your car will turn off. So all of our parents have stories about it, like how they’ve gone and seen the light. I don’t know if they’re actually true. But my friends went one time, I didn’t go cause it was during Covid, but they went and I was on facetime with them when it happened. And my friend N, they were on the road and she just started crying like sobbing, and she like never cries. Cause she swore that she saw it, and then they all started screaming because apparently it was coming towards the car, and that’s when they pulled out and left. I’ve been before and nothing happened.” 


GR is a 19-year-old college student from a small town in northern Arkansas. He was in high school when this story was told, and he’d been hearing the stories about the railroad since he was a little kid. His parents and adults in his town would tell him their experiences of seeing the light, and he doesn’t know if they were making it up to scare him or not. Research shows that this legend is a popular one that can be found online, called the Gurdon Lights in Gurdon Arkansas. He says that his town and a lot of northern Akansas have a lot of hauntings and ghost stories, supposedly because the granite rocks in the ground are a conductor for spirits according to legend. 


This story is an example of legend questing, where a group of people go out to look for a legend and try to insert themselves into it. It’s also an example of a memorate, where someone’s existing experience fits into the pre established legend. Legend questing is especially popular amongst young people. There might be a multitude of reasons for that. Young people are still figuring themselves out, figuring out what the story of their life is going to be, so it can be compelling to insert themselves into a legendary story that already exists. Since they’re young, they’re supposedly further away from death, so seeking out ghosts and graphic stories about death can both be them putting to use the immortality they feel they have, and also interacting with the concept of death that is both scary and unfamiliar. In certain cultures and in older people, ghost stories are often comforting and warm, such as a visit from a family member. The ghost stories young people tell though, at least in America, are often graphic and tragic and scary, because that’s how they view death to be. They’re both interested in this concept that is so far away, and terrified of this concept that is actually so near, and this fear and interest manifests into young people seeking out ghosts. I also believe that young people seek out legend quests more often because children are raised on fairy tales and magical figures like the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Santa. They are raised being told that magic is, in some ways, real. As teenagers and young adults they’re expected to separate themselves from the childish idea that magic is real, but there’s a small part of everyone that still wishes that the mystical might be real. 

I also think that Arkansas might be a large hub for supernatural stories because it’s still quite a rural area, there aren’t as many large and prominent cities as there are in other states. While Christianity began spreading around cities, rural areas continued worshiping their own pagan gods. Christianity then decided to paint rural areas as places where the Devil lives, and declare the people who live there as Devil worshipers. This idea has made us see nature and the wild as areas prone to the influence of the devil, so these wide spans of nature secluded from everyone else are seen to be areas more likely to have hauntings and ghosts. Rural town populations in Arkansas have a largely Christian population now, so they might be more inclined to look at the isolated, wild areas near them (such as abandoned train tracks) as scary places of the Devil.

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.