Vietnamese Ghost Stories I


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 . . .


  1. Hi Kevin,

    So you guys are talking about ghost ? don’t they called her Phat Ba Quan Am? Phat, meaning is god. My question is why would she needed a person/monk to say a prayer for her? and why is she crying at a tree? Probably she is in the gods realm or the ghost realm( the spirit is searching for something)? She hasn’t move out of the six realms. The six realms : 3 higher realms are gods, jealous gods, human, and 3 lower realms of animals,hungry ghost and hell-beings.
    Kevin, are you a Buddhist? Have you read about Tibetan: Book of the Dead, Francesca Fermantle. She is really good.
    It’s a very interesting book to read.
    Are people telling you that she appears alot in Phu Nhuan District? what about other place?

  2. I never meet ghost but I am always believe that there is world for our soul after we die.
    When my mom was 23 years old, she died. Everybody thought that they lost my mom. She was put into the coffin and was waiting to be buried on the next morning. It was imaging, my mom revived at 2 Am. She made the coffin fall down to the ground. Everybody opened the coffin to check and they did not lose my mom. My mom came back from the world of the dead. She said those days when she died like a dream, a very long dream, and what she saw in the dream help me understand more about the Vietnamese customs about dead people, about funeral, about the world after we died. Awesome!

  3. @lien: My interpretation is that it probably was Quan Am but she was not crying. Maybe there was another ghost of a woman there and Quan Am’s appearance was to draw attention to her. The monk probably said a prayer to help the sad ghost. What do you think? This story was passed on so I am not surprised if the details were mixed up.

    @Tracy: Hey, I got a Linux firewall running, Beetle juice could not get through. Damn Linux 🙂

    @Doan Thuc: Wow, nice story. Would like to hear more about your understanding about this certain belief of the Vietnamese people.

  4. Hi Kenvil!
    When i was a boy. Iwas heard a story about Quan am. It’s said:’ Many year ago of 80,90th last century. A lot of Vietnamese people went away hometown for better life in other country by sea infinitively. They’re fill up small boat and forward to international sea border. Oneday their boat running to storm. they met big waves and the boat’s going to sink. everyone thought: It’s over! All we dead. They’re very scared and crying. Some of them calm down and starsted praying. Suddenly, above bright cloudes in the sky Quan am appeared. She (invisible) forced the boat far away storm area to rescue them then they’re safe completly!
    D’you think it’s true, Kavin?
    For me, Quan am always next beside us to help whenever we’re in dangerous situations, if someone believe in.

  5. Dear Kelvin,

    What you saw was definitely not Quam Am, and the Quan Am Shrine was not of any good, if it is, the ghost would not dare to appear.
    Quan Am Shrine needs to be commissioned before used, like charging a battery, monk saying prayer to the shrine is like charging a battery.

    If you feel uncomfortable, you need to move, OR, you should get some papar money ( Lao Tu Street in District 5, near thuan Kieu Plaza ) and burn it in your room, you should speak to her in your heart that , she should not bother you.
    You should ask any of your Vietnamese friend if they know any ” Medium “, person who could talk to spirit.

  6. Quan Am is not a Buddha. Vietnamese calls QuanAm Botat. Botat is a person going to be a Buddha and wants to help human from pain. If u want to know more about Buddish, u should read ” Buddha and his teaching”- Nerada. The book be sold in Xa Loi Pagoda’s library.
    Bye Kevin! Sorry about i typed your wrong name last time

  7. I am looking into pursuing a PhD in the Mekong Delta around the existence of ghosts and spiritual repatriation. Specifically, I’m interested in the ghosts of victims of the Khmer Rouge 1978 massacre in Ba Chuc, near Chau Doc in the That Son mountain range. Is anyone able to help me with information either about the massacre, or ghosts and victims of chet oan generally? I will be returning to Chau Doc early next year and will require a translator also- any ideas? I would especially love to hear anyone with ghost stories from that part of the delta. Thank you!

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