Tag Archives: wealth

Haunted Coin House in Chicago

  • Details 
    • Collected on 03/23/2024 
    • Genre: Memorate 
    • Language: English 
    • Nationality: American 
    • Relationship to Informant: Friend
  1. Text 
    1. Summary: 
      1. There was a house that always had people moving in and out. Typically, these people moved out because some misfortune fell on them during the time they lived there. One family that lived there with a young child kept noticing that coins would randomly appear on the floor. Then, they learned that the house was haunted by an old woman who lived there for a long time and was known to always carry change.
    2. Direct transcription of folklore:
      1. “So there’s a house that’s two doors down from me and for my entire childhood this house has been a revolving door of people just going in and out…it was like so-and-so’s wife cheated on them, then a family furniture store burned down and they couldn’t afford to live there, the next family got divorced and the kids don’t talk to them anymore. Everyone who lived in this house, some wild s*** happened to them. I always thought ‘hmm, that’s weird,’ but I didn’t think anything of it. So then, I had these neighbors that moved across the street [from me], but before they lived across the street, like 10 years before, they lived in that house two doors down from me. They were like ‘yeah, that s*** is f****** haunted.’ And I said, ‘why do you say that?’ So I guess there was an old woman that lived there for a long time and then she died. I guess she was known for always having change on her – quarters, pennies, dimes, whatever you needed – she always had a ton of change. And [my neighbors] had a young daughter who was a toddler at the time, and they would always find change just on the floor – on the ground. My neighbor would ask her husband, ‘why is there change? Are you dropping stuff out of your wallet?’ and he was like ‘no, what are you talking about? I don’t know where it is coming from.’ So one day, their daughter picked a quarter from the ground and almost choked on it. They got it out of her, but she almost choked to death. Out of frustration, the mom says to the ghost ‘leave me alone!’ They never heard from the ghost again. So they move across the street ten years later, and they start talking to the neighbors that currently live in that house. And they are like ‘this weird thing keeps happening … we keep finding change all over the floor and we have no idea where it is coming from,’ and they told them it was the ghost.” 
  2. Context 
    1. Informant is a USC student in her early 20s who was born and raised in Chicago, IL. This ghost story was told to her by her neighbors who lived in the haunted house, and it has become an oral tradition within the neighborhood. 
  3. Analysis 
    1. This story reflects the idea of property ownership after death and the idea that spirits can have a strong connection to the physical world. Since the old woman’s identity was partially defined by her possession of the house and coins, this is how her ghost manifests itself. “As the human spirit is strongly connected with notions of self and personal identity, we should not be surprised that spirits can control their belongings even if their primary possession—the body—is long dead and buried.” (Valk, 36) This ghost story also suggests cultural values of material ownership and wealth.

New Years Eve Ritual

text: “Every New Years Eve, my family puts a $100 dollar bill in their pockets before the clock reaches midnight. We do this because it brings prosperity in the New Year and the hope that you will be rich. My grandparents on my Filipino side put round objects in their pockets, such as coins or grapes, which also will bring wealth and good fortune in the New Year” -Informant

context: The tradition and superstition of these comes from both his Italian side and his Filipino side. He is 50% Italian, and 50% Filipino and has multiple traditions for every holiday. On his Italian side, his mom introduced putting a $100 bill into his pocket, maybe to just give him a hundred dollars, or maybe to bring him good fortune. On his Filipino side, his dad would make him put grapes, coins, or anything round also in his pocket to bring wealth and prosperity in the New Year.

analysis: What’s interesting about the combination of both of these New Years rituals, is that the informant will probably pass down these traditions to his kids. It will be a combination of them and be his way of passing down his culture to his kids. These New Year’s Eve superstitions and rituals serve as a prime example of Jame George Frazer’s theory of sympathetic magic, in specific, homeopathic magic. In his theory, he explains the belief among folk groups that certain practices can be carried out on a smaller scale that then produce major effects on a larger scale, that if which affecting the future.

Ritual: New Year’s Polka Dots


The informant claimed that a lot of rituals they remember performing take place around the New Year. “One would be wearing polka dots or, as my mom calls it, bola bola. Because circles represent coins– so like wealth and good fortune in the New Year. She encourages literally everyone in my family to wear polka dots. There was one year where we all found Hawaiian shirts that had polka dots and so that was a little theme for the New Year. It was so cute.”


“Financially, it’s always been a little hope that my mom has– like a little bit of faith. Like ‘Maybe the New Year will be better for us financially.’ It’s a thing my mom does. She’s a very superstitious person, so she always has hope in the New Year. She always tries to bring the family together, so that hope can be spread to her family. And she can be surrounded by a similar hope as well.”

“My mom,” they spoke fondly. “It started being more prominent in middle school for me. That’s like the earliest I can remember. I she she kind of, like leans on these kinds of traditions when she feels like she needs it most. With doing a simple thing like wearing polka dots– I think around middle school was when we started facing a lot of financial issues very prominently. My mom is a woman in faith, so she finds comfort in so many different things.

