Ge Wenlin(葛文林) said: In the area around Dongting Mountain(洞庭山), there are many starving ghosts who sneak into people’s homes to steal food. One day, in his house, they steamed a basket of buns. Just as they were done, upon lifting the lid, they saw the buns making a ‘chirping’ sound while gradually shrinking. What was originally the size of a bowl mouth quickly shrank to the size of a small walnut. When eaten, it tasted like a lump of gluten because all the essence in the buns had been lost. Initially, no one knew what was happening. Later, an old man said, ‘This is the ghosts stealing the steamed buns. As long as, when opening the basket, you use a red pen to mark a red dot on each bun, the ghosts won’t take them.’ The Ge family followed the old man’s advice. However, despite marking the buns, as soon as the steamer was opened, while they marked, the ghosts stole, and the buns kept shrinking bit by bit. It was later understood: One person marking the red dots was ultimately too slow—how could they compete with numerous starving ghosts all trying to steal at the same time?
Translated from《鬼搶饅頭》in 《子不語》: