Background: My informant, EV, grew up in Puyallup, Washington, but currently goes to USC. Interview conducted in person.
Me: “Do you know any Washington folklore? Sayings, jokes, stories, etc.?”
EV: “Oh, I know one. I never say this, but I always hear like, older people say it all the time. So for context, in Washington there’s one main mountain, Mount Rainier, that pretty much everyone can see from like, their backyard if they live in Western Washington. Sometimes it’s covered by like fog or clouds or whatever, but especially on a sunny or clear day it can become visible. So people call Rainier “The Mountain,” because it’s like the main mountain, so when you can finally see it after the rain clears up or something, people will be like, ‘Look! The Mountain’s out!’ And that’s a perfectly normal thing for people to say with no context. Everyone will know exactly what you’re talking about. Like I didn’t realize how abnormal it was until I came to USC and people wouldn’t comment on like, the visibility of the mountains on a daily basis. Just a silly little Washington thing.”
Analysis: I find the colloquial/vernacular usage of this phrase to be really interesting. Once again indicating in-group/out-group behavior, where it almost becomes a right of passage to have the knowledge and experience to also be able to refer to Mount Rainier simply as “The Mountain.” I think the phrase also says a lot about the significance of the mountain to the culture and priorities in the area (nature), where it not only serves as a geographic landmark to admire and judge direction off of, but also becomes another core component to distinguishing the in-group from the out-group–to intentionally or perhaps unintentionally select Mount Rainier as the symbol for central identity. The phrase indicates a certain degree of rarity in seeing the mountain, so its presence isn’t taken for granted, and worth noting even in everyday conversation.
Mount Diablo is a mountain on the Diablo range in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California. This mountain has been the reported site of many ghost hauntings, paranormal phenomena, and cryptozoology.
C: This is more like, local history than folklore, but Mount Diablo was like the big mountain range in the area. And everyone was like, “Oh! Why’s it called that?” Um–
L: Cause Diablo!
C: Cause Diablo! It was like . . . The Native Americans called it something because of like, the plant life on it–or something– and “Ah, demons” says the Spanish. This mountain has demons and thus said “Mount Devil”.
It’s a chicken and the egg scenario of what came first — the paranormal sightings on the mountain, or the name of the mountain itself. Undoubtedly, one influenced the other into existence. It would be almost criminal to not have spooky stories about a place called Mount Diablo.
For more stories about this Mountain Range, please visit: https://museumsrv.org/post-1421/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20most%20famous,guise%20of%20an%20old%20hidalgo.
This is the transcription of a story told by the informant.
There is an old old woman and she lives all alone in the hills and every single night when she goes to be she takes her boots off and puts them on the ground and tries to go to sleep in the middle of the night the boots wedge themselves on her feet making her do chores all night long and then right as the sun starts to rise the walk her back to her bed and slip back off her feet. So she is becoming really really exhausted and doesn’t know what to do. So she finally takes a trip to the Oogli Boogli Man. He lives even deeper in the hills than the old woman. So when she has to go and walk over to him she takes her time and as she approaches his house a stench comes into the air. She stands far from the porch and screams “Oogli Boogli man” and there’s nothing. She screams again and then out comes the most stinky, farty, old crusty man that you have ever seen. He has icicle boogers coming from his nose and rat poop in his hair because the Oogli Boogli man does not like to clean himself. But he is magic. So the old lady says that her boots are exhausting her until the day breaks then she can go to sleep. The man says all right I will help you. Tonight when you go to sleep the boots won’t hurt you anymore. That night the boots jump back on her feet only this time the boots are taking her all over the town. She is absolutely exhausted and she knows a trick has been played on her. This next time the old lady decides she is going to take matters into her own hands. She makes jam for the Oogli Boogli man and puts some choice ingredients like cat turds, snot, whatever she can find. The concoction is a deep icky brown. She pours it into a jar and seals it shut. Then when she walks over to the man this time there is no reply, but she says all she wanted to do was thank him. That night when she is walking back to her house she hears a scream from the Oogli Boogli man’s house. “Damn you old lady, I’m gonna come get you” that night she is scared shitless, obviously. She hears a knock on her door and she does not know what to do so she stays nice and quiet. The man says “old lady I know you are in there, I just wanted to thank you for that jam that you gave me” and she stays nice and quiet. Then all of the sudden there is a creak and the door opens, so she is freaked out. Then the boots start walking towards the door that’s just opened and the Oogli Boogli man pops right into the boots and walks out the door cursing the old lady’s name. And that’s it, she gets to sleep after that.
