Tag Archives: ghost

Red Embroidered Shoes (红色绣花鞋), A Chinese Horror Story


Ming and Hong were from the same class in middle school and had always been neighbors. The two grew up together and were close friends who walked home together every day. When they were ninth graders, the school’s evening study hall was extended to 9 PM due to heavier course load. Unlike their peer who had parents to escort them, Ming, the braver one, escorted Hong back every night. On their way home, there was a graveyard, and they sometimes saw will-o’-the-wisps floating around there, but the two got used to all the peculiarities and even joke about them.

It was an ordinary night just like the others, Ming and Hong walked past the graveyard after a drizzle. But this night, one could see no moon in the sky and it was dark everywhere. Ming was usually fearless and sometimes sang aloud for Hong to be courageous, but this night he couldn’t for some reason. Out of nowhere, an old woman in shabby clothes walked towards them from the other end of the road. Hong clenched to Ming and trembled, said: “Look at her shoes!”

Ming looked down and saw a pair of red embroidered shoes. The old woman’s clothes were all black. She had pale skin and lifeless eyes that gleamed in the dark. Though the two couldn’t see much in the dark, every detail of her red embroidered shoes was clear as if only the shoes were strangely lit in the night.

Ming and Hong walked past the old lady quickly and felt a chill. The two were so startled that they ran back home as fast as they could.

Hong asked if Ming could stay for the night, Ming said yes, given Ming’s family had been away for the week, and accompanied Hong to sleep. At midnight, Hong was woke by the sounds of his parents returning home from a long day’s work. Hong pled his dad to pick him up starting tomorrow, and asked if he saw Ming.

“Ming? When did Ming come?” asked Hong’s dad.

Hong was baffled: “He was just there before I fell asleep!”

Hong’s dad comforted Hong that Ming must have gone home while he was asleep.

However, when Hong went to school the following morning, there was no sign of Ming. So Hong left school early and visited Ming’s family with his dad, but the house was empty. 

Having been worried for two days, Hong heard that the local police had found a dead body in the river. The body wore a pair of red embroidered shoes. It was Ming.

Ming and his mom only had each other. After Ming was gone, Ming’s mom went delusional so Hong spent time accompanying her when he was free.

It was Friday night when Hong watched a Japanese horror film with Ming’s mom. There was a shot of someone standing there with blood dripping down their legs and stained their shoes red. Ming’s mom screamed out of horror, so Hong had to calm her down before running back home. By the time Hong walked past the graveyard, it was already dark and chilly. Hong was so scared that he could sense his heart pounding in his chest. The imagery of red embroidered shoes soaked in blood kept flashing back. Suddenly, someone grabbed Hong from running. Hong turned back and saw Ming’s mom. Her lifeless eyes gleamed in the dark. Hong was almost scared to death but managed to get away. The moment he arrived home he turned on all the lights to cast away the darkness. But the lights were red. Hong fainted.

When Hong woke up he had his parents by his bed. Hong’s mom apologized for switching on the red emergency lightbulbs because the regular lightbulbs didn’t work last night. But Hong wouldn’t listen, he kept murmuring: “Red embroidered shoes… I want red embroidered shoes…”

Hong’s dad decided to drive Hong to the hospital with his motorcycle. By the time he rode past the graveyard, he could feel Hong no longer leaning on his back. Hong’s dad looked back and saw no sign of his son.

Hong’s dad recruited all the men from the neighborhood to search for Hong in the graveyard. Someone from the search party swore that he saw Hong with Ming’s mom, wandering in the graveyard, but as soon as he ran towards them the two disappeared. Hong’s dad had to report to the police. The police patrolled this area every night until one night, a pair saw a teenage boy walking towards them with a middle-aged woman from the other end of the road. As they walked close, one whispered: “Look at their shoes!”

The other looked down and saw two pairs of red embroidered shoes. The pair was so frightened that they paced faster to walk past the teenage boy and the middle-aged woman. The moment they passed, they felt a chill.


