On the lighter side: Things to avoid in Ghost Month (July 21-Aug. 1)
The seventh month on the lunar calendar began on July 27, marking in Chinese tradition the opening of the gates of the underworld to let spirits loose for a month of paranormal visits to the living.
There are a number of things that most people avoid doing at this time, including not bringing your laundry overnight (for fear of ghosts wearing it while it dries) and not whistling in the dark.
The United Daily News on July 28 conducted an online poll to solicit the 10 best pieces of advice during the lunar month, which runs through August 24.
10: Don't hang your clothes to dry at night.
Clothes driers are rare in Taiwan, so many people hang their laundry on clotheslines to dry. But during ghost month, this could lead wandering spirits to mistake the clothes for living people whom they are free to posses. Nobody wants a pair of haunted jeans.
9: Don't lean or walk against walls.
Ghosts prefer walking along walls, where it is cooler (because apparently the sticky summer heat bothers them, too). Don't get in their way or you'll regret it.
8: Keep away from water.
This is one of the longest running and best known "rules" of conduct for Ghost Month. Probably the dumbest thing that could possibly be done is playing a game of "Marco Polo" or swimming at night in the rain; the person calling "Polo" may end up not being a person at all.
7: If someone calls your name or taps you on the shoulder at night... Keep walking.
Traditionally speaking, having your name called or being patted puts a damper on your "internal fire," making it easier for spirits to torment you. (But if it's your mother or husband or a police officer calling your name, you should be polite about it!)
6: No whistling or tapping of any kind.
Spirits will get the wrong idea and think you're asking them to come visit. Of course, it's also just common courtesy not to wake people up by wandering around in the middle of the night whistling your favorite tune.
5: Don't buy a home. Don't even look for homes.
Avoid the temptation of special sales during this month, no matter how tempting they may be in Taiwan's insane real estate market. You don't want to end up stuck making payments on a haunted house and inadvertently gaining an invisible roommate (who won't even help pay the bills).
4: Try not to take the last bus home.
Or train, or metro car, or whatever. The last trip is usually right around when the grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize.
3: Be careful of being made a spectral "substitute."
Nobody likes to stay dead. Many ghosts look for sacrificial victims for what's called "zhua jiao ti" -- literally, catching a substitute.
It's said that if they remove someone from the land of the living, they get a chance at reincarnation. Many believe that car crashes and other unfortunate accidents that happen during ghost months are anything but accidental, so stay alert even in mundane, everyday activities.
2: Keep away from hospitals.
This one's pretty self explanatory, but obviously exceptions are made for people who are feeling under the weather. Always seek medical attention if needed.
1: No pictures, please.
Web users agree: Just don't take photos outside at night. If some uninvited creepy company happens to wander into your pictures, it could be bad luck. You're also guaranteed to scare yourself by overthinking the significance of a shadow or reflection or the glow in your cat's eyes.
(By Wesley Holzer)ENDITEM/jc
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