They’ve told you the story a dozen times, but the solemn silence of the night has you shaken to the bone. You are at the hallway they told you about, a barely lit pathway leading you into the abyss. Accompanied by the echoing beeps of your dying phone, you expect it to come at you at a moment’s notice. What options are left besides moving forward or backing out? Where are the bloodied walls the urban legends told of? What of the wails of those who ventured forth and never returned? You swallow your pride and think of chickening out, but you waited far too long to make a move. She made hers long before you stepped through the doorway.
At least, that is how most of the ghost stories go. The usual elements often involve settings like old or abandoned facilities, haunted by a roaming specter of the night, and then visited by a curious teenager with a hyperactive imagination. But what truly makes these buildings a factory for rumors? Aging buildings are a common theme in these ghost stories, often capitalizing on their worn-down aesthetics and the clichè of being a settlement for ghouls. But most of the time, it has something to do with its past.
The thing about old buildings is that they are often associated with decay, but it is its connection with the previous generations that gives it its eerie affiliation. Even a well-maintained interior of a geriatric structure can still be subject to local tales and urban legends. A Spanish-colonial house is a good example of a well-maintained, albeit outdated house. Its architecture looks aged, and bears much of its history in its design. These House of Stone-style (bahay na bato) home abides by its antique aesthetic, without a hint of modern or contemporary detail in any corner. It has its own stories to tell, and the people who have lived in it have passed on, leaving only their house and belongings.
But the connection between residences and hauntings often pale in comparison to academic and medical buildings. Schools are no strangers to being easy targets for ghost stories. Some schools were dedicated to a certain religious faith, and universities are large enough to house variations of haunted areas. The University of Santo Tomas, for example, is known for its religious roots, and its history of being an internment camp during the Second World War. Prisoners and soldiers died under its roof, and their spirits are said to roam in the area where the alleged mass burial ground is located. Other popular school-based horror stories pertain to the restless souls of those students who have taken their own lives. Religion and the events of the past often merge to form sinister legends pertaining to the fallen.
Some stories combine mysticism and political history to create a plausible account as to why a place is haunted. The Marcos Bridge is infamous in this regard, as it is said that both the blood of animals and children were used during “Padugo”, the ritual sacrifices said to bring good tidings during its construction.
In a somewhat similar incident, the construction of the Manila Film Center was overrun by controversies. The grand structure was designed by architect Froilan and the project was headed by then-first lady Imelda Marcos. However, it was apparent that the project was a rush job, as over 4,000 workers worked day and night to meet the deadline. In the middle of its construction, the scaffolding collapsed, and a rumored 169 workers died in the process. Some of those workers died drowning in quick-dry cement while outsiders were kept away for nine hours by the Marcos administration. Their blood was spilled on the foundations of the building, while film center authorities even had to call exorcists and ritual specialists to perform more bloodletting ceremonies to appease the spirits of those who died.
In retrospect, it is easy to lump old buildings and haunted tales together merely because of their appearance and history. The stories of those who came before and how their lives came to an abrupt end are usually told as a warning to those who dare venture into their areas during untimely hours. Besides, while the ghost stories add some spice to its existence, their history is often more interesting than the fiction they’re based on.