Tag Archives: Haunted House

Memorate: A Coworker’s Ghostly Encounter


Informant N is the collector’s supervisor in the technology department of USC SCA. He is 27 years old and grew up in Denver, Colorado until age 7, when he moved to Sandpoint, Idaho. His father’s family is from the “deep south,” and his mother was “an army brat” who lived mostly near the east coast. N’s family has been in the US “since the mayflower,” and his ancestry is mostly German, Northern English, and Welsh. He now lives in Los Angeles, CA and is a singer/songwriter, as well as an employee of the film school’s technology services.


Informant: “Okay so when I was a kid, my mom – in the first floor, this was like a three story house, the house was like a hundred years old if not more. Um, classic brick style home, it was in Denver. And there was a doctor who lived in the house with his um… I think she was a distraught person, probably back then. Like she probably had some mental illness that was untreated and you know, back then they kind of skewed those people into obscure…”

Collector: “What year was this?”

Informant: “Oh this was like 30s (…). So she was a well-known pianist at the time and she eventually committed suicide in the house and the house was also a historical site. So the house is old, there have been people who lived there who had some musical connection and there was the suicide and you know… There was a couple times growing up where I would hear the piano play and my sister would hear the piano play while we were upstairs and my mom wasn’t home playing the piano nor was my dad or whatever, or we had a babysitter at the time. So there was just a couple weird moments in that house where the piano would be playing and we’d go downstairs and it would stop playing so whether that’s true or not I don’t know but I remember it and my sister clearly remembers it and to this day it’s very bizarre to me and it makes me feel a little… (*informant trails off*)”

Collector: “How did you find out about the woman who died?”

Informant: “My parents – my mom found out about it after they bought the house. The history of the house.”

Collector: “From who?”

Informant: “I think from a neighbor’s family or something. (…) It was like a local thing so it was kind of weird. (…) The piano that was in the house was over a hundred years old at the time.”

The informant also mentioned that his sister, who was 8 or 9 at the time of the piano incidents, is “still perturbed” by them to this day. He also mentioned that he experienced what he called “typical ghost stuff” – that he would hear dogs barking at nothing, and that one of the room’s in the house (his sister’s room) was specifically colder than others. His family checked and made sure that “the piano wasn’t a player” piano (a self-playing piano), and noted that the music he heard was notably classical, and that the woman who had died was a classical pianist.


N’s ghost story seems pretty typical upon first glance, but I find it interesting because of both his personal context and folkloric trends in memorates. For one thing, the informant seems to truly believe that all of this happened and that something supernatural was going on because his sister also experienced it. He mentioned her multiple times throughout the story and when he was providing more context, and we’ve talked a number of times about how people tend to believe what their peers, family, friends, etc do. What’s more, his family heard about the woman who supposedly died in the house from a neighbor, making this particular figure almost a local legend. While I wouldn’t label her a full-on urban legend for lack of popularity or name, the story about her being mentally unstable and her death in the house is legend-like. She has the traits of one as a woman believed to be mentally unwell and responsible for a haunted area. The apparent ghost is not necessarily true, but there is a negotiation of sorts about whether to believe it for the informant, his family, and his neighbors. This woman’s story lines up with a lot of what we know about ghosts – having unfinished business of some sort (to play music for others), hauntings that happen when things don’t go as they should (her suicide), and the idea that ghosts’ have property even after death (the piano). This story is definitely a memorate for the informant, who seems unsure whether he believes in ghosts entirely, but is fairly convinced that something happened in this house, and still finds it inexplicable and bizarre 20 years later.

