Tag Archives: ghosts

The Island of the Dolls/La Isla de las Muñecas

Informant Information – SI

  • Nationality: American
  • Age: 20
  • Occupation: Student
  • Residence: Los Angeles, California
  • Date of Performance/Collection: April 20, 2022
  • Primary Language: English

The informant grew up in Mexico and learned about this legend from family members, as well as on a visit to Lake Teshuilo. They aren’t sure as to whether or not the story is true, but they wouldn’t want to spend a day on the island. They shared this information with me in an in-person interview. 

According to the informant, La Isla de las Muñecas (“The Island of The Dolls”) is an island located in Lake Teshuilo. Sometime in the mid 20th century, the body of a young girl was found near the island. It was rumored that she had been drowned by a relative and that her spirit wandered the island in search of a loving home. 

In sympathy for the deceased child, visitors leave dolls on the island. Due to the island’s popularity, it is said to be the site of very intense emotions, which may attract other, malignant spirits. To prevent the dolls being used by these evil forces, visitors tie them to trees on the island.


This piece of folklore takes place in one of Mexico’s most toured locations. Given that Mexican culture includes several rituals, legends, and holidays that honor family traditions, deceased ancestors, and look back at the land’s history, it makes sense that many of these aspects of culture would be found in this location. 

The legend relates to spirituality, with obligation to some spirits and attempts to ward off others. There is a distinct binary between the young girl’s “good” spirit and the potential for “evil” spirits that might try to take advantage of the offerings left on the island. 

Cultural recognition and celebration of spirituality also plays a large role in Mexico City’s tourism industry. As my informant mentioned, many people earn money by offering the lake’s visitors a boat ride to the island. 

Radiator Ghost

–Informant Info–

Nationality: American

Age: 53

Occupation: Teacher

Residence: Los Angeles, California

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

(Notes-The informant will be referred to as DS and the interviewer as K)

Background info: DS is a mother of 1 who grew up in the southern area of the United States, moving to Los Angeles in 2020. She remembers both being told this story and experiencing it herself.

K: Ok, so what’s the name of the folklore, where did you hear it from, and what’s the context of the performance? Like uh…under what uh circumstances is the story told?

DS: Well, it doesn’t really have a title, does it! I suppose I would call it the radiator ghost as that’s where she lived. Uh I heard it from my momma originally when I was a girl but I met the ghost a few times. I tell it to scare my kids but also teach em that sometimes whats scary on the surface ain’t so much when you look into it.

K: Ok cool, whenever you’re ready.

DS: Well, it’s simple, ain’t it. In my home I grew up in there was one of them old fashion uh radiators that would burn the hell outta you if you touched it *laughter*. Uh, when I used to walk down the hallway at nighttime, cuz the radiator was right next to the bathroom, I used to get this REAL bad feeling when I go too close to it so I always avoided it. One day, when I was about 10 or 11, I hadn’t felt the bad feeling in a while. I realized at that point that uh..the ghost was protecting me till I wasn’t stupid enough to touch the radiator. *laughter*

I liked hearing this more common ghost story, especially that it had a more happy ending! The idea of a ghost that is trying to help a child is really sweet, and it also makes sense for that culture. Southern culture is very stereotypically helpful and kind, so a southern ghost upholding those standards follows perfectly. Even if it’s something psychosomatic, meaning the informant’s mother told her about the ghost so she imagined it, the ghost and its personality make sense. I do want to note my personal bias here, in that I believe in ghosts so that affected my interpretation of the folklore and possibly the informants telling of it, as they could see my positive reactions as they were telling me.

Ghost of Curry Hall

TG is a 25 year old graduate student and cultural forensic anthropologist. She grew up in Maryland and currently resides in Tennessee. She was an active member at her university.

Context: TG claims that she had heard this story many times while studying undergrad and that although she has not experienced it personally, many of her friends have encountered the ghost first hand.

Transcript (discussed over the phone):

Collector: What is the background story of the ghost?

TG: Basically, while they were building the two freshmen dorms, Frazer and Curry Hall, they were doing some electrical work but they didn’t put the elevators in yet so the elevator shafts were just very deep dirt holes. One of the workers had brought their toddler to the site, which was a big mistake to begin with. The worker put the child down for a second and the toddler rolled into the elevator shaft in the hallway of the 10th floor and died. Plenty of people I know have said that in the same hallway of Curry, you can hear a child’s laughter and it was very disturbing.

Collector: Do you believe in the ghost?

TG: I believe in ghosts so yes. While it’s possible that students just hear laughter and assume it is the ghost, I don’t think it’s impossible.

Thoughts/Analysis: Although ghost stories are legends and therefore may or may not be true, the impact they have on people’s lives is very real. As the informant discussed the fact that students in Curry Hall could actually hear child’s laughter is something that they will tell their friends, family, and children. That is shown by the informant being told this story by her friends. This shows how legends spread and how socially influenced they are. This account by TG can even be considered a memorate, where personal experiences of residents turned into campus folklore.

The Whaley House

Context: Z is a 21 year old Filipino American man. Growing up with a close community of Filipino friends and family. Z went to an elementary school within California. This story was collected over a Discord audio call.

