Try to Smile is a scary true story about an English teacher in Japan who may be living in a haunted apartment.
This is something that happened to me, and I still have no concrete explanation for it.
I lived in Japan for 2 years, way out on the island of Kyushu, in a really rural town. I was teaching English there and I lived in an apartment complex with 9 other English teachers and a handful of Japanese families.
All of our apartments were two-story, townhouse style. My apartment was the newest of the bunch. Before me, there had been another English teacher who lived there for 2 years, but before her, as far as I had been told, the apartment had been empty.
I first moved in at the beginning of August, which is brutally hot and humid in Japan. It’s so humid that the wallpaper in your apartment gets wet and starts to curl up. The only air-conditioning in the apartment was downstairs and the bedrooms were upstairs. It was truly unpleasant and I ended up having to sleep downstairs to avoid the sweltering heat in my bedroom.
That is how everything started.
One day, I came home from school to find my back door wide open. It was a sliding glass door and before I left for school, I had securely bolted it. I had locked the front door as well. At first, I thought maybe someone had broken in, but nothing had been taken and not a single thing was out of place.
One of my neighbors came over and looked everywhere with me, but we found nothing strange. At the time I thought it was no big deal. Probably just some curious Japanese kids who thought it would be fun to break in and look at what a foreigner’s house was like.
That night, I was downstairs and I just laid down on my futon to go to sleep. All of a sudden, I heard footsteps upstairs. At first, it sounded like someone pacing back and forth between the two bedrooms. Then, they suddenly stopped.
At this point, I was lying on my futon, shaking and holding my breath. I was terrified that whoever broke in earlier had managed to hide upstairs in the crawlspace. After about a minute of silence, I heard an incredibly loud bang, as though something huge and heavy had just fallen and hit the floor above me.
I ran right out of my apartment and went to my neighbor’s house. I convinced my neighbor to come back with me and we searched upstairs, but we found nothing.
This continued to happen every night. like clockwork.
One night, I was at the local bar with one of the other English teachers. He had been living there for 5 years. I started telling him about the strange things that kept happening every night and how I hadn’t been able to sleep because of it.
“Well, there’s a reason for that,” he said. “Before you. there was another teacher in that apartment, but before her, the apartment was empty. Nobody would live there because a woman hung herself upstairs after her husband left her. Japanese people wouldn’t rent it because they thought the place was cursed, so it was empty until the Board of Education decided to rent it out to foreign teachers.”
At the time, I thought he was just making up things to try and scare me, but one day, I asked my boss about it. He immediately turned white and said that the other teacher shouldn’t be telling me things like that. I tried to press him for more information, but he would neither confirm or deny it.
One day, while cleaning my apartment, I noticed something on the underside of the windowsill. Someone had carved the words “Try to Smile”, in Japanese, about 10 times. When I saw that, I think my blood literally ran cold.
I still don’t know what actually happened in that apartment, but every night during the summer, until I would start sleeping upstairs again, those noises happened without fail.