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Archive for the tag “ghost”

Daily Ghost Post – P is for Phi Am

Things that go bump in the night are bad enough, but THIS?

By now, readers of the Daily Ghost Post have come face to face with evil encased in innocence, revenge of revenants, and ghostly “let’s keep up with the Jones’ and kill you off too” experiences. But this one is in a category all by itself.

Bedtime is supposed to signify peaceful comfort. A bed is a place of pillows and blankies, coziness and relaxation. Pull the sweet covers up to your chin, sink your sleepy head into an imaginary pillow, and close your eyes. You can go there. You do it every night.

Deep sleep is a glorious respite from the ache of exhaustion and the stresses of life. Sometimes we dream, sometimes our sleep is blissfully blank.

But one night, in the middle of your deepest dreams, you feel your mind opening up like a flower. You ready yourself to soak up the sunlight of wakefulness. Slowly, your sleepy self creeps up from the rabbit hole of dreamland. You are not quite there though – you are still in that dreamy place between sleep and up. You feel the covers snuggled around you, your skin luxuriates in the sheets and softness. As your mind emerges from the depths, you notice something else. It isn’t snuggly. It isn’t soft. It isn’t comfortable. Not. At. All.

Pressing down on your chest is a heaviness so profound you cannot move. You find it hard to breathe. The heaviness envelopes you head to toe.

Your bedding feels like it has transformed from angel softness to heavy steel, sheathing you in an invisible, weighted, strait jacket. Betrayed by your bedding, you are desperate to scream but cannot open your mouth.

It lasts for hours.

In Thailand, they say that if you experience this, then you have been visited by a Phi Am. The Phi Am is a ghost that likes to sits on hapless sleepers. The weight of the ghost is so intense that it can leave bruises.

But the Phi Am doesn’t stay forever. Come morning it leaves the home and seeks another victim.

Just reading about this ghost flips me out. In my research about the Phi Am, I have been unable to discover why the ghost does this. I don’t know if it is for revenge, for fun, or just because it is tired and needs a place to rest before continuing its ghostly night hike.

But the Thai people aren’t the only people to know this ghost. Brazilians have been sat upon. Many other cultures have been sat upon too. Sometimes the ghost is called a Night Hag. And for the scientific among us, the Night Hag and the Phi Am may be the ghostly manifestation of an illness called sleep paralysis.

Let me just state here and now, I don’t care if it is a ghost or medical condition. They both terrify me equally. Just writing about this ghost scares me stiff (yes, pun completely intended, I had to insert a bit of levity before I have a heart attack).

Seriously, I find this impeccably frightening, and that is why I send my heartfelt sympathy and good wishes out to all those who suffer visitations like these. May such ghosts or maladies leave you and everyone else alone.

No bedding betrayals, pleeeeaase!

What night time ghosts frighten you most?

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Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

SOURCES
Lloyd, Doris. (2014). Sleep Paralysis: 65 Success Secrets. Emereo Publishing.
http://www.thaiworldview.com/bouddha/animism5.htm
http://baanajarn.com/living-in-thailand/spirits-and-ghosts-in-thailand/
Wikipedia: Night Hag

PHOTO CREDIT: “In the Bed” painting by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons.

Daily Ghost Post – M is for Minnie Quay

Even if you have never heard of Minnie Quay, it is likely that you have heard about someone just like her. Similar legends haunt many places.

THE SETTING
Minnie Quay is famous in Michigan and beyond. She hails from Forester, which is located in a part of the state known as The Thumb. And why The Thumb? The town is situated on the thumb portion of a mitten-shaped peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. A lumber town at the time of the story, Forester was home to this classic tale of struggle between parents and their teenaged daughter.

THE TALE
Back in the 1870’s, John and Maryann Quay lived in a small but cozy home not far from the beach in the lumber town of Forester, Michigan. They had a small son and a teenaged daughter, Minnie. Minnie loved to walk the beaches near Lake Michigan, gazing out to the lake, looking for possibility. Everyone knew when she passed by, for she always left a pretty trail of jubilant footprints zig-zagging across the sand.