Z: “The one that I thought of the other day, which is ‘spooky’ but not really, is The Whaley House. Which is like the only ghost house I know of, like, a unified school district takes everyone in the school district out of class to go visit it for like a week. There’s like a bunch of weird stories, and I don’t know a lot of the history off of the top of my head, but I know there was a family that lived there in the 1800s, and they all had some untimely deaths. Then there was some guy who was hanged who got buried in the graveyard adjacent to it.” 

Intv: “So there were just a ton of stories surrounding the place?”

Z: “Oh yeah, and you know one thing that I think really contributed to that, were the people who would always be walking around in period dress, like era accurate garb to the 1800s and you’d wonder if you saw a ghost. You know, it’s supposedly one of the most haunted houses in America, but I’ve never seen a ghost there, and I don’t know if I really believe in all of it. I think it’s probably just an old house, but it at least made an old house fun.” 

Analysis: I find it very interesting that the Unified School District of San Diego actually pulls  children out of class for a week to go and study the myths of The Whaley House. While some historical activities are present (like children learning how early settlers panned for gold) it really is a week that glorifies to the children of San Diego just how important culturally folklore can be. As Old Town and The Whaley House are two major tourist attractions within an already tourist heavy city. 

Erlina and Irene: Epic

Background: Informant is a Mexican-American college student. He believes strongly in his superstitions and magical energies. This story takes place in Las Grutas Tolantongo in Mexico. It’s a village right outside of an area with hot springs. This happened when the informants grandmother was 7, so in the 1960s. 

Informant: My grandma, she had her best friend – so say you’re like my best friend, okay? And we make a promise because, you know, best friends, they wanna stay together forever, so, like she said “if I die, you come with me, like I’ll take you with me. And like, if you die, you take me with you so that we could be in heaven together, okay?” So then, her best friend Erlinda said, “if I die, I’m going to take you by your feet! I’m gonna take you by your feet to heaven with me, like your going to die with me.” And my grandma Irene was like, “No, no don’t pull me by feet!” 

So this was happening in this village. It’s called Las Grutas Tolantongo. It’s a little village, it’s like hot tubs, like little hot springs, but outside of it is this village. And they would always play under a tree with their neighbors. So, since Irene and Erlinda were neighbors, they could always see into each other’s houses, and like when the time came that Erlinda wasn’t coming out anymore to come play with her, Irene would always see Erlinda laying out on the bed.
So, witches exist. Like, in Mexico… you might not believe in witches but like, they’re definitely a thing in Mexico. So, I guess the village– they had a lot of envy towards Erlinda’s mom. Cause’ Erlinda had her little business, she had to send her workers out early in the morning. So, it was revealed to Erlina’s mom, her name was Doña tele– it was revealed after they found out that Erlina got sick that someone had tried to put a curse on her! But, it was intended for whoever woke up first and left the house, and since Doña tele always woke up at 3 in the morning to send her workers out, it was intended for her. So, Erlinda had to use the bathroom late at night, and because they had communal bathrooms outside of the house, Erlinda got sick instead of Doña tele, who the curse was intended for. Like, when she crossed the doorway, they put dirt in front of her doorway like in the Conjuring. So, whoever crossed over it, like whatever bad energy would go to them.

So, fast forward a few months later in July which is the end of the school year in Mexico, Erlinda died! Like, she died! But Irene realized when she went to her funeral that she made a promise that if she died she was going to take me! And I promised that she was going to take me! And she was like “Noooo! I’m so scared, like no no no no!” And the scary part is, they didn’t have morticians so the viewing– like her mouth was open, her eyes were cloudy, like have you seen a dead person? 

So, Irene, like after she saw Erlinda dead she kept having nightmares of Erlinda. Like, one time my grandma told me that she saw Erlinda in a dream. Like, you know how sometimes dreams feel real so you wake up in the dream? So, she woke up and saw Erlinda playing in her room through the window and she was like “*gasps* Erlinda, you’re not dead?” And Erlinda is facing away from her ignoring her. And then, Erlinda turns around and the face that she had in the casket was the same face she had when she turned around. And Irene freaked out because Erlinda said “If I catch you, you’re coming with me.” So, Erlinda would chase Irene throughout the whole village and Irene would float like a skywalker. And Irene would always wake up sweating like crazy, afraid she’d go into cardiac arrest every night. The dreams happened from May 12 to August 18th, like she just couldn’t handle it anymore.

I forgot to mention this part, but her brother Chava would always come from Mexico City because that’s where he worked. So when Erlinda died, he came to pay his respects. But when the time came for him to go back to Mexico City, Irene was like “take me with you! Because maybe if I go, I won’t be able to dream of her anymore.” So, she went and she never dreamed of her again. But, like, the scary part was when my grandma was telling me this story we were in the lounge of my dorm and the lights went off. And I know they’re motion sensors but I was moving around! So, I was like, “Erlinda? Is she here?” Like, that’s scary!

Reflection: I absolutely loved hearing this story from my roommate. They were so animated as they told me the story and it was entertaining to hear it from them. I especially liked the way they told the story, as they were really unfiltered and imperfect in how they told it, which was fun to watch. This story was so entertaining, and it was so cool to learn about their culture through an anecdote like this one. The part where they say that magic exists in Mexico was so cool, as they acknowledge that in American culture we don’t believe in magic, but how in Mexican culture it is accepted.