Sunday, September 30, 2018

Haunted Bathroom, Bangladesh

As report by NBC news, in 2013:

Thousands of workers at a garment factory in Bangladesh stopped working and rioted earlier this week, demanding that a ghost be removed from their building. The problem began when a female worker said she felt sick and attributed her condition to “an attack by a ghost” inside a toilet in the women’s washroom. According to news reports over 3,000 frightened workers at a plant in the city of Gazipur protested, with dozens of them vandalizing the factory before police used tear gas to quell the riot.

As later reported by Stranger Dimensions, "The woman didn’t actually see a ghost. However, after falling ill, she assumed the vengeful toilet spirit was the cause of her illness. A djinn, perhaps."

The reports all suggested that factory owners brought in religious leaders to perform a ceremony to either exorcise the spirit or else put it to rest. Regardless, searching for this found no further reference after 2013, so I assume that the matter is resolved.

Little is said about the nature of the ghost, other than that it may be a Djinn rather than a ghost, and even there it is unclear if that is the web site author's views or the view of the local people, so make of that what you will.

Commentary:  Unfortunately, I don't have much in the way of stories for south Asia, as I am not literate in the languages of the region. As a result, I tend to see stories from this region only when they emerge into common world folklore, or when they are considered "wacky" and grab people's attention. But as one considers this particular story, the initial jokiness of "hey a haunted bathroom!" fades away as you wonder what conditions led to people being ready to riot.

As is pointed out by the Center for Inquiry and NBC, this appears to be a case of mass hysteria, where one worker became ill, and it set off a series of self-reinforcing events that included panic, violence, and mass action. Such events are fairly common throughout history, and that this appears to be such a case is unsurprising.

What interested me is a comment within Stranger Dimensions' write-up, not typically a website that I see containing these insights, but I think that they hit on something here. They note that conditions in many of these factories can be difficult, are often exploitative, and these tend to be unpleasant places to work. I do not know if these descriptions apply to this factory, but if they do, then that would  explain tensions being at a point where something that might, under other circumstances, be considered silly would lead to mass violence. I wonder if anything beyond the ritual was done to try to ease the workers' minds.

Sources: NBC News, Center for Inquiry, Stranger Dimensions, Mysterious Universe

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