The final entry in my month-long celebration of all things Halloween
The big night is finally upon us and that means my last Halloween-themed blog. I’ve always enjoyed reading about “real-life” stories of the supernatural so I thought it’d be a fitting way to end my series with a quick sampling of a few paranormal happenings from Japan—a country that definitely loves its ghost stories. Happy Halloween! Wishing everyone a fun and safe time! Don’t forget to submit photos of your costumes. Info here.
People who allegedly possess psychic abilities have claimed to be able to do a number of amazing things from peering into the future to being able to heal diseases with a touch. But one of the more interesting skills is that of nensha which is the ability to project thought images onto undeveloped photographic dry plates. In other words, the person thinks of an image and it appears “magically” on a photograph. In the early 20th century, a number of Japanese psychics claimed to be able to do this and a cottage industry of sorts was born. Many of these people were exposed as frauds and even committed suicide, but one such psychic who couldn’t be so easily dismissed was Mita Koichi.
Born in Miyagi Prefecture in 1885, Mita started exhibiting psychic abilities, especially clairvoyance at an early age. At the age of 23, he founded Seishin Shuyodan (“Spirit Training Group”), a new religious sect. Through his sect, he traveled across Japan displaying his psychic powers.
After reading about nensha in 1914, Mita started experimenting with it. On October 16, 1916, he demonstrated his new skills in front of 2,000 people gathered in Gifu Prefecture. By all accounts, he successfully projected images of everything from an image of Ogaki Castle and various Japanese kanji characters onto the photographic plates. Mita continued to display his talents in front of audiences ranging from 3,000 to 3,600 people and though never exposed as a fraud, some people remained skeptical. So he decided to project an image onto a plate that not only he, but no one else on earth at the time, could have seen. He was going to project an image of the dark side of the moon.
On June 24, 1931, Mita successfully projected images of what he claimed to be the dark side of the moon onto two plates. Of course, there was no way to verify the accuracy of these pictures then. But after the first space photos of the dark side of the moon were taken in 1959, Dr. Goto Motoki, who was the president of Japan’s Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, studied Mita’s images and declared they were completely similar to the real photos shot from space.
THE HAUNTED TREE
In Gifu Prefecture in central Japan, there is a famous persimmon tree at the Fukugenji temple in the town of Yoro that the locals consider unique. They believe that human hair grows out of the tree. Many supernatural occurrences are said to take place at the temple and today no monks live there—all of them having been frightened away by unexplained phenomenon.
The persimmon tree is located in the cemetery behind the temple and is considered the source of the temple’s hauntings. At night, the tree is often said to be engulfed by an eerie blue light and if you burn the branches that contain the human hair, it’s supposed to actually smell like real burning hair. Although to try to do anything harmful to the tree is believed to bring bad luck. According to the locals, everyone who has tried to remove the hair from the tree or even pick its fruit have soon died from mysterious “accidents.”
Legend says that in the 17th century, a young samurai was killed trying to avenge his father and his body buried on the spot where the tree is now. It is thought that his strong desire for vengeance was passed onto the tree, which absorbed the nutrients from his body and started growing hair. Even though a professor at Tokyo Agricultural University is said to have studied the tree and declared the hair a plant that only resembles human hair, locals remain unconvinced and continue to avoid the tree.
THE POSSESSED DOLL AND MORE SUPERNATURAL HAIR
Stories of spirits possessing dolls can be found in many cultures including Japan. The Mannenji temple in Hokkaido houses the “Okiku Doll,” a 30-centimeter tall Japanese doll that belonged to a girl named Okiku. When the doll was first brought to the temple, its hair was cropped. But it’s been reported that its hair has been growing. At one point, it gained 25 additional centimeters; reaching down to the doll’s knees. March 21 has been designated hair-cleaning day and every year on that date, the monks trim its hair but it continues to grow back.
The story goes that a boy named Suzuki Eikichi bought the doll in 1918 for his two-year old sister Okiku. But the following year, Okiku suddenly died. The family placed the doll on their altar and prayed to it everyday in memory of their late daughter. Over time, they noticed the doll’s hair was actually growing. The family gave the doll to the temple and people believe the dead girl’s spirit resides in it. Supposedly, the doll was examined by scientists and they concluded the hair was actually human.