Tag Archives: war

Burmese Ghost Story – Memorate


In Burmese culture, people become spirits for a short time after they die. After someone dies, their loved ones will permit their spirit to occupy the house for seven days, after which they must be sent away by a Buddhist priest. My mother grew up in Burma (now Myanmar) and her family abided by this tradition. One of my mother’s aunts died when she was young – she was around 10-12 years old and living in Malaysia at the time. When it was time for the priest to send the spirit of her aunt away, my mom’s mother (my grandma) suddenly flew out of the chair she was sitting in, flew across the room near the priest and spoke with her dead sister’s voice. The priest confirmed that it was not my grandmother, and had a short conversation with my grandmother’s sister. She bid farewell to everyone, and my grandma was exhausted and didn’t remember much about the experience afterwards. My grandma classifies herself as “lait pya”, or susceptible to being possessed. A very similar possession happened much later in her life, after she and the rest of my mother’s family immigrated to the United States. Another of my mother’s aunts passed away and after seven days a Buddhist priest was summoned to send her spirit away. This time, my possessed grandmother’s voice was only gargling sounds; the aunt that passed away died from laryngeal cancer and had a tracheostomy – she wasn’t able to speak but she was able to make that noise.


My mother was actually present at this event, although she did also hear other similar stories from my grandmother herself. She feels forced to believe in the spirits because of how many examples there are and because she actually witnessed a few instances of possession. She still isn’t sure if she believes in any sort of afterlife, but she was upset that her parents didn’t possess anyone or try to contact her after their deaths. 


In Burmese culture, spirits are seen as a much more natural phenomena than in Western or American culture, where we treat them as anomalies (ghosts). Most don’t think much of them – they believe they exist and stay around the house for a week after a death. How could they not? This story confirms that belief, and there’s just too much evidence and too many witnesses to call it something else. Therefore, the story’s purpose is to assure Burmese family members that this phenomenon does exist. It’s just one of many spirit or ghost stories that all work together to provide logical proof for a cultural belief. 

Peddocks Island Ghost Story

Main Piece

Informant CH told many ghost stories from the Boston Harbor, on islands near her hometown. She recalls that of the islands, Peddocks Island was the “scariest place she’s ever been” and that she was taken there on a camping trip in both 7th and 8th grade.

An island tour guide who frequents Peddocks told her and her classmates of ghost stories that took place there–there are abandoned wartime barracks on the island and an abandoned ship watchtower, and the grounds are said to be haunted. One such story involves “hearing someone playing a piano, but there’s nobody there.”

While on a walk with another 7th grade peer at night by the barracks, CH and her friend saw a wandering man in a “war helmet with a visor,” wearing black, green, and white. He was “limping and had a gun slung over his shoulder.” They both screamed and the figure didn’t react at all. He was “walking on a path that didn’t exist” and, upon later recollection, CH added that she didn’t remember his walking making any sound. When they returned to camp and told of the occurrence, other teachers and peers didn’t believe them and asked why they all didn’t see it if something was there.

The next day, CH and her peers were taken to a history museum, where she saw photos of soldiers with the “same color grade and hats with visors and everything.” She learned that soldiers used to be trained on this island, and there used to be homes and hospitals set up on the grounds where she was camping.

The next year, CH returned as an 8th grader and, while staying in tents by the old watchtower, she saw a “girl…sketching the exact same guy because she said that she also saw him.”


Informant Interpretation: CH believes this story to be one example of many haunted stories told about Boston Harbor, and traces this back to the fact that “this is the portion that still retains its history.” No one builds or tears things down on the island. “The life as it was is still how it is,” CH mentioned, which makes it a “magnet” for stories like this. CH noted that she honestly believes she and her friend saw a ghost that day, and that this occurrence made her think ghosts dwelled in a parallel world (as he didn’t acknowledge her or her friend) rather than haunting this one.

Personal Interpretation: I found this story to be emblematic of a regional perspective on haunting, as permitted by the history of Boston Harbor–as a city much older than many others in America, it feels more in touch with its history. This plays out in CH’s legend by virtue of haunting coming about in old, untouched places–ghosts become representative of the collective public memory, remaining relevant because so much physical history and buildings remain too. I think it’s also an apt example of human perception informing folk narrative–observation of physical land features, attitudes of locals, and sheer emotional intuition all lend themselves towards forming regional beliefs and legends.


My informant is a current student of Theatre at the University of Southern California, originally from Hull, Massachusetts (located on a peninsula on Boston Harbor). She grew up there, and notes that her family has strong ties to the area. Both of her parents believe in ghosts, though she believes there to be a general local apprehension about their existence around the Harbor.

CH is white and of European (primarily Irish) descent, and female-presenting.

“The Lady In Black” Ghost Story

Main Piece

Informant CH recalls hearing a story from her Mom about “The Lady in Black,” a ghost who dwells on George’s Island in the Boston Harbor.

As told by CH, the Lady in Black was wrongfully convicted for a murder she didn’t commit, and hung on prison grounds. She now haunts these grounds, wailing. Prisoners have heard a woman’s cries in the prison, but there wasn’t anyone there.

The Lady in Black was “not a real person” (in terms of corporealness), and “couldn’t physically interact with anything,” and seemed “bound” to the site of the prison. Hearing her cries startled prisoners, and CH recalls that the legend of the Lady in Black is well-recorded and published in regional folklore. While discussing it, CH was unsure of more specific details and mentioned that I should look up further details, as she’s uncertain if her memory of the story aligns with the published materials.


Informant’s Interpretation: CH sees the story of the Lady in Black as a reminder of the wartime history of Boston Harbor. She also believes that the abundance of stories about Boston Harbor–particularly pertaining to ghosts–has to do with a permeating regional desire to “figure out what happened” and have an accurate understanding of history that’s still so well represented and physically present.

