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MWR Aquatics intern Stacey Hosenfeld gestures to a “yagura,” an ancient burial tomb at Ikego’s Haunted Forest Saturday.
MWR Aquatics intern Stacey Hosenfeld gestures to a “yagura,” an ancient burial tomb at Ikego’s Haunted Forest Saturday. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

ZUSHI CITY, Japan — This summer, a woman called Ikego West Campground security saying she had seen a ghost standing in the road near her campsite.

Another report came from the East Valley — two men had seen something strange, ghostly. One set of campers didn’t realize what they’d seen until they developed their pictures from their Ikego camp-out and a phantasmal shape emerged on the print.

True or not — Ikego can put the heebie-jeebies in campers at the U.S. Navy Housing Area, said Geoff Rhinehart, Yokosuka’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Teen Program coordinator.

“There’s some bad juju here that goes all the way back to the 12th century,” Rhinehart said, listing off the above stories as the most recent ghastly incarnations. “What better place to hold a Haunted Forest event?”

This past weekend’s Haunted Forest and Harvest Festival drew in about 800 people, many of whom braved a hair-raising tour through the campground. It was MWR’s first large-scale Haunted Forest production there, Rhinehart said. But even without volunteers springing from bushes and making bamboo trees hiss, people “legitimately” believe the place is haunted for a host of reasons, Rhinehart said.

The 710-acre forest is listed under Japan’s “Haunted Places” on theshadowlands.net as a place of mass executions during WWII when the Japanese Imperial Army used the area as an ammunitions depot and prisoner of war camp. MWR omitted that information in the tour to be sensitive, Rhinehart said.

But according to the Shadowlands Ghosts and Hauntings Index, gate guards have reported voices, footsteps, eerie feelings and the recurring appearance of a “World War II Japanese soldier in a brown uniform with no legs between the gates,” the Web site said.

The MWR tour instead went further back in time to Ikego’s “yagura” — ancient burial tombs that are dug into the cliff sides.

Ikego has about 50 of them, Rhinehart said. They were constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries and human bones and pottery have been found inside, according to the Ikego Museum.

The thickly-wooded area was also home to many samurai warriors during the Kamakura shogunate from 1192 to 1333. Ikego was considered a subdivision of Kamakura and the samurai set up checkpoints along the path that connected the forest to the city. Fighting erupted in the hills when warring factions seized Kamakura and mass suicides — by immolation, beheadings and seppuku (eviscerating oneself) — followed after the city fell in 1333.

Granted, walking through foggy woods at night is “always creepy,” Rhinehart said. And once you know Ikego’s history it’s easy to feel “haunted,” said Cody Dobbs, who hid in the dark as a volunteer for the haunted forest presentation.

“I’ve heard a lot of stories about the campground being haunted,” Dobbs said. “But it’s still fun to scare people.”

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