The informant is a 24-year-old female who was born and raised in China, and currently studies in the United Kingdom. The informant first heard the story of red embroidered shoes from her middle school peers when they were all about the same age as the protagonists of the story, Ming and Hong. The story is set to happen to middle school teenagers she could relate to. After hearing the story, the informant couldn’t find the courage to walk home by herself for a while and remembered the story vividly due to horror.


Given the age group of the audience, it seems natural to me that middle school teenagers were drawn to a horror story with relatable settings. The evening study hall has been a part of a Chinese student’s daily schedule as required by most Chinese schools, and it was no surprise that teenage students came out with a horror story to address their fear of walking back home alone at night after evening study hall ends. It’s also possible that one of the parents first came up with the story to warn their children about the danger of returning home alone at night and to remind them to always be alert on their way, because many Chinese school-age children walk themselves home when the parents are too busy to pick them up. In the informant’s case, the story’s warning message was proved to be effective; the informant pled her dad to pick her up after evening study hall just like Hong did in the story, teamed up with peers to walk together, and even at times she had to walk alone she walked quickly and carefully. 

Besides its thematic purpose, the story appeals structurally with some typical motifs of Chinese horror such as the red embroidered shoes. According to the informant, Chinese horror is personally most frightening to her because it often involves outdated traditions or folk objects (such as the red embroidered shoes) that are regarded as nuanced or peculiar from today’s view. Notably, supernatural agents including the cross-culturally common will-o’-the-wisps and the old woman (which is likely a ghost), alongside the graveyard touch on the theme of blurring life and death, which is regularly found in Chinese horror narratives because the culture emphasizes death. Furthermore, the story embodies chromatic symbolism, and symbolizing blood with the color red is not only cross-culturally relatable to a wider audience, but also has a horror story connotation that helps establish a dreadful ambiance so the story is more easily remembered and emotionally impactful.

Hawaiian Legend – Night Marchers

The legend of the Night Marchers is known by the informant due to their ethnic background. They grew up with a Pacific Islander cultural background in Hawaii where there is a lot of folklore. This legend in particular was about the Night Marchers who were often seen and heard at night throughout Oahu, and it was said to be the ghosts/spirits of the royal army. They were often unseen but heard until very close and were said to take the spirit of those who disrupted their path or did not pay their respects. There were many stories told to the informant about said Marchers, but the one specific story remembered was from the informant’s father who said he had fallen asleep on the beach in the path of the marchers and he woke up to the sound of them getting closer and closer, he quickly got his story together and moved before it was too late, and he paid his respects as they passed by, but he could hear their calls and drums the entire time although they could not be fully seen in front of him.

Context – the Night Marchers are said to appear at night on the islands as they travel through the island, stories include seeing the marchers, seeing their torches travel up mountains, hearing them march, and their drums. Hawaii is filled with many legends and tales as the culture is very tradition and folklore based, and the Night Marchers are just one legend of the many. For many islanders, these legends are very real and not just tales or stories.

Analysis – this legend gives place to spirits of those who have passed and are said to have served to protect those of the Hawaiian royal family as well as the islanders themselves. This legend gives respect to the spirits of those who follow the tradition and who want to pay respect to the royal army themselves, it teaches younger islanders about the history of their culture as well as lays grounding for respect of the culture. Like the informant, for many within this culture, these legends are a big part of the culture which not only shows respect but also has fun, interesting stories about interactions with these marchers.

The Green Hand: A Family’s Traditional Ghost Story

The informant heard this ghost story from his grandfather. The narrative is told each time the family visits their grandparents on a ranch in Wyoming during campfire night. It is a story that caused sleepless night for the young grandchildren, but as they grew up they came to appreciate the humor and entertainment value of the story as well, such as the chosen name of “Beaver Dick” and the occasional history lesson the ever-changing story included. Now, the story is told to entertain family events and to reminisce on family get-togethers and childhood memories. The story generally brings about positive nostalgic feelings and familial memories.

