Today is the middle day of Obon, a three-day Japanese holiday honoring the dead. Ghost stories are traditional, because this is often the hottest, stickiest time of year, and the chills you get from spooky thrills are said to feel cool and refreshing.
I live in Japan now, but I grew up in Nebraska, and went to school there. I lived in one of the oldest dorms of my university, but I was in the new wing, which was built in the 1950s. No ghosts there, but we heard about ghost stories in the halls right next door.
The one I remember in particular was told to me in a room that had been converted to a TV room. Every floor had a TV room, which seemed to be a regular room that had been converted to communal viewing.
They (forgive me, it’s been so long that I no longer remember who “they” were – fellow students, and I think there was a boy and a couple of girls) told me that the room was haunted. They said during an influenza pandemic, the girl who lived there would open the windows because her fever was so high. Her visitors would shut the windows again, and angrily, she would open them as soon as they were gone.
I wish I could say at that point, the windows slowly and silently swung open. But they didn’t. A chill went down my spine, we finished watching the TV show that was on, and I don’t think I ever visited the room again.
However, the next year, I heard that there had been trouble when the cable guy had come to install cable into the room. (Oh, we were excited to get cable!)
Apparently, the window opened. The guy ran out of the room and vowed never to return. I suppose somebody finished installing the cable. Maybe someone with a stronger spirit, or duller imagination.
I think about this story every few months or so. Since our current pandemic began, I probably think of it every few weeks. It’s so weird that I didn’t hear stories about how great-grandma had to wear a mask, or that Dad’s friend at school wound up crippled from polio . . . but the ghost story did get passed down.
I’m planning to share more ghost stories during the rest of August. Feel free to share your own in the comments!
*Note: the story told here was in the tradition of oral storytelling. Inaccuracies abound. But, this is as it was told to me. For more information, check out these stories: