Text: “I actually got told this story while I was in the cabin–this was Cabin 2. The story is before it was Cabin 2, the place was a pig pen. Some guy came to the island and he killed one of the pigs, and he like carved out the pig’s head and made a mask-like thing, and like lived on the island and killed people on the low. It sounds pretty fried, but I lived in the cabin probably when I was like 10 years old, and I was told the story in a very scary way and I was sitting in my little bet like ‘dude, fuck, like this is crazy.’ In the moment this stuff is very scary. When you’re at this camp, you don’t really have your phone, so when the counselors tell this stuff that they’ve told a million times, they tell it very well and there’s no other authority to check the story against.”
Context: My informant, NR, told me this story while we sat together and played NHL while listening to house music and eating frozen yogurt. This was a pretty ideal storytelling setting. He first heard this story as a middle-school-aged camper at a sleepaway summer camp in New Hampshire, and was scared by it at the time. He interpreted the legend as the crux of a practical joke that counselors enjoyed playing on campers.
Analysis: I believe NR’s legend bears elements of practical joking in that it is leveraged by an ingroup, the counselors, to display the ignorance of the outgroup, the campers. The legend’s employment of elements that could potentially exist add credibility to the horror factor and play upon the ignorance of youth to frighten children. NR also emphasized the credibility of the storytellers, emphasizing that he defaulted to believing their account because he lacked a method to investigate other possibilities without his phone. The Pig Man’s employment of the mask also creates a fear factor, as anyone wearing the head of a dead pig would appear frightening, certainly in American culture where people are far removed from the slaughter of animals and death of animals in general. This legend can tell us about summer camp culture, in which authority is valued as well as respect for the surrounding land, which is often unsupervised and can be dangerous for a wandering child. In that spirit, the legend also plays a cautionary role, encouraging campers to stay vigilant in nature–the closer a camper is to being alone in nature, the more the camper will think of the Pig Man and desire a return to safety. I additionally believe that the death aspect of the legend taps into the childhood interest in death as a taboo topic.