Tag Archives: house spirit


Um, in Russia, we believe that there is a little gnome-like creature living in your house, and you have to, if you’re like, if you are, if you got robbed or something like that, or, if something bad happened to your house or you don’t have enough money or something like that, or you keep losing stuff that’s the main thing, then, uh, you have to like bribe the little gnome guy and everything’s gonna be ok, he’s gonna protect your house. And, I believed in him until I was like 13. Because, when I was like 11 or 12, I was in a camp, in a summer camp, and there was like uh, like I’m pretty sure it was a fire extinguishing door, like you know, like, just was like a little door on the wall, right? I’m pretty sure the fire extinguisher was stored there or something, but it could never open. And I believed that the little gnome, I thought that the little gnome guy lived there, and one day, I leaved – I left. I left, um, little snacks below the door, and the snacks disappeared and I was like, oh my god, it was the gnome guy.

People are looking for explanations for things they can’t explain, like. My mom still, or like even I, even I still do it I can’t get rid of it. When something disappears, like when I can’t find something I say, “Devil devil, you played with it, can you please give it back now.” And, in Russian, and like, just because, the moment when you say it you’re already desperate enough and you’ve looked for so long, that there’s a big chance you’ll actually find it, after saying the phrase. So because of that, it’s like, it almost has a 100% success rate so you continue doing it. And like, when I’m on a call with my mom and I say I lost something she’s like, oh have you have you tried saying the phrase yet?

Background: My informant is a recent immigrant from Russia. They recall having always had this knowledge and having continued the tradition of appealing to the Domovoy (a name which they later provided to me) until the present.



Context: This piece was collected in an in-person conversation in my apartment.

My thoughts: This legend reminds me of several other “house spirits” that I am familiar with. I was surprised at the benevolence which my informant described this creature as having. The invocation of this creature whenever an object is lost seems to be an extension of what my informant called “explanations for things they can’t explain,” a cry for supernatural aid when all natural means of finding a thing have been exhausted. I was interested to hear about my informant’s own encounter with the gnome – their brief story is a wonderful example of a memorate, of their witnessing their snacks disappearing and fitting that occurrence into their existing belief in this creature.

Ghosts and staircases

Background: I asked about the informant’s background with Pacific Islanders and how they heard about it to which they responded, “I work with a lot of Filipino coworkers, I have friends who are various nationalities, I know some Indoneseians, I know some Fijians, Samoans, Hawaiians. And they all have similar, like, the one consistent thing is that the stairs cannot be in line with a door leading to the outside.”

KD: The Pacific Islanders have a superstition, that in a multi story home, the stairwell cannot be in-line with any door leading to the outside because that can allow ghosts to enter and go up to another floor so I know a lot of Pacific Islanders when they look at houses, one of the things that they check for is, okay, does my front door line up with the stairwell, does my back door line up with the stairwell? And if it does line up with the stairwell, is it a continuous set of stairs that goes all the way to the top, or is there a landing and a switchback, to which, ghosts cannot make that turn or the switchback to get up the stairs. It, it has to be one continuous route, so, in my mind that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, like okay well if a ghost can enter the house and they can go up the stairs, once they’re up the stairs, they’re free to move about, they can turn left, righ, turn around, they can go into any room, but, why can they not make that turn on a switchback and ascend another flight of stairs. So, the logic and the rationale of like, okay you don’t want your stairs to be in line where the ghost can move straight, can take a straight path up, it’s like okay that, some aspects of it don’t make sense to me, but I can understand the other parts of it’s like okay once it’s up the stars, it’s free to move about because it’s reached its path, it can do its haunting, it can do its uh–sometimes ghosts are good, sometimes ghosts are ebad, I know that as you move between the various island nations, in some cultures ghosts aree past residents, so if you destroy and build a new home and you’re the original owner, it’s safe for the stairs to be in line with the door, but if you move into, that house is now haunted or it’s, I don’t understand like when it’s haunting versus when it’s like okay these are my grandma and my grandpa and they’re visiting us and they’re blessing our children. I don’t understand the background of the ghost, but the superstition of, okay, ghosts can go front he outside straight into a house and up stairs that are in line, that kinda makes sense to me, like I understand it’s like yeah they do that, but why are they allowed to roam freely in the upstairs portion but not in the downstairs portion. Its, there are inconsistencies but that comes from a place of not being a part of that culture.