This story was told to the informant by their father and he learned it from his grandmother. The informant’s great-grandmother was from a tough-as-nails farming family that moved from Nebraska to the desert outside of Joshua Tree. The informant is very close with their family so stories are constantly shared as a way to feel close to their relatives.
The informant explained that this story was told to them by their father as a spooky tale before bed or around a campfire. When I asked the informant to share some of their family’s folklore, this was the first example that jumped to their mind. They were able to recite it completely from memory and with critical detail and description that showed how much this story had impacted them.
This folktale is very representative of the blue-collar background of the informant’s great-grandmother. The isolation of the mountain town makes this story more scary for those who live in that environment. It also has magic involved but a very dark kind of magic that can control you in a painful way. This again shows the beliefs of people living in isolation. It could perhaps allude to the idea that outsiders could try to control communities they did not understand, just like the shoes control the old woman. Also the shoes never allowed for this woman to rest and in a farming community, rest is one of the few sacred things that you are given to survive. There aren’t luxuries that wealthier communities get access to, but rest is something guaranteed. The woman gets her rest back by standing up to the Oogli Boogli man which highlights the values of tough communities. You have to act for what you want and not expect things to get better without work.
So where my dad lives, el Espiritu Michoacan, there’s a big mountain with a large cross that is visible to the naked eye at the top. I don’t know how long it’s been there, but they say that religious groups took it there on horseback. The wood used was so big that they needed a lot of people and lot of horses to move it or transport it. There’s a story that after it was built, many people were at the top of the mountain and I guess praying or worshipping… and because it’s at the top of the mountain, they got dizzy when they were staring at the cross. They thought that the cross was falling or that the sky was falling and they began to run, and some people maybe got hurt and fell down because it’s steep. They also say that the people might have been partying, so they could have been drunk or intoxicated or something. You know, your depth perception isn’t great under those circumstances. So they were being punished by God.
Context: The informant’s father is from Michoacan, and he has visited the state almost yearly since his childhood. He heard this story from his father.
Interpretation: This story has a cautionary element that warns audiences not to mix worship with intoxication for fear of punishment. It also seems reminiscent of Judgment Day, where worshippers are evaluated as the world appears to end (i.e. the sky is falling). It also suggests the power of religion, both in that it brought people together to build and transport the cross and that it is powerful enough to send a large group of people falling down a mountain. The fact that this story is widely spread in the area shows that the people of el Espiritu Michoacan value religion and are dedicated to spreading the word of Christianity (more specifically, Catholicism).
The Participant is marked as BH. I am marked as LJ.
LJ: Can you tell me some history about El Paso?
BH: Oh, so…in El Paso there are a stretch of mountains called the Franklin Mountains. And these happen to be the end of the Rocky Mountains which stretch all through the united states. And what is interesting about these mountains it is said that you’re not supposed drive on this road on the Trans-mountain road–which literally cuts through the mountains. So you’re not supposed to drive on this road after midnight. One because there are a lot of accidents and two there is folklore of ghosts on the road. Either hitching for rides or a monk that walks around with a donkey–well he’s a friar, with a donkey haha. And he’s in search of the treasure that supposedly exists in the mountains.
I had visited the participant and her family in El Paso, Texas in March. This was recorded after.
The participant is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. She is a firm believer in religion and likes “scary stories,” including television shows and hearing about hauntings. She grew up primarily in El Paso, Texas with her mom and two sisters.
This shows part of the great history that El Paso has. There is so much from Native American groups to the Mexican-American war to the waves of immigration that it sees coming in from Cuidad Juarez. It was obvious that there were more stories to these mountains, but I stuck with this one.
The monk/friar in search for treasure is actually a little funny. The ideals of a monk, as I understand them, are to denounce worldly possessions, so for the monk to be looking for treasure so long after his death is almost incredulous. However, perhaps this began as him looking for something else, or it could have been a result of period when the church was not trusted by the peoples of El Paso.
These stories open paths that need further exploration to make full sense of them.