Previously: The Copper Wishes Ritual.
Note: Please don’t copy/paste, republish, or narrate this post on other websites, video platforms, etc. without permission.
Numerous countries and cultures have superstitions about whistling at night — or, more specifically, about why you shouldn’t do it. Typically, it’s because whistling at night is said to attract bad-tempered spirits, ill fortune, or both — but in Vietnam, the two things whistling at night might bring into your home aren’t ghosts and bad luck, but ghosts and snakes. What’s more, although the superstition is meant to prevent you from whistling at night, at least one method also exists that’s geared towards doing precisely what you’re not meant to do. That’s right: This ritual game, which I think of as the Whistling At Night Game, will help you summon spirits or ghosts to your home. And maybe a snake, too, depending on who’s listening.
Interestingly, the Whistling At Night Game — or at least, one source for it, The Smart Local Vietnam — also specifies a precise time at which you’re meant to carry out the ritual: Midnight. Not all superstitions about whistling at night have an actual hour pegged to them; the activity is often just sort of generally discouraged (possibly because the “superstition,” such as it is, may exist principally to keep children quiet at night and get them to bed on time). The sources I’ve located, however, note that this game should be played precisely at midnight for best results.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Of course, exactly what we might mean by the phrase “best results” may depend on where you personally stand on these sorts of things.
For some, “best results” might not mean playing the game and achieving success; it might mean playing the game and having it fail. You get the thrill of trying, without the actual danger of a supernatural visitor arriving… or refusing to leave.
This goes doubly for those who have an aversion to reptiles.
Note, too, that open flames are involved in the Whistling At Night Game, so if you must play, know that it’s a fire hazard; make sure you’ve taken all possible safety precautions before beginning.
As always: Play at your own risk.
- At least one principal.
- A selection of biscuits or cookies.
- A plate.
- A candle.
- Matches or a lighter.
- A stick of incense.
- A small, heat-proof dish. (See: Additional Notes.)
- A length of string or thread.
- A small bell, such as a jingle bell.
- Tape, a thumb tack, or similar.
- A quiet room with an easily accessible, open doorway.
- Joss paper. (See: Additional Notes.)
- A time-keeping device.
- One or more paper amulets, properly blessed by a reputable spiritual figure or authority.
- Begin shortly before midnight.
- Tie the bell to one end of the thread or string.
- Using the tape, thumb tack, etc. in conjunction with the thread or string, hang the bell in your chosen doorway. The bell should be positioned in the center of the doorway, dangling just above your head, should you stand within the doorframe.
- Do NOT remain standing within the frame. Once the bell is hung, step back into the quiet room in which you have chosen to play.
- Consult your time-keeping device. Is it still prior to midnight? Good. You may continue your preparations.
- Turn out the lights.
- Settle yourself somewhere comfortable: On the floor; seated at a table; elsewhere in the room; the choice is yours.
- Wherever you choose to sit, make sure the remainder of your supplies are within easy reach.
- Now: Form a circle of salt around yourself and your supplies. Once the salt circle has been formed, do not move from it until the ritual has concluded.
- Place the biscuits or cookies and the joss paper on the plate.
- Place the candle near the plate and light it using the matches or lighter.
- Check the time. Is it still before midnight? Just before midnight? Good. You may proceed.
- In one hand, hold the stick of incense.
- Using the other hand, take up the matches or lighter and light the end of the incense stick. Use the heat-proof dish to catch the ashes that fall from the incense stick as it burns.
- Check the bell. Is it silent? Good. You may proceed.
- Check the time. Is it midnight? Midnight precisely? Good. You may proceed.
- Now: Purse your lips and begin to whistle.
- Note: You need not whistle a particular tune — the sound alone should suffice — but if it helps you to continue your whistling to do so, you may whistle a song of your choosing.
- Listen, but do not stop whistling.
- Listen, and whistle.
- If the bell remains silent: The ritual has failed. Extinguish the incense; use the lighter or matches to burn one of your paper amulets, depositing the ashes in the heat-proof dish; remove the bell from the door; step outside the salt circle; extinguish the candle; pack up any remaining supplies; and, if possible, dispose of everything as far away from your current location as you can. For you, the game ends here, although you may try again another time if you like.
- If the bell rings: Stop whistling. Pay attention. Does something feel… different? Can you sense something else with you? Does it seem like you’re not alone anymore? It should. If the bell rang, it means someone — or something — entered the room. Congratulations; the ritual has succeeded.
- You may enjoy your company for as long as you like — but pay attention to the atmosphere in the room, and stay in tune with your own feelings.
- If you begin to feel unsafe at any time — if you experience anything that’s cause for concern — or if you simply wish to conclude the game — extinguish the incense; then take up a paper amulet, and, using the matches or lighter, set it aflame. Place the amulet in the dish and allow it to burn entirely to ash.
- When the amulet has burnt out completely, step outside the salt circle; remove the bell from the door; extinguish the candle; pack up any remaining supplies; and, if possible, dispose of everything as far away from your current location you can.
- But be careful from here on out.
- Remember: You invited them in.
- And now that they’re here, they may not want to leave.
Due to the use of open flames, this ritual should be considered a fire hazard. If you must play, please ensure you have taken common sense safety precautions before beginning: Clear the area in which you intend to play of anything flammable; have at least one fire extinguisher on hand; etc. We are not responsible for anything that may befall you, should you choose to play — physically or metaphysically.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, joss paper, also sometimes known as spirit money, is a variety of paper made specifically to function as offerings to spirits, deities, and other objects of worship. It is typically burned, although it should be noted that sources for this particular ritual do not include instructions to burn the joss paper — merely to place it on the plate along with the offering of biscuits or cookies. Joss paper is Chinese in origin, and is believed to have been brought to Vietnam during the nation’s period under Chinese colonial rule (roughly 111 B.C.E. to 939 C.E.).
“Biscuits or cookies” refers to sweetened unleavened baked goods, rather than leavened quick bread baked goods. (Americans: Think chocolate chip cookie, not buttermilk biscuit.) The terminology you use is likely the result of your region of origin. Whatever you call them, just make sure you’ve acquired the correct baked good before beginning.
Note that the small, heat-proof dish is a separate item from the plate on which the biscuits or cookies and joss paper should be placed — that is, you should have two dishes or plates with you before you begin, one of which should be heat-proof.
Concerning Your Visitors:
Although they might be ghosts, spirits, or otherwise non-corporeal in nature, they also might not be.
They might be a bit more… hissy, if you will.
If you’re not a fan of long, slithery creatures — well, you might want to think twice about playing this game.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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Follow The Ghost In My Machine on Twitter @GhostMachine13 and on Facebook @TheGhostInMyMachine. And for more games, don’t forget to check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available now from Chronicle Books!
[Photo via Prakash Magar/Pexels]