Tag Archives: travel

Suitcase ’round the Cul-de-sac

The informant recounts a Peruvian tradition used to bring good luck during travel.

A: You run a suitcase around a cul-de-sac in order to have good luck while traveling. 

L: So anyone of any age does it?

A: Yeah. Not that I was the only one that did it by choice. I was told to do it. 

L: By who?

A: By my mother.

L: Do you know if it’s a family thing, or a cultural thing? Or is your mother fucking with you?

A: No, I think it’s a cultural thing. 

Thoughts:

When I first heard this, I thought my informant was messing with me. However, this is a very real tradition that is still practiced by people today. It seems like this tradition was born from people wanting to do something silly and fun before they travel as a way to bring them good luck.

Hitchhiking And Serial Killers In The U.S.

Informant’s Background:

My informant, DK, is a undergraduate student at Arizona State University studying aerospace engineering. He lives in Tempe, Arizona. His family is American and he was born and raised in Arizona, where he has lived his entire life.

Context:

My informant, DK, and I are friends, after meeting online through a mutual friend during the pandemic. I asked him if he had any folklore to share.

Performance:

DK: “Alright. Uhh… My middle-school math teacher, his name was (REDACTED), uh, very interesting guy. He fled home when he was 18, and I think he joined… he joined up with a traveling circus. (DK laughs). Like, I’m not making this up he legitimately joined a traveling circus. Uh, and then, at another point he decided to hitchhike across America. You know, hitchhike from point A to point B… uh, not really caring where he was going, you know… it’s the 70s. Uh, and so he is on the West Coast, in California during this time… And uh, he is hitching of course, like I said… and so he gets picked up by some guy, guy is giving him real creepy vibes. Just like a no-good dude kind of situation. Uh, and the guy keeps asking like creepy questions like… “Do you have any family? Do you live nearby?” Like that kind of stuff. And eventually my math teacher gets creeped out SO much the decides to bail from the car, literally like jumps out of the car while it is still rolling and runs away. And… you know, and normally that’s the end of the story except my math teacher saw on the news later that day, err…. The next day, actually, that there was a hitchhiker found who was found dead on the beach, uh, nearby where he was. And that… probably was the like same guy picking up another hitchhiker and killing him. And that that was like a serial killer who was doing that stuff so… that’s the story of my awesome math teacher who was almost killed by a serial killer when he was a young lad.

AT: “Ok, did you hear this from your math teacher?”

DK: “Yeah!”

AT: “Ok, what was the context in which he told you the story?”

DK: “Uh… It was math class. (DK laughs.) We didn’t have much to talk about at the time. He was a really neat dude, he had a lot of stories like that.”

AT: “Was it a known or a famous serial killer?”

DK: “I think it was, but… it… it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten which serial killer.”

Thoughts:
Serial killers have played a prominent role in American culture and folklore ever since the late twentieth century, if not earlier. While serial killings still occur in modern American society, the rise of mass shootings and other large-scale violence and killings such as the rise of domestic terrorism have in a way pushed serial killings and serial killers away from the limelight, and at least in the collective conscious they have become a almost quaint thing of the past. Television shows such as Netflix’s Mindhunter, or it’s various documentaries about real-life serial killers have propelled the murderers of the late twentieth century into the status of myths and legends. This particular story seems a perfect encapsulation of this kind of serial killer tale. The time period is the late twentieth century, with the setup of the story being that the informant’s teacher is hitchhiking, a phenomenon that has widely fallen out of practice as it is nowadays deemed “unsafe”, primarily because of stories such as this one. Popular American media is also full of such stories, such as in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where a group of hitchhikers find themselves at the mercy of a family of hillbilly serial killers. The scary and widely now considered relatively unsafe times of the late twentieth century in America lead themselves to all sorts of morbid tales, cults, serial killings, and the like were at the forefront of American cultural consciousness at the time, and as a result many such tales of the period, such as the one found in this article, have lasted to this day.

Hands on the Plane – Travel Superstition

Context:

Informant MW lived in America at the time of this collection. MW frequently travels to Zambia to work for her family’s ministry located there. Traveling to Zambia requires multiple flights. When speaking with MW, they shared with me a travel superstition that they learned from their parents.


Text:

The belief is that “you must touch the outside of the plane with your right hand or it will go wrong.”


As Christians, MW’s family regularly pray to God for protection and safe travels. Just as they were stepping into the plane to board, MW was raised to say a prayer of blessing and protection over the plane while touching its exterior with her right hand. Over time, MW explained how this belief became an almost enjoyable superstition. They told me how they would wait eagerly on the jet bridge until they could finally touch the plane.


Analysis:

After hearing about this belief, I have come to understand it as a way of self-identity and expression. MW identifies as a Chrisitan and believes that God hears their prayers and protects them. This travel superstition is an outward expression of identity that serves as a reflection of MW’s beliefs. In the Bible, there are several mentions of Jesus Christ’s powerful and healing touch. Additionally, the Bible mentions the right hand or the right side as being more righteous/holy than the left. I believe that it is likely that these mentions found in the Bible have contributed to crafting the belief in which MW’s family participates in.


Annotation:

Another version of similar travel superstitions can be found in the USC folklore archives. See here:

Wolf, Max, and Max Wolf. “University of Southern California.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, 20 May 2019, folklore.usc.edu/get-on-the-plane-with-your-right-foot-travel-superstition.

Don’t start traveling on Wednesday.

Context & Background: 

My friend who is almost like my grandmother and my late grandfather’s family friend acts as the informant to tells me a weird superstition they had in their small childhood town. 

Performance: (via phone call)

In the small town in rural Uttar Pradesh, India, where I grew up, there was a saying that you shouldn’t start traveling anywhere on Wednesdays. Even for me, this is hard to believe, but the town followed it, and so did I. It was impossible, though, to halt all travel on Wednesdays. So the shortcut to that was on Tuesday, you had to leave your shoes outside the house. If your shoes were outside, maybe at someone else’s house, you could travel on Wednesdays. 

Analysis:

This folk belief was very interesting to find out because there was an oikotype right in the story. The informant told me that it was hard to keep following this belief so the town revised it to be more doable. The oikotype being that if you had shoes outside your house already, you could go and travel. The meaning behind this is that because some part of you – your shoes – are already travelling on Tuesday, then you can go and travel on Wednesday. You are not starting a new journey, you are simply continuing it. A very interesting belief, and one that is from the part in India where my family is from, so my mom knew of this belief, but my family does not follow it. 

Don’t sneeze before you leave your house

Context & Background: 

KR – informant and friend from college of the collector. They share the same ethnicity and often talk about the similarities in their lives. SD – collector 

Performance: (via FaceTime)

KR: As you are leaving the house, if you sneeze, you have to drink water or eat something, and wait a few minutes before you leave your house again. 

SD: I remember this one! My mom told me that I would always sneeze as we left the house and we would have to wait before we left. Apparently I caused them to be late to quite a few places. (laughs)

KR: Yea, to children, if you ever tell them not to do something, they always do it. 

SD: No, this happened a few years ago actually. (smirks)

KR: (Laughs)

Analysis:

Don’t really know the historical, political, or humorous reasoning behind this belief. KR doesn’t know the meaning behind this belief either. Asking my parents, they said it’s just something we did. Sometimes, there are beliefs that keep going for generations, and their meaning gets lost with time. This is one case of that, but it’s still crazy to see the prevalence of this unknown belief in our lives.