Stories tell of haunted places on U.S. bases
American military powerless against screams, bumps, spirits in the night
By STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 31, 2007
It’s not your imagination — maybe that sound in the night really was a moan.
Stories of spirits and unexplained phenomena have persisted on U.S. military bases in the Pacific for years.
Doors slam, shadows creep and voices shout in the night. Could it be spirits of the dead reaching out?
As costumed ghosts and ghouls hit the streets for Halloween, Stars and Stripes has compiled some accounts of allegedly real ghosts and ghouls to keep the holiday creepy.
Creepy crematorium tale
Many of the buildings on Yongsan Garrison in South Korea have been there longer than the U.S. military. Some date back to Japan’s occupation of Korea before and during World War II.
One of those buildings, near the gas station on the garrison’s South Post, has been surrounded by rumors for years.
“I hate being here at night. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up just talking about it,” said Sgt. 1st Class Riviere Cools, 52nd Medical Battalion as he eyed the squat, red-brick building in the center of his unit’s complex of offices. “I don’t believe in that kind of stuff, but in the back of my mind, there are souls here.”
The entire compound, surrounded by a thick, crumbling, brick wall, was a prison during the occupation.
For years, said U.S. Army Garrison spokesman David McNally, soldiers working there have passed along stories claiming that the area, especially the small building in the center, was haunted.
McNally said the building was most likely the prison’s administrative office, but those working around it have a more sinister theory.
“Everybody that’s worked in that building right there has either seen something or heard something,” said Staff Sgt. Sae Kim, 52nd Medical Battalion. “Because that’s where they burned people.”
McNally was quick to point out there was no evidence to suggest that the building was a crematorium, but that doesn’t stop the stories from spreading.
“I haven’t seen any ghosts,” said Sgt. 1st Class Freeman Witherspoon. “But I definitely have heard the rumors. People say they see shadows when they have duty at night.”
The unexplained voice
Stories of strange happenings abound at the base chapel at Camp Zama in Japan.
Strange presences in rooms and doors that mysteriously open and close are part of chapel lore, employees say.
Some tell stories of strange figures passing by and then disappearing.
“My predecessor said that she used to hear footsteps through the halls late at night,” said Staff Sgt. Desmond West, the Unit Ministry Team noncommissioned officer in charge.
Last year, Spc. Jennifer Villagomez, a funds clerk, said she was working late when a voice emanated from her unplugged computer speakers.
It sounded like a Japanese man, “like a drill sergeant yelling at a private,” she said.
At first, Villagomez said she thought the sounds were a practical joke and called for a sergeant who was the only other person in the building at the time.
“And as I heard him come closer to my office, the voice on the speaker went lower and lower until it went away, just before he walked in the room,” Villagomez said.
She said that since that incident, she tries not to be the last person to in the office at night.
Sgt. Joshua Lee, who works at the chapel with Villagomez, said he didn’t hear the voice that night but has witnessed other strange occurrences.
Chapel lights switch on and doors open seemingly on their own, Lee said.
West, who has worked in the chapel for four years, said he has never seen or heard anything peculiar.
“But the day I start hearing things, I’m running out of here,” he said.
Ghosts crowd Okinawa
Reportedly haunted sites can be found around almost any corner on and off Okinawa bases.
So many ghost stories abound that Marine Corps Community Services and 18th Services Squadron on Kadena Air Base both run special Halloween spooky sites tours that sell out weeks in advance.
Web sites and a book on the subject — Jayne A. Hitchcock’s “The Ghosts of Okinawa” — celebrate the local haunts.
A World War II soldier is said to roam Gate 3 on Camp Hansen in blood-splattered fatigues asking sentries to light his cigarette.
Marines refused to stand guard due to the haunting, and the gate was eventually closed, according to Hitchcock.
Camp Foster is said to be the home of a ghostly samurai warrior who eternally travels from Stillwell Drive uphill toward Futenma Housing.
Kadena Air Base also has its ghost stories.
A small house behind the Kadena United Services Organization, numbered 2283, is now used for storage because, it is said, no one willingly lives in it for long.
Some say the house remains haunted after a man murdered his family there. Others say the house rests on an ancient burial site, and the souls of the dead beneath are restless.
Kadena’s golf course might be the site where in 1945 a group of high-school girls pressed into service in the Japanese Imperial Army committed suicide, according to another yarn.
The spirits of the dead girls are said to still haunt the land.
Off-base, half-finished buildings are abandoned due to reports of ghostly visitors.
Construction of the Royal Hotel off Route 329, near the Nakagusuku Castle ruins, was begun some three decades ago — possibly on a sacred site.
Mysterious accidents and deaths drove workers to abandon construction.
Meanwhile, at Maeda Point, there is rumored to be a prophet-of-death ghost.
The elderly Okinawan apparition is said to appear at a tomb that can be seen only from the water, and within days of a sighting, a body is found on a nearby beach.
Stars and Stripes reporters Travis Tritten, Jimmy Norris, Vince Little and Cindy Fisher contributed to this story.