Tag Archives: moving

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.

Sage to Prevent Spirits from Haunting Property


Informant: “My mom had many experiences with ghosts. During her twenties, she was constantly moving apartments and had strange experiences in each of them. Doors would open and shut. At night figures appeared and then disappeared. She could hear voices when no one was around, stuff like that. So the next time she moved, she burned sage in the apartment. Now I do that whenever I have to move into a new home. You are supposed to burn sage because you don’t know who’s been on the land. People’s spirits stick around. I think people linger when their spirit is lost and they can’t move on because they’re stuck. People get stuck. Sage will scare out the old spirits.”


The Informant is a 48-year-old Black-American woman. She learned this ghost prevention ritual from her mother and passed it on to me. The Informant interprets this ritual as a way to cleanse new spaces of old spirits. 


The Informant and her family are from America, a country that emphasizes individualism, private ownership, and the right to property. This nation’s philosophy stems from John Locke’s individualist ideals in the Second Treatise of Government. In the Treatise, Locke writes that “every man has a property in his own person” and he can take ownership in anything that comes from “the labour of his body, and the work of his hands” (Locke 5:27) In America, the home is where one manages both properties: bodily and physical. The physical property is maintained through household labor (ex: mowing lawn, mopping floors). Homeowners maintain their bodily property through facilities inside the home (ex: stove to cook, bath to bathe). A home is a place where personhood and physical property mingle (ex: homeowners decorate spaces to reflect personal tastes). In short, individuals are strongly tied to property in American culture. Thus when a homeowner dies, it can be difficult for a new person to move in and feel “at home.” Burning sage can be seen as a way to ease the transition between homeowners. The ritual clears out the old spirits to create a clean slate. A blank canvas to welcome new identity, personalization, and labor.

Haunted House in Indiana- The Funny Man and the Woman with the Red Eyes: Sleep Paralysis and Two Traveling Ghosts, Cured by a Witchdoctor

I first heard this story when I asked the speaker if she had ever seen a ghost, but when she began telling her story I remembered that I had heard parts of this tale before. The speaker told her story in a very matter-of-fact tone and spoke first about her experiences with friendly and unfriendly ghosts. For another example of a ghost legend by this same speaker, search “Haunted Theaters and Ghost Lights” in the USC folklore archive.


When the speaker and her twin brother were three years old, they shared a room in Gary, Indiana in a house completely made of brick. “My mom came in [to the children’s bedroom], she had just put us to bed. And then she heard me and my brother laughing. And so she like came back into the room and she’s like, What’s going on here? She’s like, what’s happening? And we’re like, ‘The man, the man. He’s making a funny face.’ And there was nobody there.”

“Was I scared? No, because he was one of the friendly ones of the house,” the speaker said. “He was kind of just there for jokes and like to make children laugh, because apparently, um, his grandchildren died in the house. And he like, died out of grief. And he loved kids. So he would just play with my brother and I [sic] occasionally.”

The speaker said that there were also unfriendly ghosts, and that she had recently gotten rid of one of these malicious specters. ” “They moved with us to Florida. And at first, I didn’t notice because they didn’t approach me. At first, they would just stay in the corner. And I didn’t realize it would always be a really scary woman with two red eyes. And I didn’t know what she was. I thought she was just like, a spirit… But no, she turned out to be worse than I thought.”

The speaker said that she began to experience sleep paralysis and that “I would be screaming, and she’d be attacking me. And I couldn’t move. And I’d wake up with bruises on my arms and my legs because she was sitting on top of me.” She slept with her mother at age 17 because of these nightly attacks. When she returned to her bedroom, she said, ” “I was screaming to save my mom and my brother. But they couldn’t hear me. And then just the woman was just taking my family away from me. And I didn’t like I couldn’t do anything. I was just sitting there. And then again, my mom woke me up screaming, crying in real life. “

The speaker’s Puerto Rican grandfather, Julio, was a witch doctor. “We had to pin a square piece of black cloth underneath my pillow. I don’t know what it was to catch her something like that.” Soon after that she moved to Southern California to attend school, and she hasn’t seen either ghost since.


This story was told at night in the kitchen, and three college-age females were present. The speaker said that she was relieved to be rid of the ghosts, and that after her parents’ divorce, she rarely visited the Gary House. She also said that the house was torn apart after the divorce, and that her father would start projects that he wouldn’t complete (for example, fixing the bathroom tub). I think these ghosts may have something to do with the divorce, but I believe that this experience was very frightening for the speaker.

This speaker later scoffed at my mentioning that a friend received therapy when recovering from his parent’s divorce. Her response suggested that children do not need therapy for this life change.

For another example of ghosts stories indicating changes in property ownership or status quo, see the scholarly article “Ghostly Possession of Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore” by Ulo Valk (2006).

The concept of traveling ghosts is certainly frightening, and this story was welcome after a long day’s work.

Blue Ghosts in Okinawa, Japan

AM: So, it was- like the first month or two when i moved to Japan and I was hanging outside at like…2am like at night in a park. Um, the military base we was staying on was built like near like Japanese Shrines and whatnot and they said that you know the shrines are haunted and there’s a lotta “superstitions” with those. So while we’re out hanging, there was like oh look- you can see a bluf- blue figure on a hill like on top of the shrine and when I looked over you- I saw like a bluish like glow from the hills where the shrine was and they said that this island is one of the most haunted places and that there’s a lot of spirits around.

VG: Woah. What island was it?

AM: Okinawa.

VG: Woah-

AM: And that is- it is very common to see those there… so we was like “yeah, let’s get the hell out of here.”



Location of Story – Okinawa, Japan

Location of Performance – Dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night


Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore. This story came after a few others. The one prior was specifically about a high school grade being cursed.


Analysis: One point of interest in this performance is the effectiveness of the subtlety of the description of the “spirits.” The only physical description the audience receives about these supernatural beings is that they humanoid in figure and blue. The color is particularly notable because, at least in my experience, I have always viewed the ghosts in ghost stories as being neutral toned or white. Therefore, this description was able to create a whole new image for me and draw me deeper into this performance. It also reinforces the foreignness AM might feel since he had just moved to Japan: not only is the location different but also all of the local lore. One might even go so far as to say that this story was presented with a negative conation despite having no description of graphic hauntings or threats.