Tag Archives: Vermont

Northeast American (Vermont) Proverb

Tags: Vermont, Northeast America, Proverb, Salem Witch Trials, Expression


“Colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra in the snow”

Informant Info

Race/Ethnicity: White

Age: 22

Occupation: College Student

Residence: Vermont, USA

Date of Performance: February 2024

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

Relationship: Friend


BB, the informant, was born and raised in Vermont.


“Colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra in the snow” is a proverb used to specify how cold it is outside (aka very cold). It is often used by those residing in Northeast American states where the winters are notoriously cold. Vermont is one of these states. 

Vermonters are known for their biting humor and funny way of talking. In addition to being influenced by their geographical location, they are highly influenced by the political, social, and economic historic events of neighboring states. One of these events was the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts. These trials were held in the 1690s where people were accused of and tried for practicing witchcraft. The accused were often women.

As for the literal meaning behind the saying, brass is a metal. Metals are thermally conductive, meaning that when in contact with something hot, they heat up; when in contact with something cold, they become colder. Putting on a cold article of clothing in a sensitive area is a very cold experience.

The Ghost of Mrs. Kissle

Background information :

The informant is a friend who is from Connecticut and has a second home in Vermont. 

Main Content: 

ME: So could you tell me about your murder-ghost story? 

LA: So there’s this family called the Kissels that used to own my ski-house in Vermont. They had a similar setup that we do, they had the grandparents, the kids, and all of their kids came as well. But there’s now a movie about this story called The Two Mr. Kissels with John Stamos. And um, they didn’t do any of this in our house, but there’s this crazy story from 2008. So they went crazy because they worked in finance, and one guy got killed by his wife in Hong Kong, because she gave a kid a poisoned smoothie to give to the dad, and he died. She rolled him up on a carpet and put him in a storage unit, and then the other dad killed him in his basement in Greenwich, because he wanted to be killed, not kill himself, for insurance purposes. And the Grandma died in my house, and she was fine, she never did anything bad, but my mom would always tell me that Mrs. Kistle was gonna get me when I would go to sleep. My mom and my aunt would terrorize me about it and always tell me that there would be a ghost in the house. 

ME: Was there anything specific about Mrs. Kissel, or were you just scared that she was going to “get you”

LA: They were just like, I don’t know, not something a mom would normally do, they honestly just wanted to freak me out before I went to bed. Then I would stare at the ceiling all night thinking about a bad ghost that was gonna come get me, but my grandma would always tell me that Mrs. Kissel was a good woman, and her kids were the ones who were fucked up. 

ME: Did you ever see a ghost in the house? 

LA: No, I think I almost was trying to convince myself that I would see ghosts there sometimes because of how much she was on my mind. My brother and I would sleep on bunk beds and I would always stare at the ceiling and look for her, but I never saw her. 

ME: Do you tell a lot of people about this experience? 

LA: I never talk about it in the house or in the state of Vermont because it scares me too much. I can only talk about it in other states. 


We had this conversation in-person while eating lunch.

I think this is a really interesting legend because the legend stems from a real horrific murder, which I think holds a tight grip on the informant. Even though the informant, nor any of her family, have ever seen the ghost, it seems to be a large topic of conversation, and the informant is still scared to speak about it to this day. The fact that there was a real murder story gives the ghost story much more credibility and certainly adds to the fear factor. To learn more about the murders, read here: Fishman, Steve. “Kissels of Death .” New York Magazine, New York Magazine, 28 Apr. 2006, https://nymag.com/news/features/16861/.

Red River Valley Folk song (lullaby)

Context: Context: SF is a USC sophomore studying journalism and he’s also my classmate in Anthropology class. I decided to have a zoom meeting with him and talk about some folklore from vermont. 

YM: Tell me some folklore 

SF: My mom use to sing a lullaby that her pops sang to her 

YM: Let’s hear it, how does it ? 

SF: Down in the valley, valley so low

Hang your head over, hear the wind blow  

Hear the wind blow blow 

Hear the wind blow

Hang your head over, hear the wind blow  

YM: Aww thats nice, do you know where it comes from ?

SF:I think it’s from the south west.. It’s definitely a folk song

YM: Does it have a name ?

SF: Yeah it’s called Red River Valley

YM: Awesome

Background info: SF was born and raised in Vermont. He’s from Irish, Scotish and German descent  and for the first years of his life his mom sang him a folk song to go to sleep. 

