Background: My informant, ET, attended the University of Washington from 2009-2013. I asked her about campus folklore, and this was her response:
ET: “The UDub Health Sciences Building is known for having a secret monkey lab. They conduct experiments on monkeys because it’s closest to humans for different kinds of testing. But there’s a lot of environmental and animal activists in Seattle, so animal activists try to sneak in and free the monkeys from being tested on. Basically, whenever students are in the building, they try to look for a room full of cadavers to find the monkeys.”
Analysis: I think this legend is really interesting because it not only speaks to the history of some of the buildings on campus, but also the student culture and mentality around the school and in the greater part of the city as well. The story plays to the instinct that some college buildings must have mysterious things going on inside them, particularly a room with a bunch of cadavers and no other context, but also the larger activism presence around the area as well, which adds to the realism of the story. Those in the know with this story would feel a greater sense of–if not attachment, at least more curiosity over the ongoings of the university, and develop a school pride as the one that seemingly houses monkeys in a secret lab in a discrete science building.
Background: My informant, EV, grew up in Puyallup, Washington, but currently goes to USC. Interview conducted in person.
Me: “Do you know any Washington folklore? Sayings, jokes, stories, etc.?”
EV: “Oh, I know one. I never say this, but I always hear like, older people say it all the time. So for context, in Washington there’s one main mountain, Mount Rainier, that pretty much everyone can see from like, their backyard if they live in Western Washington. Sometimes it’s covered by like fog or clouds or whatever, but especially on a sunny or clear day it can become visible. So people call Rainier “The Mountain,” because it’s like the main mountain, so when you can finally see it after the rain clears up or something, people will be like, ‘Look! The Mountain’s out!’ And that’s a perfectly normal thing for people to say with no context. Everyone will know exactly what you’re talking about. Like I didn’t realize how abnormal it was until I came to USC and people wouldn’t comment on like, the visibility of the mountains on a daily basis. Just a silly little Washington thing.”
Analysis: I find the colloquial/vernacular usage of this phrase to be really interesting. Once again indicating in-group/out-group behavior, where it almost becomes a right of passage to have the knowledge and experience to also be able to refer to Mount Rainier simply as “The Mountain.” I think the phrase also says a lot about the significance of the mountain to the culture and priorities in the area (nature), where it not only serves as a geographic landmark to admire and judge direction off of, but also becomes another core component to distinguishing the in-group from the out-group–to intentionally or perhaps unintentionally select Mount Rainier as the symbol for central identity. The phrase indicates a certain degree of rarity in seeing the mountain, so its presence isn’t taken for granted, and worth noting even in everyday conversation.
Rowan is a sophomore double majoring in Math and economics. He is from the Bay area.
So i’m really interested in Sasquatch. The plural of a Sasquatch is just Sasquatch. Not sasquatches which everyone says and it always bugs me. So a lot of people believe that there are Sasquatch that live in the pacific northwest. And I have cousins from Idaho and we are spending a week hiking around Washington trying to find him and after that end our trip at the Sasquatch music festival on memorial day.
Collector: Do you believe sasquatch exists?
Informant: 100%. For sure. Sasquatch are out there, they are just really good at hiding. There have actually been a lot of sightings of sasquatch up there and we are pretty confident that we will see one.
I find it interesting that an informant who studies extremely quantitative, fact based subjects in university, is interested in finding sasquatch. The informant was adamant about his belief in sasquatch in his words, but his tone suggested otherwise. Additionally, upon researching further I found the Sasquatch music festival to be a yearly sasquatch themed music festival that occurs each year in washington.
BA: There are a lot of Seattle jokes I hear. What do you call two straight days of rain?
BA: A weekend. What do you call the big pointy sign above a tourist’s head?
BA: An umbrella. As you can see, the only jokes I’ve heard about Seattle really just make fun of the rain, or maybe Kurt Cobaine or hipsters. One last one: a tourist goes to Seattle and asks a local kid, “does it ever stop raining here?”. He says, “How should I know, I’m only six”.
One of the defining characteristics of Seattle is its remarkably consistent rain, which the informant knows to be the source of most Seattle-jokes.