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8 things you should never do during Hungry Ghost Festival

You've been warned...

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
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The Hungry Ghost Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month every year, is landing on August 22 this year. As the gates of the underworld open up, spirits and ghouls of the departed escape and roam the earth. Since the vast majority of us are looking to enjoy the day’s vibrant celebrations completely ghost-free, here are eight timeless superstitions to follow during the festival. Lest they wish to sleep with the lights on... By Cara Hung. Translated by Adrian Ho.

RECOMMENDED: If you love nothing more than spine-tingling tales about the supernatural, check out 10 of the spookiest stories in Hong Kong.

8 things you should never do during Hungry Ghost Festival

Don't hang your clothes outside through the night
Photograph: Shutterstock

Don't hang your clothes outside through the night

Don't leave it outside on the balcony or out the window. The human shape of clothes is said to attract visiting spirits, who will gladly come over to ‘borrow’ your garments for the night. Apparitions may also leave behind their misfortune-inducing aura on your clothes... Great. As if doing the laundry wasn’t enough of a chore already, now we have to worry about ghosts possessing our favourite pair of jeans too.

Don't stand too close to the wall
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Don't stand too close to the wall

When it comes to posing for the 'gram, you can never go wrong with leaning up against a cool-looking wall or having it as a clean background to show off your #OOTD. Well, you might want to hold off doing that during the Hungry Ghost Festival. According to Chinese folklore, walls naturally give off a cold and sinister aura, making them major hotspots for ghostly gatherings. It's also best to avoid any narrow alleyways – no matter how ‘grammable they might seem.

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Don't take the last bus or train ride
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Don't take the last bus or train ride

Feeling isolated when the last bus departs and there’s no one else on board? Don’t worry – you’re most likely, not alone. The last shift on public transport is often believed to be brimming with invisible customers, who are probably just waiting to pounce on the first vulnerable mortal they can find. So, be sure to avoid the last round of transport. You simply don’t know who you might end up sitting on.

Don't leave your slippers faced towards the bed
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Don't leave your slippers faced towards the bed

It wouldn’t truly be the festival of ghosts if you were safe in your own home. Rumour has it that slippers act as compasses for victim-seeking phantoms, so pointing them towards your bed is like handing out the spiritual keys to your cosy abode. Of course, you could just circumvent this by not wearing slippers, but then you’d have to deal with an even scarier phenomenon – dirty feet.

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Don't take pictures late at night
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Don't take pictures late at night

If horror films like Shutter and Paranormal Activity have taught us anything at all, it’s that cameras and ghosts don’t mix. Thrill-seekers who dare to expose their lens at ungodly hours will run the risk of capturing ghosts in action, and could even end up trapping vengeful spirits in their cameras and phones. So, unless you’re looking to be haunted by terrible misfortune and bad lighting, you should probably save that selfie for the next day.

Don't shave your legs
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Don't shave your legs

Apparently, the consequences of leg hair removal stretch far beyond irritated skin and nasty cuts. There’s an old saying in Chinese that believes each strand of leg hair can scare away three ghosts, so removing these personal bodyguards is tantamount to sending out invitations to a personal ghost party. Guess beauty does come with a price...

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Don't whistle at night
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Don't whistle at night

Avoid whistling at night, regardless of how bored you might be. Whistling is said to attract roaming ghosts, who are just waiting for someone to point them in the direction of a spooky encounter. It is also widely believed that those who interrupt the peace of the night must pay a penalty, so it’s probably best to just keep quiet at night. 

Don't put your hand on someone's shoulder
Photograph: Shutterstock

Don't put your hand on someone's shoulder

According to Chinese folklore, we all have invisible flames on our shoulders that are essential in warding off evil spirits and misfortune. So, try not to get too chummy with your mates and avoid having hands on your shoulder as they might put out the flame – a small price to pay to avoid any ghastly surprises if you ask us.

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