Burmese Possession Story – Memorate


My mother’s mother (my grandma) was a very spiritual person, and susceptible to being possessed. Strangely enough, her father (my great-grandfather) had a few encounters with ghosts as well. Let’s call him GG for short. GG was a Burmese citizen, and grew up in the time after World War II. He worked for the government in a British building (Burma was a British colony until 1948). During the war, Burma was invaded by Japanese armies but freed by British armies. Lots of Burmese soldiers and citizens were said to have perished in the buildings where GG worked, and were therefore rumored to be haunted. GG was sleeping in a four-post bed, but there was no sheet or cover draped between them. In the middle of the night, he saw an Indian man wearing only a sarong (a cloth wrap, like pants) climbing down one of the four bed posts towards him. The man strangles GG and they fight. GG claims the experience was much more real and vivid than any dream he’d ever had. 


My mother heard this story and others from her mother and from GG’s wife, her grandmother. My grandmother obviously believes in ghosts and spirits, having been possessed by them herself. My mother definitely believes they exist but is unsure of their connection to some sort of afterlife. My mother also definitely believes that certain places can be haunted – she told me a similar story of a house she lived in with a long staircase to reach the front door. Multiple people one day heard a knock and someone begging for a doctor, but there was no one there when they opened the door (and not enough time had passed for them to run back down the stairs). The building she lived in was said to be haunted.


Spirits and impossible-to-explain phenomena are common in my family’s Burmese stories. They compound on each other to reinforce the belief that spirits do exist, and that places can be haunted. This is especially true when multiple people witness the same supernatural event, like the invisible knocker. These particular ghost stories of my great-grandfather also serve a secondary purpose – to remind my family of the atrocities that happened to Burmese citizens during World War II. It’s strange to hear about the British people being the good guys in Burma, but in this case they were. Being a British colony, my grandparents (and to some extent my mother) were forced to learn English in school, along with British history and customs. The fact that it was the ghost of an Indian man and not a Burmese man could mean anything or nothing at all. My mother did tell me that Indian citizens often crossed the border to Burma in search of better living conditions and better work opportunities. Unfortunately, they were often met with discrimination and had to pretend to be Burmese to be accepted.