Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Scents Of Ghosts (鬼魂的气味)

Do spirits have scents? Yes. They do.

For those folks who like to venture into tropical jungle in Malaysia, at times they would be able to smell very fragrant smell. The experienced ones would advise new comers just to keep quiet as some spirits might be lurking around. Local Malays believe that a pontianak (female vampire) carries the scent of ‘sundal malam’ or polyanthus lily (夜来香). However, not all spirits are fragrant. The spirit of a person died in fire could carry the scent of burnt meat while a drowned ghost would carry the smell of mud if it died in a river, and if a drowned ghost is from sea; then it will have the scent of salt water.

Normally speaking, an ordinary ghost would have the scent of smelly socks, salted fish and shrimp paste. A friend of mine, Aunt Fiona who migrated to Toronto, Canada and then returned to Hong Kong a few years later told me her side of the discovery.

Aunt Fiona bought a second hand house in Toronto and moved in to the house happily. A few weeks later, her family members were being disturbed by a series of ghostly knockings on their room doors at night. When they opened the room doors, there was no one to be found. Slowly Aunt Fiona started to experience hag-ride at night. She knew when the hag-ride will take place as she could smell the odour of smelly socks approached her and at the same time, Fiona could feel her bed rocked as if a boat was sailing in choppy sea. Strangely speaking, her hubby couldn’t feel anything at all. Then Fiona felt her body was bound by some invisible force which could last throughout the night.

Gradually, Aunt Fiona started to see things normally when she was alone. According to Fiona, at first she saw the ghostly apparition of an old Englishwoman shouting at her and asking her to get out of the house. Then Aunt Fiona saw the figure of an old Englishman sitting in the living room sofa. As per norm, the materialisation of the ghostly couple would be preceded by the scent of smelly socks. Aunt Fiona has kept her secret for a long time for she didn’t want to cause her household to panic.

One day, she took the opportunity to return to Hong Kong to visit her relatives. She told her relatives about her ordeal with these foreign ghostly couple, and her relatives introduced a Taoist master whom she later brought to Toronto to perform an exorcism ritual.

The master followed Aunt Fiona to her Toronto house and he invoked his patron god to possess him. After some chanting and headshaking activities, the now possessed master said: “I cannot exorcise these two ghosts out because they were the original owners of the house.”

Fiona panicked and said hysterically: “Well, they certainly can’t stay with me!”

The master shook his head again and after a while he spoken: “I can only chase them to stay in your garage for now, if they disturb you again; then I shall do something…”

Without waiting for Aunt Fiona’s consent, the master in a trance started to dance and wielding his peach wood sword and pointed the sword towards the garage. After a while the master told Fiona to set up a tablet inscribed with the words ‘nobody’ (无名氏) as a means for the ghostly couple to stay put. After the ritual, Fiona paid the master a hefty sum including a return ticket to Hong Kong.

Aunt Fiona did enjoy about two weeks’ peace of mind until one day, she started to smell the odour of stinky socks again. She knew the ghostly couple had broken loose again. This time Aunt Fiona decided not to bother about the ghosts and went on with her daily life. Her nightmare was officially over when her hubby had to return to Hong Kong to take care of his new business. Aunt Fiona’s house was then sold to another Hong Kong migrant.

One year later, the new owner returned to Hong Kong for some business; he met Aunt Fiona. They chatted casually for a while and the new owner suddenly said: “I could swear there was a dead mouse or something like that in that house for I always smell the scent of rotten meat!”


  1. Master Liew,
    Do you have any idea what the smell of rotten wood indicates?

    1. Hi Richard,
      The scent of rotten wood can mean many things depending where the smell is found. If the smell is in a house, then it maybe the place is too wet and not enough ventilation. If the environment is also dark and enclosed, then during certain time; spirit may present also.

      However, if the rotten wood scent is in a forest, then this may be the presence of some kind of 'corpse flower'. And, tropical forest is always warm and camp anyway.

    2. Master Liew,
      Thank you for the reply!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.