Tag Archives: urban legend

The Parrots of San Fernando Valley


NL is my boyfriend who is twenty-four years old and grew up in the valley region of Los Angeles. NL tells me a story about the Valley that he says he has known forever and is known by most everyone who lives there.

Main Piece:

NL’s summary- There’s this weird, just kind of accepted, fact around the Valley about how we have random parrots flying around. People have seen them for a long time maybe starting in the 90s, not sure. No one seems to actually know how or why we have a bunch of parrots flying around, but there’s definitely a few different origin stories. The one I have heard the most is that they escaped after Busch Gardens closed down. Another popular story is that they escaped from a burning pet store or that people who had parrots just let them go because they didn’t want to take care of them anymore. Either way no one actually knows why we have a random parrot population in the Valley, but I’ve seen one on a power line before.


NL’s parrot story is an urban legend given that is began not long ago and there are claims of parrot sightings in present day. Like many legends, this one began as a way to explain the origin of a phenomenon that is seemingly unexplainable. No one could justify how a large parrot population just popped up in the Valley, so possible explanations are created and spread throughout the community to provide a sense of understanding. The fear of not-knowing within a community is very powerful and can resort to accepting unverifiable legends.

A Message from Slenderman


ID: One summer, I was with my friend in Idaho, so there were a lot of trees and forests. We were very young and we didn’t have cars, so we decided to leave my family for dinner and walk home alone. What we didn’t know that it gets really dark really fast. So we were walking on this path in this forest–it was by a street, but it got completely dark. There were no street lamps, just thin trees surrounding us. There were trees with eyeballs. But I take this path every day, like I’m very familiar with it. I know every turn, so I was like “okay.” We were a little afraid, and we started hearing things, imagining things, but we both genuinely swear, we heard something, both looked to our left and saw something in the trees because- I don’t know, we both saw it though. It looked like Slenderman–it was tall– but there were a lot of trees, so we don’t know. We just ran for 10 minutes sprinting home. We got home, we were terrified but were like “Okay, it was just in our heads, blah blah blah.” The next day, we go back in the morning–it’s bright out, the same path, just lalalala back to town, do our little thing. We look at this tree for some reason–we see my NAME–I see this tree every day, mind you, and I’ve never seen this before. It has my name carved into it with a face too– a smiley face with two X’s and I have proof- I swear on my life; it was from a butter knife on the tree, and it’s still there to this day. I’ve never seen that before. It literally said [informant’s name]. I’m very familiar with the place, but I’ve never seen anything like this.


This encounter happened while the informant was in 8th grade, right when everyone heard the story about those “two young girls who tried to murder their friend.” There was a lot of content about Slenderman circulating around online, and it appeared that everyone “was into watching things that freaked them out.” The informant and her friend also “went down the rabbit hole” to learn all about Slenderman and were absolutely intrigued by all the horrific, awful things they heard online. When this encounter occurred the summer after the hype around Slenderman, it became a story that the informant would tell whenever she got the chance.


Slenderman being a product of the digital age is a prime example of the Internet’s influence on young consumers. In a sense, there is a false form of protection when interacting with legends on the Internet–perhaps young users feel more daring to delve deeper into a horror story when they’re distanced from images of violence and gore. Especially with newer technologies being able to manipulate pictures and videos, when we see visual “evidence” online, it only adds to the legend–it could or could not be true. However, when online legends translate to real life, they suddenly appear much more plausible. Whether someone pranked them by engraving the informant’s name in a tree or Slenderman was actually watching over them, potentially witnessing a legend in real life strengthens individual and communal belief.

This story is a memorate: since the two friends insisted they saw a strange vision the night before coming across the name on the tree, ID translated her personal experience into an existing legendary structure in order to explain this seemingly inexplicable encounter. When ID was telling this story to our mini group, our mouths dropped when she told us about her name inscribed in the trunk–we could hardly believe our ears. Even in a setting where we were purposely telling speculative narratives, that detail appeared to provide tangible “evidence” for the sighting. Not only did she potentially see Slenderman, but the legend personally interacted with her and directly addressed her. Experiences like that could put subjects in a limbo between going out on a “quest” to reconfirm the legend or distancing themselves from it for their own safety.

Legend – Couch Island


P is a freshman at USC, and a good friend of mine. In the United States, children tend to go to summer camps, where they spend time with nature and with older camp counselors who supervise and lead them.


P: So the camp was at a lake and across the lake you could see like, I don’t know if it was an island, it was just another strip of land and there was just a couch there. Just a white couch with nothing else around it, just a couch. Yeah, we could see this couch like we could see it and so we called it couch Island. I don’t think it was an island though. That area of land, we called it couch island because it looked like it was surrounded by water kinda, and so I think the legend was, you should never step foot on couch island because — we had boats, like wooden boats. We have like, you know, canoes and we would canoe around the lake. But you’re not supposed to go on couch Island. Because there’s like some shadow guy, some shit that lives there. And like that’s his couch. You don’t want to fucking sit on his couch. But sometimes the couch would get removed and then there wouldn’t be the couch there. Like I would see the couch. Like it just wouldn’t be there some days other days it would be sometimes it was just like a chair. You know, it was switched out? Yeah, it was weird. I think, really there was a house over there. It was somebody’s house and they would just put furniture out sometimes. But we would never see them sitting there, was the thing so we were like they would always switch out the furniture so it must have been like after we’d left the camp because there was a daycare. But sometimes we would have overnights and we still wouldn’t see who was over there. So people would just make shit like people were talking about this they saw like a shadow man over there one time or whatever. But you’re not supposed to go to Couch Island. That’s what I remember. Don’t set foot on Couch Island.

