The informant is a current student at USC and one of my good friends. They grew up in a smaller town in Southern California called Temecula. They never experienced this legend but they were told it via their neighbors.
ME: So can you tell me about the ghost of Temecula?
BF: So basically when I was growing up, the myth was that there was this ghost of Temecula, and like back in the old day, in the old town, which we have, which dates back to the early 1800s. Basically there was this cowboy who had a really bad interaction with the Native Americans, the Pechanga Indians, who were living there. So basically the story is, that he (the cowboy) upset them and got his head chopped off. Then the spirit of this cowboy came back to life and became a part of the tribe. And so if you ever did anything that upset the Native Americans, or disrespected them, or you didn’t treat the native land the right way, there would be this ghost, this cowboy, who is beheaded, on a horse. And even though he didn’t have his head he had a hat that was floating above his head. And basically the spirit would come and haunt you and torment you for like a week, if you ever disrespected the natives or anything like that. So that was something our parents always harped on. They would tell us, “be respectful” or “do good things, otherwise this ghost is gonna come haunt you”.
ME: Did you ever see the ghost?
BF: I’ve never seen the ghost, but my neighbors will swear on their life, that when they were kids and they would like kick up dirt or do something stupid, and then in the night they would see this ghost come in through the doorway of their bedroom, he would like shapeshift through the wall, and he would just torment them for a week.
ME: That sounds pretty scary
BF: I’ve never experienced it, nor do I want to experience it, but that’s the myth from good-ole Temecula, and my neighbors are insistent, to-the-day, that they saw the ghost.
This interview happened in-person at my apartment.
This is an interesting interaction because the informant did not experience the ghost themselves, but due to the persistence of their neighbors, they believe it too. I think that this legend is largely focused on scaring little kids into not getting into any mischief, however I think it is interesting that the Native Americans are involved in this legend. The Native Americans within the legend seem to represent nature itself, which I feel like is a theme that occurs in other stories. Immediately when I heard this story, I thought of the legend of the Headless Horseman from the novel, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The Ghost of Temecula has a near-identical description to the Headless Horseman. The Ghost of Temecula seems to have different motivations from the Headless Horseman, and do not share much similarity past their description, but it is still very interesting. To read more about the Headless Horseman, follow here: Irving, Washington. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Wildside Press, 2004.