Tag Archives: urban legend

Douens

Description: They are ghosts of children who reside within the forest that lure children by calling out their names and having them follow their footsteps. The children eventually become lost and become Douens themselves.

Background: The informant has a prevalent interest in urban legends and found this story while searching for ghost stories and urban legends.

Transcript: 

DT: One of my favorite ones I’ve looked up cause I like scary urban legend stuff is Douens, which are spirits of kids whose feet are on backwards. They call out other kids’ names if they are in the forest and make them follow in their footsteps, which make the kids become lost and eventually turn into Douens. Basically it’s a story they told kids to stop them from going into the forest alone.

Me: From where did the urban legend come from?

DT: I think it’s Caribbean. From Tobago I believe. They’re basically like imps and fuck with people pretty much, so there’s different versions of them on what they do or stories rather.

My thoughts: 

Ghost children are certainly a common occurrence across many types of folklore. While a terrible reality, children do die. Douens are interesting takes on those that disappear within the forest.   Despite the simplicity, I see a lot of space of nuance. Unlike most monsters, who lure children for the sake of eating them or something similar, Douens are likely searching for companionship, luring children to transform them into one of their own. So while Douens are likely created for children to fear, there could be another perspective where they can be sympathized with as they are likely once children themselves.

Ghosts and Murderers on a Bus

Background: The interviewer and the informant recall a ghost story that circulated in their primary school in Qingdao, China. 

Interviewer: Can you retell that Beijing bus story?

Informant: Yep. There’s umm there’s a guy, and he went on a bus. umm and then the bus got to a station, and then several people came onto the bus, and then suddenly there’s an old grandma walking towards him. And she sort of forced him to get off the bus. He said, this isn’t my station yet. That grandma didn’t give a damn and was like, pulling him off of the bus. And then after they got off, she said to him, those guys that just got on, they were ghosts, you see, they don’t have feet……and then the next day he picked up a newspaper, he found that the bus rushed into a mountain valley, and everyone on that bus died. He felt like he passed the gate of hell ‘cause that grandma literally saved his life.

Interview: Ohh I remember those guys wore Qing Dynasty robes too, like the ones Qing zombies wore on TV!

Informant: Yep yep yep, and oh yeah then the next day when the police found the bus, they opened the gas tank and it was filled with blood…

Interviewer: whooo I still get chills listening to this story…

Informant: Yeah and I heard it was adapted from a true crime story. 

Interviewer: Oh really? I think xxx told me that story the first time, but then two years later I saw something very similar on Baidu Tieba [note: a popular blog site, the Chinese equivalence of Reddit]. 

Informant: Yeah yeah I saw the post too. It really blew up everywhere hahaha. I forgot where I heard about the true crime version, but it was actually a murder case. I think it was a guy, he also was taking a bus ride, and then a few other guys went onto the bus too, and then it was still an old woman who pulled him off of that bus. It was like she saw blood on those guys, and they probably just killed somebody, and they were trying to ditch the body or something like that. Anyways the next day the bus rushed into a valley too. Basically they controlled the bus driver and hijacked the bus, but it lost control and fell down the road.

Analysis: This was a very popular story among fourth and fifth graders in this primary school. I think the reason its horror works particularly well for this demographics is because that bus was the most common form of transportation for students at that age. It serves as a metaphorical cautionary tale to alert the young students of the danger with riding the bus alone. 

This is also interesting, because the ghost story is created on the basis of an urban legend. The two versions are essentially the same story, but with slightly different elements. This shows that folk tales are very prone to variation and multiplicity.

The Jersey Devil

Background: 

My informant, NK, is 19 years old and of South Korean descent from both her mother and father’s sides of the family. Her grandparents live close to her, so she spends a lot of time with them. She is very passionate about cooking. Even though she is majoring in biochemical engineering at UC Berkeley, she has always been, and remains to be, extremely interested in conspiracy theories. While she may not necessarily believe them, she enjoys hearing lore from across the world. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance:

NK: So, there’s this urban legend in New Jersey, called the Jersey Devil. I’ve heard about it from different like conspiracy shows or websites, and just word of mouth. Um, and it’s one of those things like Bigfoot. The myth goes that there’s a woman – there’s some variations obviously – but she had one kid or thirteen, depending on who you ask, and she had a pact with the devil or hooked up with him, or something. And so either that one kid or the youngest one was born deformed, so he had like wings and a beak and was human-like but also bat-like. He grew up to huge sizes, and then would be seen around New Jersey, I’m not sure which area. And then there’s been sightings, I’m not sure when the first one was, but there were a lot in the 20th century. I wanna say it’s similar to Mothman: big wings, red eyes, part human. 

SW: Do you know anything about the origins of the story?

NK: I’m not sure, but I think there were some sightings that were hard to explain, so people kind of made up the lore to explain them. 

