Tag Archives: Phoenix

Sirin, Alkanost, and Gamayun


The informant is a Russian-American-Bulgarian woman who spent the first half of her life in Russia. She currently resides in Boston, MA and the interview took place over zoom in which I interviewed her about the Russian folklore that she grew up with and that she feels represents the Russian people and culture.

Transcribed and translated from an interview held in Russian

“In pagan folklore, there were these mythological creatures of three birds: They were known as Sirin, Alkanost, and Gamayun.  I cannot really remember what the distinguishing features were for all of them. I believe Gamayun, I think, is known to be able to tell the future. I do not know a lot about it, but I once heard a song in which it is said that the bird tells the future. Anyway, a more familiar character to me in Russian folklore is that of the Zharptsitsa, it’s like this fire bird that many characters in folktales always seek to find and claim for themselves. I don’t know the origins of this bird, but my guess is that it originates from these older mythical birds.”

Analysis:The immediate oicotype that springs to mind with the Zharptsitsa  is a phoenix. The one main difference being that the Zharptsitsa does not rise from its ashes after it dies. It is unclear of these two originate from the same root, or if they were just created in the folklore of different cultures and happen to have similar features. It is quite likely. Birds exist worldwide, as does fire. Combining the two in folklore to create a legendary creature can occur in more than one culture.

Phoenix’s Hotel San Carlos

The storyteller was a USC student from the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, near the larger city of Phoenix. She grew up in Scottsdale and before that, Minnesota, and is from a European, Caucasian background. This ghost story was collected around sunset, in my bedroom.

Me: So where did you hear this ghost story?

K: Uhm, from my friend who came back from one our school trips. She told me at school. *Long pause*

Me: Ok, you can go ahead and tell the story now.

K: Oh, ok….uhm, so, every year my theater club, we take a trip downtown for a convention and we stay in this old historic hotel.

Me: Downtown where?

K: Phoenix. Yea, its called the Hotel San Carlos and it was built in like, the late 20s? And it was this really nice hotel for stars to come if they came to the desert, like Marilyn Monroe has a room named after her and so does Clark Gabel….and all that jazz. But, uhm, I guess, a year, like, according to legend, a year after it was built one of the hotel workers, Leone I think it was? She was “pushed” out the, I think, I don’t know what story but it was pretty high up. She was pushed out, died, and so apparently her ghost wanders the halls of the hotel. And yea, and there’s also apparently this little girl who will go around and nobody knows what her story is but guests will say that she comes into their room and they hear this little girl crying. And you can see her sitting at the edge of the bed or in a chair in your room. And apparently, they think that she is a ghost of a kid that used to go to a school that was on the property before the hotel was built, who probably died in this huge flu epidemic. So my friend was staying there and she told me that both nights they slept in the hotel, she would wake up in the middle of the night and she would hear people getting ready in her room, and she’d hear voices. So she turned on the light and all of her roommates were still sleeping, and nobody was there, so she went back to sleep. Then she heard it again, so she went to the bathroom, and their bathtub was running. So she freaked out, turned it off, and went back to bed. And the second time it happened, the water started running again, and so she woke up her friend, and they both went and checked it out and turned it off. And they stayed up a long time, waiting for the ghosts. But they didn’t see anything, they just kept hearing these noises, and then I thought when I stayed there that something would happen, but nothing did…so….

Me: So do you think it was a ghost?

K: I don’t know, I don’t believe in ghosts so I really don’t know. Uhm yea, that’s about it.

This ghost story falls in one of the classic categories of ghost stories, in which the ghosts’ motives are driven by their untimely or un-respectful death. Leone and a little girl supposedly haunt because of the way they died, unfairly and untimely. The storyteller claimed that she didn’t believe in ghosts, yet she stated that she had thought she would see something when she stayed at the hotel. She didn’t clarify whether she expected to see ghosts, or some sort of optical illusion. Had she been told the story in a different setting, rather than at school in a casual setting, she might have a better chance of believing the story to some extent. Also, if she had told me the story in a darker, later setting she might have had more belief and enthusiasm in her tone.