Tag Archives: urban legend

Urban Legend- Herobrine in Minecraft

Story:

Minecraft players have talked about this figure Herobrine, who basically looks like the character Steve but without eyeballs, for a few years. You summon Herobrine by making an altar our of gold, nether, and torches. It’s less common to see Herobrine himself – although some players have claimed to – but you can tell he’s been in an area in a number of ways. For example, the trees might have no leaves, you might see a random 2×2 tunnel, something you built could be on fire, he might put up signs with threatening messages … those are a few things that players have linked to him. Some people claim to have seen him even without spawning him using the altar; there are some blurry screenshots circulating online as proof, but it’s been debated whether those are edited or not. It’s most likely that if he’s real, he’s a glitch, based on the way he acts. But some people have started a rumor that Herobrine is the dead brother of Notch [the founder of Minecraft].

Context:

The informant, BN, is my classmate at USC. He is an avid Minecraft player, and came across this legend through posts on Reddit and YouTube related to the game.

Analysis:

Personally, I think Herobrine is real. Although I’ve never seen the ominous character himself, I have tried to spawn him in using the gold/nether altar – and soon thereafter I saw leafless trees, as well as a sign in front of my house in the game, saying “You will burn.”

The development and spread of the Herobrine legend shows the nature of the Minecraft community. The square-based universe of Minecraft is one adjacent to our real world, so it has its own folklore and urban legends. Players’ thoughts on whether Herobrine is real or not stem from their personal experiences with the game, as well as the YouTube and Twitch content they consume of it. This is similar to how many people’s belief in ghosts comes from their own perceived encounters with one, or convincing video content that someone else has interacted with/seen one. Plus, most Minecraft players belong to Gen Z and grew up with the game. This demographic was in their early teens when the Herobrine legend first originated and gained traction. This young age group is significantly more likely to believe a story about the paranormal, allowing the legend to take off and maintain relevance.

Hole in the Fence

CONTEXT: PK is a student who previously attended USC. This is a “scary story” of an
unexplained occurrence that happened before he was a student. When he moved into the location at which it occurred, he was told this story by a previous resident. PK views this story as entirely true and a staple of USC folklore. He believes the origin of the story to be from about half a decade before he left and heard this story from a past housemate who lived with someone who lived in the house at the assumed time of the story.

TEXT:
Back in the days of yore… Well, long, long, long ago in the history of USC, where students have lived for many, many years in a dwelling on Orchard Avenue, there was a strange occurrence. Since the house abutted an apartment building to the back there was a tall – twelve-foot-tall – chain-linked fence between the two properties. One ancient guy, supposedly, legend says, cut a hole in the fence for easier egress in the event of a fire, or other emergency. And, as soon as the property manager found out, they came in and they called a construction company, and they closed up the hole with zip ties. And life went on as normal, and two weeks later, they received another call, the property manager, that there was another hole in the fence. And they started to talk to the house, like, “Are you guys cutting a hole in the fence? Like, what’s going on?” And
they denied it because at first, they didn’t know what he was talking about. And so, this time they came back in with chain link, and they put chain links together to hold the fence together, and they put another layer of fence over it – the old fence – to be doubly as thick. You know, life went on as normal, and continued, and nothing out of the ordinary until one day when the electrician came, they found another hole in the back of the fence. And so, this time the property manager had to know, and they said, “You know, this is ridiculous. We don’t have any evidence that you guys are cutting a hole in the back of the fence but if this is you, you have to stop it.” And so, this time they put a metal cage over the fence. They put bars all the way over the fence, a half inch thick, steel bars going all the way across. And they thought that they solved it, they thought, “There’s no way they’re going to cut through this. This is ridiculous.” Sure enough, two weeks later, again, just like clockwork, there was a huge hole cut in the bars. It was actually that this time they were bent as if some giant baboon had ripped apart the half
inch steel bars. So, the property manager was like, “this is ridiculous.” And so, they put in a camera. They were like “We’re going to catch whoever is doing this.” They put in the camera, they replaced the metal bars, and this time they poured a one-foot-wide section of concrete, for the entire 30-foot-long property line, ten feet tall. And two weeks later, just again, nothing on the camera, and there was a hole blasted through the concrete, as if by dynamite, and that hole is still there to this day. You know, the obvious thought was that it was done by the guy who originally cut the hole in the fence, but there were twelve people living in the house at the time and nobody ever reported hearing a sound that would go with breaking a whole huge hole through concrete. The story has just been passed down generation to generation.
I think IM, who lived there many years ago, whispered the story to me one night.

