Tag Archives: ownership

Haunted Coin House in Chicago

  • Details 
    • Collected on 03/23/2024 
    • Genre: Memorate 
    • Language: English 
    • Nationality: American 
    • Relationship to Informant: Friend
  1. Text 
    1. Summary: 
      1. There was a house that always had people moving in and out. Typically, these people moved out because some misfortune fell on them during the time they lived there. One family that lived there with a young child kept noticing that coins would randomly appear on the floor. Then, they learned that the house was haunted by an old woman who lived there for a long time and was known to always carry change.
    2. Direct transcription of folklore:
      1. “So there’s a house that’s two doors down from me and for my entire childhood this house has been a revolving door of people just going in and out…it was like so-and-so’s wife cheated on them, then a family furniture store burned down and they couldn’t afford to live there, the next family got divorced and the kids don’t talk to them anymore. Everyone who lived in this house, some wild s*** happened to them. I always thought ‘hmm, that’s weird,’ but I didn’t think anything of it. So then, I had these neighbors that moved across the street [from me], but before they lived across the street, like 10 years before, they lived in that house two doors down from me. They were like ‘yeah, that s*** is f****** haunted.’ And I said, ‘why do you say that?’ So I guess there was an old woman that lived there for a long time and then she died. I guess she was known for always having change on her – quarters, pennies, dimes, whatever you needed – she always had a ton of change. And [my neighbors] had a young daughter who was a toddler at the time, and they would always find change just on the floor – on the ground. My neighbor would ask her husband, ‘why is there change? Are you dropping stuff out of your wallet?’ and he was like ‘no, what are you talking about? I don’t know where it is coming from.’ So one day, their daughter picked a quarter from the ground and almost choked on it. They got it out of her, but she almost choked to death. Out of frustration, the mom says to the ghost ‘leave me alone!’ They never heard from the ghost again. So they move across the street ten years later, and they start talking to the neighbors that currently live in that house. And they are like ‘this weird thing keeps happening … we keep finding change all over the floor and we have no idea where it is coming from,’ and they told them it was the ghost.” 
  2. Context 
    1. Informant is a USC student in her early 20s who was born and raised in Chicago, IL. This ghost story was told to her by her neighbors who lived in the haunted house, and it has become an oral tradition within the neighborhood. 
  3. Analysis 
    1. This story reflects the idea of property ownership after death and the idea that spirits can have a strong connection to the physical world. Since the old woman’s identity was partially defined by her possession of the house and coins, this is how her ghost manifests itself. “As the human spirit is strongly connected with notions of self and personal identity, we should not be surprised that spirits can control their belongings even if their primary possession—the body—is long dead and buried.” (Valk, 36) This ghost story also suggests cultural values of material ownership and wealth.

Ghost in Old House

Text: Basically I was falling asleep in my bed. And to get to my room you have to go through my brother’s room. Anyways I was trying to fall asleep, and I was facing the wall when I heard my door open. I assumed it was my mom, but I didn’t hear the door to my brother’s room open. Then I heard pacing back and forth and heard someone going through my things for so long. I was so scared. I forget how long it was until I worked up the courage to move and look to see what it was, but there was nothing there, and my door was closed.


Informant is a freshman at USC studying Journalism, originally from the Bay. We are waiting for class to start as she dramatically tells her experience. She is genuine and convincing in her manner of storytelling.

I live in a really old house (like 115 years old I think) in the Bay, and so I’ve always been aware of superstitious stuff there. This was one instance that freaked me out probably 4 or 5 years ago. I would define this experience as supernatural or a ghost story because I feel like there was no other way to explain it. It couldn’t have been sleep paralysis or anything because I could move.

Analysis: This ghost story folk narrative is an example of a legend. Ghosts are a type of legendary creature, and therefore, this story is an example of a memorate, or a personal experience that has been translated into a traditional legend. The informant’s experience has been translated into a ghost story because of the prevalence of ghost stories in this particular context, making it plausible within this society. Furthermore, the idea that ghosts are more common in “old” houses goes back to an idea highly promoted by Ulo Valk in “Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore,” where he proposed that spirits maintain the value placed on ownership, a “powerful relationship between the self and material objects that is often projected beyond the grave” (Valk 49).

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.