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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Horror Histories Vol. 13 - The True Story Behind Ringu

One of my favorite things about being a horror fan is finding out about new subgenres I’d never heard of previously.  It’s not the same as hearing about an obscure film and seeking it out.  Finding a new subgenre is like being handed a chest full of gold.  Suddenly there a multiple films and an entire history to dig back through.

J-Horror (Japanese Horror) was one of those discoveries that sent me down a rabbit hole with seemingly no end.  There were so many good movies to dig through from old classics like Onibaba to the chaotic death match of Battle Royale to the twisted (pun purely intended) and gruesome Uzumaki.  Not to mention Juon: The Grudge, Pulse, Dark Water and a slew of others.  

The film that really brought J-Horror to most people’s attention was Ringu. It’s the story of a cursed videotape that brings death to whoever watches it.  The deadly ghost in the tape is named Sadako and as I mentioned in the blog about my visit to Aokigahara forest, she is modeled after the traditional descriptions of Japanese ghosts: long, scraggly black hair, a white burial robe and a thirst for vengeance.

What most people don’t realize is that the story behind Sadako’s tragic death and unresolved rage is actually real.  She is based on the true story of Chizuko Mifune.  

She lived over a hundred years ago and was rumored to have psychic powers.  Tokyo University’s own Tomokichi Fukurai heard the stories about her and decided it was worth investigating further.  After meeting her, he arranged to have a public demonstration so that everyone could see Chizuko’s powers for themselves.  Instead, people called her a fake. 

Whether she was a fake or really had a gift, no one knows for sure because before another test could be conducted, Chizuko took her own life.  This is almost the same back story given for Ringu’s vengeful spirit. 

As for the well that Sadako climbs out of, this is also based on a real haunted well.  In western Japan there is a famous castle called Himeji.  It happens to be the setting of one of the most famous ghost stories in all of Japan.  The story goes that a servant at the castle was approached by a samurai who tried to seduce her.  She refused him and in a fit of rage, the samurai killed her and threw her into the well.  Her ghost is said to haunt the well and the grounds around it to this day.

The picture above is of the well she threw herself into at Himeji Castle.  
If you haven’t seen Ringu, you really should.  It’s an extremely creepy movie that holds up very well, even though most people under 30 barely know what a “videotape” is.  

See you next week!

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