Last night the Saskatoon Skeptics told ghost stories

It was a small turnout compared to some nights but the six of us had a merry spooky time telling tales anyway. Sucks to be one that missed the fun…

David brought along a printout of a story Pliny the Younger told of a haunted house back in his day (his day being AD 61-115) which can be read here. Todd brought several folk tales about trolls that weren’t scary, but cool all the same. I provided special effects of the “clippity clop” variety for his quick retelling of the Three Billy Goats Gruff (see a version here). A newcomer whose name I’ve forgotten told us a story of a haunted house here in Saskatoon that a friend of hers had visited where a poltergeist wasn’t a fan of Canada AM and didn’t care to have company in the house either, making something of a pest of itself by rocking chairs and slamming doors. David asked us if we’d ever been in the Marr Residence here in the city. Apparently it has a couple ghost residents, one of which is a misogynist in the basement who doesn’t like having women down there. Dale mentioned a ghost train, or at least ghostly lights visible north of Saskatoon near a town called St. Louis, which I’d never heard about before. Dale also brought some Korean tales with him, which I’ll get to momentarily.

I thought of a few stories myself, one being about a family mausoleum somewhere in the States, probably, where there was a mystery surrounding the coffins inside moving under their own power. The door would be sealed between uses but every time people went in there again, it seemed the coffins would be moved, or tipped over, or what have you. It was really freaky for the family. Later on, it was discovered that the mausoleum was prone to flooding at certain times of year and enough water would get in to raise the coffins off the ground and deposit them elsewhere in the room once the water receded. I also told one of a spooky face hanging in the bushes near a bog that later turns out to be a cow who liked eating the grasses that grew there. I don’t know if that was a true one, or if I found that in some fiction story and have forgotten that’s where it originated. Minds play tricks, after all.

Like minds that insist on seeing ghosts where lights or bugs are creating disruptive images on cameras. After story time we talked about the work people do to debunk this kind of thing and the challenges they face. Jeremy mentioned some superhero style guy who has a series on Youtube and that’s his popular/unpopular mission. A quick Google gets me CaptainDisillusion, which looks to be the guy, based on Jeremy’s description of his mask.

I mentioned watching That’s Incredible as a kid and insisting on sitting through the weekly ghost story even though I knew it’d mean three nights sleeping with my back to the wall and my closet light on. I also brought a book of “true” tales assembled by John Farman, called The Short and Bloody History of Ghosts. It has several entertaining stories in it about ghosts from around the world. I didn’t read this part last night but it winds up leading well into Dale’s Korean tales so here it goes (from page 23):

Old Japanese spirits, particularly from the 1100s to the 1300s were very odd. There were women ghosts with bad haircuts wearing long white robes and legless Samurai warrior-ghosts. There were foxes that could change into beautiful women and then bewitch anyone who crossed their path.

Dale brought a printout of Heinz Insu Fenkl’s collection about “Dangerous Women” from which he and David read. “The Fox Sister” is very well known in Korea and according to Fenkle:

It is a cautionary Confucian story about the dangers of wishing for a female child. She literally destroys the family, and it is up to the disowned brothers to restore the order of patriarchy by killing her.

Nice.

Korean fox lore, which comes from China (from sources probably originating in India and overlapping with Sumerian lamia lore), is relatively straightforward compared to the complex body of fox culture that evolved in Japan. The Japanese fox spirit, or kitsune, is remarkably sophisticated, probably due to its resonance with the indigenous Shinto religion, and the fox spirits of Japan can be male or female, malign or benign. In Korea, the demonic fox is called a kumiho; they are almost exclusively female, and almost always evil. Korean fox women are generally seductive creatures that entice unwary scholars and travelers with the lure of their sexuality and the illusion of their beauty and riches. They drain the men of their yang (their masculine force) and leave them dissipated or dead (in much the same way as the fairy woman in Keats’s poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” leaves her parade of hapless male victims).

All in all, it was a very entertaining evening.

If you care to, feel free to share some of your favourite ghostly tales or other creepy stories in the comments.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: