Tag Archives: memorate

Cousin’s Ghost Story in Cemetery

  1. Details
    1. Collected on 03/23/2024 
    2. Genre: Memorate 
    3. Language: English 
    4. Nationality: Mexican-American
    5. Relationship to Informant: Friend’s Younger Sister 
  2. Text
    1. Summary
      1. The informant’s cousin told her this ghost story about when he and a group of his friends decided to use a Ouija board in a cemetery in Mexico. One boy asked the Ouija board when he was going to die, and the Ouija board responded “soon.” A little while after, he begins to cry uncontrollably, and he starts walking away from the group. The informant’s cousin runs after him, but when he grab’s his friend he sees that he has no face. The friend snaps out of it, but has no memory of crying or walking away. They return to the group, and the other boys ask who they were talking to because they saw a third figure standing with the group. The cousin and his friend have no idea what they are talking about because they thought it was just the two of them. They decide to leave, but the boy who asked when he would die began having awful nightmares. About one month later, that boy commits suicide. 
    2. Direct transcription of folklore:
      1. “So, this was told to us by our cousin on our mother’s side. Essentially, somewhere in Mexico they would go there with a couple friends every now and then to just hang out at the cemetery to spook each other out. One time, they invited girls because they wanted to scare the girls. So, they are there and it’s pretty late at night. They decide to pull out a Ouija board because they want to scare these girls. They had essentially already been hearing some spooky sounds in this cemetery, so the girls were already kind of spooked. They start doing the Ouija board, and it starts moving, and they are like ‘oh my gosh it’s actually moving.’ So, the girls are spooked, and they are like ‘we are actually going to leave…like this isn’t fun for us.’ So they leave, and the guys stay, and they are like ‘haha this is so funny bla bla bla bla bla.’ At some point, one of the friends – we will call him Rob – asks the Ouija board when he is going to die. The only thing the Ouija board says is ‘soon.’ So, everyone is like ‘ah, this is so scary … yada yada yada.’ But whatever, they keep playing because obviously they think it is more of a joke. At some point, the friend who asked that question starts uncontrollably crying. Everyone is like ‘what the h***?’ And Rob gets up, and he starts walking away. So, everyone’s like ‘oh maybe he is going to do something, who knows.’ So, two of the friends get up and they start walking over. The guy is walking pretty quickly, so they have to catch up. So, our cousin is the one that catches up to him and the other friend that was with him kind of like gives up. And he goes to talk to him and be like ‘hey man what’s up?’ and he turns him around and he has no face. And so then he freaks out and gets really spooked. Then Rob turns back around and then like turns again and then his face is back to normal. Rob is just like ‘oh my God, what’s going on’ and our cousin is freaking out that it was just in his head. So he’s like, ‘you just started crying’ and Rob remembers nothing of this. He doesn’t even remember how he got over there. So, they start walking back together kind of freaked out about the whole situation. When they catch up to the friend that started following but then kind of gave up and he was like ‘who was that guy that you guys were talking to?’ and they’re like ‘what guy?’ he’s like ‘there was a guy over there with you guys who was talking to you guys.’ They had no idea what happened, and decided to go home. As it turns out, Rob commits suicide a month later. Apparently, he was also plagued by nightmares that started right after that night in the graveyard.”
    3. Context 
      1. The informant is a young woman in her early 20s who attends UCSB. This story was told to the informant by an older cousin on her mother’s side. It has become a family story, but it is told with a serious tone because it deals with serious topics. 
    4. Analysis 
      1. This story deals with scary subjects such as death and suicide, so it serves as a warning for young people to not mess with the spiritual world. The boy who asked the spirits when he would die ended up taking his own life, which tells the audience not to see death and ghosts as a joking matter because it can have real consequences. The ‘third figure’ that the friends saw is assumed to be the devil, or at least a spirit figure with very harmful intentions. “Spirits may appear in order to reinforce social norms, proper behavior, and traditional customs.” (Valk, 33) In this case, the spirits appear to reinforce proper behavior. Overall, this memorate is used to instruct others not to instigate contact with the devil or the spiritual world. It also tells listeners to take things seriously, because what started out as a joke ended up as a terrible experience with permanent harm.