Analysis: This sounds like a typical soothing lullaby one would sing to a baby. It also runs in the family, SF’s mother who sang it to him used to hear it from her father and I imagine he also heard it from a parent. After having done some research this is a folk song  that goes by two names: Down in the valley, and Birmingham Jail. The song is an american folk song and a ballad. It’s interesting that this was passed down as a lullaby in SF’s family. The origin of the song is said to come from a Guitarist named Jimmie Tarlton who was incarcerated in an Alabama jail in 1925. Like all folk songs, the lyrics are sometimes changed depending on the artist that decides to record. For examples instead of using, “Hang your head over, hear the wind blow, “ artists have used, “Late in the evening hear the train blow.”  ****

For another version of this song, please visit, https://www.balladofamerica.org/down-in-the-valley/


Context: SF is a USC sophomore studying journalism and he’s also my classmate in Anthropology class. I decided to have a zoom meeting with him and talk about some folklore from vermont. 

SF: Vermont has this big lake named Lake Champlain which is the next biggest lake after the great lakes.. Between vermont and new york

SF: People believe there is this dinosaur or sea monster named champ living at the bottom of the lake because there have been a bunch of sightings… uh and like some very fake pictures.. But you know people like to believe 

SF: And uh yeah the local baseball team is named after him and they’ve scanned the lake for it but um I don’t think they’ve found anything yet

YM: They’ve actually scanned it ? 

SF: Yeah they scan like part of it, it’s really murky and for a really long time it was really badly polluted by paper mills.. So there’s a lot of algae blooms and it’s really hard to see in it which is kinda disgusting but also adds to the mystery of it 

SF: It’s supposed to be like yeah kinda the same humps in the water and then the head, loch ness sorta vibe.. Big dinosaur

YM: Do you know of anyone who claims to have seen it ?

SF: My cousin and I thought we saw it but we were like seven hahaha 

YM: ahahah awww

SF: It was definitely a stick.. The people are into it.. It’s a cool story to have.. But uhh yeah no proof yet

YM: who did you hear this from 

SF: My grandparents actually lived by the lake and they told me about it when I was a kid… but it’s very prevalent in the community and you’ll see little cartoon drawings of it in Burlington which is the main city, every now and then

Analysis: Champ is a mythical creature that lives at the bottom of Lake Champlain, it seems to be an important part of the community since a lot of people believe in this lake monster to the point where the lake has actually been scanned. There have been more than three hundred sightings of this creature since 1609. Real or not it has definitely been something that distinguishes Vermont, since not all states have a “20 ft long serpent, thick as a barrel.” The belief in this creature has also been passed down for generations and has even created a revenue generating attraction since the local baseball team uses it as their mascot. After some research, there is even a “champ day” on the first saturday of every August. It’s clear that this monster brings a sense of identity and representation for people in Vermont. 

Vermont Maple Syrup Foodway

Context: SF is a USC sophomore studying journalism and he’s also my classmate in Anthropology class. I decided to have a zoom meeting with him and talk about some folklore from vermont. 

YM: Tell me some folklore 

SF: Oh! Every year we have a food way 

SF: So maple syrup is massive in vermont, right ? because we have a lot of maple trees and maple forest. It the second biggest producing region behind Canada quebec, just cause its bigger um but we have the highest density per capita

SF And uh there’s this big tradition called sugaring which is the process of tapping trees and getting maple syrup.. And you have to do it at the right time of year because it needs to be cold at night and then during the day.. so the sap can melt and flow down the lines 

Sf: You have to collect a massive amount, maybe 60 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup.. And then you just sit in this shareshack.. And you just sit there and boil it for a really long time 

SF: Basically an excuse to hang out.. Kinda like ice fishing .. with some buddies or something like that

SF: There’s this thing some people do when they’re sugaring, called sugar on snow.. Um that is you boil the sap beyond syrup but not all the way to sugar… and then while it’s still boiling hot and pretty thick you take it outside and you pour it on fresh snow and you take a stick and you stir it in the snow and it basically turns to maple syrup taffy

SF: And it’s so amazing tasting because it’s just sugar.. It’s just a really fun thing to do when you’re a kid or when you’re hanging out in the cold

YM: That’s really cool!

SF: And you know we are legit because trader joes sells vermont maple syrup

YM: hahaha.. So you grew up doing this? 

SF: haha yeah with buddies we would tap trees

Analysis: The making of maple syrup seems to be exclusive to Vermont and the practicing of sugaring is a form of socializing. It forms identity and cohesion within a community and the state. It is a tradition as people like SF grew up doing this to spend time with friends and family. The making of maple syrups is important in defining the culture, environment, geography and history of Vermont.