Tag Archives: Spirit

Woburn Abbey Ghost Story

TK: Did you ever see a ghost?

LK: No but they moved all the bathroom doors and wardrobes open and everything.

TK: Wait explain.

LK: I went to see my friend he lives in Woburn Abbey in England (was a house to priests or monks or something) for the weekend. I left after one day, I couldn’t do it, it freaked me out. (stuttering) It’s a house a family owned, it was an abbey, now it’s a public inn; not sure what it is to see all the stuff. It is known to be haunted. My mom’s friend grew up there and always saw ghosts growing up as a child. Mind you, he only told my mom this much later.

TK: Who’s they?

LK: Robin, aka Lord Russell. We went for dinner and spent the night. Robin was in his room, I was in my room and who else went with us? I don’t know, a couple other friends? Robin told us stories about when he was a kid when he grew up it was haunted.

TK: What was?

LK: The house. It freaked me out and I couldn’t believe we were out there stuck, two hours away from everything, couldn’t get back, and had to spent the night there. It was a residence on the top floor. They gave me a room that had three wardrobes, one on this side, one on that side and one with the TV. The bathroom door was over here (gesturing). I left the bathroom door open and all the wardrobes were shut

TK: Were you in the room alone?

LK: Yeah, everyone was ALL THE WAY DOWN THE HALL. So I was watching television and the TV kept popping in and out like a switch (acting it out) Meanwhile his mom came in to give me a pill to calm me down because I couldn’t handle it. I guess I finally fell asleep with the TV on and woke up to find every single wardrobe door open and the bathroom door was shut and the door to the bedroom was locked.

TK: Then what?

LK: I freaked out a little bit. I got up, I closed the wardrobe drawers, went to the bathroom and unlocked the bedroom door (laughing, thinking, nodding head) um…all the stuff in the bathroom and the toiletries were on the floor, toothbrush, toothpaste, everything that I had used to shower and everything.

TK: So then what?

LK: Picked everything up. I would say that was about three in the morning-ish. I opened the bedroom door to see the hallway, you know, I was freaked out.

TK: How did you go back to sleep after that?

LK: I sort of laid there. I thought Robin was playing  a trick on me, you know, so I actually walked down the hall, now that I think about it and walked all the way down the hall to see if they were up and didn’t really know which room they were in for sure and decided not to go all the way (shaking head) I didn’t want to see anything I was petrified. So I went back to my room put the TV on and I guess eventually fell asleep again and that was it. I woke up in the morning.

TK: What happened in the morning?

LK: I asked them if they had played a joke on me and they said no, oh come on, laughing, they go not at all. It was freaky. We were having breakfast and I said that’s it we’re not staying here anymore and his parents were laughing.

TK: Who were you with?

LK: His parents live at the house and his younger brother and I went there with Robin. And that was it.

THE INFORMANT: The informant was my mom. She was family friends with the Russells who were occupying the estate, and this occurred in the late 80s. This was the only time she experienced a ghostly visitation and the way she describes it makes it clear that she was disturbed by the incident although the family did not take it very seriously, possibly because they had dealt with the ghost before.

ANALYSIS: Woburn Abbey has long been known as a place haunted by ghosts and spirits, much like other English estates with a long history and many previous occupants. According to the website Ghostly Rooms, which catalogues ghost sightings in homes, “It is also said…there is a spirit that haunts the private chambers of Woburn Abbey. This spirit manifests itself by walking through the lounge, without being seen. The door will open on one side and the sound of footsteps move across the floor as the spirit passes through. Once on the other side the other door would open and then slams shut as the spirit leaves. In the 1960s this ghostly activity became so frequent that the Ducal family had to move their television to another room so the could watch the television without the chance of being disturbed.” This seems eerily similar to the experience my mother had, in which she was in one of the private chambers and noticed doors opening without explanation as well as a disturbance of her possessions.

Death Means…

The informant was born and raised into the American culture and way of life. Her mother’s side of the family is in touch with their Jamaican culture and heritage and as the informant grew older she was able to become more into with the beliefs and customs of Jamaica.