Context of the performance: This was told to me during an in person conversation.

Thoughts: This is coming from an etic perspective, so unfortunately I don’t have insight into the emic at all. This was shared with the informant from people he is very close to, but he is reiterating and sharing his beliefs based on looking into another culture’s beliefs. It seems to be preserved by the culture though as a way of maintaining identity.

For another example of ghosts and haunting as related to houses, see Valk, Ülo. “Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore.” Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 43, no. 1, 2006, pp. 31–51. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3814859. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

The Domovoi


My informant is a twenty-one year old USC student; she’s studying human biology and is currently applying to medical school. She was born in Macedonia, and immigrated to the Long Beach, CA with her mother and stepfather at the age of five. Her father still lives and works as a doctor in Macedonia, and my informant visits each summer. She speaks the language fluently.


“My grandparents always had a bunch of stories, that were like, supposed to make me do their bidding (laughs) but my grandmother had this story about a little house elf called a Domovoi. It’s spelled — (she struggles to spell it, and I tell her I’ll look it up later) Okay, but yeah, these little house elves would like, live in your house and protects it and neatens up at night. But if you were bad — like, made a mess, broke stuff, tracked dirt in — he’d get angry and start making scary noises all over the house. I remember once I broke a vase or something and that night while I was trying to sleep there was this thumping on my door and I remember being so fucking scared because I’d pissed off this elf and I thought he was going to like, murder me or something. I was a lot more careful around the house after that.”


This seems to be a classic example of adults using folklore to control and discipline children. This household beast shares a lot in common with characters from other cultural traditions, like brownies, hobgoblins, and even the Roman concept of a household god. The adults use the creature as an incentive for children to respect their home and keep things neat — in other words, to prevent them from adding to their parent’s workload.

House Spirit

“We’ve just moved into a new house in July. It was an old house. We live here temporarily as our house was going under renovation and it would take a while to finish it.

It was the second month until something weird started happening. I have my own bedroom on the second floor and one night I just heard my two dogs barking non-stop for the whole night. I looked out the window and yelled at them several times but they never stopped until the sun came up. I thought it was just some stray cats running around our field. Then one night, I experienced some odd feelings while I was asleep. I am very easy person to fall asleep but that night, I just couldn’t. I went to toilet many times and tried to fall asleep. Every time I was about to fall into unconsciousness I felt like my whole body went numb. It was harder to breathe and I couldn’t move at all. Every time that happened I tried to fight it off and when I was able to move again I felt like the whole thing was just a dream. This dream though, kept repeating itself for the next hour or more. By 5am my whole body was covered in sweat and I had this piercing headache. I ended up sleeping with my mother and got through the night.

This happened a few times before I realized it wasn’t just a bad dream. I finally told my mother about it. She never experienced it before, but she believed me. We consulted many friends and people around us and one suggested that it could have been house’s spirit that was bothering me. I didn’t understand why it had to be me, not anyone else in the family. Then as we did researches into this, we found that the bed was in the wrong direction- it was headed south and that was the direction where dead people laid. Furthermore, it was commonly believed that house’s spirits need a place to stay so that they can take care of the household.”

In Thailand we call it “San Pra-Poom”- it is in a form of small wooden house with a little decorations and is usually located outside the house. The spirit that lives here offers protection to the house. Many houses including mine have it but the informant’s did not, so she concluded that either the spirit might want to tell her that they need somewhere to live or that she was actually disturbed by outsider’s spirit. It made sense that her house’s spirit couldn’t protect her because there was no place for them.