May 12th, 2007

I’ve always felt, since the day I escaped Tianjin, that there’s something a little odd about this area we’ve found ourselves living in, something just a little “off”, subtly abnormal. I could never put my finger on it, though, all I could ever say is that it’s “something in the air” or “strange vibes”.

More concretely, or at least more specifically: I’ve already ranted enough, if not here, then on some previous blog, about how our apartment is in the teaching building. Turns out that’s not so bad. Well, there are plenty of perfectly good apartment blocks around, but still, the school insists on having its own apartments for foreign teachers. The other two apartments are in a small building next to the teaching building, in the same courtyard, with a small garden out front. Sounds good, right? I mean, it’s quiet down there, they don’t have students walking past at all kinds of ungodly hours making noise, and they have a small garden, which is actually quite a pleasant place to sit on a summer afternoon, provided you don’t stay too late: The local blood-sucking insects are tough little buggers that even eat me alive. It’s a rare bug that’ll bite me. Well, apart from in that little garden and the Norwegian forest, it’s rare that bugs will bite me. Anyway, sounds like a much nicer place to live. Until, of course, you walk into the apartments. There’s just something creepy about them, a darkness that is less physical and more spiritual, for want of a better description. lzh always hated those apartments, and flat refused to even consider moving down there when one became available. I’m still jealous of the garden and the quiet those apartments enjoy, but still, there is something creepy about them, so I didn’t force the issue. Anyway, I can still take a cold beer down there when I want to. And one of my colleagues has said that he thinks those apartments are haunted. He told me that while he’s been there, he has “felt” the ghosts there. He says his apartment is ok, the ghosts aren’t angry or anything, it’s just some left over “energy” from a very poor family who were living on that spot some time before, he can sense their misery, but they’re not trying to push it onto others. The other apartment, on the other hand, has a more malevolent kind of haunting. He also says that there’s a particular spot by the “cultural revolution buildings” just up the road that he avoids like the plague. Apparently there’s so much bad energy coming from that spot that he gives it a very wide berth.

Myself, I’ve had a couple of odd dreams about ghosts being in this apartment. In the last one, I dreamed the ghost of a middle-aged women was grabbing a hold of me [why is it suddenly going dark as I write this? Could the clouds please find a less creepy moment to float in front of the sun?] and demanding something. I can’t remember what she was demanding, but she was most insistent, and the most horrible part of the dream was that I could physically feel her digging her talons into me. I woke up so freaked out that I had to get up and look around the apartment just to make sure. Part of me still insisted there was a ghost walking around inside. Of course, there was nothing and nobody, and I lay back down reassured and went back to sleep. And of course, that’s just a dream. Apart from that and a couple of similarly odd, but less terrifying, dreams, there’s been nothing “paranormal” about this apartment. Being on the northern side of the building, it is a bit shady, but we don’t have that same darkness here that the other two apartments “enjoy”, and there’s generally nothing creepy about the place.

And then last night we were walking back from Beiyu. I always like to walk through the Beiyu campus (despite all its faults, Beiyu does have quite a nice campus), across the footbridge to the west gate of our compound, then down a few lanes and round the back of the oil machinery factory to our place. This, however, takes us past the “cultural revolution buildings”. Normally, that’s ok. I’ve never felt creeped out by that area, at least not “spiritually”. On an intellectual level, it is creepy to be walking past buildings in one of the more prosperous, developed, modern parts of downtown Beijing that still have cultural revolution-era slogans painted on them. But that’s about as creepy as I ever found that area. Well, I’m not really sure which part of that area my colleague gives a very wide berth, but judging by his description, I think he might be referring to the campus clinic, and I have to say, I took one look at that place and decided if I was in need of medical attention, I would be most reluctant to seek that attention there, but there are a million possible explanations for my reaction, the most obvious being the generally run-down, ramshackly appearance of the clinic. Anyway, so that area never really bothered me. Until last night, that is.

Last night, as soon as we reached the “cultural revolution buildings” area, I felt a sudden chill. Not a drop in the physical temperature, mind, but a drop in the “spiritual” temperature, if you will. The feeling that ghosts were about and the spirits were very disturbed. I turned to lzh and said something like, “Wow, this really is not a good area”, but she immediately told me to shut up. It seems she doesn’t want to talk about these things for fear of either freaking herself out or “tempting fate”.

Anyway, I can’t really explain what I experienced last night, all I can tell you is what I experienced. And yes, I’m sure there is a perfectly rational, scientific explanation for this kind of thing, trouble is, science has yet to provide such an explanation. I suspect, if any such explanation is to come, it will come from the more extreme edges of physics, the places where scientists deal with anti-matter, dark energy, and other weird stuff. But still, there is no explanation as yet. But what last night’s incident confirms in my mind is that there is something subtly abnormal about this area.

2 Responses to “ghosts”

  1. John Says:

    I wonder whether you’re combining what you sense about the place with your own expectations of it. For example, if you didn’t know about the association of that building with the Cultural Revolution, do you think that it’d make any difference to how you felt about it?

    Do you think you might be picking up on local sensitivities which are coming from people who were around thirty years ago or knew what was happening then? It’d sort of be subconscious rather than something you were actively aware of.

    Although I’m not big on the whole ESP thing, I think that humans do have a knack for sensing things that are covert, especially from other humans. It’s like when you go into a room and can immediately sense the mood, but much more subtle than that.

  2. wangbo Says:

    “I wonder whether you’re combining what you sense about the place with your own expectations of it.”

    An obvious possibility, but I don’t think so, considering how often I walk past there without “incident”. Last night really was the first time I felt anything out of the ordinary there. As for local sensitivities, again no, not last night, because the only other person present was lzh. Apart from last night, the only “creepiness” I’ve felt about that place is the purely intellectual kind I mentioned in the post, regardless of how many other people were present or their feelings about any of the possible issues involved with those buildings or my presence.

    I think “local sensitivities” explain a lot of what I find subtly abnormal about this whole area, but I’ve decided that’s due to the particular nature of this place: We get a lot of migrants passing through: Migrant workers on the construction sites, obviously, but also oil workers and students passing through on various kinds of business, study, and professional development (ugh, I hate that phrase. Reminds me of Changzhou and a certain two clowns who used to mismanage your programme).

    “Although I’m not big on the whole ESP thing, I think that humans do have a knack for sensing things that are covert, especially from other humans.”

    You’re absolutely right there. I think pheromones are one obvious culprit, but this “sixth sense” goes way beyond what pheromones can explain. It’s also interesting to note that the ability to sense these covert things varies greatly from person to person.