“[My mom] definitely uses it as like a comfort method for sure. Not really like a defense mechanism, but a ways to kind of like cope with certain things. Giving her that sense of nostalgia that I’m pretty sure she felt with her family growing up.”


Polka dots or bola bola are a popular pattern that’s believed to bring wealth and prosperity. This is similar to other beliefs that link prosperity to a particular color, but the complexity of a patterned fabric may be what warrants this belief. With the arrival of a New Year, it’s a common held belief that there will be changes made to one’s life whether it be fate or their own control. Wearing the polka dot pattern on the transition into a new year may be a way to “perform the part” that the participant wishes for themself to be. It’s almost like pretending to be what you’re not, and from then on, transforming into what was done for pretend.

Tale of Two Brothers – Tale


G is a Korean American freshman studying Computer Science at USC. She has heard this story from her mother, who was born and raised in Korea but moved to Hawaii. That’s where G lived before she came to USC. According to G, her mom has told her this story countless times, and it is a very popular and well-known story.


There were two brothers, Heungbu and Nolbu, and they were both from a rich family. Nolbu is the older brother, he’s very greedy. The younger brother is Heungbu and he’s very kind. When their father died and it was time to split the fortune he left behind, the older brother takes everything. But, Heungbu is nice, so he doesn’t fight back or anything. He just accepts it.

There was a baby bird, a swallow. There was a snake trying to eat the swallow. Heungbu chased the snake away, saving the swallow. The baby bird had a broken leg, and Heungbu treated it for him. Three days later, the swallow got better, left, and came back with pumpkin seeds. So, Heungbu plants it in his backyard and when it was time to harvest, the pumpkin was full of treasure and gold.

The rumor spread that Heungbu became wealthy. His brother, the greedy one, asks him how he got so wealthy. Heungbu tells his brother. When Nolbu sees a swallow, he purposefully breaks the swallow’s leg and then heals it. The swallow comes back with pumpkin see, and when it was time to harvest, goblins came out of the pumpkin beating up his children and taking his fortune away.


This tale outlines two very stark characters in close contrast to showcase a logical sequence of events that follow their lives. Tales travel along the supernatural and realistically impossible, operating on events and logic that do not apply in the real world. There is no pumpkin seed in the world that can summon treasure and gold, or goblins (goblins do not exist or been questioned to exist like a yeti would be in a legend). There is no animal (real world entity) that is magical enough to differentiate magical pumpkin seeds, like that swallow. The objects of the folktale on which the plot occurs and the characters are propelled are illogical and extraordinary, an irrefutable kind of “not real” that occurs in a world that is not our own. However, though the events and plot devices themselves are not real or rational, what is logical is the actions of the characters caused by the devices. According to Oring, a “tale’s climax is the logical result of an episodic sequence.” Heungbu’s kindness and benevolence is met with Nolbu’s greed and malevolence, earning both of them respective consequences based on the caliber of morality their distinctive personalities the real world’s principles hold them in. These characters are unchanging and idle to exaggerate those social noems. It is accepted that kindness earns respect and good fortune, and as Korean culture is mostly dictated by Confucian values, Heungbu’s loyalty to his family in spite of his brother’s mistakes makes him a template of good character for Korean culture. Nolbu is the opposite; insensitive to family, uncooperative, and endlessly greedy, hence a moral villain for his Korean audience. This tale engineers Korean culture values into a supernatural order of events that follow a logical reasoning, so that the resolution is not only predictable for the audience but inevitable and therefore applicable in metaphor in real life.

Shaking Off the Luck


Shaking your leg at the dining table shakes off good fortune.


As a child, KF would unconsciously shake her leg up and down while sitting at the dining table. However, her mother would always tell her to “stop doing that because it basically means that, like–it’s thought to be that you’re shaking off your good luck and wealth.” After the interview, KF took to the Internet to see if this was a typical Chinese superstition or just something her family believed in. Based on her findings, this is a well-known Chinese belief, where leg shaking will result in a hard life trying to provide an income for yourself.


The meanings behind gestures go beyond surface level; they can be forms of communication or acts of summoning/getting rid of. Folk gestures often refer to performed gestures, such as a handshake or a secret code, but they can also involve gestures that are strictly avoided to banish bad luck. To some people, including myself, shaking your leg while sitting still is second nature. We often don’t think twice about its implications. However, for those who believe in its effects, there is a conscious awareness behind what their legs are doing. Shaking your leg is often associated with the idea of restlessness–perhaps it could be interpreted as feelings of anxiousness in the present, which hinders a successful future. Not only does verbal speech reflect the ideologies and superstitions of a particular group, but so does physical behavior or lack thereof. Our body is a vehicle that we rely on for life and prosperity–legs are our foundation, as they walk us through life’s path. Thus, in order to ensure a fulfilling life, we need our base to be sturdy. In broader terms, folklore that is reliant upon bodily functions may enable us to reflect on our sense of self and autonomy–in fact, we may have some control over how the course of our life unravels.