Ghost in Old House

Text: Basically I was falling asleep in my bed. And to get to my room you have to go through my brother’s room. Anyways I was trying to fall asleep, and I was facing the wall when I heard my door open. I assumed it was my mom, but I didn’t hear the door to my brother’s room open. Then I heard pacing back and forth and heard someone going through my things for so long. I was so scared. I forget how long it was until I worked up the courage to move and look to see what it was, but there was nothing there, and my door was closed.


Informant is a freshman at USC studying Journalism, originally from the Bay. We are waiting for class to start as she dramatically tells her experience. She is genuine and convincing in her manner of storytelling.

I live in a really old house (like 115 years old I think) in the Bay, and so I’ve always been aware of superstitious stuff there. This was one instance that freaked me out probably 4 or 5 years ago. I would define this experience as supernatural or a ghost story because I feel like there was no other way to explain it. It couldn’t have been sleep paralysis or anything because I could move.

Analysis: This ghost story folk narrative is an example of a legend. Ghosts are a type of legendary creature, and therefore, this story is an example of a memorate, or a personal experience that has been translated into a traditional legend. The informant’s experience has been translated into a ghost story because of the prevalence of ghost stories in this particular context, making it plausible within this society. Furthermore, the idea that ghosts are more common in “old” houses goes back to an idea highly promoted by Ulo Valk in “Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore,” where he proposed that spirits maintain the value placed on ownership, a “powerful relationship between the self and material objects that is often projected beyond the grave” (Valk 49).

UFO Over Bridge Sighting


“Alright, uh, so this was my middle school teacher in 7th grade, whatever, who was an English teacher. Um, and he was like an old man who would just tell random stories about his life. This one time, him and his girlfriend at the time were like, hanging out, I guess, just in- they were on like a bridge in a city on a date, you know, like a romantic date, looking at the stars on the bridge. 

They’re hanging out on this bridge, they’re sitting, they’re chatting, um, and they see in the sky this moving, like, thing. It looked sort of like- well, it looked like a spaceship, is what they said. It had- it was like, some kind of thing in the sky and had like, lights underneath it, and it was moving in sort of like a figure eight pattern in the sky, just like right above the bridge, uh, above the city. And they both saw it for a while, and they were watching it, and eventually it left. Um, and he- I remember my teacher followed the story up with like ‘kids these days- you guys wouldn’t have seen it because you would be on your cell phones!’” 


C is a University of Southern California student who went to middle school in Mercer Island, Washington in the United States. While unsure exactly when his teacher experienced these events, C guessed it happened about twenty to thirty years ago. He also guesses that his teacher has told this story to other classes of students. When asked about his and his classmates’ reactions, C said their reaction was skeptical but interested and polite.

He then followed up with an explanation of his teacher’s own stance on aliens: “Um, I don’t think he thinks it was aliens, necessarily? I think he believes- or, he told us he thinks it was a stealth plane, because they had like government stealth planes, and apparently he looked up what government stealth planes are like nowadays…and it apparently looked pretty similar to a stealth plane, so he thinks maybe it was that. Because it was kind of like black and V-shaped, I guess.” To explain the final part of his retelling, C also added that his teacher was very anti-cellphones.


Folklorists have discussed how alien beliefs are often indicative of the US’s societal predispositions towards the future, upwards direction, and technology, and this memorate has several elements that seem to support this notion. C’s teacher’s explanations for the ‘true’ identity of the UFO as a stealth plane seems to indicate an air of mystery, intrigue, and perhaps even fear surrounding unknown government practices and technology. In addition, the way that C’s teacher ended the story with a jab at the cellphone usage of today’s children showcases the fluidity of narratives and how the meaning behind a narrative comes from one’s mind. While C and his classmates see the memorate as an entertaining (if unlikely) legend, C’s teacher, with his anti-cellphone moral message and skepticism towards the truth of the event, seems to have refashioned his experience to somewhat resemble a tale.

