According to ghost stories in Japan there are spirits everywhere, even in the strangest of places.
Believe it or not school bathrooms there are especially well known to be haunted and a trip to the bathroom can put you in contact with a whole slew of spooky characters, most that will get in your face if you have the misfortune of walking into their territory.
But the most famous of all the school ghosts usually won’t appear unless you actually summon her. Her name is Hanako-San and many people can’t resist trying to make her appear no matter what the consequences…
The third stall in the girl’s bathroom, it always seems to have a crudely scrawled ‘out of order’ sign taped to it no matter how many times it’s been taken down. Walking by the other day it sounded like someone was in there talking to themselves even though no feet could be seen under the stall.
There’s something about that bathroom too, the lights are always turning off on their own. And more than a few people have reported the sound of doors opening and slamming shut as they walked away from the empty bathroom.
In Japan these are the tell-tale signs that a disturbed ghost named Hanako-San has taken up residence in the school. Once word gets around then the dares will start up: who’s brave enough to go to the third stall and try to summon her?
Some people will hang back and encourage others, while some will say they’ll do it but then chicken out at the last moment. Others, however, are very good at seeming confident. They’ll stride right up the door (usually with a group of giggling girls in tow) and begin the ritual to summon Hanako-San.
YES, I AM HERE
It’s quite a simple thing really, all you have to do is stand very close to the door of the third stall, knock three times, and ask “Are you there Hanako-San?”
Afterwards there’s always a stretch of silence which seems to last forever. Right around this time everybody else will tend to run out of the bathroom and abandon the poor person to their fate, alone. Then if Hanako-San is really there she will answer in a slow whisper “Yes, I am here.”
According to the legend of Hanako-San what happens next will vary depending on what school you’re in. Sometimes a hand will bust through the door and drag the person into the stall and kill them. Usually though after the pause the stall door will open just a slight bit. Then if the person is brave enough they will be able to push the door open, revealing Hanako-San herself.
Hanako-San is described as having very pale, white skin and as always wearing a red skirt. Her hair is short and black, done in an old fashioned style. It’s obvious that she’s a girl of school age, but it’s not known why she will harm some people and not others. Sometimes she’s said to even protect kids who are being bullied by classmates or are having problems with other ghosts.
Clues to her very varied behavior might be found in her history but that’s something that’s hotly contested.
THE LIFE OF HANAKO-SAN
The stories of how Hanako-San became a ghost vary depending on who you ask and what part of Japan you’re in. One story says that she was a girl who lived during the time of World War II. She was playing hide and seek in her school one day and hid in the third stall of the girl’s bathroom. However while she was crouched and waiting in the stall some planes came and bombed the area, causing that part of the school to collapse on her.
Another says she was a victim of ongoing bullying (called ‘ijime’ in Japan) by her classmates. One day the bullying got particularly bad and she ran into the third stall of the bathroom to try and get away. The other kids came and banged on the door to try to force her to come out, but she had locked the door and they eventually left. Later that evening some school staff members found Hanako-San dead in that same stall, she just couldn’t take it anymore and had committed suicide right there.
A third story is a little more mysterious. It says simply that Hanako-San fell out of the window of the school library. It implies that her fall was an accident, but doesn’t give enough details for us to know for sure or even why she ended up in the third stall of the bathroom. It doesn’t make much sense to me at all, but the fact that the story has been told for generations of people has got to mean something.
Though we may not know what the “true” history of Hanako-San is she certainly makes for an interesting ghost story. I know that if I had lived in Japan as a kid I wouldn’t have been able to resist trying to summon her. Not because I’d actually want to see her (actually that would be terrifying), but because I would have wanted to know what her real story was :).
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