Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Most Unusual Episode: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai

I've been thinking about doing this for some time now, shopping for what I'd want to make it happen, imagining how I'd plan it, I've even mentioned it to a few of you. Getting caught in the rain during this morning's walk brought all of the pieces together, so now I'm putting it out there -->and there's no going back.

I'm hosting a Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.

Some of you might recognize the word "kaidan" in there, Japanese for "ghost/horror story." That's at the root. The following text from Wikipedia explains:

Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai (百物語怪談会?, lit., A Gathering of One Hundred Supernatural Tales) was a popular didactic Buddhist-inspired parlour game during the Edo period in Japan.
The game was played as night fell upon the region using three separate rooms. In preparation, participants would light 100 andon in the third room and position a single mirror on the surface of a small table. When the sky was at its darkest, guests gathered in the first of the three rooms, taking turns orating tales of ghoulish encounters and reciting folkloric tales passed on by villagers who claimed to have experienced supernatural encounters. These tales soon became known as kaidan. Upon the end of each kaidan, the story-teller would enter the third room and extinguished one andon, look in the mirror and make their way back to the first room.
With each passing tale, the room slowly grew darker and darker as the participants reached the one hundredth tale, creating a safe haven for the evocation of spirits.
However, as the game reached the ninety-ninth tale, many participants would stop, fearful of invoking the spirits they had been summoning.
So it's that. But I'm adding a few additional rules. I plan to invite three to five serious guests to thisadditional critics, hecklers, and audience members will detract from the atmosphere, so storytellers only. Every guest is expected to have five stories in their repertoire prepared in advance and ready to tell right away. These can be folktales, dramatic summaries of short stories by your favorite authors (though the more obscure are preferred; we've all read "Murders at the Rue Morgue"),  decades old plots from episodes of The Outer Limits, heck, even plots of old RPG adventures, anything you can tell without even thinking about it, but that won't necessarily be recognizable to the entire group. Each story should fill about 3 to 10 minutes.

But these won't be enough to get you through the night. Even with five guests, every participant will have to tell 20 stories if we're going to get through the full 100. Those remaining 15 or more are meant to come completely out of your head, created entirely at the event or developed from seeds you've had rattling around for a long time. In a way, these stories should be as much a surprise to you as they are for the listeners.

So far there's been a lot of rules, but rest assured, this is meant to be funbut also memorable. First off, I plan to have this event catered. There will also be drinks, especially sake. Following with the tradition, there will be candles, and everyone will get to keep any candles they blow out. Additionally, at the end of the nightwhether we get to 100 stories or notthe guests will choose which story they liked the best (no voting for your own). The teller of the story voted best gets to keep the blue andon lamp and the candle inside from which all of the night's other candles are lit.

There will also likely be more.

Who's invited? I've already sent out three invitations. If you've received one, you're someone I think will enjoy this and would be particularly well suited to this sort of impromptu storytelling. If you haven't received one, there's a chance I might want to talk to you in person about it, didn't realize you'd be interested, your invitation slipped my mind, (I don't know you personally), or whatever. If you're a friend or acquaintance of mine, particularly turned on by this idea, live in the Seattle area, have some flexibility in your schedule, and have stories to tell, give me a yell and we'll see if I have any spots leftno promises though. I love many of you dearly, but you are not all gothic storytellers. Also, I am purposefully trying to keep this small, both to keep the experience as rich as possible (in terms of food, drink, take homes, and—possibly—setting) and so not to detract from the mood.

When are we doing this? That's going to be left up to the spirits and the guests, in that order. It's supposed to rain for the next several days, and then we're headed into the Northwest's typically cheery summer months. Generally poor territory for terror. After this series of showers, I'm not going to set a date until the next time we get five consecutive days of rain. When we do, that's when we'll know its time for the Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.

Okay. It's all out there now.

This is happening.

There's no going back.