“The electricity at Idyllwild Arts Aacademy is infamously bad. So whenever you walk under this one light on the Husch path, the light goes out for ten seconds. If you keep walking, the light will flicker back on. But if you stay under it, the legend is that a headless Native American with a tomahac will kill you as revenge for having taken his land. We were really close to a burial ground, so I think that was why people were freaked out about that. Some people, instead of the Native American, say it is the spirit of a girl who hung herself along the path. There were a lot of attempted suicides around campus, which is probably what gave the inspiration for that. There were a lot of variations of those two.”
What I find particularly interesting about this is that there are two equally prevalent versions of the legend which every student at Idyllwild Arts Academy knows. It is not that two different versions exist and are told among two different groups of students. Rather, the students can pick which version they believe based on which is more exciting or scary to them personally. My informant, who is part Native American, finds the headless Native American version of the tale more personal and therefore scarier; that is the version of the tale that she believes. That version speaks to an existing guilt over America having taken Native American land. Being so close to the burial ground likely reminds the students frequently of this fact. The legend does not seem to make a judgement on the Native American being in the wrong for killing students who stay in the dark. Though students most likely do not feel like they deserve to be murdered for standing under a broken light, there is no part of the legend that actually attempts to fault the Native American or make him out to be a villain. Therefore, the legend, in some way, lets the students release their guilt for being on his land by allowing him to murder them without complaint. The other version of the tale speaks to the frequency of suicide attempts on the campus. This is likely a way for students to come to terms with those attempts. Believing that the girl comes back has the dual purpose of moralizing (as the girl comes back with violent intents, she is clearly not pleased with her choice of suicide, so students should not kill themselves) and comforting (though dead, she is not gone and can still visit).