Tag Archives: slumber party

The Five Inch Fingernail Lady

Informant Information – GD

  • Nationality: American
  • Age: 57
  • Occupation: Teacher
  • Residence: San Pedro, California
  • Date of Performance/Collection: March 20, 2022
  • Primary Language: English

The informant first heard this story at a sleepover with several friends as a child in the late 1960s. She shared this information with me in an in-person interview.


The Five Inch Fingernail Lady could supposedly be heard scratching at windows. We would tell this story at sleepovers, and we had a scary ending that we told each other and a funny ending that we told to younger siblings. The story goes: 

One night, when a teenage girl was home all alone, she thought she heard a sound at her bedroom window. At first, she ignored it, but as she walked to the window she realized that someone was scratching at it. She crept up to the window very slowly because she was afraid. Suddenly, she threw back the curtain, but no one was there!

Then, she heard the same sound, but now it was coming from inside the kitchen! She ran to the kitchen to investigate. 

So the funny ending goes: She ran into the kitchen and found a lady with long, long fingernails. Five INCH fingernails! And with those fingers with long, sharp fingernails… She was eating chips that she found in the kitchen! She was just a ghost looking for a snack! 

The scary ending goes: She ran into the kitchen and found a terrifying monster with sharp teeth and long, pointed fingernails that were dripping with blood. She chased down the girl, grabbing her with her long, pointed, claw-like fingernails and ate her with her sharp, pointed teeth… I guess she was looking for a snack in this version, too.


It’s very interesting that this story has two alternative endings that are specifically designated for different age groups. It makes a lot of sense, given that this is a story meant to be told at sleepovers and parties– events that should be fun and enjoyable. I can understand using a sillier version of the story to make sure that telling and listening to the story remains fun, rather than actually upsetting.

“Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board”

This folklore was collected from my mother, who told me about a slumber party ritual she would do with her friends when she was younger. So, this would have taken place in the late 1970s, early 1980s.

“At slumber parties with pre-adolescent girls, there were a couple of stories, rituals that were passed on from generation to generation. One was a story that the group of 5-8 girls could lift one of the girls up over their heads by using only their fingertips. In order for this to work, all the girls in the group had to concentrate solely on the task at hand and chant ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ over and over. The girl who was subject to the lifting started off lying flat on her back on the floor. The other girls encircled the subject and puts their hands underneath her, touching only with their fingertips. As the chanting beings, the group attempts to lift the subject up off the floor until she is suspended above the heads of the others. If this was unsuccessful (as it always was), it was due to one or more members of the group lacking proper concentration or belief…. There was always the accompanying story that someone had succeeded before… or someone’s older sister had told the tale of a successful lift”

I had never heard of this sleepover game/ritual before, so it might be specific to the area/time period my mother grew up in. Or, perhaps it became less popular because it never worked. Another slumber party ritual my mother mentioned to me was the “Bloody Mary” chant, which is well-known (I heard about it from other kids when I was younger) so it was interesting that this wasn’t a familiar piece of folklore within my generation.


“Levitating” at a Slumber Party

The informant discusses a game she would play with her friends at slumber parties when she was a child, which involves levitating someone.  She holds this game as a fond memory from her childhood growing up in Fullerton, CA.  The informant is now 57 so the game was played in the mid to late 1960s.

The informant explains that late at night all the girls at the slumber party would choose one girl who they would try to levitate that night.  The chosen girl would lie down flat on her back and every other girl would gather around her sitting down with legs folded underneath you.  Each girl would put both hands with their first two fingers under the chosen girl and the girl would go into a trance-like state.  From person-to-person around the circle they would say, “Your bones are turning, your bones are turning.”  After that is repeated enough all of the girls would rotate saying, “you’re dead, you’re dead.”  Then at some moment when people felt that the chosen girl was light or in a trance they would try to lift person with two fingers.  The informant notes that all the girls thought that the person did indeed feel as light as a feather.  There was a belief that they had somehow lightened the girl.

This folklore shows young girls interests in magic and the supernatural.  The act of trying to levitate a girl indicates each girl’s curiosity with magical powers as well as themes of death and altered states as seen with the lines “you’re dead” and “your bones are turning.”  The game demonstrates young girls exploring with ideas of mortality and life after death for the first times.  Understanding more complex ideas such as death is important in this time of life.