Japanese taxi drivers in one of the towns worst affected by the 2011 tsunami have reported picking up ‘ghost customers’.
According to the Daily Mail, the drivers work in Ishinomaki – where 6,000 people died in March 2011 when a 30ft tsunami hit the town following an earthquake – and say they’ve taken fares from customers who have then vanished during the trip.
One driver said he had picked up a woman who wished to go from Ishinomaki Station to the Minamihama district, the Telegraph reports.
When he told her that area had been wiped out in the disaster, he claims the woman said: “Have I died?” When he then turned to speak to her, she had vanished.
Another driver said he picked up a man and drove him to a location across the city but found that his car was empty when he arrived there.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed more than 19,000 people in the town which was almost completely wiped out. Roughly 29,000 people lost their homes with 2,770 still missing.
Since then there have been a number of reports of survivors seeing ‘ghosts’ – a known side effect of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A study carried out by researchers at the University of Manitoba, Columbia University, and the University of Regina found that one in five PTSD sufferers reported ‘seeing something that others could not see’.
It also revealed that those most likely to experience seeing ‘ghosts’ were those who suffered PTSD as a result of being in a flood or natural disaster.
As well as the taxi drivers in Ishinomaki, many locals have reported seeing ‘ghosts’ waiting outside supermarkets, or walking down the streets where they used to live.
Psychiatrist Keizo Hara thinks all the sightings are part of collective PTSD:
The places where people say they see ghosts are largely those areas completely swept away by the tsunami.
We think phenomena like ghost sightings are perhaps a mental projection of the terror and worries associated with those places.
It will take time for PTSD to emerge for many people in temporary housing for whom nothing has changed since the quake.