Vietnamese Ghost Stories Are Real
Ghost stories are infamous in Vietnam. You hear them a lot if you keep your ear to the ground. And there are many Vietnamese people–adult people–who are genuinely terrified of ghosts. I have met them (the people, not the ghosts).
While this may strike you as silly at first, actually, when you hear Vietnamese horror stories, it’s hard not to get scared.
For context, I was born and bred in the West, but I live and work in Vietnam.
Vietnamese Horror Story
From the people I have talked to, it seems everyone knows someone who sees ghosts, knows a dead mother who haunts her baby, knows a dead lover who haunts his ex. I have heard it said that black dogs can see ghosts. And black animals, such as crows, are believed to bring bad luck.
Murder stories are especially scary.
In 2023, a bunch of kids (“young buffalos,” as wild children are called here) attacked two men for their motorcycles. One of them died, but the other one jumped off the bridge and got away. The young buffalos went to jail. It was all over the news. These things happen here from time to time. And it is these kinds of stories that churn out the horror.
Vietnamese Ghosts actually play a role in everyday life. Incense burning is a normal part of ancestor worship, but it is also a way to appease a “hungry ghost.” There are also rituals meant to make ghosts leave.
To be clear, in Vietnamese culture, there are lots of different kinds of ghosts, not only scary ones. For instance, ancestors who you worship are considered ghosts.
If you have ever been to Vietnam and smelled the acrid stench of burning paper, you may have been inhaling an offering of paper money, which was burnt to appease ghosts.
I asked ChatGPT to tell me a Vietnamese ghost story, and it came up with this:
One spine-chilling tale from Vietnamese folklore is “The Ghost Bride.”
Vietnamese Ghost Story: “The Ghost Bride”
Long ago, in a remote village nestled deep within the Vietnamese countryside, there lived a beautiful young woman named Linh. She was the daughter of a poor farmer, but her beauty was renowned throughout the region.
As fate would have it, Linh caught the eye of a wealthy landowner’s son, a man named Minh. Despite their difference in social status, Minh was captivated by Linh’s beauty and sought her hand in marriage. Overjoyed at the prospect of a better life, Linh eagerly accepted Minh’s proposal.
However, tragedy struck on the eve of their wedding day. Linh fell gravely ill and passed away, leaving Minh heartbroken and consumed by grief. Unable to bear the thought of losing his beloved, Minh made a desperate pact with a dark spirit that dwelled in the nearby forest.
In exchange for Linh’s return to the world of the living, Minh promised the spirit his own soul. The dark entity agreed to Minh’s terms and brought Linh back from the dead, but there was a sinister catch—Linh would return as a ghost bride, forever bound to the spirit realm.
On their wedding night, Minh’s joy quickly turned to horror as he realized the true nature of his bride. Linh appeared before him as a spectral apparition, her once-beautiful visage twisted and distorted by the dark magic that bound her to the spirit world.
Terrified and filled with remorse, Minh tried to flee, but it was too late. The dark spirit had come to claim his soul, and Minh was dragged into the depths of the forest, never to be seen again.
From that day forth, the ghost of the bride wandered the village, her mournful wails echoing through the night. It is said that those who dare to venture into the forest late at night can still hear her ghostly cries, a chilling reminder of the consequences of making deals with dark forces.
The legend of the Ghost Bride serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the dangers of meddling with the supernatural and the price one must pay for tampering with forces beyond their control.