Tag Archives: memorate

Mardi Gras Cups

Main Piece:

SG has been to Mardi Gras almost every year since she was a little kid. Decorated plastic cups are a typical throw in every Mardi Gras Parade. Parades, known as Krewes to the locals, each have a unique name and theme to them. Riders in each parade have “throws”, which are items riders throw off of floats. These commonly include beads and doubloons, but what is solemnly talked about is cups. Cups are a collectible item during Mardi Gras as they have more value than most other throws. Not only can you keep it as a memorate of a parade, but you can use it for years to come. Families collect these and use them as normal drinking vessels in their homes and lives. Go in any cabinet and next to the glass cups you will find various Mardi Gras cups themed to each parade.

A Swig of History: The Mardi Gras Cup | Where Y'at
https://www.whereyat.com/a-swig-of-history-the-mardi-gras-cup

Context:

SG is my mother and has been to Mardi Gras with kids since I was born. She is from New Orleans and attends every year. This was taken during a conversation with her in our backyard while reminiscing Mardi Gras. She still collects cups and send me them each year.

Thoughts:

As a New Orleanian and a avid fan of Mardi Gras, as I have been many times before, I did not realize that this was not much of a practice outside of New Orleans, collecting cups to use throughout the years. For instance, after my first year at USC, I missed Mardi Gras for the first time in my life. As a response I got my parents to ship me a King Cake and some decorated cups. In the house I was living in, I used them frequently, and people always commented on the designs on the cups calling them unique. I was so used to using the cups that I never took a moment to think about the designs. Each design reflects the idea of that parade. Krewe D’etat, a parade devoted to a satirical take on the previous year, would have cups that mock events from the last year. Krewe of Muses, an all female parade, would have cups with feminine symbols such as the iconic red lips symbol of the krewe. Each design is unique and can only be gotten if one attended that parade in that year.

The Hook Man

Context

The informant both introduces and retells her father’s encounter with the mysterious “Hook Man.”

Main Piece

When I was a kid, I lived in a house in the woods, and often, the power would go out. So when the power was out we would sit around the kitchen table with candles and my dad would tell us scary stories. This story is a story my dad told me when I was a kid, and it’s called “The Hook Man.” So my dad told it in the first-person perspective as if it happened to him, ‘cause he believes it did. It’s a ghost story — he believes it happened to him while he was at the University of Virginia. I don’t believe that, ‘cause I don’t believe in ghosts, but this is how it goes:

So my dad and his friends were by the old train tracks one night because they heard this urban legend about the Hook Man. The Hook Man worked on the transcontinental railroad in the early 20th century. He was the man who would put the railway down — the train tracks. And that work was very dangerous, so one day, the Hook Man got his hook, because his arm got cut off while he was working, and he died soon after, because he had no food, no way to sustain himself. So his ghost would haunt the train tracks.

So, my dad and his friends decided they would go to the train tracks in search of the Hook Man. And he would carry a lantern — the Hook Man — and this is how you would know, because the lantern would swing on his hook. So, they came to the train tracks. They were in their car waiting and they’re waiting to see him. And all the sudden, about five hundred feet away, they see the hook, the light swinging *swwsshh* — my dad did sound effects — and so, they got in their car and they’re like, “that’s the Hook Man” and they step on the gas *rrrr* (doing car revving sound effect) down the train tracks and they stop, because they notice that the lantern is now about a hundred feet away from where it was before. So they chased the lantern all night, and in the morning, it was gone. And that’s “The Hook Man.”

Notes

When the informant introduced her story as “The Hook Man,” I assumed she was referring to the popular urban legend of an escaped hooked convict terrorizing teenage couples, but was pleasantly surprised with a completely original ghost story. As with many supposedly-true ghost stories, this one has likely evolved and been exaggerated over time by the informant’s father, though this is a second-hand telling. As such, “The Hook Man” could be classified as a memorate: it originated with an experience the informant’s father ostensibly had, but was almost certainly altered to conform to common storytelling conventions when retold to the informant.

