Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bamboo Ghosts -- an Urban Legend From Taiwan

According to Taiwanese folklore, say the authorities below, there is a type of invisible malevolent ghost that lurks within bamboo groves, waiting to snare passers-by. This bamboo ghost is most active at night and sometimes emits an eerie laughter. The ghost may be more prevalent within groves where unfortunate individuals hanged themselves. The spirit of a suicide victim, nursing resentment for the living and desiring to find a replacement, may leave a bamboo stalk lying on a path. When a traveler comes upon the stalk and attempts to step over it, the stalk might snap upwards, killing the person on the spot. The haunted bamboo stalks have also been known to whip around a person's throat, throttling him or her.

Locals where such occurrences are thought to occur will tell you that these possessed bamboo stalks are incredibly powerful and are able to fling a hog to its death.

Can a bamboo ghost be circumvented from taking someone's life in the ghost's quest to find a replacement? It is said that they can be dispelled if the potential victim sprays urine or throws a rock in the general direction of where the haunting seems to be coming from.

According to someone who says he or she knew the person involved the following story, there was a young fellow who was attending night classes. One night, on his way home after classes, he took the path home that went through a bamboo grove, the only road, it seems, that most directly connected his home with the school.

On his way home on this particular night, he stopped when he came to a large bamboo stalk lying in the middle of the path. It was twitching, shaking. Recalling stories he had heard of bamboo ghosts, he turned tail and ran back down the way he had come, back towards school, then taking a very long, roundabout way to return home. Upon returning home, his parents scolded him for coming back so late. He told them about the bamboo stalk shaking on the path.

The next day came the report that the corpse of a suicide victim had been found hanging nearby where the bamboo stalk had blocked the student's path.

Another story, told by someone who also purportedly knows the person  involved, tells of a mother who had to get up very early in the morning, at about three or four A.M., to sell vegetables at the market. Her route would take her through a bamboo grove. She admitted she would walk through with her eyes closed.

Early one morning this woman was walking through the grove to market while in the midst of a thick fog that had suddenly descended on the area.

What had been clearly one path now suddenly became two with a fork in the road. She stopped in her tracks and dared not go farther, market or no market. She waited until the early morning rays of the sun finally dispersed the fog. Only then right before her eyes did the two paths merge into one . She was mindful of what is said about mysterious pathways that appear in bewitched forests: To take the wrong road or path would be to disappear forever.

In the safety of the day, she resumed her journey to the market and arrived without being harmed.

from◆台灣都市傳說 有跨台湾都市传说:跨过就会死的竹子鬼 - 

要常来過就會死的竹子鬼?! @ 鬼道‧伊藤翔&Ghost Theory :: 痞客邦 PIXNET ::

The first source is from Taiwan; the second one is basically the same but from China and retold in simplified Chinese characters. 

These stories of bamboo ghosts haunting groves and waylaying travelers to find new ghosts as replacements seem to be a new variation of the deadly water ghosts. Stories of water ghosts appear in my ebook, Taiwan Folktales. Water ghosts are likewise believed to draw in unwary men and women to replace them in their watery haunts, such as a lake or pond.  

Are bamboo ghosts actual folklore being transmitted regularly, or are they what is known as "fakelore," spurious legends such as those made up about Paul Bunyan? Indeed, are any of the previous posts on ghost stories gleaned from the Chinese Internet fakelore instead of folklore? Time will tell. If such stories continue to be transmitted, if some didactic meaning (e.g., a warning) can continually be derived from them to make their transmission purposeful, and if such stories are believed in the community in which they are told (grammar and middle school students, perhaps?), they'll probably be accepted as legitimate folklore. 

Urine is a powerful apotropaic, or magic, like an amulet, to ward off evil in Chinese folklore. 

The motifs below are largely approximate.

Motifs: c E266.1, "Ghost of suicide leads people to commit suicide" ; E711.2.6, "Soul in bamboo"; and cF95.1, "Path to the world of the dead."  Without the "Halloween" connection, this would also be very close: c1099.2, "Roads miraculously appear on Halloween." 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Internet Ghost Stories From Taiwan -- Series Two

(1) Don't Thank Me . . . Yet

A young man wanted to take out a young lady he had just met on an evening drive in the mountains and enjoy a scenic view of the city.

It wasn't long before they were well in the mountains when they realized they were lost. Suddenly, the young woman began giving him directions. Owing to the darkness and the narrowness of the road, he kept his eyes peeled on the road ahead as he followed her directions in what forks in the road to take.

 Then, out of the blue, the girl blurted out: ""Go any farther and the car will go off a cliff!"

The young stopped the car. He got out and saw that they were indeed mere feet from driving right off the cliff.

Back inside the car, he took a deep breath, only to hear the young woman mumble, "If only we had died!"

In shock, he turned his head to look at his female traveling companion. She was deep asleep and had apparently been so for quite a while . . .

from 都市傳說』警告 - 每日星球報

For the first in this particular series of internet urban legends, see the posts for 8/17/13. 

From the same site comes a different version. A carload of young men are driving on a very hazardous hairpin road up in the mountains, the kind of road that demands one hundred percent attention. (I was thinking about California's Pacific Coast Highway up around Big Sur, Monterey, and Carmel as I read this.) Suddenly, a girl totally dripping with red blood flies onto the windshield and, just as suddenly, totally vanishes. The driver just about  loses it but manages to stop the car after it nearly skids out of control. The boys get out; sure enough, just ahead of them is the edge of a cliff. One says to the others, "I bet whoever she was she lost her life here in an accident." The others concur. Each places the palms of his hands together,  and the foursome together solemnly thank the spirit of the dead young woman. Then, in their ears, they each hear a mumbling female voice say, "You should have all died . . ." 