One day, possibility sailed right in to shore. When the boat docked at the pier, Minnie met a sailor. She was 15 years old, he was older. And the local people didn’t like him. They never liked it when their young women took up with the sailors. Minnie’s parents were no different. She was told that she mustn’t see him.

“My girl,” cried her mother, “I would rather see you dead than be with the likes of him!”

But young love is a powerful force, like storms at sea. Just who is strong enough to stop it?

Minnie managed to sneak out and see her sailor whenever his boat docked in town. Everyone knew she met him, because they saw two pairs of footprints zig-zagging across the sand.

One day in 1876, Minnie’s parents put their feet down and forbid her to leave the house. Well there was an angry storm in the Quay house. But it was not the only storm that day. A rainstorm with the power and force of young love carried her sailor’s boat and crew to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

When Minnie heard, she was distraught. She never got to say goodbye.

From that day on, Minnie Quay stopped walking on shore. She simply sat near the pier, gazing out at the lake, looking for possibility. And one day, she found it. Dressed in a white gown, Minnie Quay walked to the edge of the pier where she always met her love and jumped into the water to join him.

Though her body was buried in a local cemetery, her spirit is restless. Even today, people see her walking along the beach, gazing out to the lake, looking for possibility – the possibility that one day she might find him.

Oh the people know it is the ghost of Minnie Quay – she emerges from the mists wearing a white dress, zig-zags her way across shore, but leaves no footprints in the sand.

SOME THOUGHTS
The Minnie Quay story touches people to the core. How do I know this? It is a musical, a book, more than one ballad , and a beer. I mean when an artisan craft brewery in Massachusetts names a beer after a story from Michigan, it has almost reached meme status.

On a more serious note, this romantic tragedy encourages us to believe that sometimes love is strong enough to cross the forbidden bridge between life and death. Maybe that is the real reason why Minnie’s legend endures.

But then again, if people still see her ghost emerging from the mists, then that could surely explains why the legend endures.

Why do you think tales like this endure? Share your thoughts and let’s get chatting.

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Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

RESOURCES
Dutcher, Denise (2014). Dead Reckoning: A Great Lakes Love Story.
http://rmr.hubpages.com/hub/Ghost-of-Forester-Michigan
Taylor, Troy. http://www.prairieghosts.com/minnie.htm
Wikipedia – Minnie Quay
http://sanilaccountynews.mihomepaper.com/news/2014-11-05/News/Local_womans_book_tells_story_of_Minnie_Quay.html

PHOTO CREDIT: By Royalbroil / CC BY-SA 3.O / Wikimedia Commons

Daily Ghost Post – L is for La Llorona

La Llorona is an enduring Mexican legend that is told in Latin American countries, the American Southwest, and beyond. Even my American teenaged son points to it as the most terrifying tale of his childhood.

There are other interesting tidbits about the tale, but first, the story.

THE LEGEND

There once was a woman called Maria. With long dark hair that hung like a bridal train, she caught the eye of many. But the one who caught her eye in return was a fine courtly gentleman. Maria fell deeply in love him and bore two children. But for the nobleman, Maria was a mere dalliance. His heart and plans lay with someone else, far away.

When he broke it off, Maria was devastated. Through her pain, she convinced herself that she lost him because of the children. So, one night, she put on a flowing white gown, possibly the one she hoped to wear for her wedding, and brought her children to the river. There, Maria drowned her babies. Then, she died at the water’s edge in utter grief for everything that happened. Some say she drowned herself in the river. I wonder if she drowned in her own tears of pain and regret.

When she approached the gates of heaven, Maria discovered that she was not allowed in until she could find her children’s lost souls. Condemned to exist in between the afterlife and the world of the living, La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, still walks the earth.

Even today, she prowls the rivers and lakes in search of her babies. Crying and wailing, La Llorona wears white, her long hair wild in in wind, searching and searching through the night. If she sees any children near rivers or lakes, it is said that she reaches out and clutches them to her broken heart.

And they are never seen again.

DIGGING DEEPER

A friend who grew up in Mexico told me that even though La Llorona’s story is set by a river, his parents, like many others, used the story to keep their kids off the streets.

