Everyone knows that you can get into the strangest situations over drinks. In this case, it resulted in a ghost hunt in one of the most notoriously haunted roads in Manila. But since we like to think of ourselves as rational people, even when slightly inebriated, we tried to make it as logical as possible given circumstances, and that meant applying the scientific method. Here are the results:
New Manila got its name because it was where the moneyed settled after World War II. It used to be full of mansions, some of which still stand, though a lot of them look more beautifully creepy than awe-inspiring.
Balete Drive, a street in New Manila, has been striking fear into the hearts of Manileños since a story came out in the tabloids in the ‘80s about a white lady that haunts the street. There are two versions of the story. One is that she appears in the passenger seat of lone cab drivers, scaring them as revenge for being murdered by one in the area (never mind that there are no news reports to corroborate this).
The other one is the fairly common story of taxi drivers picking up a girl, dropping her off at her house, waiting for a long time while she went to get payment, and, after getting tired of waiting, going up to the house and finding out that the girl had died a long time ago. It’s stories like this that have cemented Balete Drive’s reputation as one of the most haunted places in Manila. We wanted to see if it was true.
The people included in this crazy scheme were me, horror writer, supernatural and Fortean enthusiast, and scaredy cat; Jordan Clark, Filipino mythology advocate and the person behind aswangproject.com; and A, a psychic friend who can see spirits.
Jordan was in town, and the three of us had met up for drinks at a bar in the area. Once it was established that we were walking distance from Balete Drive, it was only natural check it out.
We visited two streets: Balete Drive, which was supposed to be haunted by the aforementioned white lady and also the location of a former studio that Trese author Budjette Tan had told me was ‘active,’ and 11th street, which A heard had an old mansion where ghostly parties could sometimes be seen and heard.
We would walk from end to end of the important streets. We resolved to take our time, which was easy because it’s hard to rush while tipsy, and I’m disabled so rushing isn’t an option for me anyway. Since neither Jordan or I can see spirits, we relied on A to tell if anything was there. I’m a bit sensitive, so it was also a test to see if I the places I felt ‘weird’ in correlated with what A saw. A super scientific process if there ever was one!
We didn’t encounter any presence along Balete Drive itself, though A did see shadowy forms in the building that used to house the studio. It took us a while to find the proper house on 11th street, but once we did, A said that it was ‘clean.’
We did go down a street where A and I stopped for a bit, me because my head started to ache, a sign that I was in an energetically charged place, A because they had almost run into a spirit that roamed the grounds of the house beside us.
By taking a psychic on a walk though the streets of New Manila, we found that while Balete Drive itself isn’t haunted, at least one of the houses there is, and actively so. And while some mansions in the New Manila area may look scary, not all of them harbor supernatural residents.
It was a fun experiment and it put to rest, at least in our minds, the question of whether or not what many think of as the most haunted street in Manila really lived up to its name. That it didn’t led credence to a story I once caught on the news (that I can’t seem too find online so I can link it here) about a tabloid journalist admitting to inventing the whole story about the white lady of Balete drive in the 80’s during a slow news day. It also makes me wonder about the potential power of collective belief: if there is no white lady in Balete Drive today, will years and years of people believing that there is magically think her into existence? Perhaps the group can return after a few years to find out.