A Corpse Turns
The incident related in this account is also recorded in the local annals of Yangxin County.
A certain old man of Yangxin was a native of Caidian, a village of that county. The village lies about two miles from the town, and he and his son opened a roadside inn there for travelling salesmen. A number of carters who transported goods for resale often stayed at his home.
One day at dusk, four men came in a group looking for a place to stay. However, the old man’s guestrooms were full. Having nowhere else to go, the four men begged him for accommodation. The old man racked his brains and thought of a place, but seemed afraid it wouldn’t be acceptable. The four said, “We’re just looking for a roof over our heads – we wouldn’t dream of being fussy.”
At that time, the old man’s daughter-in-law had just died and the corpse was being kept in a hut. The son had gone to buy a coffin and hadn’t yet returned. The house the old man was using to store the body was deserted, so he led the guests there along a lane. They entered the hut – a lamp was burning dimly on the table. A curtain hung behind the table, and a paper sheet covered the departed. They then inspected their sleeping place, which turned out to be a connecting room with a line of couches.
The four guests were tired out from rushing around and as soon as their heads hit their pillows, they started to snore. Only one was still nodding off when he suddenly heard a rustling sound coming from the bier – his eyes flicked open, and by the light of the lamp before the dead body, he could see quite clearly: the woman’s corpse had lifted up the paper sheet.
In a moment she was out of bed and slowly entering the guests’ room. Her face was a pale yellow, her forehead bound with raw silk. She bowed her face close to the beds and blew on the three sleeping guests one by one. Terrified, afraid that he was next, the guest stealthily pulled the quilt up over his head, held his breath and listened.
Sure enough the woman soon came over and blew on him as she had on the others. He sensed that she had left the room then heard the sound of the paper sheet. Peeping out, he saw her lying stiff like before. Absolutely petrified, not daring to make a sound, he silently kicked the others; but they didn’t move a muscle. At his wits’ end, he decided to get dressed and flee. He’d just picked up his clothes when the rustling sound came again. The guest panicked, lay flat again and buried his head in the quilt. He felt the woman come once more, blow on him repeatedly then leave.
Soon he heard the bier creak and knew that she had lain down again. So, slowly he stretched out his hand from the end of the quilt and grabbed his trousers, hurriedly pulled them on and rushed out barefoot. The corpse also got up, apparently to chase the guest. By the time she had parted the bed-curtain, the guest had already drawn the bolt and gone. The corpse sprinted after him.
The guest screamed as he ran, but none of the villagers woke up. He thought about knocking on the landlord’s door, but fearing that there wasn’t enough time, looked instead for the road to town and fled along it as fast as he could. Reaching the eastern outskirts, he caught sight of a temple and heard the sound of chanting, so he banged desperately on the gate. The priest was badly startled and wouldn’t let him in at first. In an instant, the corpse was upon him, only a foot away. His predicament was dire.
Outside the gate there was a white poplar about four or five feet around, so he used the tree as a barrier – if she came from the right, he went left; if she came from the left, he went right. The corpse got more and more angry. Gradually both of them tired. The corpse stopped and stood there. Sweating and panting, the guest sheltered against the tree. Suddenly the corpse flared up, stretched both her arms around the tree and threw herself at him. The guest toppled over in shock. The corpse clutched at him, missed, grabbed the tree and went stiff.
The priest had been secretly listening for some time, and when the sound stopped, he tentatively came out to find the guest lying on the ground. By candlelight he seemed dead, but his chest still showed traces of movement. The priest carried him inside and when morning came he revived. The priest gave him some hot water to drink then questioned him, and the guest described everything to him. By this time, the morning bells had already chimed and the dawn sky was brightening, so the priest looked at the tree and saw there really was a woman stiff upon it. Astounded, he notified the county warden.
The warden came in person to investigate. He ordered his men to pull out the woman’s hands, but they were stuck fast. Carefully examining them, he found her four fingers on both left and right hands bent like hooks, the fingernails sunk into the tree. Again several men pulled hard and this time managed to drag her down. They saw the finger marks were like chisel holes.
A runner was dispatched to the old man’s house, which was in absolute uproar due to the missing corpse and the dead guests. The runner informed them what had happened. The old man immediately went with him to carry the corpse back.
The guest told the warden in tears, “Four of us set out, now only one returns – how will anyone in the village believe this?”
The warden gave him a certificate and sent him home with money for his expenses.