Tag Archives: scare tactic

Pulling Feet from Beyond the Grave

“When I was younger, Lolo Nani would sit me down almost every day during when I would eat my snacks after school before we did my homework together.  He always would remind me to visit and clean his grave once he died.  He said that if I didn’t, he would come back to pull my feet while I was sleeping.  That sh*t was so scary dude, I would barely be able to sleep at night because, like, all I could think of was what it would feel like, or if he was gonna pull me hard or where he would take me.

It’s a pretty messed up way of getting a kid to regularly clean or visit your grave, but honestly… it makes sense now.  Even before he died when we would go to, like, other people’s funerals I would look at stones that had grass growing over them and it just looks lonely.  I don’t know, maybe that’s what he wanted me to see then.”

Background: The informant is a 19 year-old college student whose grandfather was his primary caretaker after school before his parents would come home from work.  He would feed him after school, teach him his homework lessons, and ensure that he took naps.  The grandfather passed away in 2018, but the informant regularly heeds his request to clean and visit his grave often.

Context: This superstition was shared with me over FaceTime.

The mentioned relative in the story often used scare tactics against children in order to keep them in line growing up.  He used to tell me that if I kept a towel on my head for too long after a shower, all of my hair would fall out; in reality, he just didn’t want me to catch a cold.  Using superstition as discipline happens often in our culture, and preserves family dynamics that the older people in the family see as valuable.  The informant’s grandfather also told him as a child that he had eyes in the back of his head that could see whenever he was doing wrong at school, which contributed to his continuing obedience.  Such beliefs instilled in children, like cleaning and visiting their graves or adhering to adults’ wishes even when out of sight, preserves the power dynamic between parent and child.  The child trusts in the truth of the parent’s words, and cultivates a sense of respect that persists even after death.

If You Keep Making that Face, it’ll Get Stuck That Way

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.

Interviewer: So did your parents used to tell you any funny things growing up to get you to behave?

Informant: they still do haha they think I’ll actually believe a lot of that stuff even though I can just look it up on my phone.

Interviewer: haha yeah I guess scare tactics don’t work as well if you can look up the truth a second later. What kind of stuff do they tell you?

Informant: Well my mom loves to tell me to not make funny faces or else my face will get stuck like that, but I know that’s not true so I just do it more now and it’s way funnier haha


My informant is a teenager living in Southern California, currently attending highschool. He is the last one of his siblings to still be living at home, and his Dad travels a lot for work, so it is mostly just him and his mom at home. 


I talked to my informant over a facetime call during the 2020 Coronavirus Epidemic. I was going to meet with him in person, however, the quarantine made that impossible to do. 


I thought it was funny how different my informant reacted to what his mom would tell him than how people my age would. It’s only a 4-5 year gap, however, my age group didn’t have iPhones growing up so we couldn’t research everything on the spot. I trusted what my parents said as the truth until much later in life, and even after getting an iPhone, I never thought to fact check everything they’d say. Maybe it’s a rebellious teen thing to want to prove your parents wrong or something like that, and iPhones have made that easier than ever.