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September 8, 2005
Dafydd: On the Lighter (Ectoplasmic) Side...

If you want to take a break from the grim news out of the Southeast, try this one from Orlando, Florida: a husband-and-wife pair of restauranteurs, Christopher and Yoko Chung, are trying to break their lease to move into a renovated building because, they claim, the building is "haunted."

Landlord Sues Restaurateurs Over Ghosts AP wire Sep 8, 1:54 PM (ET)

Subcontractors who worked there and other people have reported seeing ghosts or other apparitions, said Lynn Franklin, attorney for the restaurant owners.

"It's very serious," Franklin said Thursday. "A lot of people are corroborating having seen incidents in this location."

Would this be shortly after a trip to Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion? Perhaps the ghost followed them home!

"I asked them if these were good ghosts or bad ghosts, and if they were good ghosts why it was a problem," said David Simmons, an attorney representing the building's owners, who include boy band promoter Lou Pearlman. Simmons is also a member of the state House.

The story does not inform us of the answer to this burning question.

These two idiots are now being sued for $2.6 million... so now they plan to go to court and try to get a judicial imprimateur on the haunting.

The lawsuit also asks a judge to decide whether the building is haunted and, if so, whether the ghosts would interfere with the restaurant's business. Renovations have stopped on the building, and it remains empty. [ectoplasmic italics added]

Say... maybe the ghosts could provide the entertainment! How are fixed for Mariah Carey songs? She's floating pretty high right now.

The name "Chung" sounds either Chinese or Korean to me; but "Yoko" is clearly a Japanese name. Since I don't know anything about Chinese or Korean ghost beliefs, I'll just stick to Japanese from now on. Commenters who know about the similarities and differences between Japanese and other Asian ghost mythology are urged to share their knowledge!

My Japanese wife Sachi tells me that in Japan, whenever a company builds a plant over, say, an old well, a Shinto priest has to be brought in to exorcise the spirits of the well... otherwise, half the employees will refuse to work there, terrified that spirits will haunt the place; but these spirits are different from ghosts... they're more like pantheistic spirit-gods: the god of the well, the god of the river, the god of that tree over there, etc.

To my (thoroughly secular but not atheist) mind, this is very different from a simple benediction: I have never heard of someone over here declining a job offer because a priest did not bless the cornerstone of the corporate headquarters; nor do Christians or Jews as a rule believe that without such a benediction, ghostly apparitions will stalk the premises. For all that there is a substantial minority of Christians constantly seeing Mary's visage on a tortilla, it is still a tiny subset.

But among Asians, belief in the reality (and malevolence) of "ghost" ghosts is much stronger, I suspect. Japanese ghosts (as in spirits of the dearly departed, not the god of the well) seem nearly always to be either lovesick girls who died of passion or quite deadly women who want to take revenge on their murderers or their murders' descendants (most Japanese ghosts are female); you wouldn't typically find a comic-book character like Yoshi the Friendly Ghost. Curiously, Japanese ghosts are not usually tied to a place, like a haunted house; they more often haunt an individual because of some relationship they had... so at the very least, the Chungs' ghost (if Japanese style) seems to be a bit unorthodox (was the building perhaps built over a well?)

According to a Cult Movies article that Sachi wrote, part of her series Everything But the Lizards on Japanese supernatural movies, 19th-century Kabuki plays forever fixed the image of a ghost in Japanese minds:

The typical images and feelings associated with ghosts were developed in the Kabuki plays of this era and continue in movies today. The tumbling of drums and a high pitched bamboo flute were often used as the sound effects for the ghosts entrance. She is generally depicted as a floating figure with a long, loose kimono, messy and almost wet-looking, long, black hair covering half of a pale face, and her hands dangling limply in front of her chest. These images all come from Kabuki. They are so strongly ingrained in our minds, we cannot disassociate them from ghosts; if we see them on stage or on the screen, we immediately feel a thrill of terror.

(Note how the image of the ghost in the contemporary ghost movie The Ring, remade from a Japanese movie, is clearly derived from this depiction.)

I anticipate getting a lot of very hostile comments on this, but what the heck; I've got my patented Sean Penn Flak Jacket®; I'm ready. People, there are no ghosts. As to whether there is a Holy Ghost, I haven't a firm opinion either way; but it's pretty clear that the worldwide population of ghostly manifestations, ectoplasmic entities, walking remnants of the dead, white-sheeted forms floating about and going "boo!" is approximately zero. Yes, I've seen those photographs. They're kith and kin to photos of UFOs and the Loch Ness monster (and perhaps even grainier).

Humans have an extraordinary capacity to anthropomorphize their fears and anxieties (about, for an example, opening a new business or moving your business to a more expensive, newly renovated building): if they're afraid to do X or go to Y, they can fantasize a ghost or witch or curse to circumvent having to make that scary decision.

But when a person's anxieties land him as a defendant in a multi-million dollar lawsuit, I think it's time to overcome, not succumb.

Maybe they can lay those restless spirits to sleep with one of these.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Dafydd at September 8, 2005 5:24 PM

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That's the landlord asking the judge to determine if the building is haunted. I have an answer, but it involves swearing and personal insults.... [Read More]

Tracked on September 8, 2005 9:41 PM

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