Tag Archives: virginia

South of the Mason-Dixon

Background:

The Mason-Dixon Line is a demarcation line along on the East Coast that separates four states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Maryland.

Context:

I’ve been hearing this phrase used since I was kid, and adopted it into my own vernacular early on.

Main Piece:

The speaker will make a statement, usually in reference to the superiority or inferiority of a person, place, or thing, and then end by saying “… south of the Mason-Dixon.”

Examples:

“She’s the prettiest girl south of the Mason-Dixon.

“My grandma makes the best pork chops south of the Mason-Dixon.”

“He’s gotta be the biggest dude south of the Mason-Dixon.”

Thoughts:

As a born and raised Virginian, I heard this phrase flung around time after time. The understanding of this phrase is confined to communities living around the Mason-Dixon line itself, as most people not from that region of the United States are unaware of what the Mason-Dixon line is. The phrase is hyperbolic, used to exaggerate and emphasize the statement one is trying to make. Viewing the phrase from an emic perspective, I can say that it is often employed in a comedic manner, often to make disparaging remarks about someone, such as “That has to be the ugliest shirt south of the Mason-Dixon.” The phrase’s meaning and hyperbolic nature is known to all in these regions, so one’s opinion or joke can easily be inserted into the phrase to augment their meaning. Much of the South also has a spiritual connection to the land. Their identities are tethered to the physical nature and landmarks of their home. This may be due to residual sentimentality over the Civil War and the lives lost on the battlefields in the South. Nevertheless, there are a multitude of phrases and bits of lingo in the South that pertain to landmarks and the features of the land that Southerners inhabit. While the Mason-Dixon itself isn’t necessarily in the South, the use of this phrase intrinsically identifies one as belonging to the South.

Ghost wake-up call

Content:

LS:  It’s really kind of short, but I mean like, so of course I grew up hearing about this ghost in my grandmother’s house. But what’s weird to me looking back now is like that wasn’t scary as a kid, like, you know, like I’d go visit their house, but I wasn’t like, I’d heard all these stories that I was not scared. And so like, my family like always would talk about those ghosts, but they would just laugh about it. And um, he wasn’t like as active, I guess by the time that I was, you know, there. Um, but I remember them talking about it and I remember my mom kind of like every now and then like just kind of saying to the ghost, like, “okay, get out here.” Like, you know, like talking to him I guess, but um, we stayed there and it was all four of us there, my parents, my sister, and I for like a long weekend or something, something was happening, I guess. I don’t remember. Um, but um, the back bedroom at the end of the hall had a big like king sized bed, I guess in it. And she stored a lot of things or whatever in there. And that’s where my sister and I would sleep when we were visiting. And I remember, one of my grandparents had been given like a walking cane with, um, like a squeaking horn, um, as like a gag gift when one of them turned 40. And so I, you know, I’d always noticed it because it had this big, like red horn on it. Um, and I remember I was asleep and I was just woken up out of the middle of the dead sleep. And it was like, it was like that moment of like what, it just woke me up. Like, you know, because you know, you didn’t like wake up and be like, oh, I have to pee or something. Like, it was just like, why am I awake? And it was because I had heard that horn go off. And so I’m like sitting there and there’s nothing between me and it. And so I was like, there is no way, like I didn’t touch that. Like nobody else in the house is awake. And so I was like, that must have been the ghost, like, you know? Right. And so then I don’t even remember if I mentioned it to them the next day or what, but it was just kind of later, like I, yeah, the ghost, like when, you know, it was like very clear like, oh, that happened. It wasn’t like I was dreaming it. 

Background: LS is the daughter of D in the linked story. This story takes place in the 1990s. 

Context: This story was told to me over a phone call. Analysis: In ghost lore, a ghost that can interact with the physical world like L describes is often known as a poltergeist. However, the connotation of a poltergeist tends to be more malicious than a ghost, particularly in pop culture like the movie Poltergeist. However, they do often haunt a specific person, while this one appeared to attach to any young people in the house.

Bunny Man Bridge.

K is a 63-year-old Caucasian male originally from Fairfax, Virginia. K is a retired highway patrolman and current polygraph examiner in Phoenix, Arizona.

