Los Angeles, California
March 8, 2012
Folklore Type: Ghost Story
Informant Bio: Parin Patel is a friend I met when we both went on an archaeological excavation in Rome the summer of 2011. He is a Junior and double major in Archaeology and Business at the University of Southern California. Parin is Indian and thus interested in Indian Archaeology and stories, particularly of the supernatural sort. He is actually interested in spirituality and the supernatural in general.
Context: There were several Archaeology majors and one Visual Anthropology Graduate student sitting around drinking after a long day of survey at Catalina Island. We were there for the weekend as a Directed Research Experience. Parin was the only guy in this group hanging out. We were talking and laughing in general. We played Never Have I Ever, and then Parin says, “Guys, guys let’s tell ghost stories.” About four or five people shared some sort of real life encounter that they heard from a friend or relative. Parin told two stories. This was the second one he told.
Item: So here’s the next one. (which burial ground? Then we can talk.) um my uncle is an engineer and a developer in India, uh he lives in Gujarat. But he basically takes land and from like forested land and just like chops it down and builds entire sub-divisions. So he took this forested area and uh built up the land and built houses and stuff. And built uh my other uncle, his brother, a house there as well. And so they’re living there. My cousin uh one day this was um back in 2002 or so. He’s in, he’s like in the bathroom uh just like uh taking a shower or whatever. And he like. First of all his house, his house is kind of scary anyway ‘cause he has this photo of this woman with no face like posted up right in the hallway when you enter the second floor. When you walk up the stairs there’s this woman with no face. So like every time I’m there I just run through, but that has nothing to do with this story. Um so my cousin’s in the bathroom, he just got through taking a shower and he looks out of the window ‘cause he hears, hears something, something or somebody and he looks out of the window. And all of a sudden like the entire area’s just forest. Like all he sees is like trees everywhere. And this whole place is like built with houses. There’s no trees around. Um it’s just entire forest and he sees a woman scream, and he hears her scream like as loud as like… (stammer) uh if somebody’s next to you screaming. He looks out of the window and he sees her running through the forest with like a white gown on. And he just freaks out he just runs downstairs. He’s like, “did’jou guys hear that? Did’jou guys see that?” And nobody heard about it. And they like did their research or whatever, and it turns out like a girl was like raped and killed in that area… twenty or thirty years before that. (so creepy, murmurings, o my god) And he’s, he’s not one to believe in ghosts or anything and that’s the first time he’s ever had that kind of experience. (that’s horrible).
Informant’s Analysis: Parin trusts his cousin because as he said his cousin is not the type to believe in ghosts. Parin said that he believed in the supernatural and was very interested in it. He believes the story to be true based on his trust in his cousin.
Analysis: Everyone that shared a story was sharing a second account of a personal experience, and everyone that night agreed that they believe in the supernatural on some level. Yet, we are all a major that is grounded in material data and theory. Sharing and believing in the ghost stories fulfills a need for an explanation that in most circumstances is impossible in Archaeology. Although material culture is available the answers to Archaeological questions are mostly theory with no way to truly know if the theory is correct. The supernatural provides an answer that is acceptably unexplained, which could provide comfort to Archaeologists that it is all right that their questions may also never truly be answered. The story itself reflects a clash between old occurrences on specific land and modern changes to said land. The area used to be a forest, and then it got disturbed by being torn down and turned into houses. In many ghost stories the correlation of modern people disturbing the land is fairly common. Older ideas of spirits living within the land or the land being alive come out in these stories of modern change to an old area.
Annotation: In the film An American Haunting there is a scene of a girl running through a forest, she has been raped, rape is a central issue in the film, and there is a reference to the Bell Witch which is the other story Parin told that evening. There is also a house that burns down and connection between the past and present through the story in a journal which relates two similar tales of rape in the past and present of the film.
Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California
ANTH 333m Spring 2012