Ghost busters addicted to ghoulish thrills
This is not something new. It has been common practice in Korea for years to beat the summer heat with ghost tales that make the flesh shiver and hair stand on end.
But for some people exchanging ghost stories in a dark room lit by a candle or watching gruesome and chilling horror flicks such as “The Ring,” or “Fright Night,” isn’t enough to slake their thirst for terror.
Shin Dae-gil, 20, is one such horror buff who refers to himself as a “horrorholic.” He meets once a month with a group of people who share his addiction to the undead and they visit haunted houses.
Shin recently paid a ghoulish visit to an orphanage where a group of children died and an abandoned house that supposedly possesses the ghost of a woman who died a virgin. Graveyards are also a popular place for the group to gather.
“Of course I’m scared when I walk into those buildings,” Shin confessed. “But the thrill that comes from the fear is fun.”
Lee Dong-wook, 28, runs two online communities, www.daum.net/ghostggg and www.daum.net/hyunggabest. Hyungga in Korean means haunted house. Lee organizes visits to sites where she believes the undead like to gather. According to Lee, approximately 1,000 people per year take trips with her to haunted houses.
Most of the people who visit such sites are in their 20s and 30s. “The first haunted site we visited was a graveyard,” Lee said. “But it wasn’t scary enough because the yard was cleaner then we expected.”
Lee said her group then tried caves but they weren’t a good place for fear and dread because there were only bats flying around.
“Haunted houses are the best,” Lee said. “There have been several cases where people actually witnessed ghosts.”
Lee said some of the members seek out areas where large numbers of deaths have taken place.
Yoon Gyeong-joon, 23, runs the online community, www.daum.net/gusin. “Gusin” is a misspelling of gwisin, which means ghost.
Yoon said he started out of pure curiosity, but soon found ghost hunting addictive.
“I loved the sensational feeling of overcoming my fears after taking a trip to haunted houses,” Yoon said. “This feeling kept pulling me in.”
Nam Hae-jeong, 24, says she has participated in group tours to haunted house to release the stress she experiences in daily life.
Experts say fear can be addictive. “People get a sense of pleasure after they experience a dangerous situation because of the endorphins that rush through their body,” said Kim Dae-soo, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. “Since the body needs a stronger stimulus each time to reach the same level of feeling, fear addicts seek stronger forms of horror all the time.”
To experience this phenomenon firsthand, this reporter took a trip to a haunted house with a group of people organized by Shin Dae-gil.
On the night of July 11, five of us traveled to a haunted house in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Gyeonggi.
“Haunted houses that have had many visits from people are not really scary since most of the ghosts either leave the site or their spirits become weak,” Shin said during the journey. “The place we are going tonight is a place that we have recently discovered. It could be really scary and you all need to hold onto yourselves.”
As we drove, heavy rain hammered on the car windshield. It was almost midnight.
“The place where we’re going was flooded in 1998 and the building, which is an orphanage, was completely submerged,” Shin said. “Several handicapped people and many children drowned.”
“Is that really true,” asked one of the people traveling in the group. We all felt a chill run down our spines as Shin told the story of the unfortunate children.
After an hour the car stopped at the entrance to an alley. A white building stood alone in a pitch-black neighborhood. The steel gate made a squeaking noise and the grass was uncut.
Shin laid down some ground rules before entering the building. First, we were not allowed to make loud noises as they could surprise the ghost. Second, we should not go to corners where there the vibe felt bad.
The last rule was that we should not move any objects in the room or take them as souvenirs.
After Shin had laid down the rules a member of the group who had arrived before us offered some frightening news. “The people in the village said a man hanged himself here a few days ago. We should be extra careful tonight.”
The rain fell harder and even in our raincoats, we still got wet. “It probably rained like this on the night those children died,” said one member of the group and fear started to creep through us, although nobody wanted to turn back.
Kim Hyeong-ju, 24, who has made several trips to haunted houses, was the first person to enter the creepy site as each person was to enter the building alone.
However, I accompanied Seo Hwa-jeong, 23, who said she was too scared to enter without an escort.
To increase the thrill, each person had a mission to complete. Seo’s was to sign her name in red pen on a mirror. Slowly, people entered the building carrying a small candle.
When we entered the building, we found ourselves stepping on broken glass. This increased our fears and ensured that every step increased the level of our anxiety.
Along the corridor there were ten rooms in a row. When I illuminated a calendar that hung on the wall I saw that it was from October 1998. The chill spread down my spine. On the floor were a baseball and ping pong racquet. They were probably the toys that the children had been playing with before the water rushed in and took their lives.
In the next room were broken chairs and a desk that were still as they had been since the flood.
We were searching for the mirror, which couldn’t be found, and we wanted to get out as soon as possible. When our fear reached its pinnacle, we didn’t scream. Instead, our breathing became heavy.
It looked as though something or someone would jump out of a half-open closet sitting in the corner of a room.
Seo suddenly found the mirror and with her eyes shut tight, quickly scribbled her name on it.
We ran out as fast as we cold while holding our mouths shut tight, fearing a scream would only make the situation scarier than it was already.
Those who had already finished their mission were waiting outside.
“It was scary, wasn’t it,” said one member of the group. “It was really heart-stopping,” said another. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack when water from the ceiling dropped on my arm.”
By the time everyone was out of the building, the rain had stopped.
No one could stop talking although the fear that consumed us when we were in the building had dissolved now that we were outside again.
“Last year a Buddhist monk that came with us said there was a young child looking down at us from the top of a wall closet, did anyone see him?” asked one of the group’s members. Another said the rooms on the right- hand side of the corridor were not too frightening but those on the left-hand side had a chilling vibe.
“I couldn’t go in those rooms,” said another.
When the members were asked if they would visit another haunted house, some vigorously shook their heads and said no.
But those with more experience than others said the scarier the haunted site, the more they would want to go.
By Kim Han-byeol JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]