More tales from the spooky family vault this week.
Or maybe I should say crypt. That's more "Creepy Cornerish" right?
"Ghost seeing eyes", as described by my mother, is when someone has the inexplicable ability to see ghosts like you and me see, well, you and me.
My mother says my great grandmother had them to an extent, and she also says two of my aunts have them. My mom and I, fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you "look" at it, do not.
Part of me is bummed out by this, but in thinking about it, if spirits are all around us all the time like so many psychics and mediums claim, seeing them everywhere might not only be chilling but also annoying. My aunt has more than a few stories of trying to go to sleep, and being kept awake by a spirit trying to talk to her, the thought of which makes me want to dive under the covers and STAY THERE.
According to my mother, great grandmother didn't start off seeing ghosts, but Ghost Seeing Eyes were brought to her attention when she had a little servant girl whose Ghost Seeing Eyes were "very strong".
I think I've mentioned this before, but in my great grandmother's day, servants were a very normal thing in Hong Kong. Almost every household, not just the very rich or privileged, had hired girls or women who lived in the house and helped out with the cooking and cleaning. My mother's family was not remotely wealthy, but they nonetheless had servants.
My great grandmother was an especially sensitive and compassionate woman, so she often took in young girls who otherwise would not have had a way to earn a livelihood. It sounds somewhat objectionable now, but almost 100 years ago this was practical kindness.
One such girl was named Ah Seam. She was a slight, fragile looking girl, with small, sleepy eyes. Great grandmother took her and her sister in to help look after the younger children in the house, as well as help with daily chores.
Ah Seam means "moth," and great grandmother maintained that the reason this girl had such a name was because of her special abilities. In Chinese culture, it's believed that when a person passes away, they return to their loved ones in the form of a butterfly, or grasshopper, or moth.
Ah Seam's name was actually a red flag to my grandmother, my great grandmother's daughter. She couldn't understand why great grandmother wanted a girl who had one foot in the other world. But my great grandmother insisted that having such a girl in the house would be helpful in keeping the peace in the home and not disturbing the "unseen members" of the household.
And in this respect, Ah Seam certainly was helpful.
Things started simply enough. Ah Seam, while dutifully hovering over the children, would keep them away from a certain tree in the back yard. When the children asked why they weren't allowed to play under the shade of the tree, Ah Seam said that it was because of the spirit that favored that spot and that they shouldn't disturb him.
Another incident was when my great grandmother and Ah Seam were walking up the stairs in the house, and Ah Seam gently stepped to the right of the stairs and asked my great grandmother to do the same.
When asked why they were stopped Ah Seam said it was because spirits were passing on the left, and, "we shouldn't step on them". She explained that the spirits often walked the staircase, and the living were too often getting in the dead's way.
What's interesting is that my mother, her mother, and even my skeptical uncle always said that they could hear walking on that staircase when nobody was around. Nobody ever saw anything, but in the still of night, footsteps could be heard going up and down the stairs.
Well, nobody saw anything except for Ah Seam.
Ah Seam became especially nervous going to bed at night. She would stand at the top of the stairs that led to her basement quarters, and wait for her older sister to escort her down the steps. This went on for some time, with Ah Seam growing more agitated and exhausted with each passing day.
Early one morning, my great grandmother came upon Ah Seam fast asleep on the floor of the laundry room, right next to the basement stairs.
When asked why she was sleeping in the laundry room Ah Seam told my great grandmother that all the noise and smoking was keeping her up at night and frightening her. My great grandmother immediately said she would have a word with the other servant girls, as she'd noticed the lingering smell of cigarette smoke wafting up the stairs for the past few weeks, and she didn't want them smoking in the basement.
But it wasn't the other girls, Ah Seam explained to my great grandmother. The basement was apparently inhabited by a few ghosts that were not only banging about at night, but were also sitting on the basement steps and smoking!
Ah Seam told my great grandmother that the reason she didn't like going down the stairs anymore, is that she had to pass by all of them watching her as she made her way to bed.
Soon after that, great grandmother had a Buddhist priests bless the basement, and Ah Seam was able to sleep again in her bed.
Ah Seam stayed with my great grandmother until she was old enough to earn better money elsewhere and then moved out of the house. Nobody is sure what became of her.
Ah Seam's story is another one I'm not sure about. Was she really seeing ghosts? Or was this a disturbed girl with an overactive imagination?
My great grandmother would beg that Ah Seam's experiences were real, as even after her departure strange things continued to happen around the house. Noises, glimpses of people in the house who were not family members, strange smells -- she maintained for her entire life, as did my grandmother after her, that these incidences were not caused by Ah Seam, but simply brought to attention by her.
It's as if Ah Seam flipped a switch in my family. My great grandmother began to see "things" more and more after Ah Seam came into her life, and my aunt, her granddaughter, grew up acutely aware of that which is unseen by most people.
The way I see it, whether or not my great grandmother and her family were simply victims of the power of suggestion, or Ah Seam was actually seeing spirits, she awakened in them a fascination in the unexplained that has made for some fantastic stories that have been passed down through my family.
And for that I thank you, Ah Seam.
What do you think of Ah Seam's experiences? Do you, or anybody you know have "Ghost Seeing Eyes"? Have you ever seen a ghost?
Halloween is just around the corner! Don't hold back now!