Author Archives: anitatao

Girl in the Fireplace

Background: The informant and her sibling both went to the same middle school and the library, where the ghost story took place, was within walking distance of the school. The informant remembered this story because it was frequently mentioned at the library, and it was a terrifying experience considering they were only at the age of 11. 

JL: We heard from students all the time, like “there’s something weird in the fireplace of the library”. The way the library was set up was that there was the children’s section to the left, adult section to the right, then very far to the right was a little nook that was blocked halfway by a bookcase, and that nook had a fireplace plus magazines. It was mainly where all the old people hung out during weekdays; nobody under the age of like…60 ever went into that area. And the deal with the fireplace was that it was never lit ever, just a completely bare old-style fireplace. It was middle school, so there were lots of rumors always flying around. But someone said at some point that one of the more socially active guys named Ben and his girlfriend at the time went into that nook during a weekend and were fooling around when they suddenly smelled smoke and heard someone crying. We’re in California so smelling smoke isn’t entirely uncommon but it was like apparently super strong and weirdly sickly sweet. And when they (the couple) turned around to face the fireplace, they saw this little girl dressed in a white old-fashioned nightgown that had been burned and the skin was sloughing off her in places. Like a barbecue grill, they said. They basically screamed then ran out, and they swear that it was some girl who burned to death where that library was built or something. Honestly, I doubt it’s real but it sure freaked us all out when we were like 11. And it was so awful that everyone was like “Google burn victims to see what she looked like”. It wasn’t a super common rumor, but if you were someone who went to the library frequently, you were pretty guaranteed to hear it. 

Me: So did the school also know about it? Or how was everything eventually settled? 

JL: Honestly it was one of those things that we never really talked about unless you frequently went to the library because these two places weren’t connected. It was a public library completely separate from the school and the two places just happened to be near each other, I think? So it wasn’t ever addressed by the school administration. I think they’re remodeling the library now actually, so the fireplace might be taken out because of the fire safety code. My sibling’s graduated middle school now so I don’t know how the rumors are spreading with that, but at the time it was basically one of those things you’d hear if you stayed a little too late in the library. I stayed overtime a lot working on robotics projects so that’s how I came to hear of it.

Me: Apart from Ben and his girlfriend, were there any other people in your school who used to experience or witness similar scenes in that fireplace as well?

JL: Yeah! But nothing quite as serious as they did I think. People would say randomly that it smelled like smoke. Again I was kinda skeptical on this because living in California means you smell smoke every other day. A lot of people claimed they saw the curtains over the windows in that nook randomly flutter, and there were random hot spots in the room for no reason. 

Context: This piece was collected via a text interview over Discord. 

Thought: The story is interesting, and the library seems to always be one of the popular places for spooky stories. I agree with the informant that some details may have been exaggerated, especially considering the nature of children at that age who tend to “make a fuss” about things. The story itself reminds me of the idea that children being murdered or simply people who have been framed cannot go to the afterlife; they may need someone to help them release their souls from purgatory. However, I wonder if souls, for example in the case of this story, would always “rest on” the objects or places where they were murdered. If the fireplace is removed, would the little girl appear again then?

Grandma’s Visitation

Background: The informant is raised in a family that believes in Buddhism. Since the following paranormal event happened when the informant was only six, her mother helped to provide some of its detailed information, yet the informant claimed that she did hold bits of memory of the whole experience. She claimed that she remembered it so well because, for her, it was an emotional experience. 

CY: My grandma passed away when I was six, around May, the summer holiday before I went to primary school. She died in a car accident. That night, my parents invited some monks to our home to hold a ceremony, known as “Zuo Fa Shi” in Chinese. The first night passed peacefully, but the following evening, which was exactly one night before my grandma’s cremation, I started to run a fever, umm, at around 7 p.m. My mom got super worried, but the monks comforted her, saying that it was my grandma. She came to visit me. My temperature kept rising at midnight and my mom said that I was murmuring the whole time, though she could barely understand one word. The monks then told my mom to read a piece of sutras beside my bed, but she has forgotten about the content… I think it should be something that was meant to be said to my grandma. My mom was so terrified that she pulled up an all-nighter, and according to her, at around 2 a.m., I suddenly straightened my arms, pointing to the ceiling, and made a strange noise that sounded like an old woman screaming. After that, everything got settled down. I was no longer murmuring nor feverish. And that ends my whole story. 

Me: You said that your grandma went to visit you the night before cremation. Is there any significance about that evening? Why that night particularly? 

CY: Well, yeah, there is some sort of sayings about that in the ancient Chinese culture. So if spirits really exist, they are supposed to pass the Nai He Bridge and drink the Meng Po soup after the cremation. So, uh, that night was, was really her last chance to visit her family. And my mom said that my grandma came to visit me because she worried about me the most. 

Me: I see. Then do you know if your grandma went to visit others as well? Like your other relatives-? 

CY: Oh yes! May was pretty harsh on our family during that year, because my grandaunt also passed away in May. Because of oral cancer. I remember her calling all of us to the hospital one day and telling us that she thought that she was going to an end. She said that she had dreamed of my grandma that night, seeing my grandma smiling and waving to her. And about one or two days later, my grandaunt passed away. They said that my grandma was waiting for her in the dream, and they both went to heaven. 

Context: This piece was collected during a phone call. 

Thoughts: The informant’s experience is a detailed example of ghost visitation, which is quite interesting and moving at the same time since people in many cultures tend to believe that family members would come back and visit their beloved before going to the other side of the world. However, it is worth noticing that a lot of the details were narrated by the informant’s mother, so they might be exaggerated or imprecise. Her mother might be experiencing slight hallucinations due to the trauma of losing her own mom, and it is possible that her memory has faded after more than ten years. Yet a lot of the behaviors shown by the informant during her grandma’s visitation indeed can be considered “spooky”, such as the unexpected fever, and it makes me wonder if all these so-called ghost visitations would manifest themselves in terms of certain illnesses on the person being visited. Moreover, how would this visitation be different from the “visitation dream” experienced by the informant’s grandaunt?