“They told us she could be anywhere at night. We were afraid she would take us by mistake. It was the perfect way for parents to get us home before dark.”

The legend is scary by itself. It is used almost like a bogeyman – well bogeywoman – story. But scratch a bit deeper and much more is revealed. La Llorona is a story that is probably rooted in folklore that predated the Spanish conquest.

That story was about a woman who lived ten years before Cortes and the Spanish arrived in 1519. Like La Llorona, that woman wandered at night through the streets of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City at the time of the Aztecs), crying and wailing about her children. But unlike La Llorona, her children were not dead.

She wept out of concern for what would become of them.

Those who study this story suggest that her wailing was a warning to the Aztec people. It foretold a future when their lives would be forever changed.

The tale doesn’t signify the loss of individual children as a literal interpretation might suggest. Instead, it bemoans the loss of a culture’s children. And so it came to pass that after the Spanish came, people intermarried and children were born of mixed races. On a deeper level, that wailing woman was wailing about the lost future of Mexico’s children.

The accuracy of this foretelling is as scary as the modern La Llorona story.

Scholars say that the woman was based on the goddesses Chihaucoatl, the serpent woman of Aztec mythology. Montezuma, king of the Aztec empire, and his priests believed that the wailing woman was Chihaucoatl herself. Since they believed that she could foretell future events, they prepared for the worst.

But Chihaucoatl is probably not the start of the legend’s journey. Some scholars argue that the Aztec tale was appropriated by the Aztecs from the previous Toltec civilization.

Hmmmm.

La Llorona is a gripping tale of life, loss, love, and more. It is also an example of the many ways that conquerors co-opt people – they steal so much more than land. The tale we hear now, tinged with European religion (going to the heavenly gates) and class overtones (the rich gentleman), is a colonial version of an indigenous story.

La Llorona scares children off the streets at night. It also scares me, yet again, about the pernicious power of conquest.

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Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

SOURCES
Perez, Dominio Renee (2008). There was a Woman: La Llorona from Folklore to Popular Culture. University of Texas Press.
Estes, Clarissa-Pinkola (1992). Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. New York: Ballantine Books.
http://www.inside-mexico.com/la-llorona-a-five-century-old-lamentation/
Romero, Rolando and Amanda Notacea Harris (editors, 2005). Feminism, Nation and Myth: La Malinche. Luis Leal’s work. Houston: Arte Publico Press.
Wikipedia – La Llorona

PHOTO CREDIT: By Rodtico21 / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Daily Ghost Post – H is for Hanako-San

Being an on-the-road performer, I find myself in many exotic places – cars, cafetoriums, and rest stops. We drive so much that we have favorite rest areas, like the first one in West Virginia on I-70 West. It has shady outdoor picnic tables and decent bathrooms.

But no matter how decent a public bathroom is, even if it is a fancy toilette, I always enter with trepidation. You see, my overactive teenaged imagination once conjured a horror story that involved a corpse and an innocent tourist who happen to meet in an out of the way, grimy bathroom stall. With that image permanently emblazoned on my brain, I still open every bathroom stall door cautiously, half dreading the discovery of a bloated corpse sitting on the toilet in deathly contemplation.

So it tickled me greatly to learn that I am not alone in my fear of bathroom stalls. There is a traditional, albeit contemporary, Japanese urban legend about a bathroom ghost -and I don’t mean JK Rowling’s Moaning Myrtle. Her name is Hanako-San.

Hanako-San is a totally modern ghost. Popular in anime, manga, film, video games, and schoolyard urban legends, she conjures up courage and fear. The legend was probably born mid-20th century, sometime after she died in a bathroom.

But unlike other ghosts who haunt the exact place of their deaths, Hanako-San doesn’t remain in one bathroom. Any Japanese elementary school girls’ bathroom can host her.

Hanako-San is always found in the third stall. Depending on which version of the story one hears, she is helpful and will protect you from other bathroom ghosts lurking in the toilets, pipes, and cabinets. But I ask you, just what is it about ghosts and their bathroom hauntings? I mean, aren’t there nicer places to spend eternity?. The darker Hanako-San stories say that she is no protector, but can cut you to bits or pull you down into the toilet. What a way to go!

