What is it about ghosts haunting bathrooms? It’s not something I really understand – I mean, if I was going to haunt someplace as a ghost, a library seems so much more comfortable and interesting, you know? Yet despite that, stories and legends of ghosts haunting bathrooms and toilets abound throughout the world. Or is it just an Asian thing? Maybe it isn’t; I don’t know. I mean, J.K. Rowling put Moaning Myrtle to haunting Hogwarts bathrooms, so maybe the story of ghosts haunting school bathrooms and public loos aren’t just aren’t an Asian ghost encounter thing?
Japan probably has some of the most well documented ones, from the akai-kami, aoi-kami ghost – a ghost who asks ‘red paper or blue paper’? and will either skin you alive or strangle you if you pick one; Hanako the ghost, who is a bit of a cross of the Bloody Mary type of ghost story and ‘schoolgirl who died at school’ story; akaname the filth-licker, a Japanese yokai that dates back to well before the 20th century at least, and the noppera-bo, another yokai that has no face and has been described to also haunt toilets (there’s a story about a woman encountering one in Hawaii, in 1959.) (Note: that blogpost is worth a look at, as it describes that there is no lore in Hawaii that resembles the story; and it seems to folklore that transferred from Japan.)
Ghost stories about bathrooms aren’t something I’ve read about only online though; even when I was going to school there were stories of a nun supposedly haunting the showers in Miriam; as well of course as the stories of a ghost that would peek over the bathroom stall dividers. Every school seemed to have at least one bathroom stall ghost story, regardless of whether or not the school was a Christian or Catholic school, or a secular one. However, stories of ghosts haunting the bathrooms also occur in buildings and edifices other than schools.
So early last week, my mother mentioned that my younger brother Al was saying that he thinks there’s a ghost in the new office he works at. As the person in the family who probably sees the most ghosts – to the point that really he just mentions them in passing these days – he’ll crop up a lot in these writings.
Then on July 22, he messages me on Skype with this (which, incidentally, is a good example of taglish, mixed in with Filipino text-speak abbreviation):
Spooky kwento lng that happened the other day. I think it was Wednesday or Thursday morning. I was early sa office (as usual before 5:45am) and I went to the CR to freshen up. 3 cubicles meron, cra yung isa, middle occupied so sa last ako pumunta. Middle cubicle is occupied coz I can see the shoes of the guy, white and red basketball shoes. I finished my business first before the middle guy, so went straight to the sink to clean my face. Then I noticed sa mirror reflection there wasn’t anybody sitting sa middle cubicle. I would have notice if nag flush or the door opening coz it would be loud or leaving the CR. First time I encountered this sa CR.
Translation if needed:
Spooky story that happened just the other day. I think it was Wednesday or Thursday morning. I was at the office early (as usual before 5:45 am) and I went to the CR (comfort room/water closet) to freshen up. There are 3 cubicles, with one broken, the middle one occupied so I went to the last one. Middle cubicle is occupied because I can see the shoes of the guy, white and red basketball shoes. I finished my business first before the middle guy so went straight to the sink to clean my face. Then I noticed in the mirror’s reflection there wasn’t anybody sitting in the middle cubicle. I would have noticed if the flush had gone off or the door opening because it would be loud, or leaving the CR. First time I encountered this at the CR.
He isn’t the first one though to encounter a ghost in the bathroom in our family, as my mother said she would see a particular ghost while she was pregnant with me, and later when she was pregnant with my siblings – except for the pregnancy of the youngest brother, who was born in East Berlin. The bathroom of the place we lived at was like most bathrooms was a combination of toilet and shower. Like most Filipinos however, the shower was rarely used and bathing was done using the tabo to ladle water from a large bucket or a large drum of water onto one’s body. A low stool is another common accessory for one to sit on but crouching is just as common.
Mom says that she was bathing herself one afternoon, and given that you have to close your eyes while the water is poured over one’s head, for a little while you don’t see your surroundings. When she opened her eyes, my mother could see the ghost. It was of a woman with long hair, her head bowed down slightly, her eyes lowered. Blood dripped from her forehead. Mom says that the ghost woman’s face was oval in shape, and she was most afraid that the ghost would raise her eyes and look at her.
Interestingly enough Mom would only see the ghosts during her afternoon showers; which would help her cool off after the midday heat.
Eventually she got curious enough to ask around about whether or not anyone fitting the rough description had died around then. She found out that the original owner of the lot where our apartment was built had a daughter. This daughter fell down while alighting from a bus, hit her head and died. My mother thinks this was the ghost she saw.
The other ghost my mother would see was an old Chinese man in a grey Chinese style shirt by the door to the bathroom. He would have two dwende standing at his side. This was the ghost she’d see most often; not always by the bathroom though. She’d see him a lot. She eventually mentioned this to one of her relatives, an Auntie Rose, describing the old man in detail – handsome, with a squarish face and pale skin, his eyes not so narrow and ‘chinky’* – I guess that means ‘not very slanted and narrow.’ He would often be wearing a black silk outfit with red characters embroidered down one side of the silk suit.
The auntie my mother spoke with said that must be her Chinese grandfather; my maternal grandmother’s father, who had come to the Philippines from mainland China, having recognised the description. She also said that it was believed that Chinese Grandpa, as we call him, had dwende that were his alaga – a term that sort of blurs the distinction between ‘serving him / takes care of him’ and ‘he takes care of’ in this usage. Mom says she never got a very good look at the dwende, but that they ‘looked like typical dwarves, pleasant to look at, short with tall hats.’ He was known as ‘Jose Chua’ when he lived in the Philippines; but my mother does not know what his Chinese name was.
My mother says that a priest that she spoke to recently said that ghosts and demons like to appear in cold places; bathrooms and toilets tend to be one of the colder areas in a house.
Because I had called her up on Skype to ask her some of the details, my brother overheard parts of the conversation. He mentions in passing that his earliest memory is of a ghost. He described it as a white glowing figure; and he remembered seeing it standing in our bedroom while we were all asleep – we all slept in the same room in those days. He was very young, so he didn’t think anything of it. After a little while he went back to sleep.
Does anyone have similar stories of ghost-hauntings in bathrooms they’ve heard of / experienced? I would be interested to hear about them!
*It should be noted that I will probably end up using a lot of descriptions that most of my Western readers will find offensive; but in the context of the Philippines and our general slang, is not offensive. We don’t have that same ‘race’ issue; the problems tend to fall into tribal conflicts if they ever arise. “Chinky-eyed” is a description we’ve used on ourselves, and simply describes eye shape, especially to those of Chinese descent, like myself, in a culturally understood context that avoids exceedingly extensive description. I suppose the Western shorthand for it would be ‘Oriental eyes.’