Jamaican Death Means…


When I asked the informant about different believes in the Jamaican culture this was the first one to come to her head. She said that “death signifies the end of someones physical life, however if someone dies and is said to have “unfinished business” their spirit will not rest. Instead, the spirit roams the earth until it is able to finish it’s business.”

I was then really intrigued by this so I asked her if she had ever witnessed this or knew someone who did and he informant said that her grandmother passed away and a few weeks later the informant’s mother saw her grandmothers spirit or ghost. This was important to the family to know this because it told them that she hadn’t passed on and would watch over them until she was able to continue on. This is a normal thing in there culture, so it is safe to say that this culture believes in ghosts  and spirits waling the earth. This is interesting because it clashes with other beliefs in society.


This culture does believe in ghosts and spirits roaming the earth with unfinished business. This kind of collides with other religious beliefs that the culture may have about God. I didn’t get a chance to ask the informant how that works, and how they deal with the collision of beliefs, but it is definitely a part of my thought process while analyzing this specific aspect of their culture. It seems like Jamaicans are in touch with their ancestors whether that is doing rituals to please them, or seeing their spirits roam, they have a close connection to their families. Maybe Jamaican culture is big on family, I just have to assume this because I didn’t ask the informant this question either.

Grandma Walking Stick


The informant’s great grandmother, a well-loved Argentinian woman, passed away when he was very young — at an age where he could only speak a little bit. He and his mother’s side of the family called her “Abuela Bastón”, or Grandma Walking Stick, for the distinct sound of her moving around with her trusty walking stick. After her death, there was a day where the family was sitting around, and the informant was nearly sleeping lying on his back. Suddenly, he sat up, pointed ahead, and exclaimed “Abuela Bastón! Abuela Bastón!”, claiming he heard the sound of the walking stick. It caused a bit of a reaction especially with his grandmother, who was very spiritual.



The grandmother (daughter of the deceased) was apparently very spiritual. She completely believed the informant was pointing at the spirit of Abuela Bastón only he could see. The rationale was that Abuela Bastón was there to check in on her great-grandson. While the informant doesn’t remember this incident, he does have vague memories of the sound of the walking stick during his youth. He doesn’t believe in ghosts or spirits but does respect the fact that it’s an important part of his family and culture, so he stays pretty objective about it so as not to offend.



It stands out the the informant, despite not really believing the spirituality of the situation, is motivated by cultural and familial respect to not refute that it was indeed a spirit. It’s also not quite a “ghost story” — more so a visitation from the spirit or soul of a recently dead family member. There wasn’t anything terribly haunting about it, and there wasn’t a visual component. Plus, it came from the mouth of a young child, although the clarity with which he suddenly woke up and spoke her name was uncharacteristic.

