Beware August in Taiwan. When things go bump at night, it's the ghosts and ghouls stepping out. The netherworld paroles its Taiwanese incumbents for a whole month, and that's when things go bump in the dark.
Taiwan drowns in doom and gloom - an aura of fear and dread envelopes the island. People stay indoors, streets and malls are deserted, business takes a backseat and celebrations put on perma-pause because millions of souls are baying for blood! The dead have come back to settle their accounts - ignore them at your peril!
The worst are the ones in relative limbo - the ones without living kith or kin. They're angry, they’re hungry and they are lonesome on their ownsome. They need to be wined and dined, entertained and amused, prayed to and placated, put off or paid off.
The Chung Yuan Festival is a time for departed souls (and living ones!). The living lay out supplies of food, incense and money (fake notes!) for the next year. Banquet tables sag with the weight of offerings of fish, fowl, meat, veggies, canned goods (for the long ride back to the underworld!) and alcoholic drinks (to ease the pain of parting)! Taiwanese operas perform non-stop (ever heard of a ghost going to sleep or taking a break while on a break?) for music soothes the beast (hopefully).
For all this pandering and pampering, the ghosts have to thank one rotten mamma. She was so bad that she had a real good kid (do you ever get what you deserve?). Good son that he was, Mu Lan went visiting his dead mom. The tuck he took turned to ashes; distraught, Mu Lan consulted his Buddhist master who recommended offerings of food and drink to all the lost souls of the world. Mu Lan dutifully did so as nuns chanted and monks prayed. Presumably his mamma was saved for Mu Lan's filial devotion became a Taiwanese tradition. Now its de rigueur to feed ghosts, good folks notwithstanding.