Context: This myth was performed in an apartment to an audience of 3 people.
Background: The informant is from Hawaii, where this myth is popular.
“Pele was the goddess of Lava. One of the things that goes around that’s like a, I don’t know if it’s a myth. She was into some guy, but the guy was getting with her sister so she became some lava monster and chased him away. But they say if you’re driving under the mountain, because there’s a tunnel that goes under the mountain. That if you see an old lady with like white hair there and she’ll try to hitch hike. They’ll say that that’s Pele and sometimes she’ll just appear in your back seat.”
Car rides can be very boring, so it makes sense that the legend of Pele would be adopted into the form of a hitchhiking old lady: It serves as an interesting story which can help to pass the time during monotonous car trips.
Informant Info: The informant is a 26-year-old female who was born in raised in Hickory, North Carolina. For the past 3 years, she has lived in Orlando, Florida and has worked for Walt Disney World as a Status Coordinator.
Interviewer: Do you remember your parents ever telling you any memorable folktales when you were growing up?
Interviewee: I vividly remember one – one weekend my father took my brother and I camping in the Appalachian’s, and at night he started to tell us stories around the fire… as you naturally do when camping! The story that I remember most was him telling us about when he came hiking as a boy with his father and running into a ghost. They were hiking considerably deep in the mountains, and the sun was starting to set so they had to speed up their pace so they would make it to camp before dusk. He then told us how then, like… from out of nowhere an old man caught up to them and started walking beside them without ever looking at them or saying anything… then he just sped up and kept going around a bend. When they caught up and turned the corner themselves, he was gone! I think my dad was just trying to creep us out and made it up but… it surely did work. Honestly, I’m still nervous about going hiking because I always think about it.
This story shares close resemblance with a similar story that I found: The phantom ghost of Grandfather mountain, which is a popular North Carolina park. In both cases, the ghost is a benign old man (often described as wearing old, rugged clothes with a leather pack, a white beard, and is using a wooden walking stick). Similarly, in both cases the ghost doesn’t speak, and eventually speeds up and vanishes. Hundreds of people have reported this ghost story, so it is likely that her father really did see the ghost for himself, or that he was just passing down the popular story to his kids, giving the context that they were camping and telling scary stories. The other collection can found here: http://northcarolinaghosts.com/mountains/phantom-hiker-grandfather-mountain/