Image Source: Saya in the Underworld.
Daily existence requires a tacit denial of death. When people do contemplate mortality, the denied Underworld offers up secrets. This is why all cultures have legends and rituals around facing that fear, crossing that line between life and death, and returning with knowledge that proves essential to a longer, better life. The 'Descent into the Underworld' is so universal that it is known as a mytheme, an irreducible, unchanging element of all stories.
This mytheme runs back thousands of years; there are actual geographic locations which are historically considered gates to the Underworld. Modern technology provides new portals. An autumn equinox wiccan ritual visits Persephone "in the time of global warming" and allows participants to exchange knowledge with "the darkness" of the Underworld through New Age meditation. One rumoured Japanese Millennial rite involves locking oneself in a darkened house and unlighted bathroom, calling spirits from the Underworld via the toilet or bathtub with one's mobile phone, and controlling them with salt.
Another Japanese creepy pasta (an online urban legend) claims people can enter the Underworld using an elevator. The elevator ritual instructs the individual to ride an elevator alone in a 10-storey building to floors 4 -> 2 -> 6 -> 2 -> 10. One is then supposed to take the elevator to the 5th floor, where a young woman will enter. This is the sign that things have gotten weird, since it is forbidden to speak to, or look at, the woman, who is supposedly not of this world. The principal then presses the button for the 1st floor, but if the ritual has worked, the elevator will instead go to the 10th floor. At that point, you are on your own. The elevator ritual has also appeared in South Korea, where there are instructions on how to return to reality. Below the jump, see videos of attempts at the elevator ritual, and a VICE report on how near death coffin experiences became a Millennial fad among careerists in South Korea.
Five scariest creepy pastas include the elevator ritual (August 2015). Video Source: Youtube.
Another elevator ritual attempt (2015). Video Source: Youtube.
After a rise in stress-related suicides through 2012 (which inspired this frightening 2011 webtoon set in Seoul), a 'near death' movement emerged in South Korea in which people climb in to coffins and contemplate peaceful death. The experience gives participants a sense of the eternal and helps them to overcome daily worries. VICE reported on the trend in August 2015.
"A Good Day to Die: Fake Funerals in South Korea" © VICE (21 August 2015). Video Source: VICE. Reproduced under fair use.
Read my other posts on Numerology.
See all my posts on Horror themes.
See all my posts on Ghosts.
Check out other blogs observing the Countdown to Hallowe'en!