Saturday, August 17, 2013

Internet Ghost Stories From Taiwan -- Series One

A little note: I haven't been active recently because I've been preparing my PhD dissertation in psychology, the culmination of a fifteen-year quest! (No, the topic won't be folktales or urban legends; it will be, instead, on OCD.) I certainly appreciate all of you who have come to this site and who have left kind notes of encouragement. In the future I plan to leave more time to translate and post these stories. 

(1) That Lavatory on the Second Floor

It seems the new employee had heard there was a haunted privy on the second floor, where unearthly sounds would be heard, rolls of toilet paper would dance in the air, and the faucets would turn themselves on.

Well, he, the new employee, didn't put any stock in such things and didn't believe in the concept of "evil." So on this one particular night, when he had to work overtime, nature called and he had to visit the second floor lavatory for the first time.

He went up.

The lavatory itself looked positively normal, with nothing out of the ordinary.  And so, fine, he entered.

He was standing up and just about to relieve himself at the urinal, when somebody tapped him on the shoulder. The cold shock startled his entire body. He turned around to face a security guard, a uniformed young man in his early twenties.

"Sorry, you can't use this lavatory," said the guard very earnestly, tapping his badge. "It's under repair. Please use the lavatory on the third floor."

"All right."

The new employee left and headed up to the third floor. He used the lavatory up there and returned to his work station on the first floor.

"Say," he told his coworkers, "there's nothing to that story of ghosts in the second-floor lavatory! I just went there. It looked okay, but then a guard told me to use the one on the third floor. So, I went up there too."

Now, all his coworkers within earshot gathered around him, some with faces as white as paper. This alarmed the new employee.

"Well," said one of his coworkers, "you've only just begun to work here, so you probably couldn't have known that we've never had a lavatory on the third floor . . ."

The new employee looked at his colleagues;  his mouth was wide open but no sound came out.

公司的廁所 - 鬼故事( Anonymous writer

It is said by some authorities that privy ghosts are among the most dangerous. (That makes sense since where else are people at their most vulnerable than when using the restroom? See Guiguai xiao pin 鬼怪小品, Chen Yangfeng and Ding Changqing, eds.; Juhai: Juhai Chubanshe, 1994; p.20) In any case, lavatory/bathroom ghosts are nothing in new in the corpus of Chinese ghost folk literature. The young man's visit to a non-existent lavatory suggests some serious bewitching has occurred, the kind of trick a malicious ghost would pull. The pointed mentioning of his disbelief in evil--something the original writer emphasized in Chinese--foreshadows his rendezvous with that very concept, all of which resembles a common "setup" in urban legends. Finally, ghosts in East Asian cultures are, for the most part, not cuddly and cute but rather sinister and relentlessly malicious. They resent being dead and need to be propitiated, coaxed, wheedled, etc., not to harm the living for whom they harbor endless enmity and jealousy.

(2) He's Got Mail!

(Disclaimer: The name used below appeared in the original story. It is presumed fictitious and as such does not represent any person, living or dead.)

X was fooling around on the Internet one night, looking at the list of people on the web who would like to make new friends. He came across the name "Zhong Cuiwen" (钟翠雯), found her interesting, and sent her an email introducing himself.

No reply email came, and so X developed the habit of checking daily and nightly to see if Miss Zhong had ever sent him an email--all to no avail.

Late one night, while X lounged in front of the computer, a sudden wind began howling outside, followed by heavy rain, thunder and lightning. X decided to check his inbox; sure enough, there was an email from "Zhong Cuiwen." X's joy knew no bounds and just as he was about to read Miss Zhong's email, his Internet phone rang.

A chilly, downbeat female voice was speaking to him on the phone.

X's first impression was that the caller on the other end was a friend up to something, so he ignored the call and hung up.

The phone rang and rang afterwards, as X refused to pay any attention.

Finally, when the phone rang yet again, X couldn't stand it anymore and picked up the receiver, asking brusquely for the caller to identify him or herself.

The caller identified herself as "Zhong Cuiwen." What's more, she said that she had thought about X, that she was lonely, and that she had wanted to find a male companion in her life.

They chatted on for a long time, way into the night, for more than several hours.

Then she said that it would soon be daylight and that she had to be going. She ended the conversation cryptically, saying, "If only I had met you earlier, I wouldn't be the way I am now . . ."

X tried to get her to explain these remarks, but the line had already gone dead . . .

Later that morning, X was reading that morning's paper when a news story caught his eye. Early the previous evening, a young woman in red had taken her life by leaping from the upper floor of a tall building, all because of an unhappy romance. Her name was Zhong Cuiwen . . .

X read this story and felt very woozy. 

Internet鬼話 - 鬼故事( Anonymous writer

The original narrative was in first person. 

It's probably not surprising that ghost lore has long since moved into the Computer Age. Urban legends are not static; they keep up with the times. As Professor Jan Harold Brunvand has pointed out, the Vanishing Hitchhiker, for example, has moved from vanishing from open wagons to buggies, and from buggies to automobiles. The name "Zhong Cuiwen" is suitably lyrical but also dreamy and sad, summoning images of jade-colored clouds. There might be significance in her red clothes; in the last decade, a number of ghost stories dealing with women in red have been making the rounds in Taiwan.


  1. Cool, I remember as a kid the ghosts used to wear white. The red dressed ones were said to be more malicious.

    Thanks for keeping this up even when you're so busy!

  2. Hi, Little Alys
    thanks for your comment. Yes, you're right about ghosts in red. The stories coming out of Taiwan concerning ghosts in red show ghosts at their worst--malicious and murderous. Maybe I'll get around to those tales one of these days now that I'm translating more web-based material. I'm becoming more and more interested in Taiwanese mountain goblins/demons (山妖 or 山怪) which are still reported time to time.
    All the best to you!