Residence: San Jose, California
Date of Performance/Collection: December 15th, 2010
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Vietnamese
This is a fake story/joke that my dad likes to tell people, which he will pretend is a ghost story. My dad works for the US Department of Defense as an engineer, and he has been stationed at aerospace companies across California. When he was younger and he and my mom were still dating, he worked in Southern California, while my mom worked in the Bay Area. Because of this, every other weekend, he would take a bus back and forth between the two areas so he could see her. This story is based on one of his times on the bus, and is brought up any time that people are talking about scary stories or ghosts.
The tone of the storytelling is as if this is a real occurrence, and while he told the story, his face was very serious, as if it were a real ghost story. The original story was told in Vietnamese, but this is a translation:
“Did I ever tell you about the time that I saw a real ghost? When I was younger, I was working down near LA, but your mom was up in San Jose, so I would go and visit her every few weekends. I always took the bus out of Orange County, and one day, I had to catch the late-night bus on Friday because I was held back during work. So I sat down on the bus, and there were only a few other people because it was so late. Not long after it left, I became very drowsy and fell asleep.
When I woke up a few hours later, I realized that the bus was completely dark, and everyone else was gone. The driver was nowhere to be found, but when I looked outside of the window, I saw that the bus was still moving forward, very slowly. I was so scared, so I called out,
‘Hey! Is anybody there?”
And suddenly, I heard a voice!
‘Hey! Idiot! Come help us push the bus!’ ”
This is one of the many jokes that my dad likes to tell. The effectiveness of the joke is very dependent on how serious the teller seems, and how believable he or she can make it. It takes advantage of the tension built up by the fear of the audience based on the belief that they are about to hear an actual ghost story, and then makes a silly, but welcome release that leaves the audience either laughing or groaning. The ghost portion is not completely made up however, as I have heard other stories about people making the trip between Northern California to Southern California late at night and seeing paranormal activity, such as the figure of a woman on the side of the road, or finding hand prints on their rear windows. These occurrences usually happen at 3 AM, or the ghosting hour, and I have heard multiple versions from different relatives. Over all, this story doubles as both a ghost legend and a joke, making it a combination of folklore.