K performed this folklore while I visited him at his workplace with the intent to collect folklore from police officers. In his office, I asked K if he had any folklore he would be willing to share with me.

K: Well I’m going to tell about you a.. Story that comes out of Fairfax county Virginia where I’m from. Where I actually patrolled as a patrolman. Uh, years ago. Funny thing is, I didn’t learn about this story until I came out to Arizona, uh, twenty five hundred miles from where the story originated from. And I heard about it because it showed up on a documentary on TV about haunted places that uh, would be pretty scary to visit. Uh, and this haunted place in Fairfax Country Virginia is called Bunny Man Bridge. And its actually a railroad bridge, uh, near uh, a place called Clifton Virginia, which is a little tiny sleepy town that is down in a.. quiet area of Fairfax county. And uh, this sleepy little town has this legend of Bunny Man Bridge which is this railroad bridge, and when you go under the bridge it’s cement on the sides but it’s barely wide enough for a car to fit through going one direction, and on the opposite side of the bridge is a dead end road so theres nowhere to go when you go underneath the Bunny Man Bridge but uh, its really quite dark there. There isn’t any street lights, theres uh, lots of trees around, I mean even in a full moon its pretty pretty dark down there around Bunny Man Bridge. I’m familiar with it because, as a patrolman, because its uh, apparently a haunted location a lot of uh, the younger high school uh groups like to go down there and party on the uh, side that there’s no escape from. Uh, in other words, side that’s on where the dead end is at. But, what I learned about Bunny Man Bridge is that this place called Clifton.. uh.. years ago like in the early, like very early 1900s, there was a uh, insane asylum in Clifton. And, I dont know exactly how many prisoners that this insane asylum had housed, but, uh. When.. Fairfax country began to grow up and get larger, they moved this insane asylum to another place called Lorton which is probably, I’m guessing, about, a twenty minute drive away from Clifton and Lorton is far more build up in fact there’s a uh, prison there now from the District of Columbia in Lorton, but uh, the decision was made to transport all the, uh, people in this insane Asylum from Clifton down to Lorton, so they loaded ‘em all on a bus, and started driving away to, uh, Lorton. Well, unfortunately as, uh, the legend has it, the bus ran off the side of the road and crashed and uh all the prisoners, the maniacs escaped and ran into the woods and, the uh, authorities came out and worked really hard trying to round up all these people and they ultimately, uh, were able to round em all up with the exception of two people. Um, and they kept searching the woods searching the woods and they kept finding all these bunny carcasses in the woods. Um, so they expected that these two escapees were actually uh surviving on bunny meat and this went on for a while and they never were able to actually track down these two. But the legend has it that after they searched the entire area for days and days they came to a time where uh they found one of these escapees, hanging from Bunny Man Bridge. And uh, the other one was nowhere to be found and the assumption was that.. uh, apparently they had a dispute or a fight over who was gonna get.. the, the, the bunny leg or the bunny breast or whatever. And uh.. the other one hung his companion from Bunny Man Bridge. And uh, now the legend is if you go to Bunny Man Bridge on uh.. like Halloween or something, uh you can see uh.. this uh, this deceased prisoner hanging from the bridge on Halloween. They never found uh the other escaped individual… Uh, but, periodically they say you can also see bunny carcasses hanging from, Bun-from Bunny Man Bridge. Uh, so they, they believe notwithstanding all of that, that even though this is a hundred and ten years later. Uh, he’s still out there. Uh, uh, eating bunnies and hanging em’ from the bridge on Halloween along with his deceased companion.

Reflection: Despite never visiting Bunny Man Bridge himself, K was extremely knowledgeable about the subject, as evidenced by the length and detail of his performance of the urban legend. The vague version of the Bunny man I am familiar with is of an axe-wielding lunatic wearing a bunny suit, so I was surprised to hear that neither of these two appearance traits were mentioned in K’s telling. The popularity of both the “Bunny Man” and the “Hook Man” urban legends in the American South suggests that the region has a preference for escaped convict stories. Considering the American South has the largest collective prison population in the U.S., it is not hard to make a prediction why this may be the case.