Her origin is a bit of a mystery. It is possible that she committed suicide after being bullied – it is also possible that she got caught in the bathroom during World War II bombing raids. No matter how she died, she is the ghost of a little girl who died in and around a toilet in the third stall of a bathroom somewhere in Japan. And she wears a red skirt.

The brave among us can invite a visitation from Hanako-San. Knock three times on the stall three door, call her name, and she may be there to greet you when you enter. It is not surprising, then, that children dare each other to go into the bathroom and call her name. (Going into girls’ bathrooms is scary enough, but this?).

The story and the schoolyard ‘dares’ that are associated with it are reminiscent of an American urban legend with the power to ruin sleepovers – Bloody Mary. She is the scary woman who lives in a mirror and can predict your future. Or snatch at you with her bloody grip.

The next time I am at a rest stop or working in an elementary school, if all the bathroom stalls are closed, I won’t knock on them. You never know if Hanako-San has made an overseas crossing. I’m patient. I’ll wait for a safe door to open by a living human, thank you.

Do you know bathroom ghost lore? Have you participated in sleepover ghost dares? What happened? Do tell…

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Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Sources:
Gail de Vos, What Happens Next? Contemporary Urban Legends and Popular Culture
wikipedia – Hanako-San; Japanese urban legends
www. matthewmeyer.net/blog/2010/10/27/a-yokai-a-day-hanako-san-or-hanako-of-the-toilet/

Photo Credit: By Pete unseth (Own work)/ CC BY-SA 3.0 /Wikimedia Commons

Daily Ghost Post – G is for Ghoul (or The Short History of a Creature with an Overused Name)

Real ghouls don’t raid graves.

This misrepresented creature of fright needs to be redeemed. “Ghoul” is a word that is associated with graveyard robbing, flesh-eating creatures that go bump in the night. It is time to disentangle their evil reputations from this horrible image.

This is their history in as few words as possible.

Ghouls originated with Arabic Bedouins. The bane of travelers, ghouls were renowned for getting people lost in the desert. Like the Sirens of Greek mythology, ghouls could use their voices to lure unsuspecting travelers deep into the desert where they would be lost forever. Or eaten.

They appeared in other ways as well. Sometimes when an individual fought and killed an animal for supper, it suddenly transformed into a cloven featured creature on the way back to camp. Goodbye dinner, hello ghoul.

You see, traditional ghouls are accomplished shape shifters. Often depicted as women, ghouls are not the ghosts of departed souls – they arise from a very different place. Ghouls are the offspring of demons. With bonafide demonic DNA, they have a penchant for human flesh.

Here is Merriam Webster’s Dictionary definition of the word ghoul:

an evil creature in frightening stories that robs graves and eats dead bodies

As the definition suggests, Western culture depicts ghouls as grave opening, corpse eating monsters. A quick browser search will reveal that most definitions of “ghoul” include the graveyard aspect. Perhaps the more sensational version of the ghoul makes a more gripping story image, but it is not a correct one from a folkloric perspective.

The traditional Arabic ghoul is not that disrespectful.

This ghoulish, corpse-eating twist to the lore of “ghouldom” is attributed to Antoine Galland, a Frenchman who translated the Arabian Nights in the early 1700’s. One story, called The Story of Sidi Nouman, tells of a man who is married to a woman with such a small appetite that one grain of rice at a time was all she could manage. Though their marriage was happy as marriages go, he wondered about a couple of things – her appetite quirk and her strange habit of leaving home in the middle of the night. One evening, he quietly followed her when she stole out of the house. As he approached the graveyard where she had gone, he watched in silent horror as his wife dug up graves and devoured corpses. No wonder she ate like a bird all day. That was when he realized that he had married a ghoul who was adept at shape shifting into a beautiful woman.

According to folklorist Ahmed Al-Rawi, grave robbing and corpse gorging were either Galland’s invention or his mistaken representation of other Middle Eastern folklore as Arabic. Galland’s gruesome image was then perpetuated in literature, including popular Victorian writings. The new meaning fell into common language use and western popular culture. Now ghouls the all over the world pig out in cemeteries.

