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Author: Becca Vaclavik

The 7 spine-tingling ghost stories in ‘Kaidan+’

An impossible visit from a deceased family member. Unexplainable movement just out of someone’s line of sight. The things that go bump in the night.

Humans have always had a fascination with the paranormal, and many cultures embrace the existence of apparitions. It’s in this spirit (pun intended) that CU Boulder Associate Professor of Theatre Cecilia J. Pang conceived the Department of Theatre & Dance’s Halloween event “Kaidan+: Something Strange and Spectral,” an evening of seven chilling ghost stories from around the world.

“Some of these stories are based on folk tales or urban legends that are believed to have an element of truth to them,” says PhD student Heather Kelley, who co-adapted the works alongside Pang and Associate Chair and Director of Theatre Kevin Rich. “Others are adaptations of literary ghost stories. And certainly, some of these stories might stretch what we tend to think of as what constitutes a ghost or ghost story.”

We sat down with Kelley—whose academic research focuses on dark tourism, haunted attractions, and depictions of the supernatural on stage and on screen—for a spoiler-free talk about the nightmarish inspirations behind “Kaidan+.”

1. The Ghost of Fred Fisher (Australia)

When Pang spoke with colleagues and friends from Australia, multiple people mentioned Fisher’s ghost as the most famous folk tale from down under. The eerie story has inspired films, a festival, and visits to the historic location where one Frederick Fisher was murdered by a neighbor.

Kelley says, “This story is one of the closest to what we in the U.S. think of as a ‘ghost’ story: one where you have an experience that perhaps seems to be normal but only later do you realize that it might have been uncanny.”

2. La Llorona (Central and South America)

“La Llorona,” a sinister story that is perhaps the most famous of the evening, translates to “the weeping woman.” Why does she weep? Because she is forever haunted by the death of her children at her own hand.

3. Particularly Delicious (North America)

In this one, you’ll find yourself asking what you might be willing to do to survive if you were lost in the wilderness? Loosely based on true events, this local legend explores the lengths a person must go to make it out alive.

4. Madam Koi Koi (Africa)

This Nigerian legend of a female teacher with red high heels has haunted boarding schools for decades. Dialogue-free and featuring choreography from MFA student James Hoang Nguyen, audience members will come to dread the sound of Madam Koi Koi’s heels clicking down the hall.

5. The Battle of Killiecrankie (Europe)

Careful where you set up camp… According to locals, a 300-year-old battle in the Scottish Highlands was so bloody, its ghoulish victims still fight for their lives by night.

6. In Amundsen’s Tent (Antarctica)

Adapted from short horror fiction written by John Martin Leahy, “Amundsen’s Tent” follows three explorers to the South Pole, where they stumble upon evidence of the mysterious and gruesome deaths of those who came before them.

“You’ll ask if these three characters can trust what they’re seeing,” says Kelley. “Are they snowblind? Is the incredible loneliness and absolute desolation of this landscape beginning to play tricks on their mind? Or is something supernatural at play?”

7. Yotsuya Kaidan (Asia)

“A common trope with ghost stories is that there is some sort of tragic incident or untimely death that has to be fixed or avenged in some way,” says Kelley. “‘Kaidan’ absolutely features that.”

Arguably the most famous Japanese ghost story of all time, it’s one of spurned lovers, madness and murder.

“Kaidan+” runs Oct. 29-Nov. 7 in the University Theatre. Tickets cost just $22 (and perhaps a night of lost sleep after).