Thoughts:

I love urban legends. As NK pointed out, like many urban legends, it’s safe to assume that the legend of the Jersey Devil developed in response to some unexplained sightings in an effort to make sense of them. There are a few different variations of the Jersey Devil legend. Most seem to identify the woman NK mentioned as Mother Leeds, as Leeds was one of the first settlers in New Jersey, and family with the name Leeds can still be found there today. There have been numerous accounts and sightings of the Jersey Devil, many of which can be found all across the internet. For more background on this urban legend and personal sightings of the Jersey Devil, see “The Jersey Devil.”

Annotation:

“The Jersey Devil.” Weird NJ, Weird NJ, 13 Jan. 2017, weirdnj.com/stories/jersey-devil/.

Hanako-san

Context: The following is an account from the informant, my younger sister. She told me this after I asked if she had heard any interesting stories lately, as many happen to pop up at schools. When I asked for more of the conversation or more detail, she said her memory was fuzzy and she was unable to recall.

Background: The informant was relating to me something interesting she had heard from her Japanese friend in high school recently. She had never heard of such a story before, so she thought it was interesting.

Main piece: Once, I mentioned to my friend that I always changed my clothes in the third bathroom stall. She said, “Oh, did you know that in the third stall of every girls bathroom is a Japanese ghost?” 

Analysis: After doing some research, the friend appears to be referring to the Japanese urban legend of Hanako-san, the spirit of a young girl who haunts school bathrooms. In order to summon the ghost, individuals are required to go to the girls’ bathroom, usually on the third floor, and knock on the door of the third stall, asking for her presence.

I think it is interesting to hear about such a tale, which is popular in Japan, in the United States, where it is relatively unknown. Also, this ritual of calling upon a ghost in the bathroom bears stark similarities to the commonly known Bloody Mary ritual. It’s also interesting to note the frequent occurrence of female ghosts or spirits haunting school bathrooms, which would normally be a rather odd place to haunt, since people don’t spend too much time in the bathroom, such as Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter series.

There’s A Man in The Woods

“I have a story about the man in the woods at the soccer field. So, as a child, my brothers and I participated in Brookside Soccer, which is you know like your average recreational soccer thing that children do and a lot of my friends, or at least a lot of people in my grade, also had older siblings who did Brookside and there was this one field, I don’t know how old my brothers were, but they would always play on this certain field and whenever I was there I would see people in my grade who also had older brothers who were playing and the big deal with this field was there was a huge forest surrounding it. The thing about the forest is, on the outskirts of it, would grow honeysuckles, and especially as a young child, they looked tasty. So the whole appeal to the soccer field- it was kinda great because we could eat honey suckles. So me and my friends, we would always go the border and get honeysuckles but you wanted to be fast because the whole idea was there was a man living inside- if you went a little deeper into the forest, you would inf a man and a campsite or something. The guy was always depicted as a homeless guy with a big beard and kinda dirty and ruffled. The whole idea was that you didn’t want him to catch you. There’s another part of the story, that in the forest where he stayed, there was an aluminum trash can that you would see around the soccer field. The idea was that as a kid, you would go to the trashcan by the soccer field and he could hear you. There was also a little bit of part of like asking for wishes, through the trash can to the homeless guy. So i don’t understand why we were scared of him but also like he would help us? The idea is that you’d want honeysuckles but you had to be quick because you didn’t want to see the man in the woods.”

Background:

My informant is a 16-year old who lives in Kansas City, Missouri. She and her two older brothers participated in a recreational soccer program when they were much younger based out of a neighborhood in Kansas City called Brookside. The school she attended was the same school her brothers went to and so it was not uncommon for friends of her brothers to have younger siblings she got along with. Oftentimes, she would come along to the recreational soccer matches and play with the other younger siblings. The area the soccer matches happens to contain several large fields, a few of which bordered dense forest as this area was on the outskirts of the town.  

Context:
My informant brought up this story during a walk around her neighborhood when I asked her about scary stories from her childhood. 

Thoughts:

This story appears to be in the vein of urban legends about some crazed killer. In addition, it serves a very clear purpose, that being of regulating where these young children could and could not go. My informant emphasized how this topic came about mostly because her and her friends wanted honeysuckles from the nearby woods. Therefore, they probably created this figure from similar urban legends they had heard in order to justify not exploring the woods any further. This was only reinforced by any figures of authority, who did not want them to explore the woods. The informant mentioned to me that her older brothers might have corroborated parts of her story to instill the fear of the woods and keep her closer to everyone else during these soccer matches. The other interesting component is how a homeless man in the woods is scary for a child living in the city. The informant told me that she lived in a city, and these soccer matches were a time where she and her friends were far away from that environment. As such, their fears as an amalgam of the fear of strange men, which she would have seen growing up, and that of the woods, which were far more unknown and mysterious to her. The man is not supernatural, but to them he represented a very real threat but in a strange environment.