Ghosts (And Other Weird Tales) From Vietnam
Everyone loves a good spooky story every now and then to satiate our universal and unexplainable thirst to scare ourselves silly. In every country in the world, there’s bound to be a creepy and unexplainable story or two, and Vietnam is no different. This is a country with a strong traditional culture, a strong belief in feng shui and a very deep history, some of which was traumatic; it’s no surprise that the stories here range from the absurd to the downright spooky.
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Here you’ll find a collection of stories featuring urban legends along with an extraterrestrial story that took place during the war, told from a foreigner’s perspective. Nobody can really ascertain if any of these things actually happened, so take them with a grain of salt. Try not to read these at night, but then again, you clicked on this after seeing the title, so nevermind, go ahead and enjoy.
Let’s start with a tale almost every Saigonese may have heard of...
The Daughter of Hui Bi Hua
One of the best-known stories in Saigon is the ghost who roams the corridors of what is now the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Art at Pho Duc Chinh Street in District 1.
Back in 1934, when the trio of buildings was first completed, it housed the family and business of Hui Bi Hua, a real estate magnate who was reputed to own about 20,000 properties in the city. Basically, he was a very rich guy.
The main building used to be the family mansion and it’s apparently haunted by the ghost of Hui’s daughter.
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The story goes that she contracted leprosy during a city-wide epidemic and was confined to a bedroom on the upper floor. Back then, leprosy was viewed as more of a curse than what it really is: a disease. So maybe it was due to the family trying to protect their status and reputation that they made an announcement that the girl suddenly died from a “mysterious illness”; they quickly arranged a public funeral to put the matter to rest.
However, in truth, Hua’s daughter was locked away in her room, with her meals slid through a slot at the bottom of the door. This went on for years until it eventually drove her insane and she took her own life. Multiple versions of this story have claimed that she hanged herself, while an alternate story claims it was self-immolation (she burned herself alive).
Since then, many people have reported seeing the ghostly figure of a woman roaming the halls of the building and, in more extreme cases, the sound of someone crying in the dead of the night.
The Black Sphere
Location: Cao Bang
This story was set in August 12-13, 1968 and was an account compiled by Solomon Naffert, titled “Black sphere in the jungles of Vietnam” NLO May 17, 2004.
During the war, a group of Soviet engineers working on a hydroelectric power plant suddenly heard a rumble of engines overhead. Thinking it was American B-52 bombers, they all ran out of their tents but were surprised to see a black, angular, diamond-shaped object emitting a greenish-blue light instead.
Moments later, a fiery comet-shaped object emerged out of nowhere and struck the floating object, resulting in a bright flash that temporarily blinded everyone in the group and sent out a powerful shockwave. The force of the shockwave knocked the Russian hydrologists down and tore their tents apart, sweeping their equipment away. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, although there were concerns that the explosion might’ve been radioactive.
Over the next few hours, none of their communication systems worked and instead, only produced severe static. It was only in the next morning when it was finally possible to establish contact with their central base, where the men reported the incident. The scientists in their team promised a full report of the event and visited the nearest village where, strangely, there was no sign of destruction or evidence of an explosion; the inhabitants only reported hearing a very “loud thunderstorm” the night before.
It took two days before the scientists finally found, about one kilometre away from their base camp, a black half-sphere shaped object about three metres in diameter. It was completely black with a non-reflective surface and didn’t cast a shadow as the rays of the sun seemed to go around the object instead, falling on the grass around it. By touch, the object seemed cool and slippery, like it was doused in soapy water; one of the men tried to scratch the surface of the sphere with a sharp knife, but it had no effect.
The central base gave the men instructions to set up a protective perimeter around the object and guard it until a “special group” arrived at the site. They were also strictly warned not to approach within 20 metres of the sphere. So, the men built the perimeter and camped right outside it, still wondering what this object was and where it came from.
One of the specialists, Boris Ivanov, wrote in his diary that the men rested while staring with unease at the object in the light of their bonfire. They had their carbines ready, just in case, as they waited for the special forces to show up.
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Soon, one of the men, Viacheslav G., suddenly rose and walked towards the woods behind the object without much fuss. The rest barely noticed him and thought that he had probably just gone to answer nature’s call. After five minutes, he still hadn’t returned and the men were starting to worry. They called out his name, but there was no sign of him. They started to search for him with their flashlights but he was nowhere to be found. Concerned and afraid, the rest of the men retreated to their bonfire (although it’s not clear why they didn’t radio for help).
About an hour later, another man, Peter K., silently rose and walked in exactly the same direction that Viacheslav had taken. He seemed to move uncomfortably, in almost a drunken stagger, and a sense of anxiety started to pour over the men. However, they just could not seem to intervene. He too, never returned.
One by one, each man started walking away towards the sphere and never returned.
Now it was just Sergey T. and Boris left. Both of them huddled together in fear, and suddenly Sergey’s face started to appear distorted; he rose and wandered away into the dark and disappeared, leaving Boris alone.
Moments later, Boris found himself able to move again and, in his terrified state, grabbed his carbine and shot himself in the leg to purposefully disable himself. Now, he reasoned, he wouldn’t be able to walk to an uncertain fate. He passed out from the pain.
That action may have just saved his life because he woke up the next morning having lost a lot of blood but still alive. The specialists had already arrived and found him semi-conscious beside the already-extinguished bonfire and evacuated him. The sphere and his comrades were no longer there and Boris could only convince himself that the mysterious object was an extraterrestrial probe that had taken his friends away to an unknown place.
