Much more than one century has passed since Edgar Allen Poe, the gifted American writer wrote: “The boundaries between life and death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where one ends and where the other begins?” But his words hold true even today in a variety of contexts that are both mysterious and chilling. For instance, a young woman dressed in a coat climbed into a taxi in the coastal Japanese town of Ishinomaki and told him: “Please go to the Minamihama (district).” The taxi driver pointed out  that the area was “almost empty” and asked her if she was sure that’s where she wanted to go. The woman seemed taken aback and asked in a quavering voice, «Have I died?” The surprised driver turned to look at her but there was  no one in his taxi.

Soon after and even years after the deadly Tohoku tsunami and earthquake of 2011 which took a toll of almost 16000 lives, several taxi drivers in Ishinomaki, where the death toll was more than 3000, underwent similar strange experiences. Another taxi driver picked up a fare, started the meter and asked for the destination, to which the person gave a strange response. In this case to the driver turned around to speak to the person he’d picked up, but the person had vanished. Other such experiences of  “phantom fares” were reported in The Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Besides, Yuka Kudo , a sociology student at Tohoku Gakuin University in Japan interviewed over 100 drivers during her year of research for a thesis and found a number of them describing picking up ghosts after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Seven drivers willingly shared their spooky interaction. One driver said he picked up a young man in his 20’s and asked where he wanted to go. The man kept pointing ahead and repeating “Hiyoriyama” which means mountain. When they got there, the young man had disappeared.

According to Mysteriousuniverse.Org, Kudo heard similar stories from the other drivers, who considered them to be spiritual experiences. “In each case, they verified their stories by showing her records that they had started their meters, which meant they were responsible for collecting a fare … a fare they instead had to pay out of their pockets when the riders vanished. Why would drivers start their meters if they didn’t think the passenger was a real person?”

What did aspiring sociologist Yuka Kudo make of these accounts? “She seems to believe that they were definitely ghosts of young adults who perished in the disaster. Young people feel strongly chagrined [at their deaths] when they cannot meet people they love. As they want to convey their bitterness, they may have chosen taxis, which are like private rooms, as a medium to do so. So Yuka thinks these were ghosts were hoping their taxi ride would cross over a different bridge.” Significantly, out of the more than 3,000 Ishinomaki residents who lost their lives in the tragedy, 70 were students and nine staff members at Ishinomaki Okawa Elementary School. Kudo noted that most of the seven cabbies who agreed to discuss their mysterious experiences observed that the “ghosts” were young in age.

Could it be something besides ghosts? Ishinomaki psychiatrist Keizo Hara provided another take. “We think phenomena like ghost sightings are perhaps a mental projection of the terror and worries associated with those places. It will take time for the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to emerge for many people in temporary housing for whom nothing has changed since the quake.” So the question from Mysteriousuniverse.Org is, did the taxi drivers pick up real ghosts or were they hallucinating from PTSD? Would an Uber driver make a ghost pay surge prices? 

The 2004 tsunami in India in which more than 16,000 people perished in the Andaman and Nicobar islands and along the eastern coast of India also gave rise to several equally gripping paranormal scenarios. Once a week, for many years now, I have been lucky to communicate with and often receive guidance from a being — I call him “Baba” — from the fourth astral plane. From time to time, other souls from the third astral plane also keep in touch. For the next weeks after the tsunami, hard though I tried, I could not link up with any of them.

Initially, I was puzzled. But then it struck me: there must have been a virtual deluge of souls ascending to the astral planes after the tsunami tragedy. When I was able to make contact, the Baba provided though briefly, a fascinating account of what had occurred. With so many souls on the move simultaneously or within a short time of each other, there was a virtual emergency and massive traffic jams above earth and on the highways leading to the astral planes. In a way, there was tragedy up above too because there were not enough “spirit” guides to minister to the souls and lead them to the next world. Released suddenly from their bodies, the tsunami tragedy victims were unable to comprehend the fact that they had died.

The presence of some of their loved ones with them made it harder to accept that they were no longer on earth. Like other victims of sudden death in earthquakes, accidents, etc., the tsunami souls too needed specialised care, but there were not enough “spirit” specialists to cope with the scale at which efforts were required. Neither were astral bodies ready to receive the souls. Gradually, of course, “spirit” volunteers moved in to help the tsunami victims. What made the task of acclimatising these “sudden death” souls to their new state more difficult was the fact that a large number of them were children or mothers who had been separated suddenly from their loved ones.

In fact, the National Geographic had reported that as many as a third of the people who died in the Indian Ocean tsunami were children. In other words, apart from the fact that these souls were severed from their bodies suddenly and unpleasantly, the ‘attachment to earth, parents, loved ones’ factor was very powerful and this is always a strong deterrent to a smooth transition to the other world. It seems very apparent from Yuka Kudo’s research, what my Baba revealed and innumerable recorded instances that dying young makes a transition from earth to the other world that much more difficult.


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