I had not thought much about writing ghost stories until a fortune teller told me, several years ago, that I had a negative aura.
We had both been invited to the same gala, but for completely different reasons: she, because geomancy and feng shui were a fashionable trend among the socialites that gathered there; and I, because I’d worked IT for the politician hosting the event and was invited as a courtesy.
She looked exactly like what a fortune teller thinks a fortune teller ought to be. She had a very red wispy shawl that acted more like a cape than anything else, and she jingled every time she moved. She was not Chinese, but wore a cheongsam modified with trailing sleeves. There were also sequins. So many sequins.
I had not asked her to tell my fortune. I was an atheist with a healthy suspicion of prophecy. My only crime was to be seated beside her, at the table furthest away from the stage but right next to the loudspeakers, where the miscellaneous guests no one knew where to place were so often shunted to. In the lull between the jellyfish salad appetizer and the soup course, she turned to me and said, quite matter-of-factly: “I don’t think spirits like you.”
I took offense at that statement. I like ghosts, despite not believing in them. I’ve been an avid fan since childhood. Stephen King was the first ‘adult’ book I’d read at seven, when I’d found a copy of Pet Sematary in my father’s library and erroneously assumed from the cover that it was only a story about a very angry cat. I collected unusually shaped bottles and pretended I was a witch. Ghost stories had dominated my bookshelves since my teenage years. I had the kind of face that people looked at and assumed was gothic by nature, even with the absence of dark lipstick, tattoos, and black clothing. I was voted Most Likely to be Lydia Deetz in school, for crying out loud.
She waved a hand over my head, as if trying to ward something away. I wondered if I was being cursed at this very expensive dinner, and that concern must have been evident on my face because she very quickly explained. “You have a very negative aura,” she said. “The good news is that you will never be bothered by spirits no matter how hard they try. The bad news is that strange things are still going to happen to you, because of their presence alone.”
She then turned to the person beside her, and that was the end of the conversation.
Call it my contrary nature, but I became even more interested in the supernatural after that. And while I still don’t believe in ghosts, she appeared to be right about a lot of things.
Since that party, I’ve been in two explosions; one at a mall I was inside of, and another when a bus exploded half a block away from where I stood – unharmed both times, albeit shaken.
A house I stayed at for a company outing turned out to be allegedly haunted, with everyone but me having had a ghostly experience (blankets being pulled back, figures in mirrors, etc.).
During a trip to Japan, a friend I was sharing a room with claimed something kept grabbing her feet while I was asleep only a few feet away, oblivious to her attempts to wake me.
A work colleague swore she saw a lady in black looking over my shoulder while I worked at my computer one morning, and convinced management to add another person to our cubicle so she wouldn’t have to be alone with me. (Turns out said lady in black had been sighted by other employees in the past, though no one had told my colleague about it before.)
A group of Japanese businessmen who worked on the floor above mine once mistook me for a ghost while I was waiting for the elevator, and the encounter actually inspired me to write The Girl From The Well, which became my first published book.
I’m fairly stubborn in my beliefs, and still think these are either a series of odd coincidences, or that the fortune teller simply made me more aware of experiences I’ve always had but had probably never taken notice of until then.
But it does make for a very cool “what got you into writing horror?” anecdote.
Rin Chupeco wrote obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and did many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fairy tales but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. Find her at rinchupeco.com, instagram.com/rinchupeco, or twitter.com/rinchupeco.