Next on our Halloween tour of scary and/or creepy phenomena: Mummies.
Yawn. Bad Universal monster movies. How banal.
OK. How about Japanese mummies?
Meh. Maybe worthy of a slightly-arched eyebrow.
OK. How about Japanese monks who mummified themselves while they were still alive?
I thought that would get your attention.
Meet the Sokushinbutsu:
Let’s go to Wikipedia, the source of all vaguely-accurate knowledge, for the grisly details of how a monk would voluntarily turn himself into a Sokushinbutsu:
For 1,000 days the priests would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another thousand days and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls.
This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and most importantly, it made the body too poisonous to be eaten by maggots. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive.
When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed. After the tomb was sealed, the other monks in the temple would wait another 1,000 days, and open the tomb to see if the mummification was successful.
If the monk had been successfully mummified, he or she was immediately seen as a Buddha and put in the temple for viewing. Usually, though, there was just a decomposed body. Although they were not viewed as a true Buddha if they were not mummified, they were still admired and revered for their dedication and spirit.
There are reportedly some 24 “successful” examples of monks turning themselves into mummies in northern Japan, which suggests that they were probably hundreds of unsuccessful attempts. So just imagine a starving monk, entombing himself alive, wasting away toward his inevitable demise.
That would be one hell of a time to discover you have claustrophobia…