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Folk Beliefs
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A Time-Traveling Experience: Hotel From the Past

In October 1979, two couples in Dover, England, set off on a vacation together through France and Spain. The journey turned out to be one that took them to another world. When they tried to find a hotel to stay, they were struck by some posters advertising a circus. “It was a very old-fashioned circus,” Pauline recalled. “That’s why we took so much interest.” 

Further on, they did find an old-fashioned building marked “hotel.” Inside, they discovered, almost everything was made of heavy wood, and there seemed to be no evidence of modern conveniences as telephones or elevators. Their rooms were also extremely simple. There were no locks but simple wooden catches, no pillows, and the bathrooms had old-fashioned plumbing.

The next morning, when they were eating breakfast, two gendarmes entered wearing very old-fashioned caped uniforms. There was also a woman wearing a silk evening gown sitting opposite from them. “It was strange,” Pauline said. “It looked like she had just come in from a ball, but it was seven in the morning. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.” After receiving what turned out to be very bad directions to Avignon from the gendarmes (they didn’t seem to understand the word “auto-route”), the couples were astonished to pay a bill that came to only 19 francs. They left before the staffs could change their minds. 

After two weeks in Spain, the couples made a return trip through France and decided to again stay at the odd but very cheap hotel. This time, however, the hotel could not be found, even after the couples drove up and down the road three times looking for it, certain they were in the exact same spot (they saw the same circus posters). After returning to Dover, the pictures they took of the hotel did not process, as if the pictures had never been taken. Little research revealed that French gendarmes wore uniforms of that description prior to 1905.

My friend M S shared this story with me. It first appeared in “World of Strange Phenomena” by Charles Berlitz, published 1988 by Wynwood Press. The story also appeared on numerous blogs, uncredited. This story was also reported on the British TV Series “Strange But True” in 1995, Season 2, Episode 2 at 3:39.

When I asked her if she had any “ghost stories” to share with me, she said she remember she read this story somewhere a while ago. She also pulled up the thread she saw it at to help her better tell me the story. She really liked this story because it was “spooky, creepy, and mysterious”. When I asked her if she thought the story was real, she said no. Regardless, she really liked how there are so many detailed descriptions to make the story believable. I asked her why does she classify this as a “ghost story”, if there were no mentions of particular “spirits” of any deceased person. She said that the fact that the couples encountered the buildings and the people in them, but then turned out to have never existed, must be related to some form of “spirits” or ghosts from the past.

Personally, I also really enjoyed the story. I believe the reason for that is there are so many detailed descriptions, such as the names and exact locations provided. Also, the fact that there are no other evidences but merely the verbal accounts of these couples make the story more appealing; it adds a mysterious shade as there are no ways to prove its validity, while the details make it sound so realistic. I believe this is not necessarily a “ghost story”, but definitely a paranormal or supernatural story. The “time-traveling” aspect of the story also adds a science-fiction tone to the story. If the couples did travel “back in time”, then the people they saw and talked to could be considered as spirits of people of the past. However, another argument could be made that the couples simply entered another dimension, so their state should be questioned, rather than those of the dimension they entered. As it can be seen, the perception of the story can differ from person to person, depending on how they approach it.

Folk Beliefs
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Narrative

Ghost woman: a true account

It’s an ordinary Saturday morning that I decided to visit my grandparents. After lunch, I was wondering around in the living room as my grandpa watched TV on the couch. I don’t remember exactly how the thought came to mind, perhaps I read a lot of paranormal accounts during that time, I decided to ask my grandpa whether he had similar experiences.

“Grandpa,” I asked, “are ghosts real?”. “No”, he shook his head. However, I realized that there was a slight moment of hesitation before his answer. “Why would you say that? Have you seen any ghosts before?” “Sometimes, there are things you can’t avoid. If you see them, you see them, even if you are not supposed to.” “What do you mean? So you have seen one before?” I immediately became excited and curious. He did not answer me, but I took the silence as a tacit agreement. “Can you please tell me more about it”, I begged, “please!” My grandpa turned off the television and began to tell me about his experience.

“It was around the 1940s. I was very young, around 25 years old. At that time, we all lived in housing assigned by the factory, or your work unit. The bathrooms and the rooms are separated. To use the bathroom, you have to walk out of your building and to another one. One night, past midnight, I was walking to the bathroom from my room. As I was walking out of the bathroom, I saw a woman squatting by the roadside.” “In the middle of the road? Or beside a building?” I was confused by the scene, so I asked. “She, or whatever that thing was, was squatting by the road on the side. I think she was on a path close to the bathroom. I couldn’t really see her face or her as a whole clearly because it was so dark. I was wondering, what is a woman doing here by herself at night? At the time, I don’t think I even realized that it was a woman. I just wondered what is that? As I approached closer to have a better look, she looked up to me. I remember very clearly, it was a very pale face, with an undertone of light green. She had very long hair and abnormally sharp and long teeth sticking out of her mouth. I was sure that she was definitely not human, or at least did not look like one. Traumatized, I ran back home. After that night, I had a fever for three entire days. I could not even get off my bed.” Captivated, I wanted to ask more questions, but I also was very scared. The whole story felt unreal to me. I could not believe that my own grandpa had seen a ghost. Meanwhile, my grandma walked in. “Grandma!”, I called, “Grandpa is telling me about the ghost he saw!”. “What the fuck, old man?”, my grandma cursed, “stop telling kids these bullshits!” (cursing in Chinese is quite normal between my grandparents, so my grandpa did not feel personally attacked). My grandpa stopped talking and got up. Feeling slightly regretful that I stopped the story, I called “Grandpa! So do you believe in ghosts? Are there ghosts in this world?”. “No, no ghosts,” he said as he left the room to get tea from the kitchen.

My grandpa is 86 years old. In the Chinese culture, it is not auspicious to talk about ghosts or paranormal related things. This type of phenomenon holds negative connotations, and it is believed that talking about them explicitly will bring bad luck. It shows disrespect and disregard of “the other world”. Elderly are especially vulnerable to this situation. Therefore, a lot of euphemism is used when referring to the spirit. This is probably why my grandma was not happy with him telling me about this experience. Sometimes, we deceive ourselves that what we saw was not real because of the negative connotation that carries with it. I believe that this is a true experience of my grandpa. There is no reason that he would make something like this up. I find it ironic that he said he did not believe in ghost at the end, even though he just described to me an entirely personal experience of him seeing a ghost. This reflects our flexible attitude when it comes to belief, and how we define belief. I did not want to ask him more about the situation because I am also influenced by the cultural aspect that talking about these things will bring bad luck to a person. From this story, what I got the most out of it is that my grandpa is able to live with this experience for so long and not be influenced by it. I believe if it were me who had the same experience, I would be a lot more traumatized. It is shocking to see how cultural norms (in this case, the inadequacy to “believe” in ghosts) could change one’s mindset.

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