Vikram And Vetal: The Bride’s Dilemma


“Vikram and Vetal stories are popular all over India. Originally, there are only twenty five, but they became so popular that people began to come up with their own. The first story starts off like this – the brave and clever king Vikramaditya, identified later on simply as Vikram, is summoned by a tantrik (sorcerer) in order to bring back a corpse which has been possessed by a vetala (malevolent spirit, sometimes translated as ‘vampire’), in order for the sorcerer to exorcise the spirit and perform the last rites of the corpse. So Vikram, courageous as he is, ventures into the haunted, creepy forest and finally finds the tree from which the animated corpse is hanging. Vetal, as the spirit calls himself, is an incredibly sharp-witted individual, and offers King Vikram a trade – he will tell Vikram a long story and end it with a question. If Vikram answers the question correctly, then Vetal will return to the tree. If he stays silent, his head will explode into a thousand pieces. So, Vetal starts to tell a story – ‘Two young men named Suryamal and Chandrasen travel to a town one day to visit a temple nearby. When they arrive there, Suryamal sees a beautiful young woman praying to the Devi (goddess). He falls in love with her straightaway, predictably. And so, excited by this, he goes to tell his friend Chandrasen. The latter young man advises Suryamal to speak to her parents if he’s serious. So he does, and they say that the only condition of the marriage would be that the young woman has to return to her town every so often to pray to the Devi, of whom she is an ardent devotee. Suryamal agrees readily, and gets married to the young woman. Her parents ask him to stay longer,but he and his friend are required to return to their hometown because of some urgent matter. On their way back through the forest, however, they are attacked by a gang of bandits, who behead them and leave them there. The bride, on her way to perform her prayers to the Devi, stumbles across her dead husband and his friend. Devastated, she prays to the Devi, who answers her prayers and tells her to fix the heads back onto the bodies of the two men and sprinkle some amrita (nectar) over the corpses to reanimate them. She obeys, but in the process accidentally puts the heads on the wrong bodies – Suryamal’s head ends up on Chandrasen’s body and vice versa. Which one should she marry? Remember, if you do not answer my question, your head will burst into a thousand pieces!’ Vikram takes a moment to think about it before speaking but finally responds – ‘Since the brain is the most important organ of the body and makes all the decisions, stores all the memories, then she should marry the man who has Suryamal’s head, of course!’ Vetal is satisfied with this answer, but alas! Vikram spoke, so Vetal flew away.”


The interviewee explained her memories of these stories – “Every month, we would get a children’s magazine known as Chandamama (Uncle Moon). In these magazines, the most popular read was the Vikram and Vetal story. I used to devour these stories and fight over them with my older sister. This one stuck in my head because it was the first one that I had ever read, and because the problem posed in the riddle was pretty intriguing to me. If I was in the bride’s shoes, I wouldn’t know which one to marry!”


The Vikram and Vetal series of stories is extremely interesting because not only does it contain an embedded narrative, but the inner narrative takes the form of a sort of neck riddle. Now, in the original series, King Vikram has to try twenty five times before Vetal comes up with a complicated enough question to stump him. Upon the king’s confusion, Vetal at last decides to accompany him back to the tantrik. Within these twenty five tries, the story opens in much the same way every time – ‘Once again, the undaunted King Vikram arrived at the tree and carried Vetal away with him, and once again Vetal began a story.’ and also ends the same way every time – ‘Vetal was satisfied with his answer, but alas! Vikram spoke, and so Vetal flew away.’ This almost unchanging structure is demonstrative of the Parry-Lord Oral Formulaic Theory. What is interesting, however, is that much like the format of the many versions of the Arabian Nights, the neck riddle stories embedded in the narrative are not restricted only to the original twenty five. In fact, as with the magazine, youngsters all over India and within the Indian diaspora who are familiar with the stories come with their own neck riddles all the time, creating an infinite wealth of Vikram and Vetal folklore. The riddle in itself takes the form of an anecdote ended with a question, which is never straightforward. This story in particular stresses the importance of the mind over the body, which corresponds with the traditional Hindu view that the body is nothing but a vessel for the soul and the mind. Therefore, as Vikram concludes, the bride would be better served to marry the man with Suryamal’s head/brain rather than the one with his body.

One Person Hide and go Seek

According to my friend, Japanese people are very interested in horror. They believe that spirits exist and may sometimes be harmful to people. They are very mischievous and have no intention of leaving once they have latched onto someone they love to fool around with. This story in particular was not too significant because he does not believe in the occult. However, it was a little past midnight when he told me the rules for playing this game, and the lights were off. It was slightly frightening. He learned this from other students who normally play with the occult, whether it’s through Ouija boards, séances, or Kokkuri-san, another version of an Ouija board.

There are many things that you must prepare for this ritual. You need a stuffed doll, and it must have limbs. You need enough rice that you can fill the doll with it. You need a needle and thread that is red in color. You need a nail clipper and a very sharp object such as a knife or whatnot. You need a cup of salt water, and you need to have a bathroom that has a bathtub. You also need a hiding place, such as a room. It must also have a TV in there.

