1. Your dead family member appears to you in a dream
I remember watching a Korean TV show, where they would talk about hauntings and encounters with the paranormal. (These types of shows were popular during the summer because it would scare you into feeling chills or something of that sort, and so, you wouldn’t feel hot.) During one of the episodes, they had a family on where they talked about how their grandmother had passed away. The man said that he dreamt that his grandmother was beckoning him over while she was waist-deep in water. For some reason, he didn’t go and he told his wife. His wife explained that going into the arms of a dead person, in water no less, was a sure sign that your soul was going to be stolen. The husband said he kept having the same dream and every time, he was closer and closer to the grandmother, until one day, the family realized that they had kept something of hers. They paid respects to her once more and the dreams stopped.
2. The virgin ghost
Stories of virginal ghosts are everywhere. In Korea, they’re called Cho-nyo-Gwishin (처녀귀신). They’re found in abandoned buildings, especially in hospitals, schools, bathrooms, cemeteries, wooded areas… They almost always have long hair covering their faces, with sullen features, dressed in white garbs. You will supposedly know when you are in the presence of one when you feel a sudden change in temperature, the wind changes direction, and feel sudden chills.
One story that stuck out to me was of a man that lived on the top-most floor of an apartment building. (In Korea, there aren’t any elevators in older apartment buildings, so you would have to walk all the way up, which usually meant that the top-most floor had the cheapest rent, and ones being closest to the ground being the most expensive. I think it’s different now, but don’t quote me on that.) The man woke up one night to someone knocking on the door. He asked who it was and a voice said that he should close his eyes and count to 100 and not make a sound else he will die. He opened the door and there was no one there. Being a superstitious man, he closed his eyes and started to count to 100 in his head. He remained still until he got to 49, and opened his eyes out of curiosity. In front of him was a Cho-nyo-Gwishin staring at him.
3. The haunted bathroom
For some reason, Koreans have a lot of stories about haunted schools and especially haunted school bathrooms. Older Korean schools are definitely eerie. Long hallways with dark stairwells, oftentimes lit half-heartedly with sterile fluorescent lights… Then we come to the bathroom. They are most likely decrepit, old, and dark. One of the stalls, towards the back, is where a girl killed herself and now haunts it. Girls whisper that the toilet flushes by itself and that the door shuts itself with no wind around. Someone says that if you’re alone in the bathroom, you can hear her crying. Someone says that she watches them from the mirror.
Another legend talks of a ghost that emerges from the toilet and asks you if you will use red or blue toilet paper. If you choose red, the ghost will cut you open. If you choose blue, the ghost will suffocate you.
4. Red pen
Red pens, for as long as I can remember, were forbidden in my house. My parents told me that writing one’s name in red means bad luck, or even death. Red ink is used to write the name of the deceased, not the living.
5. Black market organ “donors”
I saw an article passed around from last summer with a screencap of a KaTalk. It described of cab drivers sedating customers, taking their kidney and dumping the unconscious body in the middle of a field. The police have downplayed the issue, explaining that it is all a hoax, but it still remains in the back of our minds.
6. Sesame seed skin cream
This one is new to me, and considering a majority of us have this innate fear of holes in our bodies, this came to be one freaky-ass story. A woman, obsessed with beauty asked a healer for a cream that would keep her skin youthful. The healer suggested that the woman try placing sesame seeds on her body and soaking herself in a bath. Excited, the woman tries this as soon as she gets home. When she doesn’t emerge from the bathroom, her mother knocks on the door. “I’ll be just a minute,” the woman cries out from the bathroom. The mother knocks again. The woman says the same thing. Exasperated, the mother opens the door to see the woman, picking out the sesame seeds that rooted themselves in her pores.
7. Red surgical mask
Plastic surgery is a relatively big thing in Korean culture. The pursuit of beauty and “perfection” is something that almost everyone in society aims for. The story goes like this. A man is sitting in an empty subway car when a tall, thin woman walks in and sits in front of him. Her hair is dark and long. It covers most of her face, but he can see that she has a red surgical mask on. Thinking nothing of it, he leans back and watches the door close. The man notices her eyes and she catches him staring. He smiles at her. She asks the man, “Am I pretty?” Taken back, the man stammers, “Yes.” She takes her mask off, revealing the rest of her face. There was a gash from ear to ear, her gums, teeth and ligaments showing. She screams at the man. “Am I pretty now?” In terror, the man tries to get as far away from the woman as possible. She takes out a scalpel and makes her way to him, when the doors open and the man runs out. Sound familiar? That’s right. It’s very similar to the Japanese urban legend, Kuchisake-onna. Looks like the urban legend made the jump on to the mainland.
8. Cockroach facial mask
A man, plagued with acne, reads an article online about a new way of cleansing his skin. All he needed to do was catch a cockroach before he went to bed and place it on his pillow. Out of desperation, he followed the instructions. He caught a cockroach outside his apartment and placed the insect on his pillow before he went to bed. When he woke up, the cockroach was gone. He ran to the mirror to see that his acne had cleared up overnight. Completely ecstatic, he got dressed and headed to school. The next morning, he felt itching and pain on his face. He took a closer look at his skin and found that his pores had been filled with cockroach eggs.