My brother Sterling Hard in the foreground as he walks down from our house past Chang-Oh's house at the right of this picture.  You can see all the people standing outside the steps that go up to Chang-Oh's  house.  

Mudang sorceress sets up shop close to nature in the woods right outside a village.  Koreans often hired the witch doctor to cast spells, heal the sick, cast out evil spirits, or bring good fortune.

Rodney Hard squatting in the front with Chang-Oh and other Korean friends.  My sister Gwendolyn and my brother Sterling are seen at the right of the picture.

                           The Witch Doctor

By Dr. Rodney T. Hard     

When I was eight years old living in Pusan, Korea, my friend Chang-Oh got very sick.  He was a Korean playmate of mine who lived three or four houses down the hill from us.

One day I had gone down the hill, stood outside the gate to his house, and called out, “Chang-Oh yah, nah wah suh nawl ja.”  This can be translated as, “Hey, Chang-Oh, come out and let’s play.”

He did not answer.  As I stood there, I realized that I was hearing drums and chanting coming from inside his house.   I peeked through the knot hole in the wooden gate to their yard.  The door to the house was open and I could see Chang-Oh lying on the floor with his parents and family gathered around.

The drums and chanting were coming from a Mudang, a witch doctor that the family had hired to scare off the evil spirits that were making their son sick.

The idea that evil spirits brought sickness or bad fortune was a common belief.  I remember how aggravated my father would get when people would wait until the last second to run across the street in front of the car my father was driving.  We had near misses all the time which would bring about a standard tirade from my father about how stupid that person must be.

It was several years into our stay in Korea before a Korean Christian minister finally told us why people were doing that.  They were purposely creating a close brush with death in order to shake their evil spirit.  They believed that the evil spirit would leave them the moment before they were apparently going to die in an accident.  So, by almost getting run over, they were getting rid of the evil spirit that brought them bad luck and sickness. 

The witch doctor was operating under the same idea.  When she stopped drumming and chanting, she took up a bamboo branch and shook it all around my friend. Then she stood him up against a wall and threw butcher knives at him.  The knives would barely miss him and stick in the wall next to his head.  This was done to make the evil spirit leave him since it looked like he was going to die. 

This is when it got even crazier.  At the angle from which I observed this, I could actually see the trajectory of the knives that were being thrown.  It appeared to me that a law of physics was being broken.  It appeared that the path of the knife was directly toward my friend’s head, and then it veered off and stuck in the wall next to his head.  How could this be?  How could the knife change directions in mid-air?  This is when I got very frightened and ran home. 

When I told my father about my experience, he did not know quite what to think about the supernatural aspect of my story.  Interestingly enough, over forty years later, while doing missionary work in India, my father heard drums and chanting down a back alley in a crowded village.  He cautiously went down the alley and witnessed a guru chanting over a sick person as the sick person levitated into the air above his bed.  

My father told me that as soon as the guru and the gathered people became aware of his presence, the chanting stopped and the levitated sick man fell back down onto his bed.

As for my friend Chang-Oh, he did get better and we played together as friends for many years.   How did he get well?  I really don’t know.

Dr. Rodney T. Hard

From: POEMS OF KOREAN REMEMBRANCE

By:  Nelson Hard

Night Sounds
Demonic tocsin
Sibilant supplication
She shaman’s shrill shriek