UFO Over Highway


C: “Okay, so, this happened, like, ten something years before I was born. Or maybe like five something years? My mom and dad were driving down the highway. I don’t know which highway– it was a specific highway though, they told me the name of the highway. And they were driving down the highway, and suddenly my mom sees these lights in the sky, so they pull over and there’s these like, mysterious lights. And it’s not just like a one-off flash. It’s these, like, moving patterns of glowing lights in the night sky. And my mom and dad are both looking at it, and other people have also pulled over, like, on the side of the highway to observe these lights.

Me: Oh my god! So it’s not just them.

C: Yeah, it’s not just them! And then the next day they read about it in the newspaper. Uh, so they definitely saw these moving lights, and they think it was like- they don’t know what it was because it was like- it couldn’t have been mistaken for a plane or something. It was like these moving patterns of lights in the sky.”


 C is a University of Southern California student from Mercer Island, Washington in the United States; his parents had this experience sometime in the 1990s (and pre-cellphones) while on their way to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He stated that his parents told him this story when he was around fourteen or fifteen, but clarified that it was due to his parents having many stories to tell, rather than because of any concern about his age or readiness to hear the story. When asked about his and his parents’ belief in aliens, he stated: “My mom thinks it was, like, she doesn’t know what it was, but my dad is more of a skeptic. He thinks it was definitely just like a plane or a weather balloon or something. My mom does not know what it was.” 

C mentioned that he will tell this story to people if the topic of UFOs comes up in conversation, but not “out of nowhere.” When asked about his own beliefs in aliens, C stated the following: “I mean, sometimes I think people will have UFO stories and you sort of have to be polite about it. Um, I don’t- I don’t think aliens are real, but I did think it was like, pretty interesting. But I believe that they saw whatever they thought they saw.” He also stated that he looked for the newspaper article on the event that his parents claimed existed but was unable to find it. 


This memorate showcases the variety of attitudes and beliefs in the United States about aliens and the desire US society has to both prove and disprove legends. The number of other people present, the persistence of the lights, and the newspaper article allegedly written about the UFO sighting are likely mentioned to add credibility to the tale by indicating a larger network of rational peer witnesses. However, C also mentions his and his father’s explicit skepticism and his mother’s uncertainty about what actually happened, keeping the event’s supernatural element up for debate and allowing the respectful persistence of multiple perspectives within the same family. C’s mention of telling others this legend when discussing UFOs also indicates the memorate’s personal value to him as a means of connecting with others over strange yet possibly shared experiences.

Greek American Ghost Memorate

Text: The informant lived in a small apartment in the Bronx. Due to the neighborhood’s known risks, his mother would meticulously lock the door, a practice the informant deemed necessary yet somewhat excessive. Over 33 years, the informant remembers the door never being left unlocked or open without explicit reason. He recalls even if he was moving back from college, his mother would lock the door in between each trip. However, the day his father passed away the informant discovered the door wide open twice, despite no signs of a break-in or any items being disturbed or stolen. The informant also explains there is an old Greek tradition that he heard about from friends that when someone dies, a male family member has to stand outside of the house for a while to prevent the soul from returning to the house.

Context: The Informant experienced this in 2001. He believes that his dad did come back into the house. He viewed it as a good thing though, somewhat contradictory to the original belief that you had to stop it from happening. Instead he took comfort in it. The informant is Christian and believes the spirit stayed around for a bit just to impart good byes to his family. 

Analysis: I think this piece reflects the strong religious belief in the afterlife among the greek population, Christianity is one of the defining parts of their culture, though this story isn’t really christian though it still reflects the belief in an afterlife. I attribute the story, in part, to the Mysticism inherent in the religious beliefs of Greek Orthodoxy. I think you can also gleam the traditional gender roles from this story as well, with the aurdmian of the house required to be male, Greece being a very traditional society, this doesn’t surprise me