Would I have to start planning outfits around the tattoo like I plan for weather?
"So you're just going to pack up and walk into your new home, just like that?"
My friend "Judy" asked me this the other day as I was whining about having to dismantle my beloved shoebox apartment for the new place Mr. Louise and I are moving to.
"Well...kinda? I mean, I have some 'Louise's Mom' beliefs that I can't shake that I have to do, and of course I'll jump at every little creak and bump in the new place that first night [because secret dwellers hiding in the cupboards], but...yeah? Wait, what do you know?"
I can't help but collect people who will contribute to my nightmares at some point.
"Well you gotta trick the ghosts at — wait, wasn't it just ghost month over in Hong Kong?"
"Yes..." I answered. I wasn't sure if I liked where this was headed.
"Oh yeah! Then you gotta make sure you don't have any followers! OK?"
Judy continued in her rapid-fire, vaguely "Hawai‘i local" way of speaking. Some people find the way she talks jarring, I find it familiar and cozy. Even when she's saying soothing things to me, it kind of sounds like she's scolding. Like my mom.
"What do you mean, FOLLOWERS?" I asked.
Judy paused. "Are you writing about this?" She sounded suspicious.
"Uh...maybe? Can I?" I said as I put down my pen.
"Yeah, oh, no problem!" she barked. "But then I gotta tell you about my auntie."
"OK! Please do!" I picked up my pen again and wondered if I should turn on more lights.
"OK, so my auntie is Korean American but she knows a lot of the ghost stuff that her parents and her grandparents believed from Korea. There's special days you should or shouldn't move house, and you need to make sure you're not bringing ghosts with you from your old house or disturbing the ghosts in the new house."
A lot of what Judy was saying sounded familiar to me. For example, moving during ghost month in Chinese belief is a bad idea. It's bad luck, and you could have ghosts trailing after you, as well as angry/hungry (hangry) ghosts upset that you are jostling the energy about in their abode. Plus there's all the cleaning that comes with moving, sweeping especially, that could push out good fortune.
Even moving during non-ghost months, I've always been told that you have to thank the spirits that kept you safe in your previous home, and be respectful of the spirits who may reside in the home you will move to. According to Chinese belief (so says Louise's mom), there is the "earth god" that resides in each home (preferably with a shrine), and that god must be respected. To ignore the god and spirits is inviting misfortune.
"Yeah! So my auntie should have known better. And I think she probably did know better, but she thought she was being foolish, superstitious. So she did what folks around here normally do: clean up the house, take all your stuff, dump all your stuff in your new house. Right?"
"Sounds about right to me." The good ol' American "Pack 'n' Dump" maneuver. Like you do.
"So my auntie is living in her house for a day or two, and she just feels WRONG. Headaches, body aches, she can't focus. At night she can't sleep. You know what she told me?"
Judy paused, waiting for me to speak like I might actually know. "Uh, no, I don't. What?"
"She said that she felt like someone was in her bedroom with her at night waiting for her to speak. Like, when you're in the middle of a conversation and the other person stops talking all of a sudden and you're like, 'And? Go on?' — there's that tension."
This is where my skin crawled.
"The more she unpacked, the worse she felt. One night she was putting together the living room when she heard a knock at the door. She thought it might be one of her new neighbors — they said they might come over with food. But when she opened the door–"
"Oh, shit, there was nobody there, right?"
"Right!" Judy crowed.
Some of you regular Creepy Corneristas may remember my post about the mysterious knocks on my cousin's door. Many cultures believe that a phantom knock at the door is a harbinger of doom, death. However, I've learned from some reliable sources (old Chinese ladies) that it can also be a warning to stop doing something; a cease and desist from beyond the grave.
"What did your auntie make of it?"
"Well she was scared. Really scared. She started thinking about what she might have done wrong; she started thinking about her move. Ever since she had gotten into the new house, she had felt terrible. She didn't feel alone, you know?
"So she started thinking about all those superstitions from her grandparents. She'd been told that she should have moved on a certain day, to avoid ghosts following her to her new home. The ghosts can't see on some days. Well, that was already done, so then she thought about leaving stuff behind.
"Her family believed that you shouldn't just pack all your stuff up at once and move away. You shouldn't leave the home totally clean; it has to look lived in. You also have to leave something personal behind, a sign of life behind to trick the ghosts into thinking you're still there. You don't want ghosts that don't belong to you to follow you. You can't collect ghosts your whole life, you know?"
"I think I do," I said. At this point I couldn't help but glance around my home and think, "OK, y'all. Ghost roll call: You know who belongs with me, and you know who doesn't. Work it out."
"My auntie didn't leave anything behind, so the ghosts followed her. And now, she thought there might be too many ghosts in one house — the ghosts of her old house and the ghosts of her new house, and none of the ghosts were happy. This sounds really crazy, doesn't it?"
"I talk to a ghost cat every night. Nothing's crazy to me anymore," I told Judy. She laughed.
"So she decided to answer the ghosts that were waiting for her to speak at night. Mind you, she felt REALLY crazy talking to what might be ghosts, or might be her losing her mind. But one night she said into the dark, 'There's too many of you here. I'm sorry, but this is my house, and, old ghosts, there's no room for you here. Go back to your home.'"
"Did it work?"
"Slowly," Judy said carefully. "She smudged her new home; she demanded the old ghosts leave every night; she tried to make good with the ghosts of her new house. She left a white candle burning whenever she was home as a peace offering to the resident ghosts in her hew house. Little by little, she felt better. Her head and body stopped hurting, and she could finally sleep without feeling like someone wanted something from her. No more door knocks either."
After Judy told me her auntie's story, I couldn't help but wonder about all the different things that might have been going on there.
Was there shoddy wiring causing a "fear cage" effect in her auntie's home? Was Judy's auntie psyching herself out in a new house (been there)? Was she subconsciously feeling a little guilty over not fulfilling her family's superstitious beliefs during her move (been there too)?
Or are some people just susceptible to energy, spirits, what have you?
"Yeah. I mean, she's fine now. She loves her home. But I'm just saying, Louise, you gotta take care of yourself when you move. Those Hong Kong ghosts are wild, I bet! Leave behind some dirt or something, or some shoes!"
After Judy's auntie's story, I just might. I don't need to be collecting ghosts everywhere I go.
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