Tag Archives: house

The Woman In The Corner – Ghost Story

Main Piece

Informant KO recalled a memorate from when she was in middle school after moving with her family to a new home. While renovations were being performed on the home, she and her family found a number of strange things: “a child’s train tracks, a weird oil permit…a picture of this woman in the wall.”

KO and her family started asking and telling each other stories about who this woman in the portrait might be: “What if she was someone’s mistress? What if she was murdered? [My family and I] went to all the dark stuff first.”

One night, while asleep in her bedroom, KO randomly woke up in the middle of the night – unusual for her – and recalls that it was either exactly 3 or 3:30am. She looked towards the corner of her room and saw the woman standing there “in a long white dress, with long black hair.”

She recalls that she was very tired and more nervous than afraid at the time, and “hoped she’d go away if [she] just hid,” so she pulled the covers over her head and tried to go back to sleep. When she woke up in the morning, the woman in the corner was gone.

KO told her parents and a few friends about the experience. When told, her Mom said that she’d been “hearing footsteps down the hallway” but didn’t want to say anything and scare KO’s little sister.

KO and her family have been living in the house ever since, but KO has never seen the woman again. She questions whether the experience was just a dream.


Informant’s Interpretation: KO, as stated, questions whether the whole affair was just a dream and thinks her “brain was primed to see a ghost” because of what had been found in the house and her mom’s observations. She finds it to be a classic example of thinking you may have seen a ghost, and key to her uncertainty about ghosts’ existence.

Personal Interpretation: I see this story and experience as reactive to and inclusive of the environment it takes place in, similar to many ghost stories. The context of moving, renovation (altering the old), and being confronted with unknown pieces of physical history set the stage to wonder and consider who lived in this house beforehand, and speaks to a human curiosity towards trying to understand the unknown. I also feel that this experience seems like it sticks out in KO’s memory so prominently because of the age she was when it took place–at a time when kids are starting to process their own place in the world and sort out what is real from what is, an personal experience with one of these unknowns holds a great impact. The actual appearance in the corner being a woman wearing a long white dress evoked wedding-esque symbolism to me, and I can recall many ghost stories focused on brides / the marriage status of a woman, particularly in relation to death and household spirits.


Informant KO is a current student at USC pursuing a degree in Narrative Studies from Seattle, Washington. Her family (mom, dad, younger sister) still lives in the house noted in the story. KO remains unsure whether she believes in ghosts, but thinks of this as a key part of her belief that they “maybe” exist.

KO is white and of Canadian and Swedish descent, and is female-presenting.

The Ghosts of Eddison and Ford Estates

Text: “One popular myth from my town is that about the Edison and Ford Winter Estates being haunted by the ghosts of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The estates used to be the winter homes of these two famous inventors, and after their deaths, there have been reports of strange occurrences and paranormal activity. According to the legend, the ghost of Thomas Edison is said to wander his estate, tinkering with machines and conducting experiments. Visitors have reported hearing strange noises and seeing unexplained lights, and some claim to have seen Edison’s ghostly apparition.

Similarly, the ghost of Henry Ford is said to haunt his estate’s gardens and greenhouse. Some visitors have reported hearing the sound of footsteps and seeing the ghostly figure of a man walking among the plants. I was always too afraid to visit and the houses were pretty far from my home, but it was still a super scary story I heard about in like middle school.”

Context: This story was told in a lighthearted manner because me and JD are very close, but I could honestly tell that telling the story kind of made him uncomfortable or on edge. While not necessarily a super famous legend among the whole state of Florida, it was apparently very common in the immediate city where JD resides. He was first told the story by his cousin when he was in the 6th grade, which likely explains why he became frightened when talking about it. JD is personally a believer in ghosts and super natural beings but he is unsure about whether or not this particular ghostly legend is true or false, but he also has no intention of finding out or “getting anywhere near those places”. JD and I had a good conversation about how the story circulated among his friend group but because of his superstition he was frightened of the story.

Analysis: I personally found this legend fascinating. I think The ghost stories associated with the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida add a layer of intrigue and mystery to the already fascinating history of these historic sites. According to legend, both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are said to haunt the estates, with many visitors and staff members reporting paranormal activity and unexplained phenomena. While there is no concrete evidence to support these claims, the ghost stories associated with the Edison and Ford Winter Estates add to the sense of mystery and intrigue surrounding these historic sites. Many visitors are drawn to the estates specifically because of these stories, hoping to catch a glimpse of the supernatural. It’s worth noting that many of the ghost stories associated with the estates may be attributed to the power of suggestion. The estates are known to be haunted, and visitors may be more likely to see or hear something unusual if they are already primed to believe in the paranormal. Because many people believe these ghosts to be real, but they are not yet proven to be so, this falls perfectly into the category of a legend. I for one had no idea these famous figures resided in Florida, but I was interesting in seeing them after hearing this legend.

Ghosts Can’t Cross Running Water

Background: The informant has lived in Durham, North Carolina his whole life. His whole extended family has also lived in North Carolina their entire lives.

