I am back in Taipei.
It has been a while since my last visit however I use to visit and work here a lot.
It is a fine city with fine people.
I arrived yesterday afternoon and checked into the Grand Hyatt hotel. I have only stayed in this hotel once before and it was not by choice. The hotel I usually stayed in was full and at the end of the day I am not really too fussed where I stay – as long as the bed is comfortable, and there is a spa and a swimming pool.
I like massages and I like to swim each morning.
I had a haunting the last time I was here.
It was as unexpected as it was disconcerting.
I have written about this previously in a piece I most unimaginatively titled “Spooky Things”.
Rather than re-hash the whole event – here is what happened:
I was here in Taipei on business.
It was in 2012.
I have only ever been here on business.
I used to come here often for work.
I like Taiwan and I have quite a few friends here.
I normally stayed at the Landis Hotel as it is comfortable and luxurious and spanking. These are my three main criteria for overseas hotel accommodation.
And a swimming pool.
On this occasion though there was some big convention on in town so the Landis was full and I was booked into the Grand Hyatt instead.
The Grand Hyatt was close to my office so I could walk there.
I like walking.
I arrived in Taipei in the morning and I went straight to the office. I had meetings from dawn to dusk.
I did my stuff.
My day was busy but it was mostly uneventful.
I like the Taiwanese and I very much like the way that they choose their own Western names.
They do this as adults.
One of my friends in Taipei chose the name Elton because he likes the music of Elton John.
A work colleague of mine chose the name Snoopy because he likes Snoop Dogg.
I associate Snoopy with the Charlie Brown cartoons.
It must be my age.
I giggle inside when I meet with Snoopy as I have this Charlie Brown image firmly in my mind. Snoopy is a very nice bloke though and I would never giggle to or at him.
That would be rude.
So I went back to my hotel at about 8pm and I ordered room service. I ordered a club sandwich with a side order of fries and a chocolate milkshake.
I checked my emails and I made some phone calls then I channel surfed the TV. Taiwanese soap operas are hysterical. There is a lot of screaming involved and delightful and colourful costumes.
I can't understand a word of course but it amuses me regardless.
I felt a bit weary about 11.00pm so I had a shower and I got under the covers then I read my book. At the time I was reading "A Fraction of the Whole" which is a novel by Steven Tolz.
I regard this work to possibly be the greatest Australian novel of all time.
It is a cracker.
I read until about 11.30 by which time I felt quite sleepy so I put down my book and I turned off the lights and went to sleep. At exactly 1.12 am I was awoken by the feeling of someone sitting on the end of my bed! I recall the exact time as I saw the digital glow of the bedside clock.
I sat upright.
I turned the bedside lamp on.
There was nothing there so I assumed that I must have been dreaming.
So I turned off the light and went back to sleep.
At 3.10 am I was awakened again.
Someone had sat at the end of my bed.
What the fuck?
On went the light again.
I got out from under the covers and I looked around the room. I checked in the bathroom and I even peeked under the bed. I felt uncomfortable and I was a bit frightened.
There was no one there though.
Was I going mad?
I left the bathroom light on and got back under the covers. I must have drifted off to sleep again then thump again.
Someone had definitely sat down right next to my feet.
But there was no-one there!
I turned all the lights on.
I sat up in bed.
I was very nervous.
At 6.30 am I went downstairs to breakfast. This was when the restaurant opened. On my way there I went to the concierge desk and I told them what had happened. The man there looked at me strangely but he nodded politely then he brushed me off. I began to doubt myself.
I went to the office and told Snoopy what had happened and I told some of my other Taiwanese colleagues too.
"Didn't I know?" they asked. “That hotel is haunted, there had been many reports”.
I jumped straight on to Google and I searched for information myself.
For fucks sake - the place was built on a killing field. During the occupation of Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek's soldiers had slaughtered thousands of Japanese on the very spot that the hotel was constructed.
It was a blood bath!
Google reported dozens of instances of guests seeing and hearing ghosts.
I asked my colleagues to immediately find me another hotel. I told them that I would not stay there another night. Try as they did there were no rooms to be had in all of Taipei.
The bloody convention!
When I went back to my room that night I found that the hotel had put two small statues on either side of my bed. There was also a single red rose in a vase on the TV cabinet. I immediately rang Snoopy again and I also consulted Google. These were Buddhist ghost warding devices!
They would supposedly protect me.
I took two very powerful sleeping pills that night.
I knocked myself out and I had no further visitations.
I checked out the next morning and have not returned since.
I vowed that I would never stay there again and I am now a believer.
There are spooky things out there.
So you may ask why have I checked in here again?
A fair question.
I am seeking a haunting.
The research I have done on the hotel suggests the banshees that wander the halls and sit on people’s beds have actually hurt no one - and I am more curious than afraid of what I might encounter.
I have prepared a list of questions I would like to ask the undead and I am hopeful they are prepared to answer.
My friend the anagram Iman - the sender of the Octopus picture - has informed me that she would not stay a night here but suggested I greet the ghost and then release it.
I will do the former – but not the latter.
I wish to yack to the spirit.
I have charged my phone and also a small video recorder to try and capture the ghosty – and to record any noises or utterings.
These will likely be in Japanese as I understand all of the spirits are slaughtered Japanese soldiers.
So when I checked in yesterday I was given the old, “Welcome back Mr. Hepenstall” to which I thanked the Taiwanese Receptionist who spoke with a distinctive American accent.
“It has been a while since you last stayed with us” she commented as she clicked my details into her computer.
“It has” I replied.
“May I please have your most haunted smoking room?” I enquired.
There was a pause in her clicking and she said, “I beg your pardon”
“May I please have your most haunted smoking room?” I repeated.
“None of our rooms are haunted” she responded.
“Really?” I said – cocking my eyebrow in a most exaggerated fashion.
“Really” she asserted.
“Well I was in a haunted room in here the last time I stayed” I declared
“It was very haunted indeed,” I added.
The young lady stopped her clicking and gave me a long and blank stare. For a moment I thought she might be Singaporean as the blank stare is a common phenomena there.
“Perhaps we could Google ghosts and the Grand Hyatt Taipei?” I suggested
“There are many hundreds of reports of restless spirits in this establishment”
The blank stare continued.
“OK - do you have a record of which room I stayed in when last I was here?”
The lady recommenced her clicking and after a minute or so she said, “You were in room 1704”
“Is that room available then?”
“Then I will take that one please”
“If there are any of you ghost inhibiting statues in the room may I please have them removed?” I asked
“Yes sir” she replied.
“Aha - so you concede the hotel is haunted then?” I enquired.
I stayed up late last night with the lights off and awaiting a visitation. A couple of times I thought I heard something and asked in both English and in Japanese if there was anyone there.
Alas there was not.
It was a little disappointing.
I am hoping for better luck tonight.
I am looking forward to a haunting.