K is a freshman majoring in psychology who attended the same camp almost every summer before college. The campers were told this story in the basement where the events occurred at nighttime to explain why one wall is newer than the rest.
“The camp used to be a homestead, around 1812, and the family who lived there was part of the underground railroad. The escaped slaves were hidden in the basement of the house, and one night confederate soldiers showed up to confiscate the slaves and punish the family for helping. As soon as the father opened the door, he was shot in the face, and the soldiers continued to kill everyone else in the family. When they reached the basement, they decided not to kill the escaped slaves – a mother and child – but rather make them suffer. They barricaded the two in the basement behind a new wall. It’s said that at nighttime you can still hear the child scratching the wall.”
K’s story encompasses many ghost story motifs, such as the wrongful deaths of those involved and the liminal space of the basement. It is also a lesson to young campers, both not to go out at night and not to go in the basement, and helps them to feel more connected to camp through the knowledge of it’s history.
He is in his early 50s and works as an engineer. Born in Incheon, South Korea, he immigrated to the United States after he married my mother in 1991. He heard the story of the gumiho when he was in high school from his friends.
구미호는 여우야. 꼬리가 아홉개있는 여우.
미 는 꼬리라는 의미고, 구 는 아홉이고, 호는 여우같다.
구미호는 어느날 자기를 사랑하는 총각을 만나면 여자로 변신을해. 그리고 여자로 그 남자한테가서 꼬시 는 거야. 납자가 사랑을헤서 반하고 구미호는 자기 집으로 대려가. 거기서 맛있는 음식을주고 따뜻한 이불을깔고 술 도줘. 그 총각이 잠을들면 그의 심장을 뜯어 먹어서 이젠 평생 사람으로 살수 있는거야.
구미호는 사람은 아니고 귀신이지. 그리고 꼬리는 항상보여. 여우든 여자든 꼬리는 항상 나타나. 그래서 어떤 모습이든 숨기려고해 아니면 잡히니까.
The gumiho is a fox with nine-tails. Mi means tail, Gu means nine, and Ho to be sly like a fox.
It only approaches bachelors and tries to seduce them. When the gumiho meets a man who truly loves her, the gumiho transforms into the figure of a woman. The man falls for her beauty and she leads him to her lair, at which she prepares a warm bed, nice food, and serves alcohol. When the man falls asleep, she then rips out his heart and eats it. She does this to become permanently human.
The gumiho is a form of ghost. It can either be in fox or human form. Whichever form it appears in, the tails are always visible and so it tries to hide it.
The gumiho tale is often told to young, unmarried men – bachelors – in Korea. From my insight, it is told as a warning to men to be wary of women in general. She may appear to be perfect and pretty, but inside they are all foxes, sly with unknown intentions. This is the first story in which I have heard the gumiho eating a man’s heart, not liver. This signifies that she takes over his life, as he dies but it lives on as a human woman.