The truth behind haunting


I watched a cold mist roll down Trois Frères Mountain and saw the coconut tree leaves outside the office sway to and fro as though propelled by invisible hands seeking attention, I could suddenly see the possibility of spirits lurking about. After all, the Seychelles archipelago is fraught with stories and myths involving ‘nanm’ or ‘dandosya’. I set out to investigate.
Late one afternoon I made my way towards Saint Paul’s Cathedral, all the while filled with a curiosity I could barely contain. I wandered around the church and noticed elegant ribbons of violet attached to the first few benches. A rectangular impression made from tapering candle holders stood close to the altar. It dawned on me that I was looking at a funeral preparation – which set the tone for the interview. 

Soon, I was met by Bishop French Chang-Him and was led to a small office beside the Church. We were ready to begin.
“A lot of stories have been told,” he said, shaking his head. “A lot of them, unfortunately, are not based on fact.”
For him, the whole issue of haunting is rather complicated.

“Often times, people confuse different aspects of the metaphysical with haunting,” he said. “For example, we often hear people discussing possible sight of a person’s ‘dandosya’ – what would be called a doppelganger in English – then later finding out that the person has died.”

Although this phenomenon is quite popular and frequent among us, it does not necessarily refer to what we would call a ‘haunting’ – more what we would call involuntary precognition.

At this point (and we were only at the beginning of the interview), I could feel the hairs begin to rise on the back of my neck and myself leaning further in as if for reassurance. At the same time, I was at the edge of my seat. The Bishop smiled and continued his explanation.

“If only one person sees an apparition or claims to be possessed, often we ask to meet the other members of that person’s family. They are usually able to identify different and even strange behaviour in them. Most of the time we employ the help of doctors in making sure that the ‘patient’ is mentally and physically sane. If all the tests are passed with no issues, we are more or less certain that spiritual activity is at hand,” he said.

“If this is the case, the Church will usually conduct an investigation into the matter. But it’s all rather complicated as I said before. If there really is a presence, we will all be able to sense it, feel it or even perceive it through smell, sight and sound. In each place I have been asked to investigate, the ‘presence’ had already affected the whole family,” he said.

However, just like what glitters is not necessarily gold, what appears to be a haunting or possession may not necessarily be the case.

“A drug dealer would never in his right mind turn himself in to the police. Just like a person dominated by a demonic spirit would not turn to the Church for help,” said the Bishop. This is where things become a little more complicated.

“We also need to be wary, however, as evil’s speciality is to deceive and we must be able to discern this.”

“One way is to notice the person’s eye contact. Most people will not be able to look a priest in the eye. They will not be able to look at the crucifix either nor repeat specific words found in the Bible.”

As to why these spirits are often attracted to a certain person or area is one that is quite puzzling, but which on closer inspection, seems to make a whole lot of sense.

Bishop French said “what we often call ‘Titalber’ is the source of much debate and confusion.”
What initially comes to mind when we hear this are images of voodoo dolls, curses and herbs. In reality, these have nothing at all to do with the experience.

‘Titalber’ is actually a demonic spirit being attracted to a place or person because of the latter’s state of mind and the former’s history.

“If a family living together experiences many negative occurrences within the household; for example, violence, sexual, emotional, drug or alcohol abuse, it is more likely that a negative spirit will be attracted to a particular person within the family – it is especially common in younger children,” he said. “Chaos breeds negativity in other words.”

In cases of haunted buildings, more often than not, a form of trauma must have happened to the owners or previous residence that leaves behind residual energy.

In the case of suicides for example, the death of the person is quite brutal that the area often attracts the negative energies around.

”Supernatural activity inside homes is said to be mainly associated with violent or tragic events in the building's past such as murder, accidental death, or suicide,” according to Wikipedia.

Many instances of haunting and possession have been topic of gossip around the Island for a while now. From tales of rancid, raw smell of flesh deep in our forests, stories of ghostly apparitions attempting to strangle dreamers while they sleep and old colonial houses creaking and groaning from aimless wanderings of ghostly visitors …

From what I had learned, this isn’t much of a surprise. After all, was not Seychelles a secret niche of buried treasure? As most of the stories were whispered, the pirates often murdered one of their own so their treasures would have paranormal guardians watching over it. From the time of slavery which brought about much suffering and cruelty, many died without funeral rites or even a proper burial.

“There exist people who can and do communicate with those who have crossed over. They are referred to as mediums,” said the Bishop.

Mulling that little fact over I could not help but think; if we looked and really saw our islands through a medium’s perspective, it would indeed appear to be a very crowded place.
“However, it is unwise to seek them out,” he continued.

“If you are naturally gifted with the ability to see spirits, then good for you. Otherwise, do not go searching for things you have no knowledge of. The spirit realm is complicated and is often referred to as ‘unchartered territory’ – it’s like taking a row boat across vast and dangerous waters. You can never know for certain whom you may come across – or who or what you may meet on the other side.”


By Rebecca Chang-Tave

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