Riddles, Sayings, Superstitions

Professor James T. Callow along with Professor Frank M. Paulsen have done something amazing: they’ve put together a huge collection of folklore materials gathered from their students between 1964 and 1993; and now Professor Callow has shared this collection with UDM and the world. In 1964, Professor Callow, along with Professor Paulsen, founded the University of Detroit Folklore Archive. This amazing archive was donated to the University of Detroit Mercy Libraries /Instructional Design Studio in digital form in 2009, and we are proud to include it in our Digital Special Collections.

The introduction to the archive tells visitors that it is …

“…comprised at this point of over 42,000 folklore traditions taken from field notes gathered by UDM (formerly University of Detroit) students as part of their course work in ‘Introduction to Folklore,’ Studies in Folklore,’ ‘Folk Groups,’ and ‘Folklore Archiving’. The folklore archive covers traditions gathered between 1964 and 1993. Included in the Archive is the Peabody field note collection containing approximately 12,000 entries from Tennessee and the Southeast.”

The archive is searchable by text, title, keyword, location, subject and contains folklore such as:

  • urban legends
  • jokes
  • fraternity, sorority, and scouting songs
  • drinking games
  • graffiti
  • initiation pranks
  • superstitions
  • gestures
  • riddles
  • proverbs
  • customs
  • festivals, and
  • elder lore

Here’s an example of what you might discover in this amazing collection:


How Many Children?

Thread a needle and hold it at the top, next to your left wrist. If you keep watching for awhile, the needle and thread will move all by itself. If it moves in circles, for example, three times, that means you will have three daughters someday. If it sways back and forth, that means you will have the respective number of sons. If the needle and thread don’t move at all, you will be childless.


Visit the James T. Callow Folklore Archive to learn more. Or, if you are doing research and want access to the physical collection, please contact the UDM McNichols Campus Library research desk at 313-993-1071 to make an appointment.