Ghosts in Cambodia Part Three
The land that the new Human and Hope Association community centre was built on in 2014 was empty when we leased it. Whilst the building of our community centre was going on, and right up until we opened our new premises, we hired security guards at the premises day and night. We needed to ensure that the building was protected and that all the construction work was going to plan.
On one of my frequent trips out to the new centre, a few weeks after the building had ceased, I arrived to find that the daytime security guard was nowhere to be seen. After looking in every room (which didn’t take long, since they were open plan classrooms), my workmate called the security guard on his phone. From the back of the centre, we saw that the guard had been at a neighbour’s house. He walked back to Human and Hope Association, and I accosted him as he entered through our old wire gate.
“Why weren’t you here?”
“I saw a ghost, and I ran away to the neighbour’s house. Don’t worry, I could still watch over Human and Hope Association, and no one entered.”
“Huh? Where did you see a ghost?”
“Over there,” he pointed to the empty sewing room.
The security guard and my workmate chatted for a bit longer while I glanced around hesitantly. One they finished, my workmate spoke to me.
“Now I understand why the night security guard quit, Sally. It is because of the ghost. He didn’t want to show us he was afraid, but there is a ghost in this building. We need to get the Monks to come and bless the building.”
“We are getting the Monks to bless the building when we have the official opening. But we can’t have them come twice; it is just too much money,” I responded.
He agreed, and we put the worries of the ghost behind us. That is, until the following week….
One of the students from the organisation I used to work for was a qualified electrician. We always hired him for electrical work, as we trusted his quality, and he was an inspirational young man who had turned his life around. Once Human and Hope Association’s foundations were built, we needed to install electricity throughout the building, which we called my student for. He spent two weekends at Human and Hope Association, working in the scorching heat to ensure our electricity would be up and running in time for our big move.
On the second weekend of his work, I visited Human and Hope Association to say hi and check up on how things were going.
“I saw a ghost, Sally,” he told me.
“Where did you see the ghost?” I asked him.
“In the sewing room,” he responded.
When one person sees a ghost, you would probably put it down to an overly active imagination. But now this was THREE people, including one I would trust with my life, who had seen a ghost around the same room at Human and Hope Association. Something was wrong.
“What did the ghost look like?” I asked him.
“It was a shape of a person, but I didn’t see the face,” he told me seriously. “I was scared, but it is the daytime, so I am not so worried.”
I didn’t know what to do. I was still hesitant to pay for the Monks to come and bless the building, as we were on a tight budget and I didn’t know how to justify to the Western donors that we paid twice for a blessing. So, I left it and stayed clear of the sewing room when I was by myself.
Moving day finally arrived, and it was all hands-on-deck to shift everything from the pagoda and set it up in time for our opening ceremony the next day. Whilst everyone was outside laying out the rocks that would eventually wash away in the rainy season, I was inside getting the office organised. My motto is, “Organisation is the key to success,” and ensuring that everything was neat and in the right place from the beginning was of the utmost importance to me. While I was sitting at my desk sorting through documents, I saw someone on the ladder in the adjacent library, who I had assumed was our staff member, Salin. As I started to speak, I looked up and saw that there wasn’t anybody on the ladder. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I got up and walked outside, and saw that Salin was on the other side of our land, nowhere near the library. It hadn’t been him on the ladder.
I went back to my desk and sat down, trying to make sense out of what I had just seen. Was it a ghost? If so, why was it there? Were we doomed to be haunted by this ghost for the duration of our 15-year land contract? While I was contemplating all things ghostly, Salin walked into the office.
“Salin, were you in here standing on the ladder before?” I asked him.
“No,” he responded.
I told him about my ghostly encounter. He stared at me, speechless.
“Oh, wow,” he eventually managed to get out.
I didn’t know what to do, but I did know I was too scared to be alone in the office. For the remainder of the day, I made sure someone was always with me so I would have a witness to the ghost and prove to myself I wasn’t out of my mind. Nothing appeared again, though.
The next day we held our opening ceremony, and our community centre was blessed by Buddhist Monks. We never had a ghost sighting after that.