TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan's Ghost Month (鬼月), observed in the 7th month of the lunar calendar, is once again here, this year running from Aug. 1 to Aug. 29, and Taiwan News has created a list of 10 creepy taboos to duck during this month in Taiwan.
Taiwan's Ghost Month is when Taoists and Buddhists believe that the gates of hell are opened for "hungry ghosts" to roam the world of the living in search of food, money, entertainment, and possibly souls. A "hungry ghost" is a being that has been sent to the underworld to suffer an eternal state of hunger for their misdeeds or for not having a proper burial.
The terms "Good Brothers" (好兄弟) and "Good Sisters" (好姐妹) are considered the preferable terms to politely refer to lost souls, as opposed to "ghosts," to avoid offending them. These apparitions are not worshiped by anyone as ancestors and can vary from pitiful to dangerous.
The following are the top 10 tips on how to avoid committing a phantasmic faux pas during Ghost Month in Taiwan:
10. Don't call a friend by their full name in shady, desolate places
Crematoriums, graves, crypts, execution grounds, and other desolate places have particularly strong Yin energy. It is best not to go to such places at all, but if you must go, then remember not to call friends by their full name. Instead, use nicknames or aliases so as not to be followed by Good Brothers.
9. Don't hang lanterns
On Ghost Festival (普度) day, the 15th day of Ghost Month, lanterns are lit on temples to guide lost souls to come and gather, rest, and enjoy the rich offerings left by people. If one hangs lanterns on the doorway or balcony of their house in the 7th month of the lunar calendar, Good Brothers think that they are calling for them, especially white lanterns.
8. Avoid dampness in one's home
According to folk beliefs, Good Brothers like dark, damp places. Feng shui expert Hsieh Yuan-chin (謝沅瑾) suggests installing three-inch high-intensity halogen bulbs to lower dampness and brighten up the home.
7. Don't go near dangerous coastal areas or streams
Although many say it is dangerous to swim at all during Ghost Month, a more nuanced version of the superstition is that one should avoid dangerous coastal areas and streams.
It is said that water ghosts like to find someone to replace them. From a common-sense standpoint, it is probably prudent to avoid places such as Mystery Beach in Nan'ao Township, Yilan County when typhoons approach and mountain streams when afternoon thunderstorms are frequent during this time of year.
6. Don't go fishing
Do not engage in fishing activities because it is considered a kind of killing. It is said that doing so will lure in evil spirits.
5. Avoid going into the wilderness at night
There are believed to be many spirits in the forest at night. If a person's Eight Characters (八字) horoscope (four pairs, including year, month, day, and hour of a person's birth) horoscope is "too light" (太輕) it will be easy for them to be influenced by spirits, so they may encounter ghosts more easily and be put under their spell.
4. Don't hold an umbrella indoors
The umbrella is traditionally used to collect souls and is also a typical hiding place for ghosts. If one holds an umbrella in the house, Good Brothers are liable to be attracted to hide underneath.
3. Avoid taking the last bus at all cost
Midnight during Ghost Month is Yin energy is at its strongest. Do not take the last bus or other modes of mass transit to avoid a Good Brother joining in on the journey home.
2. Knock on the door when entering a hotel room, step in sideways
Knock on the door before entering a hotel room for the first time. After knocking, enter the room sideways to avoid a head-on collision with a Good Brother.
1. Don't arrange shoes in a doorway, next to a bed, or facing a bed
Seeing the shoes in the doorway will inform the Good Brother how many people are in the room. The direction of the shoes indicates where they are. If the shoes are pointed toward the bed, the ghost will hop in too. This could lead to a situation of being pinned to the bed by a ghost (鬼壓床).
Spooky footage of little girl dressed in red spotted in 1998. (Screenshot from EBC News)