General Stuff About Ghost
The Asian myths and common beliefs about the supernatural.
Ghost.... What do we know about ghost? What do we not know about ghost?
Many people have many different beliefs about ghost. However the most obvious category is those who believe in ghost and those who don't. Are you the Mulder kind of guy or are you the Scully kind of gal? Of course, sex has no relevance here. It's only a matter of whether you are a believer or not.
Obviously, I am one who believes in ghost. Nigel Kneale, in his introduction to a book by M.R. James, once said of the author:
"He believed in ghosts and he would have like to believe in trolls and fairies. To conclude a ghost story with a rational explanation was in his view an act of wasteful and irreverent folly." - Ghost Stories of M.R. James (1931)
I guess you can describe me that way, too. I would only try to explain what events in the past that has lead to such phenomena on present days. Never would I give a rational or scientific explanation to my stories.
In Asia, a lot of people I know are not very keen on ghost stories, especially the older generation. Yet, some young people I know (don't get me wrong, I am not at all old!) like ghost stories but became so afraid after listening to them. I know people who would stay up all night in fear if you tell him/her a ghost story in the morning.
The Chinese are particularly superstitious about ghosts. To the Chinese, ghosts are evil and it's better not to mess with them. It is often considered an omen to see or hear anything considered paranormal.
The Chinese have a 'Hungry Ghost Festival' whereby they believe that all the hungry ghosts are freed from hell for a month to roam the streets to find food. The Chinese believes that ghosts generally lives in hell and only the evil ones haunt places and people in the human plane. Therefore it is extremely dangerous, to the Chinese at least, to have any encounter with 'the spirits from the other world'.
Chinese believes that it is not advisable to go out at night during this 'festival', which falls on the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar. When I was very young, my parents even suggested I should stop going to the swimming pool for that particular month. According to them, there was a case where some guy was drowned in the swimming pool during such period. He was supposedly being pulled down into the water by a ghost. Thank goodness my parents were not that superstitious. Nevertheless, being a small boy, I have to admit their story did put on some degree of fear in me at that time!
Many incidents happened during the Hungry Ghosts Festival were often linked to the ghosts. Even road accidents are often claimed to be caused by these spirits who are 'allowed to roam the streets of the human plane for 30 days'. What is unacceptable to me, however, is that when a child got ill during that month, superstitious parents would blame it on the ghosts. I think it is silly and I have great sympathy on the kid for they will be misled into believing something untrue and hence developed a fear for ghosts for the rest of their life. Furthermore, I feel sorry for the ghosts too. They have been the target of blame for one whole month every year, even if they have done nothing wrong.
Have you ever smelt some fragrance out of no where? For example, you are on a jungle trek and you suddenly smell something, which to you may be the smell of flowers or some insects. This smell need not necessarily be a sweet smell all the time. They are common especially in hilly areas or inside the forest. Many people from where I come from (Malaysia) believe that we should ignore the smell and say not a word about it. According to the locals, the smell actually symbolizes a presence and if you make any silly comments about it, it will follow you. I have a story related to this belief. (See Short But Eerie: Don't Comment)
The Chinese also has a belief that may sound rather peculiar to other races. When a family member pass away, a funeral ceremony would be held for up to three or five days before the burial or cremation. On the seventh day, it is believed that the died family member will come back to the house to check that everything is all right. One of the things he/she usually does is to go to the rice container to make sure there's enough rice being stored. This is probably due to the fact that in China, especially during the olden days when famine and drought caused severe food shortage problems, having enough rice at home is the main concern of all families. I heard a story where a family member found hand-print on the rice container the next morning after such "expected" visit. Many others also claimed to have seen their loved ones coming back to visit them on such nights.
There is also another common belief in Asia that if you hear someone calling your name from behind in a dark and quiet area, you should never answer back. What would happen if you do? Well, some claimed if it was a ghost who was calling your name, you would be dead, supposedly 'caught' by the ghost. (See a related story, Horrifying Asia: Karen, Karen...)
Also, someone told me that if you stand with your legs wide apart, then bow over and look through within your legs, chances are that you will see a ghost. How true is that, I don't know. I have never done that on purpose but for all those occasions when I did it unintentionally, I did not recall seeing any ghosts.
Some Malaysian believes that dogs are able to see ghosts and that they make this eerie cry or howl when they see ghosts. Based on this belief, another belief arises. They said if you apply the 'eye droppings' (not sure what is this call, any idea?) of dogs on your eyelid, you will be able to see ghosts too. But, hey, who would want to do such a disgusting thing?!