You are supposed to open the doll and take out all the stuffing. There must be nothing left, so scraping the doll’s insides may be necessary. Once all of its stuffing is removed, it must be filled with rice. This is meant to represent innards, and will attract ghosts to possess the doll and allow it to live inside. You must clip off a few nails and then put them inside the doll. You sew the tear you made to open the doll up with the crimson thread. The stitches should be relatively clumsy. When you are done sewing up the thread, you are to tie the doll up with the rest of it. The red thread is actually supposed to represent blood vessels and will manage to hold the spirit inside the doll. You have to go to the bathroom and fill the bathtub with water, and then return to your hiding place with the cup of salt water.

In playing it, you have to give a name to your doll. It can be any name, as long as it is not yours. At 3 AM, you are to tell the doll “your name is the first it” to the doll three times. You are to go the bathroom and put the doll into the water-filled bathtub. You turn off all the lights in your house and go back to the hiding place and switch on the TV. After counting to ten, you return to the bathroom with the sharp tool in hand. You are supposed to go to the bathtub and say to the doll “I have found you, <name that you gave to it>.” You are to stab it with the edged tool, symbolizing that you are setting the spirit inside free. Then you’re suppose to say, “You are the next it, <name that you gave to it>.” As you take the doll out of the bathtub, you leave it on the counter. You run back to your hiding place and hide very well.

You are supposed to pour half of the cup of salt water in your mouth and you are not to drink any of it. This is supposed to keep you safe. If you do not, you might encounter a wandering spirit in the house which may harm you if you are not careful. You cannot see it, so the only way to know if something is getting closer to you is to watch what is happening to the TV in your room. You should have turned it on at this point in time. Get out of your hiding place and look for the doll. It may not be in the bathroom where you left it. No matter what happens you must not spit out the salt water because that is what is keeping you safe. When you find the doll, you’re supposd to pour the rest of the salt water from the cup that you had over it. Then you spit the salt water in your mouth onto it as well.  Then you say, “I win” three times and the ritual is done.

After this, you must dry, burn and discard the doll.

Honestly, this game was ultimately very creepy. I do not like dolls to begin with, and knowing that this doll could potentially harm you because it was even worse. I found it hard to understand why people would be so into horror, but I believe it just represents the people group as a whole in terms of their spirituality. It is explainable because they do believe in ghosts and malevolent spirits and whatnot. I would not perform this ritual, but other people might. I suppose it would take a brave person not afraid of ghosts and spirits to actually go through with the ritual. It would also require some belief in the occult as well. Again, it sounds somewhat like a stereotype of the Japanese people.

Do not respond to voices

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.

Chinese Funeral Traditions

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.


Usually the family and relatives would gather for the funeral. The coffin would be in a room where it’s decorated with white flowers. The guest would give the host money in a white envelope to pay for the funeral. Usually Chinese people try not to use white envelope in normal life because white is the color of death…So they use white in this occasion…same as flower, Chinese people tend to give each other colorful flowers. The people attending the funeral would wear black or white.

One of the things I remember the most is that there are always these paper objects for burning. The paper will be folded and made into something like a house, a car, clothes, phone, etc. These things are made of paper so that they can be burned. It is believed that the stuff you burned will appear in heaven for your deceased. There are also gold and silver paper which represents wealth. You burn those as well. Most of the time all the family member would stack of the objects in a big pile and set off a large fire then they all stand around watching it burn….And then, later they would do the gold and silver paper individually. Everyone usually participate.  

Also part of a funeral ritual in Chinese culture is that you are supposed to leave the body for seven days before you bury the body so that the soul can be released. If the body is buried before the seventh day then the soul is trapped inside the body. This is also how many of these bodies become ghosts because their soul can’t leave the earth.

The informant said that this is a traditional ritual in Chinese funeral. She learned about this knowledge through her observation after participating in funeral rituals where people emphasize these practices. She said many Chinese funerals take place for seven days, in those different days many of the same repeated and some different rituals occur to lead into the last/seventh day where the body is then buried.


