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Tuesday, September 23, 2014         

LEE CATALUNA


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Author puts spirited effort into Pacific ghost catalog

By Lee Cataluna

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It took years, but Alex G. Paman cataloged every ghost, demon and supernatural entity he could find in Asian and Pacific literature. The result of his dogged research is the amazing book "Asian Supernatural -- Including Hawaii and the Pacific" released by Mutual Publishing this summer.

Paman, 42, an illustrator and writer who lives in Sacramento, was born in Quezon City in the Philippines and moved with his family to California when he was a child.

"I had always been interested in the supernatural, particularly the characters in native Filipino ghost-lore," he said. "Since I was a child, I also had this obsession of collecting every shred of information about any subject I was interested in."

He visited libraries, used book stores and cultural centers and added to his collection over the years. If there was a reference mentioning a supernatural character listed in a bibliography, he would hunt down that book.

"My collection grew from a handful to several bookcases' worth over the years, divided by Asian culture and sitting in my apartment gathering dust."

The one book he longed for didn't seem to exist. There was no reference book that listed all the ghosts throughout Asia and the Pacific. Paman decided he would try to write one and methodically went through his entire collection, working into the night after coming home from his job.

"I wrote out their descriptions as if they were dictionary entries, direct and easy to read. When one country was done, I put the books back on the shelf and pulled out the next stack, until all the countries were covered. No matter how obscure the reference was, if I could make a sentence out of describing it, I included it in the work."

The collection also includes a detailed index that lists similar ghosts from different cultures, for example, the names of "pressing ghosts" from the Philippines, China, Japan and Thailand. Yes, White Lady is in the book, as well as the faceless woman in the bathroom mirror.

Paman grew up with many family stories about ghosts but says he's not sure whether he's actually seen things or was just imagining.

"After a field trip to a cemetery for water coloring class in college, I thought I saw an image in the mirror beside me while watching TV at home. It wasn't something that I saw from the corner of my eye just before turning my head; I actually stared at it for a full second before it flitted away."

He hopes this collection will introduce ghosts from other cultures into the Western culture that knows mostly European ghosts, vampires and witches.

"My cultural anthropology teacher once told me that one of the things we as immigrants can contribute to American culture is our stories, and he was right."

Lee Cataluna can be reached at lcataluna@staradvertiser.com.






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