Burmese ghost stories: an incident in Mayanigone
Everyone from a certain age remembers the events of 1988. The focal point of the action was the then capital Rangoon, where it is estimated that several hundred people, including many students, lost their lives. It didn’t take long for rumours to surface that the victims had turned into ghosts – which didn’t come as a surprise. For a long time the gossiping had been meandering along but then in 1998, exactly ten years after the popular uprising, a huge wave of whispered campaign (ko: la hala.) arose again. The spirits of the dead made themselves felt to remind the people of their martyrdom! The area around Myaynigone, not far from the Shwedagon Pagoda, seemed to have been a hotspot of paranormal activity. In 1988 there had been a massacre of students in the vicinity and exactly at this place the spirits ran riot ten years later! Significantly, a whole series of – sometimes contradictory – stories was in circulation. Everyone had their own version, so to speak. The story also featured in Lindsey MERRISON’s film ‘Friends in High Places’ which deals with superstition in Burma. According to the film, TV sets in some of the neighbourhood’s electronic shops suddenly exploded and blood gushed out on the tenth anniversary of the massacre. According to rumour the police confiscated all the TV sets. I wasn’t able to find out if that was true or not.
At the centre of a similar story was a boy who lived there with his parents. He was playing in the street with his friends that day and suddenly got thirsty. So he ran up to his parents’ apartment on the first floor and drew a glass of water from the tap. Just then his friends called from downstairs and he went to the window. And as children are, he put the glass of water on the kitchen table and ran downstairs without drinking it. After a while he got thirsty again and went back upstairs to quench his thirst. As he put the glass to his lips, he saw at the last moment that the water had turned red. He sniffed and found that instead of water, there was blood in it! Yes, blood! He screamed in terror and his mother came running, thinking that he was injured. She got a terrible shock. Her mind was racing and then she poured the liquid down the sink! And told her son in the strongest possible terms not to tell anyone a single word about the incident. The frightened boy promised it and thus the matter could have found a happy ending. But it didn’t: When the boy came into the living room a little later, where his parents were watching TV, there was a terrible bang and the TV exploded. And then blood oozed out of the device! The parents got scared and called the police. After a few minutes several patrol cars arrived, looked at the scene and shortly afterwards a large police force evacuated the entire block!
This seems to hold some truth as it was also confirmed by some foreigners who wanted to change money at Ma Khin Aye’s famous shop and found the area cordoned off.
However, Myaynigone Junction seems to be especially appealing to ghosts. On May 7, 2005, a series of simultaneous bombings took place in Yangon: Bombs went off at the City Mart on 8 Mile, at the Dagon Center and at a Thai fair in Pazundaung. A number of people lost their lives and, of course, speculation ran rampant: Had the government itself planted the bombs? Or was it the revenge of the deposed supporters of the head of the secret service, Khin Nyunt, who had been thrown into prison? Or was a rebel group behind the attack? Everyone seemed to have had their own version… Anyway, when I was taking a cab home some time later, my cab driver told me that shortly after the attacks, he picked up two young women who were going to the Dagon Center. “But that’s closed because of the bombings!” he said. “We just want to look for our arms there!” replied one of the women and only then did the driver see in horror that they had no arms and were in fact ghosts! Numerous images of ghosts killed in the attack circulated on the internet!