The Null Device

Amazing: A look at the folklore of homeless children, as handed down from child to child in streets and homeless shelters in Miami, kept secret from adults. The stories show a dark world of cosmic war, where God has been forced into exile by hordes of demons, Satan and the terrible Bloody Mary are at large, and outnumbered legions of angels are hiding in the Everglades; an angel named the Blue Lady is on the side of good, but can only help you if you know her true name, which nobody does. Very archetypal, and existing in very similar form.
No one knows why God has never reappeared, leaving his stunned angels to defend his earthly estate against assaults from Hell. "Demons found doors to our world," adds eight-year-old Miguel, who sits before Andre with the other children at the Salvation Army shelter. The demons' gateways from Hell include abandoned refrigerators, mirrors, Ghost Town (the nickname shelter children have for a cemetery somewhere in Dade County), and Jeep Cherokees with "black windows."
There is no Heaven in the stories, though the children believe that dead loved ones might make it to an angels' encampment hidden in a beautiful jungle somewhere beyond Miami. To ensure that they find it, a fresh green palm leaf (to be used as an entrance ticket) must be dropped on the beloved's grave.
Research by Harvard's Robert Coles indicates that children in crisis -- with a deathly ill parent or living in poverty -- often view God as a kind, empyrean doctor too swamped with emergencies to help. But homeless children are in straits so dire they see God as having simply disappeared. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam embrace the premise that good will triumph over evil in the end; in that respect, shelter tales are more bleakly sophisticated. "One thing I don't believe," says a seven-year-old who attends shelter chapels regularly, "is Judgment Day." Not one child could imagine a God with the strength to force evildoers to face some final reckoning.
Folklorists were so mystified by the Bloody Mary polygenesis, and the common element of using a mirror to conjure her, that they consulted medical literature for clues.

Darkness, despair and street violence. I'll be surprised if this isn't picked up as a Vertigo comic (or butchered into a dire Hollywood popcorn flick). (via Rebecca's Pocket)

There are 5 comments on "":

Posted by: leviticus q-cumber http:// Mon Jan 21 01:06:45 2002

Posted by: Graham Mon Jan 21 14:03:25 2002


Posted by: mrsmalkav Tue Jan 22 20:17:01 2002

boy that sure sucks for the kids. the blue lady won't talk to them at all now that the adults know! =(

the stories were just eerie and amazing. it's not that often that a webpage that long can keep my attention ;) but that was just so enthralling.

i'm curious to see how far those specific stories spread. bloody mary is so pasé as i think *every* kid heard that story once upon a time. i heard it in singapore, ferchrissakes. i wouldn't call that urban folklore.

Posted by: acb Wed Jan 23 02:28:18 2002

Bloody Mary is the old Mary Worth legend, which goes way back, coupled with La Llorona, originally based on Cortes' slave-girl in the 16th century. The two merged only recently.

Jim Finnis has dug up more info on these things in his blog at

Posted by: Graham Thu Jan 24 01:05:09 2002

weird. our stories were about dropbears and wombacats.