The Vietnamese people like to talk about ghost stories no matter how scary they are. Most foreign expats write them off and tell the Vietnamese that it is just merely a figment of their imagination. I used to be one of those skeptics. Then I came to Vietnam…
I saw my first ghost in January, 2005. I was sleeping and in the middle of a dream (yes, ghosts DO appear in dreams which many people do not realize according to Buddhist doctrine), the ghost appeared. She was a very young Asian women with long black hair wearing only white. I remember I was lying on my bed in the dream. I turned my head left and saw her looking at me floating in air. I woke up immediately and stared at that direction though out the night.
The next morning I asked my landlord’s daughter if there was a ghost in the house. She and her family said no. After a couple days I forgot about the ghost.
Ten months later I saw the same ghost again in my room but this time I had been awake. I had just got a Quan Am Shrine earlier that week and put it in my room. I was walking next to my computer when I saw an image of a young woman wearing all white standing next to the shrine. I turned to the direction where she was at but she disappeared immediately. After a couple days, I forgot about seeing this ghost again.
In February, 2006, I was teaching a group of students at SaigonTech. For some reason we started talking about ghosts. What they told me started to spook me. One student told me about seeing a young Asian woman with long black hair wearing white standing next to his friend one night while he was sleeping. He asked his friend who the woman was. His friend did not know. About 5 of my students told me the same story of seeing this same young women. Most of them saw her while they were awake but some said that she does appear in their dreams as well.
Most Vietnamese that I talked to about this ghost say she is Quan Am. Others are not too sure but she tends to be one of the most commonly seen ghosts in Vietnam.
Yesterday, I asked a new group of students to write about ghost stories (I will post some of these later). One of the stories again mentioned of a young women with long black hair wearing a white shirt (I said she wore white but most people I talk to said she only her shirt was white). The student mentioned that when he was a child, people in his hometown would always see the ghost of this woman at midnight. They would hear her crying at a big tree in the village. Many of the villagers were curious to see who was crying but only the unmarried boys and men could see her (I never heard of a married man seeing her). They could just see her for a moment (in the stories I have heard, she tends to disappear immediately). She kept making an appearances until an old man (most likely a Buddhist monk) came to the tree to say a prayer. She never appeared again.
Who is she? Quan Am (Kannon in Japanese)? I guess we will never know.
Oh yeah, I did see her again a couple months ago and this time she did look like Quan Am. . .
Until the next Vietnamese Ghost Story . . .