TR: This is uh, this is kind of like a superstition that I remember, um, and it had to do with porches, remember and this is from a long time ago, but, so the superstition is that um, ghosts, ghosts can’t cross running water. Don’t ask me why ghosts can’t cross running water, I don’t know. Um, it doesn’t, um, you know, unless, unless it has to do with the fact that you know, once you’re across the river Styx, you can’t get back across without the boatman, so if you’re a ghost on that side you can’t get back, I don’t know. Anyway, that’s the superstition, and so, you know, because, maybe not so much now, but a lot of porches were painted blue for that reason. The whole thing was like blue is the color of water so that would protect your house from ghosts. Um, so that’s, you know, and I think it’s persisted a little bit like maybe there’s still like actual entryways like foyers in houses that maybe are painted blue and that could just be an unconscious, unknowing continuation of this practice, but, that’s something that’s like a very old like oooo ghosts can’t cross water, so um, porches would be painted blue for that reason.

Me: Do you remember who and when you first heard this from? Do you know if it’s a regional thing?

TR: Uh, it’s probably regional. Um, I remember it from my dad’s side of the family. This would be my great uncles and aunts, um we would go out to my great uncle’s farm and so we went out there quite a bit and he had this really old house, I mean old house, which, of course, when we told ghost stories about the house, so it was all, ghosts were just a popular thing. So that’s probably where, if I had to say I mean, I don’t have a memory of like oh this is you know, that’s when I first heard this story about ghosts can’t cross water.

Me: Have you ever thought about painting a deck blue? Like do you have any belief in it?

TR: Oh, no. absolutely not.

Context of the performance: This was told to me over a Zoom call.

Thoughts: This superstition about ghosts has been enacted into a practice. It relies on color meaning and symbolization for the connection to work. It works under the assumption that blue represents water and therefore the color is what is creating meaning, as the thing acting as a barrier between the ghosts and houses. The informants theory about the river Styx connects this superstition to myths to form a hypothesis about the meaning of the saying–the superstition–itself. This suggests that even though myths take place before, after, or outside the real world, people draw meaning from them and connect them to real life beliefs.

Bread and Salt for new homeowners

Main Piece:

What is the tradition?

“It’s Jewish tradition when someone has a new house to bring bread and salt. Actually, I don’t think that’s it’s a Jewish tradition, I think it’s just a housewarming tradition because that sounds very Christian, like bread for Jesus, and salt for demons… I don’t know (laughs). Bread is so… for you’ll never go hungry and salt is for you’ll always have flavor, and [jokingly] won’t die from lack of electrolytes. It’s become a thing amongst a lot of ethnic groups within the country.” 

Have you ever brought bread and salt as a housewarming gift?

“Yes! We brought some bread and some salt to, I don’t remember. Over the years, I’ve done it, maybe three times? A handful of times. Bring a thing of Morton’s salt and a loaf of bread, or maybe a sack of flour so it’s actually useful.”


The informant is my mother. She is was raised Conservative Jewish and has an Ashkenazi (Easter European) Jewish background. She has lived in America her entire life. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.


I found it interesting that my informant couldn’t identify which religion this practice came from, and then decided that it didn’t matter. This highlights how engrained this tradition is in American housewarming culture. I thought that my informant’s alteration of bread to flour was very utilitarian. I’ve seen other alterations of this tradition, like a Trader Joe’s body scrub set that features one salt scrub and one sugar, bur bread themed, scrub. This tradition has become such a norm that even large commercial producers are adopting a version of it they can sell as housewarming gifts.

Washing One’s Hands After a Funeral

Main piece: There’s a tradition of washing your hands after a funeral so you don’t bring death into the house. If you’ve been near a dead body, you want to get the death off your hands. You don’t want to bring death into your house. Even after my dad’s funeral, friends of my mother, who had stayed back to help with the catering and the flowers, they put a pitcher outside. I was impressed by all that actually. It’s what you do. Some cemeteries have a water fountain. Outside Jewish funeral homes there’s a place to wash your hands. 

Background: My informant is a 51 year-old Jewish woman. The majority of the funerals she has attended have been in Jewish cemeteries with Jewish burial practices. She doesn’t remember where she learned the practice exactly, but she recalls vividly seeing the pitcher of water outside a Jewish funeral home at her aunt’s funeral when she was fourteen. The logic makes sense to her, and she has partaken in this ritual many times before. 

Context: I was talking to my informant about Jewish traditions, and this was the first one that occurred to her. 

Analysis: This practice makes a lot of sense. A funeral is a liminal space, as it is the final celebration of the life of someone who is now deceased. With that comes a lot of uncertainty, and fear that death can come for anyone else next. By washing your hands before entering a home, you don’t cross the doorway between a graveyard or a cemetery – a place of death, and your house – a place where you live/where life happens. This also promotes the idea that death can linger/cling to a live person, and having a ritualistic cleansing of death from your hands encourages a sense of protection, and that it won’t come for you next.