Another aspect about the Chinese belief in ghost that is also worth mentioning is the ghost hunter. A fan of Chinese, especially Hong Kong, movies must have come across some of these ghost hunters. They 'catch' ghosts and help them to 'move on'. Some cruel ghost hunter will, however, destroy them instead of helping them. How true is this, I have no idea. These movies depict those ghost hunters in very old fashion costumes and I would doubt if there were still a lot of them around at present day.
Nevertheless, I believe there are still a number of people doing something like ghost-hunting. You see them in Chinese funerals and they are often called 'Sai Kong' in the Hokkien dialect.
One incident I know of, regarding this 'Sai Kong', happened when I was still in Primary School. Behind my school building, there is a Chinese cemetery. One day when I was in Standard 5 or 6, something had happened inside the cemetery. For that whole morning, everyone was complaining of a foul smell. We kept checking if anyone had stepped on dog faeces and brought the smell into the classroom. However, no explanation could be found for that foul smell. Next day, a local newspaper reported someone had dug a hole on a recent grave of a teenage girl. This girl used to live near the cemetery and since her death, her loyal dog kept visited her grave everyday. After an unknown man dug a hole in the grave and was doing something there, the dog pulled out the girl's hand before dragging it to the neighbouring school (next door to my school but much nearer to the cemetery). A few girls in that school saw that dog with the hand and started screaming. Some of them claimed they saw a man in a 'Sai Kong' costume with a piece of wooden stick in his hand supposed to be the ghost-hunter's sword). Upon hearing their screams, he ran away as fast as possible. When police arrived, they found a big hole on the grave. All this happened in the broad daylight. As I was still too young to be interested in the newspaper then, I have no idea if investigations did reveal what the man was up to.
I believe many would have also heard of the Chinese vampire. I reckon they are only story-based vampires but did not really exist. In movies, these vampires, if being controlled, would hop around with their hand stretch outright. They have a piece of paper written with some 'spell' stuck to their forehead. They will be 'freed' if that piece of paper were to be taken off. Then, according to the movies, they would go about sucking blood. They cannot see but only smell.
The Malays' belief in ghosts is perhaps the most interesting. They seem to have categorised the ghosts into different types and each was given a special name. The most violent and fierce ghost in the Malay version is perhaps the 'pontianak', otherwise known as 'hantu kontilanak' among Indonesians. Pontianaks are actually the Malay version of a vampire. They kill and tear their victim's body up to suck their blood. There are several beliefs about the origin of the pontianak. See Highway Nightmare a scary ghost story happened in Malaysia.
Besides the 'pontianak', there are also ghost names like 'hantu tetek' (breast ghost), 'hantu hijau' (green ghost), etc. It seems that hantu tetek appears on the beach at night but I have no idea what it does to its victims. I heard someone said it make you suck their breasts. I am keen to find out more about them but my sources on these types of ghost stories are very limited. If any of you out there know anything about them, do let me know.
Coming back to vampire. If you are a fan of ghost stories but you have not heard much about vampires, you may have lose out on something great. These vampires, the Western version, have much but not all similarities to those created by Hollywood. One thing I am sure of is that they do not turn into bats. There is a link on this home page to the web site of a vampire named Koi. She is, however, a born vampire, not made.
On a radio programme in Malaysia some years back, Mr Teoh had an interview with a vampire. This vampire, named Peter, is working in one of the advertising firm in Kuala Lumpur. He claimed he came from Romania and he drinks cow-blood bought from the market. He clarified that vampires do not sleep in coffin and do not turn themselves into bats. However, he prefers sleeping on hard ground rather than on a soft bed. One thing different about him compared to the other vampires is that he claimed the sun does not kill, although he dislikes the sun. Nevertheless, there seems to be vampires of different races. He might well be from a vampire race that is not afraid of the sun.
Lastly, I will leave you with another story to ponder upon. In 1988, the ferry terminal taking passengers from the mainland to the island of Penang, in Malaysia, collapsed. Hundreds were killed and injured in this tragic incident. Some people claimed that if you bring a lime to the site now and squeeze the lime onto the ground of that fateful site, you will hear sounds of cries and screams. I personally would not do it for I think it is too cruel. What do you think?
I hope you will enjoy the ghost stories I have for you here. I would appreciate it a lot if you would give me your comments about this home page and sign my guest book before you leave. If you have any good ghost stories, please share it with us.
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Owl's Ghost Stories
© since 1997 by Will Ong