Here is the story as told: “There was two beaver hunters named Beaver Dick and Buffalo Bill. They used to go out all the time together to go hunt beavers to sell their skins and they did it all the time until one night they are camping out and they had a little too much to drink and they got in a big fight and during that big fight Beaver Dick decided to pull out his giant machete that he uses to kill the beavers and he grabs Buffalo Bill by the arm and chops his arms off but not Buffalo Bill is super mad at him so he tries to kill him but in the process, Beaver Dick kills Buffalo Bill. But now Beaver Dick doesn’t know what to do with Buffalo Bill, so he throws his body into the river – yes that river right next to the house – but he forgets to throw his hand in the river too. That night, he sleeps, and the next morning he packs out and takes all their skins and goes to another place to hunt more beavers. He has a pretty good day that day and catches a lot of beavers. He decides to camp out by that lake, and has a good dinner and a nice fire and goes to bed. But then, all of a sudden, in the middle of the night, he wakes up and hears scratching on his tent door (makes scratching noises by dragging nails on the chair he sits on). He thinks it might just be an animal, like a small squirrel or something, so he goes back in his tent and goes back to bed. But he hears it again (makes scratching noises again) and decides to go out and check out whatever it is. So he goes out and lights a gas lamp or oil lamp and shines it around, but doesn’t see anything. He goes back to the tent and tries to go to bed, but he hears something in his tent. He thinks it’s a squirrel or something that got in his tent, so he turns over to try to catch it and throw it out of his tent. But there he sees a green, rotten hand! The Green Hand jumps on top of him! Ahhh! The hand strangles him! (Makes strangled screaming noises) and strangles him and strangles him and strangles him until he dies!”

Campfire stories are told to cultivate community through group entertainment, which happens in this family context as well. The grandchild says that he and his family now reminisce on these story-time fires as good memories, which demonstrates that the community was strengthened through the telling of this story. Why it was a ghost story and not some other story is likely due to entertainment value for the adults of telling scary stories and seeing the kids believe their fearsome legends. Fear brings people closer together as well, so that is a reason to (slightly) scare the children perhaps. This culture clearly values family bonding as they get together to tell stories around a fire each year, which is more often than most American extended families see each other. The culture also clearly finds a sort of fantasy and entertainment in the stories of the American Frontier as that is where the story is based: old beaver trappers in the newfound West.

Memorate: My Great-Grandparents’ Joaquin Murrieta Sighting


Informant J is a 73 year old Mexican-American man and is the collector’s grandfather. He is from San Jose, California, but his family moved there from parts of Texas and Mexico. For the majority of his life, J was a manager at a regional grocery store, and studied art in college with a focus in jewelry making. J is now retired and his hobbies include guitar playing, metal working, and reworking vintage cars.


(Please excuse typos, this is an unaltered text message from the informant): “My parents said they were just finishing up a picnic at Alumn Rock park on the East side of San Jose and were getting ready to head home when a man who looked like he had been dug up (his clothes was old and tattered and resembled clothes from the cowboy days. He came up to their car window and just stood there not saying a word but staring in a daze. They believe it was the ghost of Juan Murrieta who lived during the late 1900’s. He was famous for robbing people in that area of the park. My dad started the car and got the hell out of there! My parents were very scared and they were familiar with the legend of Juan Murrieta and never stopped talking about the incident!”

“Ps: The cowboy did have an old style revolver as well!”


I’d like to note that people often confuse Juan and Joaquin Murrieta, and that my grandpa was almost certainly referring to the latter. I did some research after being told this story, as I hadn’t heard of either figure until now. Juan was a pioneer, whereas Joaquin is a Mexican figure commonly known as the Robin Hood of the West. More specifically, stories about Murrieta rose in California during the Gold Rush. I find it interesting that my great-grandparents claim to have seen Joaquin Murrieta, because they associated something strange with something they already knew about (ghosts), and their knowledge of it is heavily influenced by culture. Even though my family was Mexican-Texan, they had heard enough about this specifically Mexican-Californian legend in the little time that they lived there that they assumed the figure was him. What’s more, this story hints at a combination of folkloric beliefs, as my great-grandparents claim to have seen a kind of undead version of Joaquin Murrieta, who is more of a legend than a popular ghost. There are debates over whether he existed, but stories of seeing him are rarer. But my great-grandparents seem to have believed in ghosts in general, so this memorate only furthered their personal view of the world.

