Text For this narrative joke, my informant is my older brother (SF). The “Drop Bear” came up in conversation when talking about going on a hike or exploring nature in Australia. My parents had mentioned their plans for the following day on the trip to which my cousin interjected and said, “watch out for the drop bears.” “The what?” my father responded. “The drop bears.” my cousin repeated, dragging on the anticipation of not expanding and letting other cousins and Australian family back him up. My cousin then explained, “yea, big angry bears that live in the trees and they’ll drop on your head.” Drop bears are a species native to Australia that most outsiders have never heard of. The warnings continue to even suggest bringing a helmet into the Australian forests.
Context My family, being from the US, was unfamiliar with this concept that is widely known by Australians, and had fallen for the joke. We were visiting our relatives in Australia when I was younger, and my brother had remembered the story. Though fallacious, drop bears have an extensive amount of detailed history and classifications. According to the Australian Museum, Drop Bears are carnivorous marsupials, “around the size of a leopard or very large dog with coarse orange fur with some darker mottled patterning,” ranging from “120kg, 130cm long, 90 cm at the shoulder.” My informant’s interpretation revolved around this story being a funny joke but not much more. He enjoyed the idea that this fooled his parents and aligned with his humor of subjecting gullibility.
Interpretation My interpretation of this story/species is simply a way to prank tourists for entertainment. It’s a harmless joke that catches newcomers looking up constantly and watching the trees. It’s incredible that the legend has become so developed, so much so that the animal has basically all of the classifications any real species would, including appearance, diet, habitat, and regional distribution. I would say this legend brings Australians together, as they essentially have a nationwide inside joke.
Informant Info: The informant is a 20-year-old female who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother is Caucasian, and her father is Hispanic. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and works for Walt Disney World.
Interview Transcript: Interviewer: Can you tell me about your favorite past time?
Interviewee: I think my favorite past time would have to be being in the car. Not sitting in traffic, but with people I love going on a spontaneous adventure.
Interviewer: Really? Where did this come from. Like why do you love driving or what are your favorite memories from it?
Interviewee: One of my most cherished memories was the road trip my brother, best friend, and I took from San Antonio all the way to Fayetteville, North Carolina. It’s a 22-hour trip and I drove for 18 of them. We stopped in so many places along the way. Our first stop was in Houston to get coffee. I ended up drinking a total of 8 shots in a matter of minutes and I do not recommend that…but I was awake for the rest of the trip! Then we were in Louisiana when the sky decided to break and rain harder than I ever thought possible. Next thing you know my driver side windshield wiper flew off and straight into the bayou… Like…Great. We pull over as soon as we can and I switch from the passenger side to the driver side. We ended up in Gross Teet, Louisiana and the name to this day still makes me laugh. We got new ones and went on our way. Next stop was New Orleans, and boy! It did not disappoint. Beignets by the dozen and fortunes from the voodoo man were in store. After living my Tiana dreams we were on the road again. Next stop Pensacola. We stopped for dinner at a Cracker Barrel and we were on the way again. My brother drove the last four hours into North Carolina but before we crossed into the state we had to stop at south of the border: the most insane truck stop experience EVER. Once we got to North Carolina, I decided I wanted to keep going to Virginia Beach to see my maw and grandaddy and to this day I’m so happy I did. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d ever see my grandaddy and I hold that memory very close to my heart. After Virginia, we went back to North Carolina and I graduated high school and then traveled to the happiest place on earth (Disney World) and made some more really great memories, like meeting you!
This is not direct folklore, but it is an excellent example of story-telling. I was with the informant in person when she told me this story, and she gave a very active-performance. She was very excited, spoke with lots of arm movements, and loved being able to talk about her favorite past time. At a later time, off the record, she brought up how important road trips are to her, and how she wants to find a way to make road trips a family tradition in the future.
The Winchester Mystery House is a house that was built in San Jose, California, in the 1800s, occupied by a husband and wife. As the story goes, as relayed by the informant, the woman in the story was paranoid that her husband’s ghost and others in the house would attempt to haunt her. Then, the woman, to avoid collisions with the supernatural, built several traps to fool her husband’s ghost: staircases that led nowhere, extra rooms, dead-ends, etc.
Interestingly, the house has since been turned into a tourist property, where, playing off the above legend, visits can pay for night tours through the “haunted house”. The Winchester Mystery House remains open to the public. Tours can be scheduled at its official website: http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/
It is impossible to know if the folklore surrounding the property caused the site to become a tourist attraction–or if the folklore was fabricated in order to promote the tourist attraction.