Thursday, October 25, 2018

This Ghost Has No Face

Some years ago, my sister introduced me to a British mini-series with Kristin Scott Thomas. I believe it was called "Body and Soul" but I could be wrong. I didn't watch every episode, and Ms. Scott Thomas did more than one series. At any event, one particular show totally freaked me out because it featured the ghost of a nun -who had no face.

Now, ghosts are scary to me regardless of gender, size, or shape. But that added detail of having nothing where a face should be somehow makes it worse to the Nth degree. And I don't mind telling you that I am writing this in a pool of light surrounded by an otherwise dark house, and I am looking over my shoulder frequently as I type. (The house is not helping: it keeps creaking and popping and shifting and making other weird noises, as is its custom when I write about this kind of thing.)

But back to the theme of faceless ghosts. Since I live in the Chicago area, I am very well-versed in the legend/ghost story of Resurrection Mary. One October I was driving to work listening to the radio, and the topic of that morning's show was none other than Ms. R. Mary. The DJ's were taking calls from listeners and one of the callers told a story about how she, her husband, and another couple had passed a solitary female pedestrian on Archer Avenue, --Mary's usual haunt, for those of you not familiar with the legend-- while they were driving to dinner. It was a wet night, the best condition for seeing Mary, and they grew excited at the idea that they had just come across the famous phantom. The caller went on to relate how as their car passed the lady, she looked out her window and was shocked to see that the woman walking along the road had no face. And then she screamed.

I almost screamed, listening to the story. Seeing Resurrection Mary is one thing; seeing her without her face would put me into a state that would not be pretty to observe.

So I started researching faceless ghosts and found out that Japan has a HUGE tradition of such beings. They are called Noppera-Bo, but from what I can gather, while they are supernatural, they are not necessarily the ghosts of people who also happen to have no faces. Instead, faceless ghosts are a manifestation of a supernatural being called a Mujina. These are actually animal beings whose goal seems to be tormenting people and frightening the bejeesus out of them. There was a whole slew of links to this phenomenon, but most of them centered around a collection of Noppera-Bo stories called The Faceless Ghost and other Macabre Tales from Japan, by Lafcadio Hearn.

Further down the list, however, there was a mention of a faceless nun. I was half-elated and half-horrified. You mean this thing exists outside of that British TV show? It turns out that the Sisters of Providence had one at their St. Mary-of-the-Woods campus, which is about five miles northwest of Terre Haute, Indiana. YIKES. There is an entire article about a particular time when their Foley Hall seemed to be haunted by something, including a nun with no face. The person who wrote the article interviewed one of the sisters who had been present at the time of these sightings. At least three different students had run into her. One complained that the nun always stood between her (the student) and the light, so she could never see what she looked like. But another young woman who had spoken with the sister being interviewed stated flatly that "the nun had no face." 

At the same time as these sightings were happening, there were strange knockings, scratching sounds, and other noises that no one could explain but that terrified those who heard them, both students and sisters. Finally the situation was brought to the attention of the superior general and she arranged for a Mass to be said with the specific intent of calming the supernatural activity. It worked: after the Mass was celebrated, there were no more noises and no more visits by a nun with no face.

The story I read was actually written by a young woman who was a senior at the college and who wrote it up for the campus magazine. It's titled "A Faceless Ghost?" and makes great reading. I'd have included the link here, but I have no idea how to do that! However, if you search for "faceless nun St. Mary-of-the-Woods" that article will come up by title and you will see that the site is the actual web site for the college. Additionally, there are other outside write-ups of the occurrence.

I hope to have Cassie Valentine and Michael Penfield take on a faceless ghost in the near future; we're still working that out as none of us is particularly eager to deal with this. On the other hand, it will hopefully make for great reading.

In the meantime, if you're interested, try searching this subject. I don't want to be the only one having nightmares tonight!

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