Memorate: A Coworker’s Ghostly Encounter


Informant N is the collector’s supervisor in the technology department of USC SCA. He is 27 years old and grew up in Denver, Colorado until age 7, when he moved to Sandpoint, Idaho. His father’s family is from the “deep south,” and his mother was “an army brat” who lived mostly near the east coast. N’s family has been in the US “since the mayflower,” and his ancestry is mostly German, Northern English, and Welsh. He now lives in Los Angeles, CA and is a singer/songwriter, as well as an employee of the film school’s technology services.


Informant: “Okay so when I was a kid, my mom – in the first floor, this was like a three story house, the house was like a hundred years old if not more. Um, classic brick style home, it was in Denver. And there was a doctor who lived in the house with his um… I think she was a distraught person, probably back then. Like she probably had some mental illness that was untreated and you know, back then they kind of skewed those people into obscure…”

Collector: “What year was this?”

Informant: “Oh this was like 30s (…). So she was a well-known pianist at the time and she eventually committed suicide in the house and the house was also a historical site. So the house is old, there have been people who lived there who had some musical connection and there was the suicide and you know… There was a couple times growing up where I would hear the piano play and my sister would hear the piano play while we were upstairs and my mom wasn’t home playing the piano nor was my dad or whatever, or we had a babysitter at the time. So there was just a couple weird moments in that house where the piano would be playing and we’d go downstairs and it would stop playing so whether that’s true or not I don’t know but I remember it and my sister clearly remembers it and to this day it’s very bizarre to me and it makes me feel a little… (*informant trails off*)”

Collector: “How did you find out about the woman who died?”

Informant: “My parents – my mom found out about it after they bought the house. The history of the house.”

Collector: “From who?”

Informant: “I think from a neighbor’s family or something. (…) It was like a local thing so it was kind of weird. (…) The piano that was in the house was over a hundred years old at the time.”

The informant also mentioned that his sister, who was 8 or 9 at the time of the piano incidents, is “still perturbed” by them to this day. He also mentioned that he experienced what he called “typical ghost stuff” – that he would hear dogs barking at nothing, and that one of the room’s in the house (his sister’s room) was specifically colder than others. His family checked and made sure that “the piano wasn’t a player” piano (a self-playing piano), and noted that the music he heard was notably classical, and that the woman who had died was a classical pianist.


N’s ghost story seems pretty typical upon first glance, but I find it interesting because of both his personal context and folkloric trends in memorates. For one thing, the informant seems to truly believe that all of this happened and that something supernatural was going on because his sister also experienced it. He mentioned her multiple times throughout the story and when he was providing more context, and we’ve talked a number of times about how people tend to believe what their peers, family, friends, etc do. What’s more, his family heard about the woman who supposedly died in the house from a neighbor, making this particular figure almost a local legend. While I wouldn’t label her a full-on urban legend for lack of popularity or name, the story about her being mentally unstable and her death in the house is legend-like. She has the traits of one as a woman believed to be mentally unwell and responsible for a haunted area. The apparent ghost is not necessarily true, but there is a negotiation of sorts about whether to believe it for the informant, his family, and his neighbors. This woman’s story lines up with a lot of what we know about ghosts – having unfinished business of some sort (to play music for others), hauntings that happen when things don’t go as they should (her suicide), and the idea that ghosts’ have property even after death (the piano). This story is definitely a memorate for the informant, who seems unsure whether he believes in ghosts entirely, but is fairly convinced that something happened in this house, and still finds it inexplicable and bizarre 20 years later.