From an extraterrestrial incident in the 1960s to something closer to home...
Some of you may have seen this forlorn but creepy-looking abandoned building located at 727 Tran Hung Dao in District 5.
Commissioned by millionnaire Nguyen Tan Doi, it was once known as President Building and was built in 1960, divided into six blocks with 13 floors each. At one point during the American War it housed hundreds of U.S. soldiers.
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The 530-room building was a pretty big deal during its time but, as most people know, 13 isn’t a very lucky number. This was brought up by the building’s French architect, who warned Doi about the inauspicious number. Doi didn’t listen, and it was only until the 13th floor was completed when deadly accidents started to happen. One such case was of a worker who fell down the supporting columns to his death.
This started to frighten the workers, so to boost their morale, Doi enlisted the help of a shaman to figure out what was going on and in one of the most extreme examples of getting something done “one way or another”, they secretly bought the corpses of four virgins from a hospital to be buried at the four corners of the building, for good fengshui and to protect it from any negative energy.
This seemed to work – the building was finished with no further incidents and Doi was delighted when the US Army chose to rent the entire building to house its soldiers.
But as time passed, the building’s glory started to fade and after reunification, local families started to move into the building. And that’s when strange things began to happen.
Residents have reported experiencing unexplainable incidents such as odd whispers, sudden screams and even the sound of a military parade. One of the most common sightings was of an American soldier walking hand-in-hand with a young Vietnamese woman down the halls.
There’s also a story from the coffee vendor at the entrance of the apartment who claimed to sometimes find a piece of joss paper (something locals usually burn as offerings to the dead) amongst her earnings, even when she carefully inspected the money given to her by her customers.
Initially, she figured it may have been a prank by a really determined kid but she started to notice that this only happened on full moon days, when a particular young woman would buy orange juice from her. The vendor decided to try and find out who this young woman was, only to learn that years earlier the young woman committed suicide after being sexually assaulted...on a full moon night.
Thuan Kieu Plaza
Located in the busiest part of Chinatown, It is made up of three towers, 33-storeys high, atop a three-storey mall. Completed in 1998, Thuan Kieu Plaza was one of the first apartment buildings in the city.
However, multiple sources claim that the building was riddled with bad feng shui right from the beginning. Some unverified accounts claim that a mysterious fire during the construction led to a few deaths and the remaining workers then put an evil curse on the place.
A slightly less superstitious version claims that the building’s management were cutting corners, resulting in safety breaches which led to accidents.
However, the most believable reason was that many residents who moved in disliked the interior architecture of the building, with its small rooms, low ceilings and bad ventilation. Many complained about constantly feeling uncomfortable and falling sick often. In 2004 and 2009, fires ravaged the third floor where many restaurants were located. Due to the declining number of customers and the global financial crisis of 1997, many shop owners suffered huge losses and decided to close down. And with the lack of amenities available, one by one, the residents left.
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Like with all doomed buildings, there was a fair share of stories from residents: one former tenant described a murder-suicide of a couple at one of the restaurants in the building and, like the result of all unplanned deaths, the couple still lurk around the complex. Another story reports a Chinese lady who is often sighted floating around in a cheongsam, and many residents have also claimed that they dreamt of fires and ghosts disturbing them every night, eventually driving them to leave.
The common explanation behind the building’s fate in most accounts however, is bad feng shui. It is said the building was meant to look like a grand sailing ship with three tall steampipes. However, the government unwittingly “wrecked” this ship by building Pham Ngoc Thanh Street, which ran across the building, and, according to feng shui practitioners, bisected this ship, making it sink.
And finally, something from up north.
To Lich River
The To Lich river is widely known by Hanoians as a narrow and not a very clean river, but it also has its tales that border on the supernatural. The following incident, popular among the locals, can only be found in Vietnamese, so here’s our attempt at translating it to English.
On September 27, 2001, a construction team was dredging the river near An Phu Village when they discovered some strange, ancient relics. They saw seven wooden panels buried under the river, positioned so it resembled a polygon from above. There were bones nailed to them and between the wooden piles they also discovered gold-plated objects, some pottery, elephant bones, knives and copper, all of which the crew pulled up.
Since then, plenty of strange things happened to the members of the construction crew.
First, the construction work was affected when one of the excavators mysteriously plunged into the river. After this, some of the workers present suddenly fell to the ground and remained unconscious for hours.
A week after the incident, a series of catastrophic events started to happen to the core 12 members of the construction team and their families which ranged from accidents to illnesses and even to death. This scared off the remaining 43 workers, who decided to walk away from the project altogether.
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On October 9, the construction company invited a four-member panel of spiritual experts to the site to get to the bottom of this, and it was revealed that the items they pulled out were part of a long-buried ancient structure guarding the area. They then invited a Venerable monk to perform a ceremony to try and solve the issue. The monk died over a month later from an illness.
Scientists got involved in the case too, making preliminary assessments. Unfortunately, they were unable to come to any conclusions on what exactly was causing all these incidents and how they could be solved.
According to a Professor Tran Quoc Vuong, the structures were traced back to the Ly Dynasty somewhere between the 11th and 14th centuries. He reasoned that the random items that were found, such as human skeletons and artifacts, were most likely offerings which had now been disturbed, resulting in a very powerful curse. Another theory traces the structures back to Cao Bien, a Chinese General with supernatural abilities during China’s porcelain epoch in the 8th century, 200 years before the Ly Dynasty.
The villagers and many other residents managed to restore the relics back to their original positions and pray for forgiveness to end the curse and it is unclear what has happened since then.
The river is still around, though.
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