By Pat Browning
Back in June author Tim Hallinan told us a real life ghost story that happened in Thailand. It’s a doozy. If you missed it the first time you can still read it at:
Now Tim is back with another true ghost story to share, this one from Bali.
This ghostly encounter happened when he was staying on Kuta Beach in Bali, and after I read his story I looked it up at
Here’s what I found out:
With a long broad Indian Ocean beach-front, Kuta was originally discovered by tourists as a surfing mecca. It has long been a popular stop on the classic backpacking route in South East Asia. Back in the 1980s they used to talk about the three Ks: Katmandu in Nepal, Khao San road in Bangkok and Kuta. Today Kuta still attracts some hardcore backpackers as well as families and tourists from all over the world, and is most notably a playground for young visitors from Australia.
The five km long sandy stretch of Kuta is arguably the best beach front in Bali. The beach is safe, partially clean, well-maintained, although the beach vendors remain annoying pushing massages, hair braiding, cigarettes and surf boards. The long wide stretch of sand is often full of sunbathers and although most of the serious surfers have moved on to newer pastures, there are still plenty of surf dudes around at most times of the year, and especially so during peak season.
Once the sun goes down, Kuta is the rough and ready party zone of Bali, even after the tragic events of 2002. Even the most hardened of party animals will find something to please them on Jalan Legian at night.... Kuta is the low end party centre of Bali. It has recovered well from the bomb blasts in 2002 & 2005 and tourists still flock to the bars where alcohol is served freely and excessively. Many of the bars here have a house cocktail with a local Arak (rice spirit) base. These go by charming names like Jam Jar and Fish Bowl, pack a huge punch and make customers very ill!
I emailed the the last paragraph to Tim with the question: Is this an accurate description of the bar scene?
“I haven't been in Bali in about 12 years, but Kuta was definitely the most Western and the most vulgar of the resort towns. There were restaurants that sold omelets with magic mushrooms, there were a couple of incipient discos, which apparently turned into real discos, one of which was bombed, Bali is absolutely loaded with Aussies, and Aussies drink hard, Arak is probably right up their alley. I usually stayed in Legian, which was walking distance from Kuta, although I understand that now it's one party strip, full of neon and Javanese prostitutes.”
Tim has written ten mysteries and thrillers under his own name and several others in disguise. His current series, set in Bangkok, features American "rough travel" writer Philip "Poke" Rafferty, who lives in Bangkok with his hand-assembled family: his Thai wife, Rose, a former Patpong bar dancer, and their adopted daughter, Miaow, who was eight years old and living on the sidewalk when she met Poke.
The first three Rafferty books, which have made Ten Best lists everywhere, are A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART, THE FOURTH WATCHER, and BREATHING WATER. The fourth, THE QUEEN OF PATPONG, has just been published by William Morrow and is racking up rave reviews.
A BALINESE GHOST STORY
By Tim Hallinan
A while back, I sent Pat the true story of my encounter with a ghost in Pattaya, Thailand -- without any doubt, the most terrifying experience of my life.
If you haven't read it, you might want to do so now and then come back to this one. Or you could ignore the paragraph above completely and just read on.
This happened to me in the middle 1980s, in Bali. Bali was then, as it is now, one of the world's spiritual vortexes: one of the places where the force of the spirit pushes its way through everyday life like bones emerging beneath the skin of a face or a plant pushing its way up through the earth. The island is teeming with spirits.
Every village has its temples, its spirit gates. Offering to the spirits, in the form of elaborately carved leaves, fruits, and flowers, are created by the thousands daily and scattered over streets and sidewalks.
In the walled, red stone temples, ancient stories are still danced almost daily -- the tourist audiences are almost incidental -- and in one of the most stunning stage effects I've ever seen, the sudden entry of a god was heralded by a bucket of flower-petals thrown over the wall in front of which the dancer playing the god was standing. My eyes had been drawn elsewhere and then there was a shower of pure color with a god standing beneath it. I've seen it a dozen times, and it never fails to take my breath away.
And then there are the not-so-benign spirits, in which the Balinese believe profoundly. I haven't ever actually seen any, but this happened to me, and I swear -- as I did in the previous story -- that every word of it is true.
I was staying on Kuta Beach, not quite then the frantic tourist town it is now. I had hiked half a mile or so along a red-dirt road to eat dinner in town, and about nine o'clock I decided to go back to the room, but instead of taking the road, I improvised and created a short-cut by walking through the coconut plantation the road wound between.
The moon was full. Coconut trees are planted pretty far apart, so there was lots of light: silvery ground, the shadows of trees like cardboard cut-outs, more silvery ground. The lights of the town had faded behind me and those of the hotel area where I was staying had not come into sight, and I was thinking this was an unforgettable experience: the silver moon, the coconut palms, the shadowed trees.
And then, in front of me, I saw a darker shadow, not shaped like a tree. It was, instead, vaguely circular, maybe 12-15 feet across, like something dark and irregular thrown over the ground. I thought I'd check it out, and I approached to about ten feet from it.
And then I didn't want to check it out any more. I saw that the dark area was a hole, and as I looked into it, something brushed the back of my neck and then absolute terror, all the way to the cellular level, wrapped arms around my chest and began to squeeze. I knew I could feel something breathing on my back.
It took all the strength I had to free my arms. The moment I could move them, I started running, to the right, as far away from the hole as possible. Behind me, I could hear something like a whisk broom: tsshhhhh-tsshhhhhhh-tshhhhhhhh. I ran faster, hearing that dry scrape of a sound until the lights of my hotel came into sight.
My hotel was surrounded by a stone wall about four feet high, which I cleared without a moment's hesitation, running across the lawn and not stopping until I was in the bar, all full of nice sane drunk Aussies. I got as drunk as they were and then flopped onto the bed with the lights burning and went to sleep.
The next day, at high noon, I forced myself back into the coconut grove, but nowhere could I find any sign of the hole.
Thanks to Tim for another spine-tingling true ghost story, and for the priceless image of Himself leaping that four-foot stone wall.