In keeping with traditional Chinese ghost lore, we have here a spiteful ghost, jealous of the living, apparently possessing a sleeping young woman. The redness of the ghost in the second version is probably not coincidental since, as other readers have pointed out, female phantoms in red seem to be the most malignant. 

Motif: E725, "Soul leaves one body and enters another." A similar motif would be E725.2, "Ghost possesses girl and she speaks in dialect unknown to her." 

(2) The Slit-Mouthed Little Girl (Version 1)

One evening two young men from Neipu, Pingtung County, took their motor scooters out to a hot spring.

Leaving the hot spring and almost back to Neipu, the second man whom we'll call X, yelled to his friend, Y, on the other scooter, "Hurry up! Go faster!"

They both sped as fast as they could, though Y could not fathom the reason behind his friend's haste to leave the area.

Before reaching their respective homes in Pingtung City, Y followed X as he pulled up and parked next to the local Mazu temple.

"What's going on?" asked Y. "Why are we stopping here?"

"I'll tell you why," replied X. "Something happened at the hot spring. I already felt uncomfortable while there.  After we left, as we were heading back, I heard something, a girl's shrill laughter. Then, I saw something I wish I had never seen."

X told Y a girl had followed him as he rode his motor scooter, a girl in red, gliding in the air right behind him, a girl with long fissures for eyes, no nose, and her mouth, a bloody gash from ear to ear, spurting gobs of blood.

from 台版都市傳說 (文-慎入)(舊文) - 靈異檔案 - 台灣綜合論壇 - NewTwbbs

The "Slit-Mouthed Woman" is a well-established Japanese urban legend, the source of many stories and at least one movie. The above Taiwanese story, as well as probably others from Taiwan that are gradually coming to the attention of folklorists may be a foreign graft on top of the foundation of traditional Taiwanese mountain goblin lore. The Wikipedia for the Japanese Slit-Mouthed Woman is as follows: Kuchisake-onna - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The side trip to the temple, a holy site, presumably precluded the girl's ghostly attachment to X. 

The author of this story, who goes by 夏町雪女 (Xiading Xue-nu, "Snow Woman of the Summer Street"), claims to know a relative of one of the participants. 

(3) The Slit-Mouthed Little Girl (Version 2)

Two young women together rode a motor scooter into Tainan one night, looking for a certain street. The driver was a Tainan native, yet she couldn't find this street that she and her passenger were supposed to go to. So they drove on in this area that this girl who had been born in Tainan did not recognize, an area not far from what is known as the "New X" quarter.

They drove along a street and spotted a solitary little girl, her head down, standing on the deserted street, apparently sobbing.

They slowed down and stopped beside her.

"Little girl! What's wrong?" they asked. "Why are you crying?"

The two young women felt their hearts just about stop. The little girl looked up. Her mouth was a slash from ear to ear. She stopped crying and began laughing.

The motor scooter took off like a rocket, with both young women as scared as a crocodile in a wallet factory.

Perhaps a block or two later, the driver turned to the passenger and asked: "Is she there? Is she following us?"

The passenger turned her head. Right behind them, running, was the little girl, holding a knife and laughing.

The driver headed to one of Tainan's 7-11 shops, ubiquitous on Taiwan. They parked and rushed in, observing the little girl still outside. There they stayed through the night into the morning, when more customers were entering and leaving.

The little girl was gone . . .

As it turns out, the the driver and her passenger had probably strayed into the New X neighborhood, well known by the residents of Tainan. And what exactly had been this new area in older times? It had been an execution ground. In its latest incarnation, it now boasts some blue-collar eateries, where, as one eats alfresco, one might have the sensation of being watched, hear odd noises, or witness items inexplicably fall to the ground. Then, there's the danger of being called by your name while there. The trick is not to turn your back and to respond. Of those who aren't aware of this and do turn around to return the greeting, many are suddenly hit with a high fever and have to be sent to an emergency ward. One man, in a movie theater in the district, was accosted by a very small person, while another claims that in a fountain located nearby there was someone bathing in blood . . .

from 台版都市傳說 (文-慎入)(舊文) - 靈異檔案 - 台灣綜合論壇 - NewTwbbs

This urban ghost legend, recounted by the same author as the one above, in some ways resembles Lafcadio Hearn's "Mujina," in which a Tokyo businessman at the beginning of the twentieth century unwisely decides to take a shortcut home after work through a haunted area of Tokyo, encountering faceless entities. See  Mujina by Lafcadio Hearn

The author also claims that the driver of the motor scooter in this tale is a friend of a friend, a telltale hallmark of urban legends. No mention if anyone in the 7-11 likewise saw the slit-mouthed girl. Is New X, the name used by the author, an actual area? Perhaps. However, my wife, a native of Tainan, said she has never heard of it. 

Both versions share these motifs: C0, "Tabu: Contact with the supernatural"; E265.1, "Meeting ghost causes sickness." Similar is E272.2, "Ghost rides behind rider on horse." Historically, such stories would be about riders on horseback with a ghost right behind them or following close by. Since urban legends are not static, today we have the same story with motorcyclists and the like.