Personal Interpretation: I drew similarities between CH’s story of the Lady in Black to the Irish banshee, a wailing woman who acts as a harbinger of death. Being that the Lady in Black was particularly noted to be heard by prisoners and a victim of a wrongful hanging, I felt her association with death was particularly strong. This seems representative of a place (particularly a prison with heavily militaristic history) that has a great deal of death associated with it. Thus, I felt the haunting and its nature to be deeply tied to the literal and physical history of the island.


Informant CH is a current student at USC pursuing a degree in Theatre. She grew up in Hull, Massachusetts, and noted that her Mom grew up in the same town and the “islands have been her life.” CH heard this story from her, and thinks it likely came up because she mentioned thinking she’d seen a ghost when she was young (elementary to early middle school), and her parents responded by telling her about the Lady in Black. CH notes that due to this story and other personal experiences, she believes in ghosts, as do her parents.

CH is white and of European descent (primarily Irish), and is female-presenting.

The Legend of Zapatwayél Fernandes the III

Nationality: Indian, Chinese, American

Primary Language: English

Other language(s): N/A

Age: 19 yrs

Occupation: Student

Residence: Plano, Texas

Performance Date: 10/20/2023


“In short, I had a great great great grandfather named Zapatwayél Fernandes III, he was a legend in my family, from my Dad’s side. He told me that Zapatwayél III was an Indian born Portuguese man who grew up in New Zealand and attempted a military coup in 1900. Apparently this coup was supposed to stop New Zealand from aiding the British in The Second Boer war, where New Zealand sent troops like Zapatwayél to aid the British in taking over South African territories of the Cape Colony for money. My dad said that British officials created the war to gain control of the gold and diamond deposits. Zapatwayél nearly succeeded though, but he was shut down, in part by his wife, who turned out to be a traitor, working against Zapatwayél and for the British government, who murdered him in his sleep during a mission of his to further unite a clan to complete the coup. After his death, she was left with a decent sum of money from the British government in order to help raise his 5 children alone and keep quiet. It’s a pretty crazy story, but my dad ensures it’s real, but I don’t really know that and nor does my mom, so we chalk it up to legend.”


My informant, TF, is a friend of mine from my freshman year at USC from Plano, Texas who then moved in late childhood to LA. I talked with him about a legendary figure in his life in the first semester of freshman year after asking him about his ethnic heritage as he is a racially and ethnically mixed/diverse guy. Though when I asked him about this story, he was barely able to recall the full thing. So over the course of around 3 months, I asked him to keep track of this legend and ask his parents about it over Christmas break. And so after break TF came back and finally was able to tell me about the great Zapatwayél The Third, his Great Great Great Grandfather.


I did a ton of research on Zapatwayél and found nothing based on the name. However, when I looked up the Boer war, which was a real war that happened in New Zealand from 1899-1902, and the events described by TF in Zapatwayél’s military coup attempt, were real. There was a military struggle within New Zealand’s forces around 1901 not 1900, and not a coup, but an internal conflict between New Zealand’s military forces, so it could be possible that this was started by Zapatwayél, but I don’t know for sure, and I don’t know the reasoning behind it either. The information TF gave about the war itself was historically accurate, even the places, reasons for British intervention, but, Zapatwayél himself, seemingly could not be found or identified in historical records. Maybe he was covered up by the British and New Zealand government, who knows. I loved this story though. The fact that Zapatwayél is known as a legend on TF’s dad’s side of the family is cool to me. Truly, the fact that Zapatwayél could have been real, even having evidence to back up the coup and war, but not enough information to confirm his existence and influence in the Boer war, thus making it a legend, is fascinating. It’s cool to see how TF’s family history can be tied back to The Boer War, a real war in world history. It’s interesting to see that this legend is being passed down from father to son in TF’s generation.

Bomb Shelter High School – Legend


This legend is from K’s friend of a friend. K was born in Canada but moved to southern California when they were 10 where K went to school. K is currently a sophomore studying Screenwriting at SCA.


K’s high school circulated a story about a bunker under the auditorium that had built as a bomb shelter that had been built during the Second World War. “Which, in retrospect doesn’t really make sense because our high school was built after that.” Basically, one of K’s friends wanted to confirm if it was true. There was an upper-field area that he searched in, the auditorium area that he searched underneath, and eventually he gave up trying to find it. But, K’s AP Environmental Science teacher was like “Hey, don’t worry, it definitely exists.” So, K’s friend went back and tried to find it. K believes it might have originated from the orchestra pit, and a student seeing something freaky down there. Regardless, the story has become something the seniors tend to pass on to the freshman.


This narrative is a legend; it is set in a time in history that’s remained to the present and the basis of the story is whether or not it is real or fake. Legends often explore if the improbable or impossible is, in fact, possible and in doing so make their audience question whether or not the impossible truly is possible in the real world. The readers can examine their perception of what the real world may be. In the case of the school, the students will always have something to be curious and engaged about. Most children’s lore, including teenagers, are anti-hegemonic for the larger education system. For high school, this evolves into a more intentional and rebellious perception of the outside world. To have a story that introduces inherent falsehood in the school, I believe these teenagers will have something to place their growing pains and rebellious energy in. The backstory of the bomb shelter being built during World War II, or even the Cold War, easily becomes both a flashback into the power of the past and also the absurdity of it; the very thought of a nuclear bomb now seems ridiculous and unlikely. When students place their interest or belief into this possibly true blast from the past, they will place themselves on a high moral pedestal from which to judge history. This encourages childhood anti-hegemony and confidence in themselves, that we have evolved past a time where we needed bomb shelters.