Residence: Los Gatos, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/18
An individual in Los Gatos, California recounts her familial folk belief in ghosts while living in India. According to her, when a family member passes, the whole extended family sleeps in one room for about a week after the passing due to the fear of the ghost of the departed returning to haunt individual family members. She tells a family legend of her grandfather’s experience with ghosts. According to him, when his mother passed the family all slept in the same room as per their beliefs. While sleeping, with a gust of wind, the door opened and the ghost of his mother appeared before her widowed husband. When the father saw her, other family members awoke, screamed, and the ghost fled from the house.
My interview with my source, A, went as follows:
ME: Could you tell me about what the beliefs are towards ghosts in India?
A: So when someone passes away they’re always afraid that the ghost is going to return. So they would all sleep in the same room for the first, you know, week after the death.
ME: Was there ever an instance in which a ghost returned?
A: When my grandfather was 8 years old… his mother died. So they’re all sleeping in the same room and they said one of the doors opened, there was a gust of wind, and she came in. She came in to see my grandfather. And my grandfather saw her, and she… like other family members woke up and saw her, they screamed, and she ran away.
ME: Did she ever come back?
A: I don’t know, I just know she visited them that one time.
I find it interesting that this belief and fear of returning spirits is fended off not via a religious figure, but through the bond and support of family. While the recounted legend is quite compelling, I’m more interested in the bonding experience this belief provides for the family. The passing of a loved one is an extremely traumatic experience. The idea that the only way to prevent a spirit from returning is through the family banding together is a good way to help cope with the depression of losing a family member.