Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hotel Ghosts: Protocols (Taiwan)

First, a story . . .

This story was related to me by a student's mother a number of years ago. She insisted the details of the story really happened as she related them.

There is a hotel in a major city in Taiwan, and this hotel is reputed to be haunted. (I myself stayed there once, but nothing out of the ordinary occurred.)

This woman, her husband, and her then very small children had traveled back to Taiwan to see family members. After visiting all the relatives, the family of four took off on a brief private tour of the island. They arrived in the city where this particular hotel is located. Exhausted, they checked into the hotel, went up to their room, washed up, and went to bed.

Around midnight, the wife kept being woken up when her pillow was snatched from underneath her head. Assuming her husband was playing some kind of childish prank on her, she gave him a good jab in the ribs the third or fourth time the pillow was yanked away. He woke up and asked her why she had done that. She told him that she was annoyed he had picked that time to play a joke on her with the pillow. He denied he had been doing that. His protests convinced her he had been indeed sleeping. They both got dressed and then woke and dressed the children. They went downstairs to the front desk.

"What's going on in that room you gave us?" she told the clerk. "My pillow keeps getting pulled away from under my head!"

The clerk looked around and then told her quietly, "Sorry. In that room . . . a . . . dancehall girl committed suicide . . . "

The family was given a refund, and they checked out and found a different hotel.

Someone I know from Taiwan who wishes to remain unidentified told me that "there are some rituals to employ before entering a hotel room so as not to disturb or disrespect the ghost or ghosts that might still be inside."

The following are the reported protocols:

1. First, before entering the room for the first time, one needs to knock to let the ghost know a visitor
    is about to enter. It is said some hotel guests will go as far as to announce verbally in a polite tone
    that they are preparing to enter as they knock on the door.

2. Once inside, one is to turn on all the lights--ceiling and bathroom lights as well as bedside lamps--
     to allow the yin (陰 or 阴; i.e., the dark, passive, negative, occult, hidden) to become the yang
     (陽 or 阳; i.e., the bright, active, positive, open, unhidden).

3. One is advised not to hang up clothes in the closet lest a ghost lurking there enters them.

4. Shoes, once taken off, should be placed on the floor side by side so that one of the shoes points
    in the opposite direction (e.g., the heel of one shoe is placed next to the front of the other shoe).
    Doing so confuses any ghost who would put his/her feet into the shoes.

5. The comforter should be patted down and then pulled back before lying on the bed. Why? This is
    done to warn the ghost to leave the bed and blankets before the guest lies down.

6. One light should be left on all night, presumably to maintain some yang in the midst of the yin.

7. Finally, it is advised never to take the last room at the end of the hall or the one way in the back of
    the building. If ghosts are skulking, they are likely to take such a room.


A disclaimer: The above represents popular folk beliefs among only some and not all of the residents of Taiwan.

I might be wrong, but I seem to remember the lady who told me of her experience in the haunted hotel room also mentioned that ceiling lights flashed on and off after she had woken up her husband with a jab to the ribs. 

Not hanging clothes in the closet is likely based on the same belief that it is not a good idea to leave clothes hanging on the clothesline overnight for fear ghosts could occupy the garments. Rearranging the direction of the shoes is reminiscent of those worldwide customs that involve counting rituals to flummox malevolent supernatural beings; for example, one can drop beans, which then forces the ghost or other entity to count them rather than do any harm. This reflects the notion that, while ghosts are highly dangerous because they are the antithesis of the living and jealous because they cannot be alive again, they are essentially stupid and easy to bamboozle. 

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