Thursday, October 2, 2008

DESTINATION TRUTH - Haunted Forest; Aswang

History Channel - Original Air Date: 10/1/08

At the base of Mt. Fuji, in Japan, there is a forest that is Japan's most popular place to commit suicide.  Naturally, the forest is reputed to be haunted.  The thick woods and spectacular scenery are "the perfect place" to kill yourself.  It is also, apparently, a very easy place to get lost.  Ryder the researcher makes yet another of her ongoing appearances in procuring an undersized horse for Josh to ride.  (The forest is gorgeous and looks like something out of a samurai film -- and, in fact, it probably is.)  Josh and his crew pick a secluded spot and look for spirits -- which may appear as apparitions or even strange mist.  Ryder quickly gets lost in the dark, and the other folks struggle in the dense foliage, too.  During their trek, the crew encounters university students out looking for dead bodies; they also claim to have seen spirits.  The forest is dotted with suicide prevention signs.  Soon, lots of the crew are lost, and some are freaking out, and compasses seem unreliable -- the whole situation is very Blair Witch.  An abandoned campsite (perhaps from a suicide) becomes the focus of their call & response (and EVP) work.  Soon people are hearing and seeing things -- and even Josh freaks out when he spots something that looks like a person lurking in the dark.  (No one's there.)  They also find photos, cut-up credit cards, and other debris from desperate people's lives.  Josh describes their experience as a "long and terrifying night."  EVP work turns up a strange "voice," and the camera picks up a "human shaped" figure that appears and then seems to collapse into itself.  (Unfortunately, the show doesn't do a lot of video enhancement on this evidence to better show us the shape.)  Josh concludes that the best evidence is what he and Casey saw, people that weren't really there.  This is one of the crew's most unsettling investigations to date.

The aswang is a Filipino creature with stringy hair, long claws, and a thread-like tongue; the creature lurks in the trees and attacks people.  (Clearly the show spent a good deal of time in the Philippines.)  The creature is also reputed to be able to shapechange into a dog, a cat, or even a human.  (Which must make it very hard to pick out from normal fauna and folk.)  After the usual oddball trek into the countryside, the team reaches the center of the recent sightings.  A medicine woman gives Josh a strange blessing, and he then heads out to find a tree so haunted that a small church has been built next to it to counteract its evil.  The team sets up their equipment and then eats -- or mostly barfs -- a local delicacy of unhatched chicken.  They spot something on the infrared camera and hear a strange "ticking" sound (reputed to be one of the noises the aswang makes).  One of the infrared shapes turns out to be a cow.  In the church, they hear strange noises -- whispering and moaning -- from outside, but can't track down anything.  Something flies by a camera, and a cat and a bat appear in the church on their observation cameras.  When a dog appears (completing the monster's trinity of unholy shapes), Ryder freaks and retires from the investgation.  Once again, full-blown back-country superstitions are on display, and it seems convenient to me that the monster can appear as local small animals.  At the end of the show, Josh reaches the same conclusion.  Returning home, one analyst declares the ticking sound a probable bug, and the shadow on the camera a probable cat.  Josh points out that the aswang is a local boogie man based more in superstition and the natural noise and animals of the jungle than anything real.  He suggests that Ryder not buy into the legends so much in the future.

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