Lafcadio Hearn: born on a Greek island in 1850 to an Irish father and Greek mother, raised in Dublin, sent to live in Cincinnati at 19, moved to New Orleans at 27, finally decamped for Japan about a decade later. One of our great chroniclers and observers, and an amazing craftsman. The following is from "Mosquitoes," collected in Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1904).
With a view to self-protection I have been reading Dr. Howard's book, "Mosquitoes." I am persecuted by mosquitoes. There are several species in my neighborhood; but only one of them is a serious torment,—a tiny needly thing, all silver-speckled and silver-streaked. The puncture of it is sharp as an electric burn; and the mere hum of it has a lancinating quality of tone which foretells the quality of the pain about to come,—much in the same way that a particular smell suggests a particular taste. I find that this mosquito much resembles the creature which Dr. Howard calls Stegomyia fasciata, or Culex fasciatus: and that its habits are the same as those of the Stegomyia. For example, it is diurnal rather than nocturnal, and becomes most troublesome during the afternoon. And I have discovered that it comes from the Buddhist cemetery,—a very old cemetery,—in the rear of my garden.
Dr. Howard's book declares that, in order to rid a neighborhood of mosquitoes, it is only necessary to pour a little petroleum, or kerosene oil, into the stagnant water where they breed. Once a week the oil should be used, "at the rate of one ounce for every fifteen square feet of water surface, and a proportionate quantity for any less surface." ... But please to consider the conditions of my neighborhood.
I have said that my tormentors come from the Buddhist cemetery. Before nearly every tomb in that old cemetery there is a water-receptacle, or cistern, called mizutame. In the majority of cases this mizutame is simply an oblong cavity chiselled in the broad pedestal supporting the monument; but before tombs of a costly kind, having no pedestal-tank, a larger separate tank is placed, cut out of a single block of stone, and decorated with a family crest, or with symbolic carvings. In front of a tomb of the humblest class, having no mizutame, water is placed in cups or other vessels,—for the dead must have water. Flowers must also be offered to them; and before every tomb you will find a pair of bamboo cups, or other flower-vessels; and these, of course, contain water. There is a well in the cemetery to supply water for the graves. Whenever the tombs are visited by relatives and friends of the dead, fresh water is poured into the tanks and cups. But as an old cemetery of this kind contains thousands of mizutame, and tens of thousands of flower-vessels, the water in all of these cannot be renewed every day. It becomes stagnant and populous. The deeper tanks seldom get dry;—the rainfall at Tokyo being heavy enough to keep them partly filled during nine months of the twelve.
Well, it is in these tanks and flower-vessels that mine enemies are born: they rise by the millions from the water of the dead;—and, according to the Buddhist doctrine, some of them may be reincarnations of those very dead, condemned by the error of the former lives to the condition of Jiki-ketsu-gaki, or blood-drinking pretas ... Anyhow, the malevolence of the Culex fasciatus would justify the suspicion that some wicked soul had been compressed into that wailing speck of a body ...