Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the eerily similar stories told by seven Japanese taxi drivers shortly after the devastating 2011 tsunami are enough to give anyone the shivers.
They all work in the coastal town of Ishinomaki, a prefecture in Japan where 6,000 people died in 30-foot-high waves. In the months afterward, they claim to have picked up ghost passengers, the Telegraph reported.
In all cases, the ghost passengers entered the taxi, asked to be brought their destination, and then disappeared, leaving their fare unpaid.
Their stories were discovered and collected by a college student named Yuka Kudo, 22, Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun reported. She's a sociology major at Tohoku Gakuin University and compiled the paranormal encounters for her graduate thesis.
Kudo is from a prefecture that was spared in the 2011 tsunami, and before talking to these spooked taxi drivers, she thought of the natural disaster's victims as "thousands of people" in a detached sort of way. She's since changed her mind.
"I learned that the death of each victim carries importance. I want to convey that."
Every week in her junior year, Yuka headed to Ishinomaki. She hopped into waiting cabs and asked the drivers, "Did you have any unusual experiences after the disaster?"
Most of the 100 she asked ignored her question, some got angry, but seven talked of ghost passengers they picked up shortly after the tsunami.
Their stories are both eerie and heart-wrenching.
One driver said he picked up a woman in a coat in early summer, several months after the tsunami.
"Please go to the Minamihama (district)," the woman said.
He told her the area was empty -- it had been devastated by the tsunami. Then, she asked a very strange question in a shaking voice.
"Have I died?"
The question was enough to make the driver turn to look in the back seat, but no one was there.
Another driver spoke of a man possibly in his 20s who climbed into his cab. He spied the stranger through the rear-view mirror, pointing forward. He asked the man for his destination and the ghost passenger said "Hiyoriyama," which means mountain. When they arrived, the man vanished.
Are these stories just illusions? Perhaps, but Kudo makes an interesting point that weakens this explanation. All who talked about ghost passengers started their meters once the riders enter their cab.
The meter is recorded. And when the ghost passengers disappeared, they had to pay their fares. Some of the seven who spoke to Yuka had recorded the experience in their logs, and one had a report that proved his unpaid fare.
That the ghost passengers are primarily young doesn't shock Kudo either. Perishing suddenly in a tsunami at a young age would leave the victim "strongly chagrined" when they couldn't find their loved ones.
"Young people feel strongly chagrined (at their deaths) As they want to convey their bitterness, they may have chosen taxis, which are like private rooms, as a medium to do so."
Interestingly, none of the drivers were scared of their ghost passengers, but revered them, considering the interaction as an important gift.
These ghost passengers aren't the only paranormal tale to emerge after the devastating tsunami. The stats from that day are sobering: 15,893 people died after the magnitude 9 earthquake, which lasted for six minutes and set off a tsunami that crested in some spots at 133 feet high and reached inland six miles. About 2,500 are still missing.
Years later, survivors in these devastated coastal towns have seen ghosts wandering around where homes used to be, lining up outside shops that have long since been razed. Others have seen headless ghosts, bodies without limbs, and have claimed to be possessed by spirits.
For the taxi drivers of Ishinomaki, none of this is unheard of.
"It is not strange to see a ghost [here]. If I encounter a ghost again, I will accept it as my passenger."
[Image via Fotosearch Video/Shutterstock]