Tag Archives: oring

The Outpost

Text: “Alright so basically it was like, so my sleepaway camp was on an island in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire and it’s like an all-boys camp whatever but basically the camp is all centered around this island and it’s all kinda in this one area and there’s this path you can take through the middle, and at the end of the path is this place called ‘the outpost,’ which is basically a little hut with a bathroom, it’s got a fire pit for camping and stuff–you could spend the night there if you didn’t want to sleep in the cabin, like people did cabin nights there. And so basically only older kids really spent the night at the Outpost, but there were these things called cabin nights where you go with your cabin and basically like post up at like a little beach along the island or play hoops for a while or you could like do random shit honestly-go swimming maybe. You’d camp out with marshmallows and do all that stuff. Basically older kids who could go to the outpost started the story, and essentially it says there’s a murderer in the outpost bathroom. All these kids are out camping, and this kid asks to go to the bathroom and basically gets like stabbed and like blicked. Nobody knows where he is after a while, but the counselor lets another kid use the bathroom–other kid pulls up, gets stabbed, whatever, blicked. At this point the counselor is like ‘yo what the fuck is going on.’ So two kids blicked, blood everywhere. Someone else gets blicked, then they run back to camp super far. One of the guys who works in the office, his dad owned the camp, and he grabbed a gun and killed the guy. It’s really scary when it’s told to you as a kid around a campfire at the outpost.”

Context: My informant, NR, told me this story while we sat together and played NHL (hockey video game) 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 emphasized the combination of his youth, the campfire setting, and the storyteller’s authority as elements that enhanced the fear factor of the legend. As explained in the text, the camp was all-boys and the legend revolved around a remote location on the property known as the outpost, at which cabins (groups of campers) would sometimes spend the night outdoors. The legend is traditional at the camp. In hindsight, NR interprets the story as a classic scare-legend, told to encourage adherence to the ‘buddy system’ and to scare younger children. 

Analysis: In my interpretation, the legend of the Outpost offers insights into summer camp and childrens’ culture, particularly through the classic campfire-horror trope. A few dynamics at play make the legend material to the young NR. For one, his youth relative to the storytellers enhances their credibility and thus the plausibility of the legend. In the days of early adolescence, age plays a major role in credibility–this legend is most popular/effective with young children, reflecting this truth. Also, NR’s unfamiliarity with the area adds to the legend’s effect. While he was a regular camper, the Outpost region was still not completely familiar to NR, which can create gaps in understanding that are prone to being filled in with horror legends such as this. In this case, his fear of the unknown, already exacerbated by the campfire setting, became manifested by the legend of a murderer who lived in the Outpost, reflecting a classic youth’s outlook on reality. On the flip side, I view this legend as a practical joke played by counselors on campers and as a cautionary tale leveraged to ensure safety. However, contrasting with many uses of practical jokes, I do not view this necessarily as a rite of passage or an initiation ritual–I believe it is more just a tradition that the camp can collectively identify with. Due to the temporary nature of the camp experience, there is no investment in seeing the children on the other side of understanding the reality of the story. 

The Bunyip

Text: “When Europeans first came to Australia they were worried about the native people–they did not really understand that it was a foreign place. There was a thing according to native Australians that would hang out in watering holes and billabongs called the Bunyip, and apparently it was some kind of water monster. There is no consensus description of it–some people say it looks like an ape, others say hippo or octopus, there’s a lot of variety. It’s mainly a thing in the northeast, because that’s where a lot of rivers and watering holes are. You don’t hear as much about it in Western Australia, but people still know what it is. The idea is if you go in the water, it will drown you or kill and eat you. I first heard it when I was very little from my parents–I mean there’s books about it and stuff too.”

Context: My informant, TC, communicated the legend of the Drop Bears with me and our other two roommates as we cooked a feast on a Saturday afternoon. This is a common setting for storytelling in our apartment. He first heard this story from his parents at a young age. TC’s relationship to the legend is closely intertwined with his age and maturity–as a very young boy, he believed in and feared the Bunyip, but as he aged he overcame this fear and has come of the age that is responsible for passing the legend down to younger generations. He interprets the legend as a regional cautionary story and as an entertainment piece for believers in the obscure. 

Analysis: In my interpretation, the legend of the Bunyip offers insights into both the Australian outlook on reality and into the historical attitude of aboriginals about Europeans. Nature in Australia can be particularly fatal to unprepared individuals, so it was no surprise that children are often the target audience when the legend of the Bunyip is told. Its aboriginal origin, however, does leave some room for interpretation–to me, it is unclear whether natives simply told Europeans about the Bunyip just to share culture, or if they were looking to play a joke or ward off unwelcome settlers. That being said, similar to Oring’s estimation of in-group folklore, I interpret this legend as a show of local knowledge relative to outsider ignorance–to an unfamiliar European, after seeing some of Australia’s unique wildlife, it would not be outrageous to believe a local explaining the legend of the Bunyip. This legend also highlights the Australian attachment to nature as the Bunyip inhabits watering holes, which historically have been crucial to survival for groups living in drier areas; the dangers of the legend indicate a great respect for the natural world and its power over humans. 

“The Bagel Song” at Camp

The informant is a 20-year old college sophomore at University of Michigan majoring in industrial and systems engineering. She went to sleep-away camp for several years and was excited to share some of her fond memories of it with me. One such memory is “the Bagel Song.”


“Bagels, doo doo doo

Bagels, doo doo doo


Bagels on Mars, Bagels on Venus

I got bagels in my…..



Bagels, doo doo doo

Bagels, doo doo doo


Bagels on the pier, bagels on the dock

I got bagels on my….



Bagels, doo doo doo

Bagels, doo doo doo

(The next person makes up a stanza similar to the first two, with provocative lyrics that make the listener think of something dirty, but that ends in NOSE


Interviewer: “Where did you learn the Bagel Song?”

Informant: “I remember my counselor one year teaching it to me and a few other campers. We thought it was totally hilarious. When I was a counselor a few years ago, I taught it to my campers too.”

Interviewer: “Where would you guys sing the song?”

Informant: “Oh gosh, all the time. Um, we would sing it when camp songs were song. Like at bonfires and before mealtimes when everyone was together waiting to eat. We would tease the cute male counselors with it too…”

Interviewer: “Did your counselor who taught you the song say where she learned it?”

Informant: “No. We never asked. But I do have a friend who went to an all-boys camp in Wisconsin who told me they had a variation of the song they would sing.

Interviewer: “Do you remember how the variation went?”

Informant: “Hmm. I think it was the same general principle. I think what was different was that the boys said “Bacon” instead of “bagel”? I’m not entirely sure though; it was a long time ago that I talked to my friend about it!”



I see the Bagel song as a humorous song dealing with taboos of sex and sexuality. The song is especially funny because it makes the listener the one with the “dirty mind”, not the singer, as it is the listener who thinks the singer is going to make an obscene reference.

Oring talks about Children’s folklore (I would consider “The Bagel Song” fitting into this category) a good deal in Folk Groups and Folklore Genres. Ideas of childhood have been purified for a long time in American society, and the oppressiveness of the controlled environment in which children reside in can partially explain their dealing with the sexuality taboo, along with other taboos.