Tag Archives: ghosts

“GPS and Cemetery are a bad combo.”

Informant is a 50 year-old Taiwanese woman and this is her memorate happened on a camping trip. The interview was conducted through a facetime call.

Informant: It was during summer a couple years ago. I took the kids on a camping trip about an hour away from the city. One of my sister’s kids said that she had something earlier that day and asked us to pick her up at a nearby train station. We arrived at the site in the afternoon and by the time I was supposed to pick her up, it was pitch black outside. There was a cemetery on the side of the road at about halfway between the train station and the camping site. I remembered it because we saw that earlier when we were heading to the site. I remembered setting the GPS map to the train station and I took a quick glance at where the route would be, nothing unusual, just one big straight road that leads to the town where the station is. I started driving and as I was approaching where the cemetery is located, the map start asking me to turn right. There is one small muddy road cutting through the cemetery and the GPS kept asking me to go through there, but it makes no sense at all because the station should be straight ahead down the big road. The closer I got to the intersection, the more I felt weird about the entire situation. The street lights were flickering and glowing in a strange tone and I just felt this uncanny feeling that the something is trying to pull me into the cemetery, down that road. I didn’t dare to look through the passenger window because I was convinced that I might see things that I shouldn’t see. As I drove past and away from the intersection that I was asked to turn by the GPS, the street lights seemed to go back to the normal, dimmed, warm-yellow tone and the strange feeling went away. Anyways, that is why you should always have a basic sense of where you are going and don’t fully rely on GPS. God knows what would have happened if I had just followed the GPS.

The memorate demonstrates the common Taiwanese belief of the existence of ghosts. Cemetery are usually seen as a cursed or bad place where the wandering spirits or hostile ghosts will try to haunt or harm someone, either out of fun or malicious intention. In Taiwan, you often heard that GPS or other technologies involving energy wave passing through air and space often malfunction when the device is near the cemetery. The scientific explanation of this is still unclear. This type of experience therefore was explained way by the common belief of ghost.

“Steve is Acting Up Again” — The Made-Up Ghost


J is a 35 year old woman from The Bay with three young siblings. She is my co-worker and a graduate student at USC. When anything unexplainable happened in her house growing up, her family would blame it on a ghost named Steve. Although she has never seen a ghost or had a divine encounter, she believes they are real.


J: “My mom and I had this thing where we would say there was a ghost named Steve in the house for a long time. And anytime something would happen, we’d be like, there’s Steve. Oh, Steve’s acting up again. If a light flickered or if you heard a sound or if you couldn’t find anything, like that kind of stuff. Unexplainable things that no body wanted to take responsibility, we’d blame it on Steve. We didn’t ever see him, or anything, though.”


Many people use encounters with the divine as ways to explain what they deem the unexplainable. By doing so, they can find an answer for everything. In terms of the way J was using Steve, it was a bit similar. She and her mother blamed “unexplainable” things on Steve as a joke, even when those things could be explained. The reason they did this was comfort humor. By attributing everything to Steve, responsibility was lifted from their shoulders. It was also a way for J to take a break from carrying the blame for everything her siblings did.

The Ghosts of the Congress Plaza Hotel


MO is my mother. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois in the 70s. She was born to two Puerto Rican parents who came to America in their teenage years. Her father is from San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, and her mother is from Moca, Puerto Rico. They go visit Puerto Rico every summer and have done so for decades. 


DO: Chicago’s an old city, do you have any myths or legends that are specific to us?

MO: The old hotel over on Michigan Ave in downtown is apparently haunted. 

DO: The Congress?

MO: Yes. Apparently there’s a bunch of different ghost stories. The famous one is the story about the man with the peg leg. You know I love true crime so my favorite one is about the bellboy that’s a ghost. 

DO: Can you tell me about them?

MO: I think they called the famous ghost Peg Leg Johnny. He became an alcoholic after some accident where he lost his leg but then he did work at the hotel. Like maintenance stuff. People have said they’ve heard knocking on the door and then seen a man with a peg leg. The bellboy one is about a young kid who worked there and everyone loved him. Then one day he just went missing and nobody ever saw him again. Some people say they see him pushing the luggage carrier things and waving at people then he just disappears. Me and your dad actually have stayed in that hotel

DO: Really? What was your experience like? 

MO: Well we stayed there before we knew it was haunted. Your dad swears he did hear anything, but I heard people knocking on our door. I didn’t see anything thank God. After we stayed there we heard all the stories. 


All cities have folklore narratives that are unique to their major landmarks. The Congress Hotel in Chicago is no different. This massive hotel is hard to miss, seeing as it is on our most popular street downtown and is distinctive. The hotel has an old look to it which further encourages ghost stories to be told about it. After talking to more of my family each of them had their own ghost story that has been passed down by other Chicagoans. If you live in Chicago this hotel is pretty well known. These ghost stories bring Chicagoans together to talk about a landmark that they share as common knowledge.

A Memorate about Djinns

ZN.) My mom really believes in jinns, and she believes that she can see them sometimes. So do I, but this is my mom’s story, and she genuinely believes it, like it’s not just a scary story she tells for fun. Basically, my dad’s parents live in London, and they have a basement. My mom has always said she got bad vibes from the basement like there was a jinn in there, and one day she said she went down and saw a man standing across the room from her, with a blank face. She said he moved, and she ran back upstairs, and has refused to go back down into that basement since then.

ZN.) jk she saw the guy twice and refuses to go back lmao

Djinns, also known as Genies or Jinns, are ghost-like figures common in Muslim cultures. Whereas those in most of Europe or North America would use the term ghost instead, they both have similar meanings. Djinns are neither considered good or evil, and can have their own goals while existing in this world. What’s interesting here is that ZN’s mother’s experience with what are considered legendary figures have changed her behaviors to the point where the refuses to go back into her parent’s basement. By entering her experience with the Djinn, ZN’s mother has added to the collective legend present in Muslim culture.

Cahuenga Pass is Haunted

T is 70 years old. He is a retired teacher. He was born in Southern California and raised in Hawaii. He was 7 years old when his family moved there in 1959. He is very animated and speaks very quickly. He told me about the bad vibes he gets at Cahuenga Pass in conversation.

“There was a battle uh… like in the 1800s… something like that, I always have weird vibes in the Cahuenga pass. I think it was the battle of Cahuenga Pass, it changed the leadership of where the valley was going at the time… the end of where like Universal Studios is, that’s the haunted part. A Mexican governor, no one liked him, and a wealthy landowner, no one liked him either… they were fighting over it. Only two people were killed, not the governor or the landowner go figure, but the two that died, they’re the ones that haunt the place. I always got bad energy from the pass. I feel I attract ghosts too easily.”

There were two battles for Cahuenga pass in the 1800s, T’s story refers to the original Battle of Cahuenga Pass, the second was known as the Battle of Providencia (or the Second Battle of Cahuenga Pass) There are stories about the pass being cursed. Apparently, parcels of stolen treasure are buried somewhere along the pass but everyone who’s ever come close to finding it has suddenly and mysteriously died! So maybe it is cursed and haunted. For more information see https://bizarrela.com/2016/11/cahuenga-pass/.