Ghosts stories are nothing new in my family, so let's go farther afield, shall we?
The other week at my sister's family dinner, the subject of ghosts came up. Then my maternal uncle got to talking about stories he had heard at his grandfather's knee when still a little boy, back in the Philippines. Anyone who has ever read anything about my ancestral country knows that it has its own particular brand of strange.
For instance, the paranormal reality show (and no, for me that is not an oxymoron) Destination Truth once did a piece on the hanging coffins of Baguio, a mountainous area in the Philippines. No fooling. The people up in that neck of the woods bury their dead by placing them in coffins and then hanging them in stacks from the roofs of very remote caves located beneath the island. The investigators on the show got some interesting EVP's on their recorders and also had some experiences with the wrath of the spirits that guard the area.
And then there was the mananangal attack that actually made international news back in the '90s. I remember that because my supervisor at the time asked me if I believed in the creature. Up until that point, I had never even heard of it, so she showed me the news article. The mananangal is an unearthly beast that passes itself off as a beautiful woman during the day, but at night becomes a flying blood-sucker that attacks pregnant women. As if that isn't bad enough, it also separates itself from its legs when it goes out on these nightly sorties, so the horrified mother-to-be has the added nastiness factor of being attacked by the top half of the monster.
I kid you not, this was actually in a Chicago-area newspaper. Apparently an entire village was under attack and there had been numerous assaults by this creature. I never did find out if they caught it. I guess American newspapers can only go so far when including stories of unheard-of monsters from far-away places.
That aside, my uncle told me a tale about a monster in his own village. Bottom line: this thing is a shape-shifter. It looks human, can shift into the form of an animal, and can also slip under locked doors in the form of a mist. And it, too, likes to prey upon pregnant women.
When my uncle was a boy, such an attack happened on a woman in his village. The men of the village missed the man-beast at the hut and set out to hunt him down. Apparently, according to my uncle, they were able to catch the critter when he disappeared into some trees (mind you, this is in the dead of night and we're talking remote here, so finding someone who slips into the jungle isn't easy). The beast changed itself into animal form, this time as a pig, but made the mistake of leaving his shoes on, so he was captured. How many pigs wear shoes, right? They put him in the village jail but when they came to find him in the morning, the cell was locked and empty. So that must have been due to the mist thing.
The whole story, on the surface, sounds pretty funny, I grant that. Sitting in the evening, though, listening to a man, an engineer by profession though now retired, tell this tale with the fervency of belief, will shake one's reality if just for a moment.
A paternal aunt of mine in the Philippines keeps inviting me to come over for a visit. She says she has knowledge of an island that is teeming with supernatural phenomena and would love to take me there to explore. Maternal uncle, paternal aunt - I get this from both sides of my family!
So now I wonder: could my writing career ever make me enough so that I can take the trip and then write it off as research? But then I also wonder, do I really want to come up against a mananangal or a shape-shifter?