Sunday, February 7, 2016

Ghost Riders

Here's a collection of odd paranormal stories out of Japan. Apparently, in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan that killed nearly sixteen thousand people, cab drivers in the coastal town of Ishinomaki reported picking up ghostly passengers, who interacted and rode with them for awhile, but then vanished into thin air. According to the article, the stories were documented by Yuka Kuda, a student at a nearby university, for her graduate thesis in sociology.

Every week in her junior year, Yuka headed to Ishinomaki. She hopped into waiting cabs and asked the drivers, “Did you have any unusual experiences after the disaster?” Most of the 100 she asked ignored her question, some got angry, but seven talked of ghost passengers they picked up shortly after the tsunami. Their stories are both eerie and heart-wrenching.

One driver said he picked up a woman in a coat in early summer, several months after the tsunami. “Please go to the Minamihama (district),” the woman said. He told her the area was empty — it had been devastated by the tsunami. Then, she asked a very strange question in a shaking voice. “Have I died?” The question was enough to make the driver turn to look in the back seat, but no one was there.

Another driver spoke of a man possibly in his 20s who climbed into his cab. He spied the stranger through the rear-view mirror, pointing forward. He asked the man for his destination and the ghost passenger said “Hiyoriyama,” which means mountain. When they arrived, the man vanished.

Are these stories just illusions? Perhaps, but Kudo makes an interesting point that weakens this explanation. All who talked about ghost passengers started their meters once the riders enter their cab. The meter is recorded. And when the ghost passengers disappeared, they had to pay their fares. Some of the seven who spoke to Yuka had recorded the experience in their logs, and one had a report that proved his unpaid fare.

Now it is true that memories can be fallible, especially following a massive tragedy like the tsunami, and Inquisitr is not always the most reliable news source. At the same time, though, ghost rider stories are a staple of urban legends and rate just below haunted houses in terms of frequency. Some ghost riders, such as Chicago's Resurrection Mary, even appear to multiple people over spans of many years.

I've been fascinated by stories like these since I was a kid, and one of the main reasons is that unlike the ghosts observed during a lot of hauntings, these "phantom passengers" seem to be entire physical until they vanish. I imagine that a phantom cab passenger must at the very least be able to open the door and get in the car, and Resurrection Mary supposedly went out dancing with a man who picked her up on the side of the road before vanishing. During that whole time, he had no idea that she was a ghost.

With what I know about magick and spirits and so forth, stories like these seem more farfetched than the "presences," odd electrical effects, and so forth found in a lot of hauntings. I do think that ghosts likely look a lot more solid to people than what can be seen in photographs of them, as there are a number of cases where people reported that the ghost they saw didn't look particularly unusual, but a photograph shows something more like a translucent ball of light.

I personally never have encountered a spirit taking on a form that would allow it to pass for a flesh-and-blood person. At the same, that doesn't necessarily mean that no such thing exists. Furthermore, if we could ever experimentally document such a spirit manifestation, the game would basically be up. It would provide such strong evidence of paranormal phenomena that even the most dedicated skeptic would have a hard time explaining it away.

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