To put the folkloric record straight, that is not how they started their ghoulish business. The world’s first ghouls caused desert travelers to become lost in the sand, which put them inside a ghoul’s sandwich. In short, lost travelers became desert dessert.

Were the first ghouls nasty and hungry? Sure, look at their parentage. But the first ghouls didn’t defile the buried dead for food. That was going a bit too far.

What is a ghoul to you? Do you have favorite ones from literature, folklore, or film?

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Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

SOURCES:

Al-Rawi, Ahmed K. (2009) The Arabic Ghoul and its Western Transformation. Folklore, 120:3, 291-306, DOI: 10.1080/00155870903219730

Encyclopedia Brittanica – Arabian Mythology – ghoul: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/232832/ghoul

Melton, J. Gordon (2011). The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, Third Edition. Visible Ink, Press.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary: ghoul http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ghoul

PHOTO CREDIT: By R. Smirke, Esq., R.A. Digitized by Google Books. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Daily Ghost Post – C is for Churel

Old Man at Ravangla Market, India


The churel is a supernatural badass. A female ghost, the churel can slap back at those who wronged her in life.

In India, it is said that if a woman is treated badly by her family or dies under unnatural circumstances, then she can return after death to settle up. A bit of a vampire now, she can turn the blood of the men in her family to powder. A churel can also suck the youth out of people. According to vampire expert J. Gordon Melton, if she offers a young man some food and he takes it, then he is hers for the night. When he returns to his own life the next day, he will be a withered, old man.

That’s one powerful play date.

Although she can trick her quarry into believing she is a regular everyday woman, her actual physical appearance is hideous – thick black tongue, long dangling breasts, pointy teeth, slimy mouth – you know, your basic monster. Some sources indicate that churels are the ghosts of women who died in childbirth. Rosemary Ellen Guiley indicates that a churail (note different spelling) could have been either pregnant or menstruating when she died. With so many ways to spell her name and so many variants in what she is capable of, there is agreement on at least two points: 1. that she is a ghostly vampire woman known in India, and; 2. you don’t want to meet her in a dark or day lit alley.

This ghost fascinates me for several reasons. The first reason is that the churel is empowered in death. This is in contrast to whatever situations in life wronged her. Like the closing of a circle, the churel represents cosmic justice. I also wonder if the existence of the churel offers spiritual hope to those who suffer in life.

Another reason for my churel fascination is that her actions and their consequences are somewhat parallel to those of the Irish fairies. The risks of accepting food from the fairy folk is well known in Irish lore. Those who do are whisked off to the fairy world. Because time passes differently there, a homesick inter-world traveler may pine to return to the land of living humans. If he or she returns, hundreds of years may have passed. Once that person sets ancient foot on earth, his or her body cycles through the years until it reaches its actual age and finally crumbles to dust (you can read a version of such a legend here).

Parallels abound in world folklore, and the similarity of churel and fairy consequences are fun to note even if they are completely and totally unrelated.

The final reason why the churel intrigues me is that she robs her quarry of two things that humans hold dear – youth and the future. To be killed outright is punishing in and of itself. But wouldn’t it be even worse to go to sleep full of youthful fire and promise and wake up the next morning barely able to function, and living, albeit not for long, with the knowledge that your most of your life was stolen?

But you can avoid the churel’s trouble, as far as I understand it, by being observant of those around you. You see, the churel has an unmistakable characteristic that gives her away – her feet are completely backwards. So if a woman approaches you heel first, you might want to turn on your heels and hoof it in the other direction.

What do you think about the churel? Do you know of parallel spirits in other cultures? Can you add more information about churels? I’d love to hear from you and will write back!

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Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (2011). The Encyclopedia of Vampires and Werewolves, 2nd Edition. Facts on File, Inc. Melton, J. Gordon (2011). The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 3rd Edition. Visible Ink Press.
Wikipedia – Churel entry.

PHOTO CREDIT: By Sukanto Debnath (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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