Ghosts And Buying Property

Make A Ghost Your Friend And Other Asian Investment Tips

About a year ago, our Thai friend Seh moved to a luxurious, large house. Recently she decided to leave the big house and try another place.

Reason? Ghosts.

Vicki and I helped her move.

In late 2004, a devastating tsunami hit the Phuket beaches here in Thailand and elsewhere. More than 5,000 people died in the Phuket area alone.

For years after the tsunami, even after much reconstruction, Asian tourists stayed away. They feared ghosts. [Stories here and here]

On a recent trip to China, Vicki and I wound up in a small-town temple during ghost day. Spirits living in the realms of Heaven and Hell visited the living. Locals welcomed them with virtual gifts. They sent clothes and money via smoke, using a temple incinerator and small bonfires behind the temple. The living also dined with the ghosts, setting them places at the tables piled high with food.

The cooks offered Vicki and me a place at the table, too. I wonder if with our white skin we might have looked ghostly to them. The folks at the temple set off firecrackers, monks performed rituals, and everyone did what was necessary to pacify visiting ghosts.

I got the impression that ghost day mattered a great deal. Forget to pay attention on ghost day–forget to pay your respects to ancestors and all other deceased–and you could be in for a tough year.

I confess I know very little about ghosts. To me it’s as if the ghosts aren’t there. But if you’re going to buy real estate in Asia you need to know how ghosts can affect you.

Tsunami-hit Phuket booms these days, with new construction going up at a record pace. Chinese have become big investors and big buyers. Apparently the ghosts have disappeared, or been dealt with, or otherwise ceased to be a factor. Real estate investors without ghost knowledge lost out on the boom.

To take an offshore example, a cousin inherited the family home in what is now a Chinese neighborhood of Los Angeles. My cousin wanted to build a new house on the property and sell it to a Chinese buyer. I advised against it because of ghosts. My cousin finally agreed. He knew nothing about ghosts. Without such knowledge he could easily build a house that had no protection against ghosts. He decided to sell the property to a more ghost-savvy builder.

Funeral ceremonies here in Thailand revolve around getting rid of ghosts before the actual cremation of the empty physical body. If the ceremonies fail, the deceased’s house could present problems. Our friend Seh, above, believed the owner’s mother had died in the large house. For some reason–an inadequate ceremony, offering, or whatever–the mother’s ghost stayed behind. Seh would have had to get monks over, and pay money, and do a lot of extra work to get rid of the ghost. She decided it was easier to move.

As an aside, for ghost reasons, Thai’s shy away from buying antiques. Thais fear old objects that once belonged to the deceased might have ghosts attached. And before building a new home, Thais install a spirit house for any spirits or ghosts already there. They figure ghosts who have their own home will tend to stay there, rather than haunt the new house.

Make a ghost your friend. Take a ghost to lunch, or at least offer him a tasty tidbit in his home. I know so little about ghosts I lack the proper way to phrase it. But the message is clear. If you buy Asian real estate, the more you know about ghosts the better.

Paul Terhorst

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