by Mallory Roseman.
“When my grandmother was a girl, she lived with her family in a haunted house. It was a small mill house in Mooresville, NC. People said the house used to be a gambling den, and that a man had been murdered there for being unable to pay his debts. Supposedly, the guys who ran the gambling den dismembered the debtor, and hid his body somewhere in the house. My grandmother did not know if that story was true, but she did know that weird things happened in the house throughout the time she lived there. She and her brother would go out to play in the mornings, and when they’d come home at night, every light in the house would be on. Her scariest night in the house was a night when her father’s sisters had come to visit. There was not a lot of room, so my grandmother and her sister Nadine had to share a bed. That night, my grandmother felt a leg on her side of the bed, and nudged her sister to wake up. Neither of them could figure out who the leg belonged to- it seemed to end just above the knee. They wanted to see were too afraid to get out of bed to turn on the light. For the entire night, they were stuck in the bed with the phantom leg. That night was more than 70 years ago, and she has yet to forget the house or the night of the leg in the bed.”
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Tagged african american heritage, anecdotes, families, family history, folk, Folklore, legends, myths, nc folklore, stories, UNC-Chapel Hill
I have two uncles on my mom’s side of the family. Both are younger than her by several years. When they were very young, they lived next to a neighbor that kept koi in giant clay tubs in their yard. One day, when they were playing in the yard, they felt a surge of sympathy for the koi fish. They thought the fish were very sad, living in a wet and cold home that never saw the sun, so they decided to do the koi a service and help them sunbathe. One by one, they took out the koi and laid them in the sun on the sidewalk. Later, they would testify to my grandparents that this was very hard work since the fish were slippery and would flop around in protest. Needless to say, no fish survived the incident, and the neighbor got a nasty surprise when he came home. My grandfather had to pay for the damages and probably gave my uncles a good spanking as well.
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Tagged african american heritage, anecdotes, families, Family, family history, Folklore, legends, myths, nc folklore, stories, UNC-Chapel Hill
When my dad was little his grandma gave him a pet chicken. They became best
friends and he spent all his time playing with his new pet. One evening, he
went out back to see his chicken, but couldn’t find him anywhere. He asked
his mom where his chicken went and she said “Oh, he must have escaped the
fence and run away.” My dad was very sad. He went inside for dinner where
his mother served him his food. He was very hungry until he looked down and
realized that right there on his plate was a little serving of chicken! His
mother had killed his pet and cooked him for dinner that night. He was
heartbroken. Although he was devastated at the time, he has grown very
amused with telling this story.
One story that is repeated over and over in my family is about my
grandfather when he was a young businessman in New York City. At that time
and place it was customary for my grandfather, “Pop”, to take his clients
out for drinks after work or meet them after dinner. One evening after many
drinks, he and a client walked out of a bar drunk and were fooling around.
Pop took of the man’s tie and stuffed it into a nearby public mailbox. When
his client reached into the door of the mailbox to fish his tie out, his
arm got stuck and they had to call the fire department to get him out.
While waiting, Pop bought another drink for himself and the man. So at this
point the man was enjoying a beer while hunched over the mailbox his arm
was stuck in, and Pop hung out beside him carrying on conversation. When
the fire department arrived they could not free the man without damaging
the mailbox, so the postal service was called to come unlock the box. This
story always receives chuckles, no matter how many times my family hears
it. The thought of two businessman and firefighters waiting on a New York
sidewalk to free the man’s arm and tie is great; and the best part is that
Pop was to blame. Then again, everyone deems this story as “typical” of
by Tyler Gilmore
My brother is really smart, and when he was young he was especially inquisitive. Once, when he was about three, he was asking our grandfather why the light inside the refrigerator came on when he opened the refrigerator door. Our grandfather showed him that there was a button that was pressed when the door was closed and that when it was released the light would come on inside. But that was not enough for my brother. He wanted to know why; why did the light have to come on at all? Finally, exasperated, our grandfather simply told him that is the way refrigerators work and that the light came on in the oven when you opened the door as well. Well, our oven at the time happened to be right beside the refrigerator. While my brother peered through the glass window of the oven door, he reached over and opened the refrigerator door one more time. Of course, that was not what our grandfather meant, and the light inside the oven did not come on. “No it doesn’t!” my brother indignantly cried, and everyone in the room laughed at him.
My family loves to tell this story. On the one hand, they are making fun of my brother for making such a silly mistake. In that sense, the story has a touch of irony to it, given that my brother was then and still is highly intelligent. On the other hand, though, it shows that my brother was always questioning what he was told and trying to dig deeper and deeper into things. When our grandfather gave an ambiguous explanation of what was going on with the refrigerator door, my brother eagerly jumped all over what he interpreted as false information. All kids are inquisitive at that age, so it may easily have turned out that this story would have been forgotten. Apparently my family felt that it exemplified certain key characteristics about my brother’s personality, though. So it stuck.
My great uncle was named Custer Crawford. As Custer grew up, it was discovered that he was very smart. He went on to get his Ph.D and later become a professor at a college in Georgia. He grew up in the country near the NC/SC border in the mountains. The story goes that “he was so smart, he was stupid”–which was a well-known phrase back then to denote someone who had a large IQ but very little “common sense.” Of all the vignettes about Custer, the best known one is that when he was a teen, he was sent out to the barn to saddle up a horse to check out some of the crops as part of his chores. My great granddad kept waiting and waiting for him to ride up to the house and join him….he finally got sick of waiting and went out to the barn to see what on earth was taking so long. Well, when he got there, he found Custer trying to mount the horse (he was actually 1/2 on it, but was stuck) and as it turned out, he had put the saddle on completely backwards and was attempting to mount the beast as if there was absolutely nothing wrong!
So to this day, when anyone in our family makes a crazy blunder, we call it “doing a Custer Crawford.”
There has always been a story that circulates within my family about where
my grandfather got all of his tattoos. I once asked him as a child where
he got them and he looked at me and said “During a bad time in my life” and
that was all. I later found out that he had been in jail for two years
during the 50s (1956-1958). At 16 he broke into a local liquor store with
a couple of friends and the cops were called. He friends got away but he
was left behind and arrested. He was charged with felony breaking and
entering and sentenced to two years in jail. To this day he does not know
I have been told this story, at 20 years old he still believes I am in the
dark about where he got his famous tattoos, which consist of a naked woman
(which I thought was a duck when I was a child), a cross in honor of his
sister, a tulip in honor of his mom, and a heart with his ex-girlfriends
name in it (which is the same name as one of his sisters, so he likes to
claim that is who he got it in honor of). I was only told this story after
he tried to purchase a gun about 6 years ago and was denied because he has
a felony on his record. My grandmother informed me of the story and told
me to never let him on to the fact that I know. Everyone in the family
jokes about their rebel brother, cousin, uncle, etc… But I am never
allowed to joke about my rebel grandfather.