Let’s face it: Halloween is here. It is that time of the year when most of your friends are out scaring themselves. But this is hardly surprising especially since Samhain is the time where the dead spirits return to earth. Similar to the Hungry Ghost Festival, people light bonfires and pay their respects to the dead.
Everyone knows the cliche survival tip of American horror movies: do not enter creepy houses in the middle of forests, do not open the door to anyone in the middle of the night, and do not ever split up if you’re in a group. However, what guidelines can we learn from Asian stories?
Besides doing your homework and listening to your parents, allow me to guide you through surviving in Asia!
Tip #1: Give Vague Answers
One of the more well-known Japanese myths involves a woman with a slit mouth. In this story, a woman wearing a white surgical mask across her face will ask children on the street if she’s pretty. If they answer “yes”, she will take off her mask and repeat the question. If the child answers “yes” again, she will slit their mouth just like hers. If the answer is no, she will go away and then reappear in their homes to kill them. However, if she is given an answer like “maybe” or “I don’t know”, they’ll confuse her enough for her to let them go.
Similarly, in the story of the red cloak, a demon hiding in female bathrooms asks females in the bathroom if they want a red cloak or a blue cloak. If she answers red, he’ll skin her back so that she will look like she has a red cloak. If she answers blue, he’ll strangle her until her skin turns blue like a blue cloak. Giving him an answer that was neither blue nor red will cause him to drag them to hell. But hey, at least she’ll still be alive, right?
By giving vague answers, the victims are able to escape with their lives (even if they are not necessarily on earth). So next time when you are caught in an awkward situation where a spirit that wants to kill you – or when the prof ambushes you with a tough question – your best bet is to give an answer that is as vague as possible. I mean, a vague answer is better than no answer, right?
Tip #2: Never Irritate a Woman
In the story of Oiwa, Oiwa married a ronin – a kind of samurai. This ronin, however, wanted to marry a rich man’s daughter who loved him. In order to do this, the ronin gave Oiwa a poison that made her hideous and caused her to accidentally kill herself. Oiwa’s spirit haunted the ronin’s new wife, causing the ronin to accidentally kill her. Her deformed face followed the ronin around till his death, where he could finally rest in peace.
In another tale, the woman at Uji Bridge, a woman prayed to a deity to turn her into a demon so that she could take revenge on her husband, the woman he’d fallen in love with, and their family as well by killing them all. She bathed in the river for three weeks, divided her hair into five horns and painted her body red and went on a killing spree. The other people who happened to see her died from fear.
Hell indeed hath no fury like a woman scorned. Just in case you need an additional reason to not look at another woman when you are married, remember that while spirits aren’t always around, there are other ways that women can haunt you. So key takeaway: NEVER irritate a woman!
Tip #3: Take the Advice of Strangers Sometimes
Perhaps the most popular of all the urban legends in this article is that of the midnight bus. A young man was on his way home. He and an old man boarded the bus at the same stop. Halfway through the bus ride, the old man started to pick a fight with this young man, insisting that he had stolen his wallet. The same old man insisted that the young man follow him to the police station at the coming stop to settle the matter.
Intent on proving his innocence, the young man agreed. When they alighted from the bus, the old man revealed that the other two passengers on the bus had no feet and were just floating.
The next day, the bus was revealed to have gone missing, and when it was finally found, the rotting corpse of the driver was found inside of it and the fuel tank contained blood instead of petrol.
Maybe sometimes, stranger danger doesn’t always apply. But be careful though, you don’t want to end up trusting the wrong stranger either. Stay safe out there!
The next time you ever find yourself in a situation where something seems amiss, just remember these three tips to keep yourself alive and kicking. Of course, it’s best not to find yourself in these situations in the first place, but just you can never be too sure, you know?
10 Horrifying Demons and Spirits from Japanese Folklore
5 Absolutely Terrifying Urban Legends from Asia
Header and featured images by Lisa Chin
About the author
If she’s not cheering at the mats outside FairPrice, you’ll probably find Lisa in her room or a lounge studying/crying in stress because c’est la vie de l’ingénieur (it sounds more romantic in French).