ANALYSIS: This story seems to have been told to both entertain a new resident, and maybe make him a little uneasy in a new environment. New places often hold secrets that a new resident may not know about, and this story, and the way in which it was told capitalize on that feeling of uncertainty. It is not a particularly scary story, but it follows the structure of a scary story or urban legend, providing an explanation for a visible part of the house (the hole in the concrete). The word choice, drawing attention to how long ago it was supposed to occur, the strength of the barriers, and the reference to a creature like a baboon, are all comical in this situation, though an ancient place with a strong, unseen creature, seems more like the set up to a scary story. No one has been able to confirm any part of this story, other than that the hole is there. The use of dialogue is interesting, in light of this, because it is the narrator’s own
interpretation of how that conversation would probably go.

The Legend of the Hook

Text:

Informant: “The story happens in a small town, and there’s a small darkened road that teenagers would go down and park along to kiss and make out. So, the story follows these two teenagers who are parked alongside the road and start to get a little amorous…”

Collector: “Do we know anything about the identities of the two teenagers?”

Informant: “They were just two young kids from the local high school that haven’t been dating for long; they’re very innocent and new to the dating scene, so the whole situation is exciting for them. Anyhow, they’re out, things are starting to get hot and heavy, but they hear some noises out in the woods. The guy rolls down the window and asks, “Hey, is anybody out there? Do you need help?” There’s no response, so they just go back to making out. A few minutes go by, and they hear the same noises again, and the kid rolls down the window and again asks if anyone’s out there. The girl tells him, “Why don’t you go out and take a look?” and so he goes out and looks around the car and sees nothing. He gets back in and rolls up the window, but they hear yet another noise, and this time it sounds even closer, so they start to get concerned. They realize how late it is and decide to head home, and on the way home, they turn on the radio. On the radio they hear that a mass murderer had just escaped from a nearby mental institution and was on the loose. The broadcast described the man as having one defining feature: a hook for one of his hands. And so they’re like, “Oh, well, at least we’re out of that area.” So they drive home, and when they stop in front of the house, the guy gets out to open the door for her, and there on her door handle is a hook.”

Context: The informant is a 63 year-old man who was told this story by his grandmother as a teenager when she was cautioning him against staying out late at night. The informant said that the legend accurately referenced a mental hospital that was close to where he lived as a boy in upstate New York. He explained that the moral is that you can be much closer to danger than you think, and that you should trust your instincts whenever you feel like something isn’t right.

Analysis: Legends can function as a powerful social tool, and this story is a prime example of the kinds of effects that they can have. Legends typically intersect with both reality and some supernatural or extraordinary element(s), which can blend together to become powerful persuasive devices. In this case, this story was used to scare teenagers into behaving responsibly, and I will attempt to analyze how it does so, taking into account the distinctive western context that it is situated in. Teenagers often have a reputation for being fearless and reckless in their behavior, and many American teens, especially, are heavily influenced by the American education system, which arguably prioritizes rational thought and critical inquiry and de-emphasizes superstition and blind adherence to belief. As a result, it is reinforced in many American teens and adolescents with traditional schooling to be skeptical of fantastical monsters and stories. Thus, in an attempt to use storytelling as a method of persuasion for teens, it helps to incorporate some tangible aspect of reality for credence, which legends as a narrative form tend to have. Therefore, in teens, the legend would seem to be particularly effective over myths and tales, which are understood by most at their age as not factually true. The manipulation of reality in “The Hook” is particularly effective here, referencing a real location–a mental asylum–where criminals were really known to be held, in order to give the story a greater rhetorical weight and degree of plausibility. The supernatural element, a deranged man from the asylum, blends so seamlessly with the factual details of the story that I see how it would be highly useful in persuading a skeptical, rebellious teenager (as my informant once was) into avoiding staying out late at night.

The Parrots of San Fernando Valley

Context:

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.

Analysis:

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

Text:

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.

Context:

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.

Analysis:

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.