Halloween is all about scary fun, right? Well, it looks like the Japanese have been celebrating it for ages, judging by these outhouse-haunting spirits! Take your pick from the following creepy spirits, brought to you courtesy of Eric Grundhauser of Atlas Obscura.
Toire no Hanako-san
One of the best-known of Japan’s bathroom spirits is Toire no Hanako-san, or Hanako of the Toilet. Like all ghost stories, the details of Hanako’s origins vary somewhat from telling to telling, but in general, Hanako is said to be the ghost of a young girl who died around WWII, and now haunts school bathrooms. Usually described as wearing an out-of-fashion red dress and bob haircut, she can be summoned by going to the girl’s bathroom on the third floor, knocking on the third stall three times, and saying, “Are you there Hanako-san?” Depending on regional variations, Hanako will respond by saying, “Yes I am,” or a ghostly hand will appear. If someone enters the stall, they could also be eaten by a three-headed lizard (!)
Kashima Reiko/Teke Teke
Hanako is not the only young girl said to haunt the bathrooms of Japan. There is another legend of a young girl named Kashima Reiko, said to be the ghost of a girl who died when her legs were severed by a train. Her legless torso now haunts bathroom stalls, asking unlucky visitors, “Where are my legs?” The correct response, “On the Meishin Expressway,” could save your life. Otherwise, it’s said that she might tear a person’s legs off.
This is, in fact, a bathroom-centric variation of another Japanese ghost story known as “Teke Teke,” which also features the ghost of a young girl who was cut in half by a train. There’s also a version of the Kashima Reiko story that suggests she will appear within one month to anyone who learns her story. So, I’ll be waiting to hear back from you in late November.
What is it with Japanese and scary little girls? One of the most gruesome of Japan’s bathroom ghosts is Aka Manto, or the Red Cape. Little Red Riding Hood’s murderous cousin is said to resemble a person completely covered by a flowing cape and hood, wearing a mask that hides an irresistibly handsome face. Before you start swooning, though, consider Aka Manto’s charming quirk: it is said to appear to people (usually in the last stall) as they are going to wipe, asking a strange question. Sometimes the spirit asks, “Red cape or blue cape?” or offers “Red paper or blue paper?” Choosing red will lead to Aka Manto flaying a person’s back (a red cape), or another gruesome, bloody death, while choosing blue will cause the spirit to suffocate you. Getting clever and choosing any other color will just cause you to be dragged to the underworld. The only way to escape Aka Manto’s punishment is to decline its offer entirely.
Japan’s bathroom spirits may appear to be uniquely ready to haunt your every bowel movement, but ultimately there are good reasons bathrooms everywhere tend to be a source of fear. You are exposed and vulnerable—literally naked, at least in part—so there is a certain amount of danger or uncertainty associated with being there. The bathroom is not a place you want to stay longer than necessary to complete the job you came to do. Words to live—or die—by, at least in Japan.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
For more creepy fun, read the original post on Atlas Obscura.