Haunted Coin House in Chicago

  • Details 
    • Collected on 03/23/2024 
    • Genre: Memorate 
    • Language: English 
    • Nationality: American 
    • Relationship to Informant: Friend
  1. Text 
    1. Summary: 
      1. There was a house that always had people moving in and out. Typically, these people moved out because some misfortune fell on them during the time they lived there. One family that lived there with a young child kept noticing that coins would randomly appear on the floor. Then, they learned that the house was haunted by an old woman who lived there for a long time and was known to always carry change.
    2. Direct transcription of folklore:
      1. “So there’s a house that’s two doors down from me and for my entire childhood this house has been a revolving door of people just going in and out…it was like so-and-so’s wife cheated on them, then a family furniture store burned down and they couldn’t afford to live there, the next family got divorced and the kids don’t talk to them anymore. Everyone who lived in this house, some wild s*** happened to them. I always thought ‘hmm, that’s weird,’ but I didn’t think anything of it. So then, I had these neighbors that moved across the street [from me], but before they lived across the street, like 10 years before, they lived in that house two doors down from me. They were like ‘yeah, that s*** is f****** haunted.’ And I said, ‘why do you say that?’ So I guess there was an old woman that lived there for a long time and then she died. I guess she was known for always having change on her – quarters, pennies, dimes, whatever you needed – she always had a ton of change. And [my neighbors] had a young daughter who was a toddler at the time, and they would always find change just on the floor – on the ground. My neighbor would ask her husband, ‘why is there change? Are you dropping stuff out of your wallet?’ and he was like ‘no, what are you talking about? I don’t know where it is coming from.’ So one day, their daughter picked a quarter from the ground and almost choked on it. They got it out of her, but she almost choked to death. Out of frustration, the mom says to the ghost ‘leave me alone!’ They never heard from the ghost again. So they move across the street ten years later, and they start talking to the neighbors that currently live in that house. And they are like ‘this weird thing keeps happening … we keep finding change all over the floor and we have no idea where it is coming from,’ and they told them it was the ghost.” 
  2. Context 
    1. Informant is a USC student in her early 20s who was born and raised in Chicago, IL. This ghost story was told to her by her neighbors who lived in the haunted house, and it has become an oral tradition within the neighborhood. 
  3. Analysis 
    1. This story reflects the idea of property ownership after death and the idea that spirits can have a strong connection to the physical world. Since the old woman’s identity was partially defined by her possession of the house and coins, this is how her ghost manifests itself. “As the human spirit is strongly connected with notions of self and personal identity, we should not be surprised that spirits can control their belongings even if their primary possession—the body—is long dead and buried.” (Valk, 36) This ghost story also suggests cultural values of material ownership and wealth.

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.

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. 

Turkish Haunted House

Background Information: 

The informant is an older person who grew up in Central Turkey in the 40s and 50s. They have now been living in the US for the last 30 years. They are describing things from their childhood. The informant remembers part of this story and was told the rest by her siblings and parents. 

Main Content: 

ME: Could you tell me about the haunted house that you lived in?

NA: Yeah, so when I was a little kid we used to live in this house. And after the lights went off at night, they would hear something on the walls, it also sounded like there was something in the house, and my father used to get up and get the, those days, there was no electricity I guess, and would get the lamps and go around the house. He couldn’t find anything, the windows were closed, the doors were closed, nobody was there. They used to tell this to the Imam, and the Imam, they know everything (laugh), they say “Oh, these are Jinn (Evil Spirits from the Quran)”. And then you know Uncle Jengis? Uncle Jengis’s mother she used to tell us that she was seeing the Jinn and spanking them, but it didn’t work. How could this happen? I’m thinkinking now that she must have had a nightmare. 

ME: Yeah, who knows? Did you guys do anything else to try and get rid of the Jinn. 

NA: Well, I mean, I was very young, and I hardly remember, but they were very scared. They couldn’t get rid of them, so we moved. They couldn’t take it anymore and moved. And then I think after that, my father used to rent out the house. 


This conversation happened over a Facetime call.


It sounds to me that these stories are very legitimate, especially if the informant’s family decided to move out because of the Jinn. Especially in a small town, this would be incredibly unsettling and scary, and I understand why they would want to leave, especially after the Imam couldn’t get rid of the Jinn. I also think that its interesting that the Imam described the ghosts in the house as Jinn, which are included in the Quran, but they originated as Pre-Islamic Arabic folklore. The actions of this Jinn fit the bill of what is described in the Quran. In the Quran, Jinn are often described as possessive beings that will take over houses and start occupying them, causing terror on it’s inhabitants during the nightime. It also makes sense that the Imam didn’t really try to do anything to get rid of the Jinn, because there are no described ways to get rid of them in the Quran.