A yoga student asked her Indian yoga master what she should do when she sees ghosts.
“Do a headstand. It will change your perspective!” he said.
The student tried to figure out what he meant.
“Well, when you do a headstand, your energy circulates better and you see things upside down. But you still can’t escape from ghosts,” she thought.
She then concluded that her yoga teacher did not believe in ghosts.
But then we are in the midst of the Hungry Ghost festival, which started on Aug 22 and will end on Sept 19. In this lunar seventh month, the Chinese believe the gates of hell will open to let spirits out to roam the earth.
On the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, Chinese Taoists will make offerings outside their homes or on the streets to appease the wandering spirits and ghosts in the hope that they will not disturb the living.
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The taboos of the Hungry Ghost month are drummed into Chinese children from young, with incessant warnings to not provoke the spirits or draw their attention. It’s considered a somewhat inauspicious month, and Chinese elders usually warn against tempting fate. They are cautious about everything – from not venturing out late to not swimming in the sea.
The belief is so strong that the Chinese avoid getting married or opening businesses or moving into new homes in this month, for it’d be an inauspicious start indeed.
But even with all the precautions taken, there will still be rumours of encounters with supernatural beings. People can’t help but share these spooky stories, even – or especially – if they are scared silly. Horror flicks will be aplenty on TV, and people will tune in for they can’t help their morbid fascination.
Star2 speaks to some people with first-hand ghost stories to tell.
Yen awoke with a start, and immediately checked the time. It was 4.44am.
It was the third night that she had put up at her friend’s house in Johor Baru. Yen is from Kuala Lumpur, and was in Johor Baru to attend a yoga course.
The house was virtually empty as most of its occupants were away.
She had been given a room with an attached bathroom. There were two beds, and Yen slept in the bigger bed as it’s right below the ceiling fan. She did not like the smaller bed which was under the overhead air-conditioner.
However, she would place her phone on a table next to the small bed to charge.
Yen was not particularly afraid of sleeping alone in a strange room.
She slept soundly, but she’d wake up at exactly the same time every night: at 4.44am.
Still, she did not dwell too much on it as everything else was normal.
On her last night in the house, she woke up at 4.44am again. Instead of going back to sleep, she decided to use the bathroom.
Midway, the light went off.
Unperturbed, she made her way back to her bed but she couldn’t sleep because she had begun to feel uneasy.
Still, she dozed off – only to wake up dazed soon after that because she found herself lying in the small bed.
“I felt confused and walked back to my big bed. As I was not wearing my glasses, I could not see clearly. But I saw a small short bolster upright on my bed. Thinking nothing of it, I pushed it down and clambered onto bed,” she said.
Some time after she closed her eyes, she felt a breeze brush her right ear. A draft from the air-con unit perhaps, she thought.
She ignored it and tried to go back to sleep.
But she couldn’t ignore the sound of luggage wheels rolling up and down the floor by the foot of her bed. The sound became louder and the wheels seemed to move faster.
She shut her eyes and began chanting prayers.
After what seemed like a long time, she opened her eyes. She saw a blurry silhouette of a person standing at the foot of the bed.
“I began chanting again, hoping the apparition would go away but it came nearer. I saw a short old person with grey hair. I shut my eyes tight and continued chanting until I dozed off,” she said.
When she returned to KL, bizarre things continued to happen.
“Overhead lights would flicker – in the office, office staircase, shopping mall, and even in the toilet,” said Yen who was calm throughout these incidents because supernatural experiences are not alien to her.
Yen explained that when she was a child, she’d tell her mother about her sightings of “glass or transparent people” while her brother could see “furry people”.
Once, she fell while playing on the balcony and a strange person with a pointed hat and in a robe offered to lead her away. She refused, saying, “I want my Mummy”.
In her early teens, she had out-of-body experiences and disliked sleeping.
“The experiences were like astral travel. It was fun but I could not control myself. Once I remember seeing a silver line attached to my body and it would pull me backward,” said Yen, explaining that these strange encounters eventually stopped, though occasionally she’d still see ghosts.
She has learnt to just remain calm and chant her prayers.
Chased by a vengeful ghost
Nurse Cheng and his friend Mun were chatting and drinking beer at a bus stop. They had just finished their shift and it was almost midnight. After they finished their drink, they flung their cans away.
Unfortunately, it was the wrong place to carelessly toss their cans, as they somehow managed to anger a female spirit.
They knew they had done so because they immediately felt like someone was strangling them.
“I saw a female ghost with long hair and in a red dress flying towards us. She tried to strangle us again. I was choking and gasping for air. After we broke free from her grasp, we ran for our lives.”
Cheng believed that the ghost was at the bus stop and they had unwittingly disturbed her.
As the men ran past a mosque, someone called to them.
He shouted, “Cepat (quick)”, and gestured to the men to run towards him. The men did the sensible thing.
The man then recited a prayer and sprinkled something on Cheng, Munn and the ghost. As soon as he did that, the ghost vaporised into thin air.
Next, he asked the two men to each give him a RM1 note. He folded the notes into triangles, blessed them, and asked the men to keep the “talisman” on them for safety.
“When I reached home, I saw that the ghost had followed me. I called out to my mother to bring me a pail of salt water and splashed it on myself.
“I then quickly changed my clothes, just as the man by the mosque had advised, to prevent the ghost from entering my house and creating more chaos,” says Cheng, who has the third eye and has the ability to see ghosts.
He then produced the faded ringgit he is still keeping in his wallet to show this writer.
Cheng said he and his friend were not intoxicated and had not imagined their ghostly encounter as they were both in pain for a week due to the deep scratches on their necks and shoulders.
Water ghost looking for substitute
When she was 18, Amanda stayed at a chalet in a resort in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan. It was off-peak season and most chalets were empty.
