Thu, Mar 08, 2018 - Page 13 News List

How a fear of ghosts leads to callous acts

Homeowners are committing all manner of heartless acts to avoid their homes becoming haunted, and this is bearing a direct impact on the housing and insurance market

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff reporter

This mansion and garden residence, known as Silent Park, became stigmatized in 2013 after the death of a high school student at the hands of a cult.

Photo: Chang Tsung-chiu, Taipei Times

There was no chance a man surnamed Lin (林) was allowing paramedics into his home. Although a man lay dying in the alley outside his back door, he demanded that they find another way to save his life. Impossible, they insisted, the fire lane is too cluttered with junk to access him with the longspine board, and he needs immediate medical attention.

Lin was adamant.

“There is no way a dying person is coming into my home,” he shouted, according to Chinese-language media accounts in August of last year. “If that happens, my home will become stigmatized. Deal with it yourself.”

The injured man, surnamed Lo (羅), later died in the hospital.

Liao Ting-shuen (廖廷軒) of the emergency medical services Phoenix Volunteers (鳳凰志工), who was at the scene, wrote on Facebook that if responders didn’t have to spend an additional 20 minutes accessing Lo, there was a “20 percent to 30 percent” chance that he would have lived. In later interviews, Lin said that he didn’t allow Lo into his home because doing so could have caused its value to plummet by NT$10 million.

Lin’s concerns are justified. At the time, he said that he had no idea if Lo, who fell while installing an air conditioner, was dead or alive. Had he died as paramedics brought him through the house, he feared, it would become a xiongzhai (凶宅), or a home that becomes stigmatized because the ghost of the deceased will haunt it.

“If it were your home, would you have let [Lo] in?” Lin later asked reporters.

The case reveals an all-too-common phenomena: homeowners committing callous acts so as to avoid their house becoming haunted, bearing a direct impact on the housing and insurance market and the mass media. The concern has grown rapidly over the past few years with the notable rise in the number of suicides, demographic shifts that see more people renting apartments and the Chinese-language media’s obsession with reporting on the more gruesome and scandalous aspects of murder and suicide. With xiongzhai, ghosts aren’t causing harm, as the Lin and Lo case shows, people are.

Lin Mao-hsien (林茂賢), an ethnographer of Taiwan’s folk religion and an associate professor at National Taichung University of Education’s Department of Taiwanese Languages and Literature, says Taiwanese believe that people should die in their homes of natural causes such as old age.

“If a person dies an unnatural death, particularly a violent one ... their ghost will remain in the place where the person died,” Lin Mao-hsien says.

For Taiwanese, he says, buying a home isn’t only a financial investment, but a familial one — a place where you worship your ancestors and raise your descendants. If a home is occupied by a malicious ghost, ancestors will have no peace — nor will parents and their children.

The ghosts of suicides and murders are particularly menacing: the more gruesome the death, the more malevolent the ghost, the more the price of the home will plummet. Rooming with these ghosts, it is believed, will result in financial failure, health problems and death.

Indeed, the fear of inhabiting these homes is so great that the owner is legally obligated to tell any prospective buyer that an unnatural death has occurred within its walls, virtually guaranteeing that its value will plummet — if it can be sold at all.

Lin Mao-hsien says the only way to rid a xiongzhai of a malevolent spirit is to tear it down.

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