Me: Did you ever hear stories about someone who stepped on couch Island and got killed? Or got caught by the Shadow Man?

P: Maybe, if anything, it was just like they stepped on the island and then they would never be heard from again. Yeah. Like that’s why you wouldn’t go there. Because if you stepped on his couch, if you sat on the couch immediately either the fog and Shadow Man  or the couch just enveloped you.


Folklore tends to be the most believable for children, who are obviously less knowledgeable on how the world works and are more susceptible to believing legends. In this case, there are clear trends on what is unseen and the legends that surround things. When something is foggy or unexplained, there tends to be more mysticism and magic around it. For the couch, there might be a very logical explanation for it. But because there is so much in the unknown, people, and especially children, are likely to come up with a more fantastical and interesting explanation for it. In many ways, the reveal of what actually happened doesn’t matter — what is real is not what’s important, what’s important is what we believe and choose to believe. 

The Chatsworth Tunnel


NL is my boyfriend who is twenty-four years old and grew up in the valley region of Los Angeles. The story he told me was passed down to him by his mother and is about a haunted tunnel in Los Angeles that was very infamous in the 1980s & 90s.

Main Piece:

NL: So, my mom used to always tell me the story about the Chatsworth Tunnel, especially if we were on the road and about to enter a tunnel; she loved to scare me. Basically, two young kids died in the tunnels a long time ago either because they were smothered, or the train hit them. Some say the train sucked all of the oxygen out of the tunnel and that’s how they died, or they couldn’t get out since the tunnel is so long and the train hit them. For some reason, this terrible tragedy created like a challenge and so at night kids would go and stand on the inside of the tunnel wall and wait for a train to come. They wanted to see if they could survive, I guess. But the areas surrounding the tunnel is very mountainous and rocky, so allegedly if you go at night, you can see people who have died standing on the rocks and cliffs. There have been a lot of supposedly bad things happen in places surrounding the tunnels that are unrelated, so it’s kind of become known as a haunted and disturbing area in general.


The story that NL describes can be categorized as an urban legend, considering how recent it is, and that many people in the Valley believe this story to be true. Traumatic stories like this often turn normal places where something exceptionally bad happens into legendary places. As the story of legendary places get passed around facts get mixed with personal claims to create the lore surrounding the area. This draws people in, since a legend could be true, to see it for themselves, like if the train really does suck all the air from the tunnel. Legends can also act as a warning for people which can either deter or attract them from replicating whatever dangerous actions were at the origin of the legend.

Bloody Mary – American Urban Legend

1. Text

When asked for a folk narrative, the informant shared the below legend:

“When I was a kid there was scariest thing you could dare someone to do was turn out the lights of the bathroom and dare them to go in and say “Bloody Mary” three times in front of the mirror. Legend has it that if you did this, she would appear in the mirror and try to kill you. Naturally, it was very popular at pre-teen slumber parties. At the time, no one really knew (or cared) who Bloody Mary was – all we did know was that the chances of a ghost appearing in the mirror with always low (but never zero, which was what induced the fear in us all). For context, this was most popular when I was in the fifth grade or so (so about circa 2013). Apparently, she might be based on the historical Mary(s) at the time; the most popular being Mary I of England, who famously had the nickname Bloody Mary for her horrible deeds as ruler.”

2. Context

The informant is Filipino American and grew up in the US. They learned this urban legend in fifth grade from other kids her age at school. The informant believed a little bit that Bloody Mary might appear when she was younger.

The informant interprets the urban legend as a “slumber party dare” therefore views it more as a fun group activity among pre-teens.

3. Analysis

As someone who was completely unfamiliar with the “Bloody Mary” myth, it is interesting that the concept of “Bloody Mary”, takes the name of the Virgin Mary, who is thought of as a pure maiden that gave birth to Jesus in Christianity. “Bloody” suggests that this is an “evil” version of Mary that is different from the Virgin Mary. This name therefore contrasts the holiness of “Mary” with the disturbing imagery from the word “bloody” to make for a scary name for a ghost. However, as the informant points out, the Bloody Mary is apparently based on a ruler of England who did horrible things, therefore not linked to the Virgin Mary. This may hint at the relationship between the US and England where England may be viewed as a country that the US broke away from and became independent. Therefore the horrible ruler Bloody Mary can be exaggerated and made into a ghost that spook children. Reflected surfaces such as mirrors are often where people think ghosts may appear. This may be largely due to the influence of media portrayal of ghosts. This could point to how pop culture in the US greatly influences folklore and vice versa. In addition, the act of “taunting” the ghost and testing the limits by trying to summon the ghost seems specific to the US. In comparison in Asian cultures, children usually do not try to summon ghosts since they are afraid of them. However, there is a similarity between these cultures in that in both cultures children like to test their limits and act brave by going to abandoned or ghost mansions. This trend is a way in which children rebel against the accepted norm that one should not go into a ghost house and add excitement to their lives through their imagination and group activities.