Bunnyman

Content: 

K: So I grew up in Northern Virginia. Fairfax County, right? Um, I have, um, so the story is about, um, it’s based off of a series of murders that happened, uh, sometime in the mid to late 1900s. And the suspect apparently, uh, was seen to be wearing a bunnyman costume when they happened. And it’s like, one of the places that it went down was happened to be down the street from one of my childhood friends. Like in the, he lives in this wooded neighborhood, in the outskirts of Fairfax. And so, you know, the like thing to do as a kid is like, it’s, there’s a tunnel that goes from like the end of the street goes to this, like one lane tunnel. And then, um, on the other side is like a park maybe, but so the dare is to like, get your, you and your friends to get in the car, drive down the road, into the tunnel and then like, turn the car off and then wait for like a couple minutes and then see if he appears. And then, you know, so we did it one time. I’m still alive. <laugh> but yeah, that’s that’s the bunnyman is like the, um, like they never caught him. So he like still roams. 

Me: Right. Did you see, did anything happen or were you all just sitting in a car? 

K: No, I scared them though. <laugh> 

Me: Nice.

Background: K is a 22 year old from Fairfax County, Virginia. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: This story was told to me at a hangout among friends. 

Analysis: Although I didn’t find it as much in the stories I collected for this project, I’ve noticed a trend of dares being associated with ghost stories. The fear of the legend motivates people to go out with their friends in search of a terrifying or potentially dangerous experience. Although these experiences seem to be few and far between, that doesn’t stop the tradition from continuing with each new generation. It seems like most of the lore comes from the performance of seeking out the paranormal rather than the spirit himself. 

Richmond ghost story

Content:

D: So growing up, you know, I moved into that house when I was five years old. And so it was just became knowledge that there was something else in the house with us, but we were never taught to be afraid of it. And we were never, it never really scared us. It never really gave us, you know, an evil feel to it.

Me: Where was this house?

D: Richmond, Virginia. 

Me: Okay. What did you know about the ghost?

D: Well, I never saw a visual of him, but my mom saw him twice. And he was a dark headed man in a uniform, a soldier type uniform. And our house was built over an old battlefield, old battleground for the revolutionary war. And so we always felt like he was a soldier that died young and he seemed to be most active when the three of us kids were living in the house. And once we grew up and moved out the activity decreased. So Mom always felt like he either connected with people closer to his age or, um, felt like he died too soon and you know, was looking for something. She just felt like he was kind of watching over us to some, some degree.

Me: So when you say that you had experiences with him, what were those like?

D: Um, a lot of things. The, the one thing that most people experienced in and outside of our family, um, is that we would be sitting in the living room watching TV or talking or whatever, and we would hear the front door open and close and back then, you know, people didn’t knock to come in if they were family or neighbors or whatever, they would just kind of open the door and just kind of holler, “Hey, it’s me,” you know, as they were coming into the house and we would all hear the door open and close and the dog would bark and run to the French doors and look out onto the sun porch, which was what our front door came into, and the dog would stand there and wait. And we’d all look towards the French doors to see who was, you know, coming over to visit and nobody would come through and we’d get up and look, and the front door would be locked and there would be nobody there. And that happened multiple times and people that were not in our immediate family heard and experienced that. But then I also experienced cold spots most often. And the house didn’t, the house didn’t have central air. It only had heat. And we had one window unit in the living room and one small window unit in my parents’ bedroom and we didn’t turn it on during the day when we weren’t there. We wouldn’t even turn it on until after four o’clock in the afternoons when we would get home from school and work and stuff. So the house was always really hot, especially, you know, in the, you know, late afternoon, early evenings until the, the air could cool it down. And even with the house being that hot, there would be a significant temperature change and it would be something that you could stick your hand in and pull back out and feel the temperature change. That happened to me a lot. So, I mean, that was, it, it almost became, you know, like a family thing to exchange, you know, your experiences and stuff like that.

Background: D was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1963. This story revolves around the house she grew up in with her parents and brothers. 

Context: This story was told to me over a phone call. Analysis: D’s story connected her family’s ghost to the haunted battlegrounds of Revolutionary War and Civil War era Virginia. The experiences that she had with the ghost are common in ghost stories as well, such as the feeling of cold spots when in the presence of a spirit. Many ghost stories also rely on the reactions of pets to support a supernatural claim, like D does when mentioning how her dog reacted to hearing the door open while no one was there.