It’s an ordinary Saturday morning that I decided to visit my grandparents. After lunch, I was wondering around in the living room as my grandpa watched TV on the couch. I don’t remember exactly how the thought came to mind, perhaps I read a lot of paranormal accounts during that time, I decided to ask my grandpa whether he had similar experiences.
“Grandpa,” I asked, “are ghosts real?”. “No”, he shook his head. However, I realized that there was a slight moment of hesitation before his answer. “Why would you say that? Have you seen any ghosts before?” “Sometimes, there are things you can’t avoid. If you see them, you see them, even if you are not supposed to.” “What do you mean? So you have seen one before?” I immediately became excited and curious. He did not answer me, but I took the silence as a tacit agreement. “Can you please tell me more about it”, I begged, “please!” My grandpa turned off the television and began to tell me about his experience.
“It was around the 1940s. I was very young, around 25 years old. At that time, we all lived in housing assigned by the factory, or your work unit. The bathrooms and the rooms are separated. To use the bathroom, you have to walk out of your building and to another one. One night, past midnight, I was walking to the bathroom from my room. As I was walking out of the bathroom, I saw a woman squatting by the roadside.” “In the middle of the road? Or beside a building?” I was confused by the scene, so I asked. “She, or whatever that thing was, was squatting by the road on the side. I think she was on a path close to the bathroom. I couldn’t really see her face or her as a whole clearly because it was so dark. I was wondering, what is a woman doing here by herself at night? At the time, I don’t think I even realized that it was a woman. I just wondered what is that? As I approached closer to have a better look, she looked up to me. I remember very clearly, it was a very pale face, with an undertone of light green. She had very long hair and abnormally sharp and long teeth sticking out of her mouth. I was sure that she was definitely not human, or at least did not look like one. Traumatized, I ran back home. After that night, I had a fever for three entire days. I could not even get off my bed.” Captivated, I wanted to ask more questions, but I also was very scared. The whole story felt unreal to me. I could not believe that my own grandpa had seen a ghost. Meanwhile, my grandma walked in. “Grandma!”, I called, “Grandpa is telling me about the ghost he saw!”. “What the fuck, old man?”, my grandma cursed, “stop telling kids these bullshits!” (cursing in Chinese is quite normal between my grandparents, so my grandpa did not feel personally attacked). My grandpa stopped talking and got up. Feeling slightly regretful that I stopped the story, I called “Grandpa! So do you believe in ghosts? Are there ghosts in this world?”. “No, no ghosts,” he said as he left the room to get tea from the kitchen.
My grandpa is 86 years old. In the Chinese culture, it is not auspicious to talk about ghosts or paranormal related things. This type of phenomenon holds negative connotations, and it is believed that talking about them explicitly will bring bad luck. It shows disrespect and disregard of “the other world”. Elderly are especially vulnerable to this situation. Therefore, a lot of euphemism is used when referring to the spirit. This is probably why my grandma was not happy with him telling me about this experience. Sometimes, we deceive ourselves that what we saw was not real because of the negative connotation that carries with it. I believe that this is a true experience of my grandpa. There is no reason that he would make something like this up. I find it ironic that he said he did not believe in ghost at the end, even though he just described to me an entirely personal experience of him seeing a ghost. This reflects our flexible attitude when it comes to belief, and how we define belief. I did not want to ask him more about the situation because I am also influenced by the cultural aspect that talking about these things will bring bad luck to a person. From this story, what I got the most out of it is that my grandpa is able to live with this experience for so long and not be influenced by it. I believe if it were me who had the same experience, I would be a lot more traumatized. It is shocking to see how cultural norms (in this case, the inadequacy to “believe” in ghosts) could change one’s mindset.