Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 13th, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Mandarin
Informant Background: The informant was born in rural parts of China called Hainan. She lived there with her grandparents where she attended elementary school. She moved to the United States when she was thirteen. She speaks both Chinese and English. She lives in Los Angeles with her mother but travels back to visit her relatives in Beijing and Hainan every year. She and her mother still practice a lot of Chinese traditions and celebrate Chinese holidays through special meals.
In the countryside of China the bathroom is not part of the house. It is small hut or room separate from the house. Sometimes people have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night through a dark area surrounded by trees. And…Sometimes you will hear noises from wind and trees. My grandparents told me that if you hear a voice calling you, or calling your name, you should ignore it. You are not supposed to look or respond to the voice even though the voice might sound like your parents or somebody you know. If you answer, the ghost that created the voice will take you away and you will disappear.
The informant said this story was told to her by her grandparents every time she visits them in the countryside. When somebody said they need to use the bathroom, her grandparents will say “if you hear a voice, don’t answer.”This is a warning for people of all ages to be careful of strange and familiar voices at night time because these voices can be ghosts and spirits calling your name. To respond to those voices is the same as responding and acknowledging the spirits. Acknowledging the spirit makes you a target.
I heard of a similar folk belief from my friend where you cannot respond to unfamiliar sounds especially at night time because it means that you can hear the spirits. If you can hear it then that means they can come and take you away. If you ignore and pretend you do not to hear it then you are safe. This folk-belief shows the fear of night and darkness which occurs in many culture. In this case it is the fear of the unknown and the unseen.
This warning also shows the danger in acknowledging something from the other realm that by acknowledging the voice makes you a target. It reminds me of the Sirens from Greek mythology how sound is used as a target luring device.
It is similar to other ghost story how ghosts and spirits emulate living things to lure in their target. This belief is a warning to be careful of the surrounding when you are alone at night time even though it still in the area of your own house.
I think it could also be that those voices are a murderer who calls out and the disappearance and death is done by a person rather than spirit. This legend could be another form of disappearance crime done by humans rather than spirits.But then again as a legend the truth value fluctuates. Similar to most legends this story/warning challenges the concept of believe. It also shows that belief is very contextual. Even when the informant was telling me this story, both she and I were a little scared because our surrounding was very quiet. In this case, the truth value of the legend does not need to be proven for the story to have an effect.