On the second night, she decided to leave her friends at a gathering and return to her chalet.
“When I opened the door, a silhouette swished past me and went into the closed bathroom. On impulse, I kicked the bathroom door open. There was nothing inside.
“The next day, I decided to take a dip in the sea. It was low tide and I had to walk further out. As I sat down to relax in the water, I felt spooked as if someone was watching me. I got out of the water and ran to shore,” recalls 63-year-old Amanda of the incident that happened 45 years ago.
After her holiday, she went home and life seemed normal – until one night: “I was brushing my hair in front of a mirror after a shower. When I looked in the mirror, I was petrified and jumped off the stool and dashed out of the room. What I saw in the reflection was not me!”
From that day onwards, Amanda covered all the mirrors in the house after sunset. She became a nervous wreck and felt that someone was watching her. She also stopped going out after sunset because she could see “things” on the street.
She consulted a Chinese medium and was told that the spirit of a girl who drowned was trying to get a substitute. He did a cleansing ritual by “whipping and lashing” the spirit to exorcise her from Amanda’s body. He succeeded and Amanda no longer has spooky experiences.
Lady ghost on her bed
In 2002, Joanna went to college in Perth, Australia. She moved into a boarding house, and shared a room with two room-mates.
One winter evening, she fell asleep in her room. As the days were short in winter, it was dark by 6pm. She woke up in her dark room when a friend called her on the intercom. When she opened her eyes, the silhouette of a woman with long hair was sitting on her bed and looking at her.
She recalled: “I felt terrified and numb. Then the apparition walked to the end of my bed as if to leave. But as she was leaving, she glanced directly at me before vanishing through the door!”
Joanna was too scared to remain in the room and fled barefooted. When she found her room-mates in the canteen, she went ballistic at them. She was angry that they had not switched on the light and had left her sleeping in the dark.
On another occasion, she was sleeping and heard footsteps on the wooden floorboards of her room.
“The footsteps sounded like they were made by a man who wore shoes,” she related. She opened her eyes and saw a shadow at a far end of the room. Scared stiff, she shut her eyes, praying that the ghost would go away and not disturb her.
Later on, Joanna found out that the boarding house was next to a crematorium. It was then that the girls realised that their boarding house was haunted.
She heaved a huge sigh of relief when she packed her luggage to fly home after she finished her course.
Strange gust of wind
Like Joanna, Karen also had a ghostly encounter in college.
Karen’s bed in her hostel room faced the bathroom. The door was always closed and the light switched off when no one was using it.
One night, Karen was studying for her exams in bed with her bedside light on while her room-mates were sound asleep. She heard the bathroom door creak open. She thought nothing of it at first and continued to study. Then the creaks became louder, as though the door was opening wider.
She glanced at the door and then at her sleeping room-mates.
It might be the wind, she thought – but the windows were closed.
As her eyes fixated on the door, she could feel a gust of wind coming from the toilet and moving past her.
Suddenly, the door leading to the balcony was flung open.
“Both these doors had door knobs and to open them, one has to turn the knobs. So how could the doors open on their own?”
She quickly went to wake her roommate sleeping in the lower bunk. When she couldn’t, she tried to wake the other one in the upper bed.
Her roommate reassured Karen that there was nothing to be afraid of, and offered to swap beds with Karen. “Well, my roommate said I could occupy the bed ‘forever’ (until the term ended),” she said.
But the dark force was still present.
Some nights, in her new upper deck bed, she could feel someone climbing up to her level. Petrified, she would pull her blanket over her head.
“Once, I felt as though the blanket was being pulled off me,” said Karen who called her parents to tell them of the incident.
“But my parents told me there was nothing they could do,” she said. “I could only try to be brave.”
The ghost racer
Some 15 years ago, Jackie and her husband were driving to Penang from Kuala Lumpur on the North-South Expressway.
Traffic was light on the highway as it was close to midnight, and their drive had been an uneventful one so far.
“We were near the Menora Tunnel when a Volkswagen drove up next to our Proton Wira. The driver of the Volkswagen was revving his engine, challenging us to a race,” recalled Jackie.
“Strangely, my husband accepted the challenge. It was not in character at all, and he was acting like he was in Fast And Furious. He accelerated to over 100kph.
“At first, the Beetle whizzed past us. But then, out of nowhere, it was behind us again. It happened a few times,” she said, adding that she found it illogical. The Beetle had overtaken them so why was it now trailing them?
Jackie was determined to see who was driving the old Volkswagen. Twice, she got a chance to look into it when the Beetle came close to their car. On her first attempt, she saw no one behind the wheel but she thought she was mistaken. But on her second try, she couldn’t deny what she saw – and she was really freaked out because the car had no driver!
Another strange thing happened.
“When we entered the tunnel, the Beetle vanished into thin air!”
Jackie shuddered. They had raced against a ghostly car!
Mother-of-two Caroline also had a ghostly encounter on the highway while travelling on a night bus.
“We were in the Menora Tunnel when I saw an old woman and a girl walking at the side.
“It’d be strange to see anyone walking in the tunnel even during the day, but to do that at 2am was totally abnormal,” said Caroline who did not suspect anything amiss at first. But then, she started getting goose bumps.
She knew that the stretch of highway near the Menora Tunnel after Ipoh was rumoured to be haunted as there had been many accidents there.
Caroline used to be able to see ghosts when she was young. One day, she was in her friend’s car when she remarked to them that there were so many people waiting on the pavement. Her friend was taken aback and insisted that she saw no one.
“But I saw them. When my friend said she couldn’t see anyone, I took a closer look. They looked human and wore clothes but their faces were pale and expressionless,” related Caroline who said she has not seen other-worldly beings since she had her children, which is fine with her.