The Impossible Aircraft

Item (direct transcription):

My encounter with aliens was when I was flying back from Bangladesh about two summers ago. In the skies above Canada… um, this might have just been some weird aircraft or some weird, uh, phenomenon with the wind. Anyways, we were flying towards California, right, at a very high rate of speed, and I saw this—looking out my window—very far away I saw this tiny streak of, like… light going in the other direction. And it was flying pretty fast—in the other direction.

It had a smoke trail behind it. No, not behind it! In front of it! Which was the weird part. Like, then I guess you can’t call it a smoke trail, exactly. It looked like something was being emitted from the front, and it was, like, following that. It was so weird! But it was also very far away… there were no clouds in the area, though, so it couldn’t have been a cloud.

At the time, I had no idea what it was! Because no plane flies like this! I thought it was some kind of, maybe like, alien craft, or something. I don’t know. Maybe some secret government experiment.

Background Information:

The informant was very insistent in the validity of his testimony. He is certain that he saw this impossible aircraft. He thinks it must have been a high-tech craft built either by aliens or by a top-secret government project.

Contextual Information:

The informant accompanied his story with a simple drawing to illustrate the aircraft.

Analysis:

This story matches the format of a typical memorate. The informant has linked his experience to common American folk beliefs in aliens and top-secret government aeronautical projects.

Family Roadtrips

Informant Info: The informant is a 20-year-old female who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother is Caucasian, and her father is Hispanic. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and works for Walt Disney World.

 

Interview Transcript:
Interviewer: Can you tell me about your favorite past time?

 

Interviewee: I think my favorite past time would have to be being in the car. Not sitting in traffic, but with people I love going on a spontaneous adventure.

 

Interviewer: Really? Where did this come from. Like why do you love driving or what are your favorite memories from it?

 

Interviewee: One of my most cherished memories was the road trip my brother, best friend, and I took from San Antonio all the way to Fayetteville, North Carolina. It’s a 22-hour trip and I drove for 18 of them. We stopped in so many places along the way. Our first stop was in Houston to get coffee. I ended up drinking a total of 8 shots in a matter of minutes and I do not recommend that…but I was awake for the rest of the trip! Then we were in Louisiana when the sky decided to break and rain harder than I ever thought possible. Next thing you know my driver side windshield wiper flew off and straight into the bayou… Like…Great. We pull over as soon as we can and I switch from the passenger side to the driver side. We ended up in Gross Teet, Louisiana and the name to this day still makes me laugh. We got new ones and went on our way. Next stop was New Orleans, and boy! It did not disappoint. Beignets by the dozen and fortunes from the voodoo man were in store. After living my Tiana dreams we were on the road again. Next stop Pensacola. We stopped for dinner at a Cracker Barrel and we were on the way again. My brother drove the last four hours into North Carolina but before we crossed into the state we had to stop at south of the border: the most insane truck stop experience EVER. Once we got to North Carolina, I decided I wanted to keep going to Virginia Beach to see my maw and grandaddy and to this day I’m so happy I did. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d ever see my grandaddy and I hold that memory very close to my heart. After Virginia, we went back to North Carolina and I graduated high school and then traveled to the happiest place on earth (Disney World) and made some more really great memories, like meeting you!

 

Analysis:

This is not direct folklore, but it is an excellent example of story-telling. I was with the informant in person when she told me this story, and she gave a very active-performance. She was very excited, spoke with lots of arm movements, and loved being able to talk about her favorite past time. At a later time, off the record, she brought up how important road trips are to her, and how she wants to find a way to make road trips a family tradition in the future.

Connecticut Ghost Story

Informant EM is 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Southern California. Her major is cinema and media stories. Here, she discusses her ghostly experience as a freshman in high school in Connecticut:

