(I wrote this for Halloween last year about a Japanese tradition going back to Samurai times of telling ghost stories.)
It is late July, during the time of summer when the Bon Odori, the “Dance of the Dead” is taking place in the village square. After the festivities, someone invites you to a neighbor’s home.
It is nightfall and you walk eagerly to the host house knowing that the game of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai–A Gathering of One Hundred Supernatural Tales will take place. (It was popular in the Edo Period of Japan, 1603 to 186).
As you enter the house, you find a room where one hundred candles flicker with yellow-white lights. You take your seat next to the boy who runs errands for the neighborhood grocer. Then you wait as one by one, each guest takes a turn telling stories about kaidan–strange, mysterious, rare or bewitching apparition of which you get you turn as well.
You finish your story, about an Obake shape-shifter that terrifies the maid of a wealthy samurai and then you walk nervously toward the candle closest to you. With a single puff of breath from you lips, the light goes out leaving a trail of smoke floating up toward your face. You turn and hurry back to your seat.
After each ghostly tale, sworn the solemn truth, the storyteller blows one more of the candles out. Little by little, the room grows darker and darker. That’s when you start to hear a strange tap, tap, tapping from outside the circle of friends and neighbors. You wonder if the others hear it as well. The grocer’s boy shakes his head when you ask him, but his eyes have grown wide with… fear?
Nervously, you look around the increasingly dark room. Maybe it was just a tree limb scratching the window. Or a rat gnawing at a baseboard of the wall behind you. And that cold breeze you feel blowing up the back of you neck, surely comes from a draft, an open window or door.
But as the last storytelling reaches the end of their grisly tale, you would swear you see a flicker of something pale and unearthly in a dark corner of the room. Then as the last story ends and the storyteller steps toward the last flickering candle, you will swear you see a ghostly visage hovering next to the woman’s face who sits directly across from you. It reminds you of the Obake you told about in your story. A second later, someone blows out the last candle…
Copyright by Ledia Runnels 2012
- Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai (lediarunnels27221219.wordpress.com)
- How to Make Wax Candles (answers.com)
- How to Get Candle Wax Out of Your Candle Holder (eurolinguiste.wordpress.com)
- Do’s and Don’ts of Scented Candles (homedesign.marthastewart.com)
- Make Scented Candles Last Longer With These Tips (bellasugar.com)
- How-To: Make Your Candles Last Longer (bellasugar.com)