Halloween Special: Spooky Stories from China (and Elsewhere)

Luo Ping, Skeletons

I’m currently attending graduate school at the Boston University College of Communication. One of the best things about BU COM is that it’s full of international students, most of them from China. As a result, I have a lot of Chinese classmates and friends. A few of them shared their favorite ghost stories with me for this year’s Halloween special.

Bad Romance
“Well, there’s a romantic series which, if you take a second to think of it, is quite creepy. So this group of female ghosts (they actually have physical appearance and flesh but are not human and live for thousands of years) will regularly go to the n
earby village or flag down traveling students in the woods to seduce them. They will suck out their “liveliness” (think the Dementors from Harry Potter) in order to gain more years to live. In turn, those humans (lustful guys) will die. So there’s this one gal who really fell in love with this particular handsome man, and it’s made into a romantic folklore. I still think it’s creepy that a grandmother could tell this story to a five-year-old kid. Definitely not a children’s story.”

Chinese female ghost

Three Sparks
“I do have a piece of advice for anyone who might run into ghost type of things in the future. Many elderly people in China believe in this: if you walk alone at n
ight and you hear someone calls your name or any unusual sound, do not turn your head. Elderly people say humans have three sparks at night located aloft on our heads and shoulders––each time you turn for a ghost, one goes out. These sparks, supposedly, ward off evil spirits and illuminate the dark nights. If all go out, then we are left unguarded.”
Skylar (Read more about Eschewing Ghosts here)

Ace of Base - Don't Turn Around

Mirror, Mirror
“If you comb your hair at midnight toward a mirror, you can easily get into the world in mirror unconsciously. That world is about the same as real world. It’s just the people in mirror world–they don’t have faces.”

No-Face Ghost


Chaonei 81
“I know a story about a creepy building in Beijing, called No. 81. It was constructed at the end of 19th century by the British. It is said that the emperor wanted to build a church and made it a gift for Britain. But the war broke out before it was fin
ished. Later on, an officer lived in this building during the civil war time. After the war, the officer went to Taiwan, but left his family there. His concubine hanged herself in the building. Since then, people call it “No 81. haunted house”. Someone said that they could hear woman’s cry at nights. Several years ago, the local government wanted to dismantle the building, but during the process, a couple construction workers disappeared. ‘Cause Chinese are superstitious and believed in Fengshui, so they stop the construction. Now, the creepy building still exists in the city.”

Chaonei No. 81, haunted Chinese building


The Beast Below
“I have a great one and every local Shanghainese should know (or at least has seen this). It’s about the “Dragon central pillar“. In downtown Shanghai, there’s an elevated highway called “Yan’an highway” which runs across the city. You know, for elevated h
ighways there’re columns for supporting. Among those columns, there is one column which stands out from the others: only one column is glittery and gilded by dragons.

“This urban legend has become increasingly popular, developing into a bigger and darker tale over time:

“When the Yan’an elevated highway was under construction, everything went well despite that the central pillar at the intersection of Yan’an Road and Chengdu Road North couldn’t be built. The workers always hit a snag while digging to erect the central pillar. Experts from a construction academy, architecture companies, or physicists could do nothing with it as well. This elevated highway was so important, because those winding, narrow roads on the ground make driving in Shanghai so painful — this highway must be built.

“So a great monk in Shanghai was called in. He stared at the place, sighed, and said, “I know what’s going on. But I’m afraid once I reveal the secret, my days won’t be long.” But he still decided to do so, as a blessing to all Shanghainese people. He discovered that deep below the earth, a sleeping dragon had made its home. The workers’ constant pounding had awoken it from its centuries-old nap. The only way to build the central pillar is to use prayer and ceremony to persuade the dragon to move to another place. All these have to be done on a designated date, at a specific time. And, there should be a beautiful pillar to calm the grumpy beast.

“The monk stayed there on that day. After many offerings, apologies and prayers, the workers finally dug into the ground. Everything was perfect, as designed.

Mysteriously, during the next few days, the monk, who’s in perfect health, soon passed away.

Dragon Pillar, Shanghai


Another friend of mine shared this story from Wales.

Real-Life Dragons
“Wales used have dragons. Little ones, which were multi-colored. But they were big enough to kill farmers’ chickens, which annoyed the farmers. There were actually more like winged serpents. Stories about them went up nearly to the 20th century, and one person telling the stories remembers her grandfather had the skin of one that he’d killed hung up in his home for many years.”
Jim (Find out more in Eddie Lenihan’s Meeting the Other Crowd)

Welsh dragon, Wales

And here are some of my favorites from Japan.

Man-Faced Dog
The man-faced dog, or Jinmenken, is a staple of Japanese urban mythology. Supposedly, these creatures run along the highway at incredible speeds at night. They never hurt anyone, but if you approach one, you might be told brusquely to go away and mind your own business. Sightings of man-faced dogs are prevalent even today–though some scientists attribute them to encounters with Japanese macaques.

Man-faced dog - Jinmenken, Japanese urban legend

(Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978)

The Red Room
The red room story might be the only urban myth to feature a cursed pop-up window. According to the legend, while browsing the Internet late at night, victims will be accosted with a pop-up reading: Do you like the red room? As the message is displayed, a voice will begin to read it out loud. If you close the window before the voice finishes, it will pop up again. And again. And again. Only when the voice finishes asking the question will the window disappear. The next morning, the victim will be found dead, the walls of their room painted red with their own blood.

This story gained some serious traction when a search of the 11-year-old Sasebo slasher‘s computer showed that she had a red-room-related flash animation bookmarked.

Red room, Japanese urban legend

“Do you like the red room?”

The Cursed Kleenex Commercial
This is a silly story–though if you watch the commercial in question, you’ll be forced to admit that it is fairly eerie. The ad features Japanese actress Keiko Matsuzaka offering a tissue to a baby ogre while the song “It’s a Fine Day” plays in the background. From the moment of its release, it unnerved the Japanese public. Rumors began to circulate. Some said the crew members who worked on the commercial had all met with untimely deaths. Others said that Matsuzaka had died, or been committed, or given birth to a demon baby. Still others claimed that the commercial would change if you watched it after midnight, as demonstrated in this incredibly creepy YouTube clip.

Keiko Matsukaza, 1986 - Cursed Japanese Kleenex commercial


2 thoughts on “Halloween Special: Spooky Stories from China (and Elsewhere)

    1. joannalesher Post author

      So freaky, right? It’s always really grotesque stuff that I never would have thought up. I wonder what it is about Japan that makes its people come up with such frightening stories!


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