“My all girls Catholic school was founded by these nuns in the 1950s but before it was a school it was a mansion called the Cole mansion, built in like 1916 or something. It was owned by this guy, Frederick Cole, we call him Freddy. He was a young wealthy dude who’s dad made money in steel production. He’s basically a trust fund baby, so he builds a nice mansion in the Burlingame hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay. And so Freddy built his beautiful mansion, it’s pretty big with a working elevator, bunch of servants, big bedroom. He’s living there with his wife. At the time, it’s all the rage to have a maid from France. And so his wife is like, a huge entertainer at their house, and she’s like “I need to have a French maid for my parties.” And so she sends a letter to her aunt in France who’s visiting, and she’s like “While you’re in France, can you pick me up a french maid?” So when her aunt comes back she brings an 18 year old girl named Annette. Annette speaks no English, like very very little, and she works at the house. While she’s there, Freddy, the little pervert, is all creepy on her. He’s like harassing her and will not stop bugging her. She’s like not having it, but the wife of Freddy is like “Oh my god my husband is jealous of this 18 year old I brought into the house, I’m going to get her fired. And not only am I going to get her fired, I’m going to tell all the other people in the Bay Area, all the other rich people, that she had sex with my husband and she’s an adulterer.” And so the wife went around telling everyone that Annette had sex with her husband and was all like, not holy or whatever. So she fires Annette, Annette can’t get hired anywhere, so you know what she does? She files a wrongful termination lawsuit in the San Francisco court in like, early 1900s, and she wins! Which is so rare. Then Freddy takes her to court to try and overturn it, and he’s going down the elevator to the courtroom and when the elevator opens, he sees Annette. And Annette just looks at him and tells him he lied, pulls out a pistol, and shoots him in the stomach. So this man is rushed to the hospital and they stich him up, but they leave the lead bullet in him, and Annette gets deported back to France. Freddy is recovering, but the bullets’ still inside him. So he tells people that he’s started receiving these postcards, and each one says “I will see you soon, from Annette.” And each one gets closer and closer, so it starts in France, then there’s one from England, then there’s one from New York, then she goes through Canada down to Washington, then to Portland. She books herself a boat from Portland to China, but there’s a stop in San Francisco. She gets out there, and the postcards stop. And the next day Freddy is found hanging in his mansion. And so people don’t know if he killed himself because he was worried Annette was gonna get him or if she got to him or if she even was there, because he still had the lead bullet in him and lead makes you go insane. And so people think he imagined it all, it’s like totally up to interpretation, people don’t know. Anyways, Freddy is now a ghost in the mansion and my ceramics teacher has seen him multiple times, people believe he still exists in the mansion on campus. My ceramics teacher had to go to the kiln on the bottom floor right by the servants’ stairs. Freddy was renowned for hanging out in the servants chambers and hitting on them. So she was in the basement unloading the kiln for pottery class, and she was bending over the kiln and she feels someone grab her waist. She turns around and no ones there. So she thinks it was him hitting on her, cause he’s a creep.”
B is an 18-year-old college student from the Bay Area, California. She used to go to a Catholic all girls school, where she says teachers would tell this ghost story about the campus. She doesn’t know which facts are certifiably true, but she says she was first told this story while on a campus tour by an old nun who she trusts to be reliable. Teachers share this story with the students around the school.
This story is a legend about Freddy’s ghost. It’s told to me as a “friend of a friend” story, so the speaker has never actually had an interaction with this supposed ghost. It’s clearly a legend because it could possibly be true, or it could not. No one really knows why Freddy died. This uncertainty about his death could be the reason for his haunting. Ghost stories tend to follow people who weren’t properly buried or their death wasn’t settled, because it’s very important for communities that their community members get the proper burial and death rituals. If the ritual is done wrong, it leads to haunting. It’s particularly interesting that this story is spread around a Catholic school, as in the Christian religion killing oneself is a sin. If Freddy really did hang himself, that’s a hard conversation for Christians to have because it means he went to hell. Ghosts probably form around these figures that die in ways that Christians don’t see to be natural to serve both as a warning to others against sinning, and as a way of understanding and reconciling what happens to someone who dies in a sinful manner. Another aspect of this ghost story is the way in which it is performed. When this story was told to me it was told by a girl the same age as Annette, and the school is an all-girls school so almost everyone who tells and knows this story is a girl. By looking at the social context of the story, we see how it takes a very feminist lean. It’s almost a satisfying revenge story for women, as they watch the lying creep suffer for his actions against the young girl. If this were told by someone else, Annette may be the villain. But both the speaker and the audience receive the story as a triumph for Annette. This bias can be seen in the vocabulary the speaker uses, calling him a “little pervert” and “creep.” It makes sense that this story would circulate amongst a group of young women as a victory for them against this creepy man. It reminds me of murder ballads, which is a type of legend that often details the murder of a young woman and paints the male killer in a positive light as opposed to a condemning one. In an environment filled with young women, the same plot instead is inverted to declare Annette as the victorious hero. Looking again at the social context, the audience was a group of young women the same age as the speaker, and she was often interrupted by expletives denouncing Freddy as a pervert as well.