WITH Halloween fast approaching, a local museum is turning its attention to Japanese ghosts and demons, with an spine-tingling autumn exhibition.

Spooky woodblock prints from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford will find their way to the Ashmolean at Broadway, from September 14 to December 20.

A spokesman for the "Japanese Ghosts and Demons" exhibition said: "Giant spiders, dancing skeletons, winged goblins and hordes of ghostly warriors are among the spooky subjects depicted in this display of striking woodblock prints, from the nineteenth century.

"The exhibition is timed to coincide with Halloween, although in Japan, ghosts are associated with hot and humid summer months, when scary stories send a welcome shiver down the spine."

The spokesman added: "Belief in the supernatural is deep-rooted in the folklore of Japan. According to Japan's native Shinto religion, spirits reside everywhere, in forests, fields, mountains, rivers and even in the home.

"The arrival of Buddhism during the sixth century AD brought with it a host of more supernatural beings, and many Chinese folk tales of spirits and monsters were also absorbed into Japanese tradition. This varied population of ghostly beings has long been represented in Japanese art and literature: depicted in paintings and prints and turned into hair-raising dramas for the kabuki theatre."

But in particular, the Broadway exhibition will focus on the work of two Japanese artists from the nineteenth century, Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, whose creepy print designs are well-known their native land.

Liz Eyre, the vice-chairman of trustees at The Ashmolean in Broadway said: "This new exhibition is both elegant, intriguing and fascinating.

"It is accessible on many levels: wonderful artwork and intriguing stories about creatures that have been part of Japan's mythology for thousands of years."

In fact, one of the best known paintings in Japan is of a ghost that, so it is said, appeared to an accomplished artist one dark night.

The year was 1750, and the artist was Maruyama Okyo, who woke up to find himself staring at the spirit of a pale and beautiful young woman.

Afterwards, of course, he painted what he had seen, and the rest is history.

Perhaps the ghost Okyo saw was earthbound and wanted help from the artist so that she could move on.

Certainly, earthbound spirits are a feature of both the Japanese and the Western tradition, which begs the question: as there are remarkable similarities in ghost stories from all around the world, does this not suggest that ghosts really exist?

Now there's a thought for a stormy autumn evening!

Further details concerning the Ashmolean Broadway Museum exhibition on, 01386 859047.