The informant is a USC student who has lived their entire life in a neighborhood near the USC main campus. Their family is of Mexican origin, and this story is about a ghost that has haunted their family throughout the generations. We conducted this interview in the basement of Taper Hall during our shared ANTH 333 discussion section, and so this story is what the informant could think of as a story to tell off the top of their head.
Int.: Okay, I’m recording.
LH: Okay, so basically this story, I don’t know who came up with it, but it like ran amongst like my little cousins and I when I was growing up, I used to live very close to USC campus. And I remember one day, my mom would tell me just randomly like, “Oh, your little friend stopped by your blah blah blah.” And I was like, “What do you mean my little friend?”
LH: I was like, 11 when this happened. I was like, “What do you mean, my little friend?” And the story goes basically that like, in my family, we had an uncle who like died tragically in a fire when they were still in Mexico.
[Interviewer laughs in surprise]
LH: I know this escalates very quickly. He died very tragically as like a kid in a fire and blah blah blah, and everyone in my family thinks that my grandma is cursed. Like, we think that she like dead ass has like something on her, like, witchcraft. And so the story is that once like, my uncle died in the fire, he had been like haunting my grandma like ever since and like following her around.
LH: And so every time we would go to like, my grandma’s house, the vibes were so gross. It was so cold in there. It was–it felt like you were being watched all the time. And my mom would say that, like all the little kids in the family at the time, would have like the same constant imaginary friend whose name was Pablo.
LH: And she was like, yeah, like your little cousin saw your–or like Pablo the other day and I’d be like, “Who the fuck is Pablo?” Like, what are you talking about? Until one day my old–My other uncle he was like, “Yeah, you had this uncle who–” blah blah blah, this and that. And basically like, to this day we tell this story to like the little kids because like, my grandma’s house has always felt so, like, grody and like, weird, like, the vibes.
LH: The vibes have always been off and so to this day, every time we get, like, a new little cousin in our family, or like, someone else in the family would be like, “Yes, you know, my grandma’s haunted but she has like this little boy following her. But yeah, that’s like, pretty much the sum of it.
Int.: That’s crazy.
I love this story for how it reveals the family structure of the informant as one that is strong and large. From a folklore studies perspective, it reveals how folklore often spreads through family structures and reinforces cultural beliefs–such as the belief in ghosts–in the process. The ghost in this story arises from a family legend–that of the boy who died in a tragic fire. It also shows how children influence the folk beliefs in adults, not just the other way around. Because the family children all have similar or the same imaginary friend, it reinforces the belief in this ghost and continues this legend. In a way, it keeps the memory of the boy who died alive. The ghost becomes disembodied from the real boy in terms of actual facts, such as what the boy looked like, how he behaved, and more, but the shared idea of him continues to change as the imaginary friend persists throughout the family.