The Yōkai Stories of Lafcadio Hearn

On the night after the funeral of O-Sono, her little son said that his mamma had come back, and was in the room upstairs. She had smiled at him, but would not talk to him: so he became afraid, and ran away. Then some of the family went upstairs to the room which had been O-Sono’s; and they were startled to see, by the light of a small lamp which had been kindled before a shrine in that room, the figure of the dead mother…

– Lafcadio Hearn

This week, Litro Lab takes a look at the Japanese ghost stories of Lafcadio Hearn and investigates the folklore of Yōkai myths, Noh plays, modern urban legends, and horror cinema along the way. Hearn was a journalist and travel writer who covered crime stories in Cincinatti, voodoo in New Orleans, and carnivals in the West Indies before settling in Japan in the 1890s. His books on his adopted country helped to fuel the Western obsession with orientalism at the turn of the last century. Hearn is now best remembered for his retellings of the traditional Japanese tales of the supernatural, collected from old texts and from his Japanese wife. His stories have been popular for over a century, influencing everything from literature to cinema.

The yōkai have existed for centuries in the Japanese imagination. However, it is thanks to Lafcadio Hearn that their stories were first translated into English and, thus, shared with the rest of the world.

Listen to this podcast – if you dare – to become acquainted with these Japanese ghosts and discover some of the secrets from Lafcadio Hearn’s life, which was as haunted as the stories he translated.

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