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Evan Purcell, a middle-grades adventure fantasy author, shares a true ghost story from Zanzibar that left us shaking. Enjoy this podcast of true, first-hand stories about ghosts, shaitan, and cemetery rats.

The Ghosts of Zanzibar

If you’re the new roommate in the apartment, and new roommates give you the “best” bedroom, be skeptical! Seriously, you don’t think that room is haunted?! Just because the bedroom window overlooks an abandoned, decaying cemetery housing the crumbling bones of late cruel enslaving colonialists doesn’t mean…ok, we don’t want to know what it means. All we know is Evan didn’t sleep very well in that master suite after his visit from something inexplicable there.

About the Guest: Evan Purcell

Today’s guest is an author who writes children’s stories about a boy from Bhutan who fights monsters based on folklore. To say we’re intrigued wouldn’t be exaggerating. Besides writing terrifying tales for tweens, Evan travels the world teaching English. While he’s currently living in Kazakhstan, the ghost story he tells us today actually took place in the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania.

Check out Evan’s page on Amazon to see all his publications, and follow him on Facebook for updates on new releases!

The Ghosts of Zanzibar
Evan Purcell, author and educator

What is a Shaitan?

An evil spirit or evil jinni, a shaitan is one of the 3 invisible creatures from the traditions of Islam. But, like some people broadly use the word “demon” to refer to anything that’s a manifestation of evil, some use “shaitan” the same way. Evan tells the story of how his colleague in Zanzibar witnessed a ritual where one of these ghost-like evil entities be summoned and purged by a village elder woman. Picturing a Catholic-style exorcism? You’re about to be as surprised as Evan’s colleague was when the elder spit liquor and shook her moneymaker at the shaitan.

Wait…this evil ghost encounter in Zanzibar wasn’t scary?

Besides being understandably anxiety-inducing for the youngster who was attempting to escape the shaitan’s temptations, Evan says his friend related the ceremony as weirdly joyful and fun. This “joy” aspect (of something that was also scary) is a good reminder that, from all cultures, our traditional ceremonies are based on the needs of our vulnerable human emotions. The “rational” explanation for these traditions is always a distant second fiddle. Deep down, we are all scared hairless mammals, trying to make sense of what we see in the darkness just outside of the firelight. We wish more cultures solved serious problems by bribing an old lady neighbor with illicit booze to sexy-dance-fight the demons away.

Stone Town, Zanzibar, from the air. Photo by Javi Lorbada on Unsplash

Cemetery rats!

Why are animals who live in a cemetery more worrisome than animals who live outside of a cemetery? Remember that time one of our guests had a cemetery cat forced into her home? It’s probably just an inexplicable, unsettling quality of those of us who are, ourselves, strange and unusual…who are the weirdoes, mister. We personally can only hope that our cemetery-inhabiting habits will eventually make us more frightening to normal people as well.

Thank you for listening to our Zanzibar ghost stories!

We are so happy that you joined us for our season 3 finale! And just in time for the veil to quickly open. And just as quickly, shut. With perhaps just a few more ghosts slipped through to inspire stories for season 4. We truly enjoyed spending this year with you. Regardless of how weird 2021 was in general, we, you and us, dear listener, we will always have season 3 of Homespun Haints. We adore you, and hope you feel the chilling arms of our affection embracing you all winter long, until we meet again in the thaw. Until Springtime, we wish you many spooky days!