These traditions show the importance of funeral as a life event for both the individual and the family, more for the family since the individual is no longer present at the event. There also many rituals associated with the event that has to be executed correctly. Funeral as an event also shows family ties and connection of the deceased to the community. Those rituals are specific and take times and money.

This shows how the color white is used as morbid rather than in Western culture where it is use in wedding to represent the innocence and the purity of the bride. The white flowers, white envelop, and white clothing shows how white as a color have a negative connotation. This clarified a question I’ve always ponder about why Chinese people give out red envelop at Chinese New Year. Similar to other culture’s where the objects and rituals during funerals are exclusive to the event; in this case the color white is reserved for funeral rituals only.

The burning of paper objects is very interesting to me. It is the idea of homeopathic magic where “like” creates “like.” In this particular case the magic is then the transition to transfer those objects from the physical realm to the spiritual realm. I think that this practice also show fear of the unknown relating to the idea of death and the afterlife where the burning of family objects is a way to ensure some certainty in the afterlife. The burning of those paper objects as a ritual reflects how the objects disappear into the air like how the spirit did.

The burial after seven day as a belief is similar to other culture’s origin of ghost where the dead body did not receive proper funeral ritual. In this case being buried too soon would trap the soul in the deceased body. The deceased body and the soul then become a haunting ghost.

The ritual of waiting for seven days resonate the concept of number seven as a reoccurring theme in many Eastern and Western Culture: seven planets, seven days, seventh heaven, etc. It shows how the idea the seven planets as a measure of time and day in the calendar effect many rituals and life events in many culture.


Chinese Religious Folk Practice – Calling the Soul

This folk practice was collected from my Father. My father was born as a farmer’s son into a veteran’s family in Taipei, Taiwan. His father and mother ran away from China to Taipei during the Chinese Civil War. Many of his cultural practices and beliefs are taken from mainland Chinese culture. Because of his background, he is considered a “mainlander” in Taiwan (Chinese in Taiwan are divided into Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese or indigenous). My father graduated from Iowa University with an MBA. His B.A was obtained in Taiwan.

When we were having our regular telephone session, he told me the following recollection on the phone in Chinese when we were talking about a few strange police cases in the past:

(This is not a direct transcription or translation. It’s based off what I remember him saying)

” When a man dies or goes missing in the mountains or river, and the police can’t find his corpse, they’ll always resort to calling his spirit as part of the investigation, like a sort of last resort. The police will take a taoist sorcerer and the missing man’s family, along with some of his possessions such as clothes, into the mountains or river; anywhere, closest to where the man went missing. The Taoist sorcerer will then perform a ritual and ask the family to call out the man’s name while holding out his clothes;  this practice is called the “calling of the soul”…. The family usually continues this “calling of the soul” until the body is found. And usually, right after this ritual is performed, the missing man’s corpse will actually appear or the police will find the corpse somewhere in the next few days. You might think I’m joking, but I’m not. Many cases have been solved in this fashion! You see it on the news all the time.”

When I asked my father the significance of this practice, he said:

“There is a traditional Chinese belief that a person’s soul stays on earth for a week before it leaves. The police ask the taoist sorcerer and the family members of the deceased to perform this ritual because the police have faith in this belief.”

I believe my father is quite right in the significance of this practice. The police and the people involved truly believe in this folk practice and they actually perform the “calling of the soul” as a last resort, after all the help that modern science and technology can give, to find the body of the deceased/missing family member. While I am not in any place to judge whether or not the folk practice of calling the soul or this folk belief is true or not, the fact stands that it has worked before, which furthers the belief in this tradition. Moreover, the idea of this practice appearing on the news as something legitimate the police do reveals the deep-set beliefs in the supernatural and the particular idea about the afterlife that Chinese culture have. This item also shows that despite the modernization of China and Taiwan, there still remains a heavy belief in the supernatural superstitions, practices and beliefs that were passed down generation to generation.