The creature in tonight’s story is referred to as a shiryō. This is essentially identical to the term bōrei, which we’ve seen several times so far this month. The word literally means “death ghost.” The significance of that is that this is the spirit of a human who has died, as opposed to the spirit of someone still living (called an ikiryō) or another kind of monstrous spirit or demon altogether.
I feel like this story is a pretty classic spooky tale, and it has some great visual language. As Halloween is a mere one week away, it’s great for a story that really fits the Halloween horror mood.
The Samurai’s Shiryō from Sendai
A samurai from Sendai in Ōshū disobeyed his master’s orders and committed seppuku at a temple called Tōganji. During the samurai’s funeral, his body was placed in a coffin and attended by ten monks. As the night grew late, all of the monks went to sleep around the coffin.
While the two lowest ranking monks had not yet fallen asleep, the corpse crawled out of the coffin and went over to a lamp. It tore the paper covering off the lamp and twisted it into a paper wick. Then, using the wick, it first licked up the lamp oil out of the oil jug. Then it crawled over to the highest-ranking monk, dipped the paper wick into his nose, and licked it. One by one the corpse did this to each of the monks in descending rank, until finally it came next to the lowest ranking monks.
The two monks were so surprised that they ran away to the kitchen and told everyone what had happened. Everyone was suspicious, so they went to investigate. They found all of the monks lying just as they were, dead. The coffin was still there, but the corpse was gone.
What a strange and unique occurrence.