EM: “For my freshman year of high school, I went to boarding school in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut. It was kind of an isolated community so we had to tell each other stories to keep us entertained for the most part and a lot of those stories involve the founding of the school and the legacy of the people who founded the school. So I got the luck of moving into the oldest dorm on campus that had been around since the 1800’s and it was a scary place. It was drafty, it was cold, it was falling apart, so naturally we had a bunch of ghost stories about it. The most memorable one was the story of the ghost of Maria Bissell Hotchkiss who was the founder of the school. Legend had it that if you went out at night to the hallway and you went to the back staircase of the dormitory, which was named after her by the way, you would see a woman dressed in white in a Victorian costume, like very old fashioned clothing, walking back and forth throughout the hallway and she would go down the stairs and if you tried to follow her, she would disappear. A lot of this has to do with the fact that back part of the dorm used to be her home when the school was originally founded. It’s kind of like the idea that she is looking out for the students. She’s been known to be a benevolent ghost, nothing really scary about her, but it was still creepy and there were definitely tons of sightings. I remember in particular when we had a blackout, because we were snowed in, there was this horrible blizzard. I actually feel like I might have seen something. I like to think that there is a rational explanation because like again it’s an old building, but I heard footsteps out in the hallway and I had the room closest to the back staircase and there wasn’t anyone with me. My roommate was back in my room but she heard the footsteps too, but she didn’t see what I saw. I saw someone in the dark who was dressed in white and this figure was opening the back door to the staircase and going in and you know there could be many explanations obviously, but it definitely made me think and it was kind of a fun story to tell other people after.”

How did people react to your experience?               

EM: “Well there was this girl who was a daughter of a teacher and she lived in the house adjacent to the dorms, and she said that all throughout her childhood before even knowing who Maria Bissell was, she had actually seen the ghost in one of the rooms, which when we later went upstairs to look at it, it turned out to be my room because it is the closest to the back. So we were thinking that maybe this used to be Maria Bissell’s room when it was a house, so maybe that explains why she keeps going there. But the girl said she wasn’t scared of her as a young child. She said that she got the impression that this spirit was kind to children. She started a school so maybe she is still around just to keep looking out for her students to make sure that they are OK.”

How or from whom did you learn about your school’s history?

EM: “Well before I saw it with my own eyes, I had the background because it was a popular story to hear around Halloween from the older students. It was kind of like an initiation thing like I would hear it from like the girls who were proctors and were seniors and you would hear it from the faculty. But I remember that they would make this little ritual out of it on Halloween where they would take us to a graveyard. They would take us out on Halloween night to the grave of Maria Bissell. It was just to scare us and it was part of the initiation process. It was a big part of the school culture and especially the women who are a part of the school. The boys never heard about this kind of stuff that went on, only the girls were involved.”

Did any of the girls ever share this with the boys?

EM: “Never. No, actually it was very exclusive. I don’t know if it had to do with that the dorm was a girls dorm, but it was definitely women who passed it on to other women.”

Does your experience have any meaning to you?

EM: “Well I’m not sure, but I like to keep my mind open. I like to think of it more as a lucky encounter or a positive thing, almost like a good luck charm more than it would be like something that is very scary because it was a way in connecting with the history of the place and also it’s nice for a change to have like a mascot ghost that isn’t out to get you. It was definitely a positive experience.”

What context would you share your experience in?

EM: “Well it makes a great story for stuff like Halloween, but I feel like it’s probably easier to explain to people from my same background. So if I were to meet another girl who went to Hotchkiss, I would probably ask her if she heard about Maria Bissell and ask her of she experienced anything similar. Everyone has their own story on Maria Bissell, which kind of defines your belonging to group of Hotchkiss girls. It would definitely be a bonding thing.”

Analysis:

EM’s experience with the ghost of Maria Bissell Hotchkiss is a large part of the schools initiation process and part of the tradition of passing those experiences onto the new class of girls who are coming in. It represents belonging within the community and the spirit of Marie Bissell Hotchkiss is portrayed as a benevolent spirit who is a reminder that the girls of this community a part of a tradition that was upheld for decades. The shared experiences and stories brought the community together. It solidified the bond between the girls of the school. It also established a sense of identity for the girls who went to Hotchkiss. Many girls came from all over the U.S. and the world to earn an education at this school and through the many experiences of encountering Maria Bissell over generations brought a sense of community and a shared belief system that all the girls could relate to and understand.

 

For another version of this legend, check out this article written by Stephanie Thomas:

http://www.hotchkiss.org/abouthotchkiss/hotchkiss-today/last-bissell-halloween-walk/index.aspx

Citation:

Thomas, Stephanie. “Origins of the Bissell Halloween Walk.” The Hotchkiss School. N.p., 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.