In Spring 1993, a Vietnamese farmer was on his way to work his rice paddy when he passed his wife and children in the road. The wife sat on a rock and greeted him “scornfully,” as his children cowered behind their mother. The meeting shocked the farmer, as his wife and his three children were killed when their village was attacked in 1968 and his house was burned to the ground.
Stories like these are common in Vietnam, where rural communities attach deep meaning to spiritual encounters. In this case, the man understood his wife’s grave had been disturbed in the village’s recent developments. He immediately set out to give them a proper reburial. But there are many, many more ghost stories throughout Vietnam, relevant to the war fought there. Many of those persist to this day.
Saigon’s haunted apartments
The building at 727 Tran Hung Dao in Ho Chi Minh City – also known as Saigon – was a building that housed American service members for much of the Vietnam War. But its construction was plagued by accidents from the get-go, some of which killed the workers building it. Many blamed it on the number of floors the building had, 13, which was considered unlucky.
In order to assuage their fears and get the building completed, the architect decided to call in a shaman to fix the building’s feng shui issues. It’s said the shaman brought the dead bodies of four virgins from the local hospital and buried them at the four corners of the building, which would protect it from evil spirits.
To this day, residents hear screams of horror in the middle of the night, the sound of a military parade on the march through the building, and the apparition of a spectral American GI walking, holding hands with his Vietnamese girlfriend.
The tunnel rats encounter
On Reddit, a terminally-ill Vietnam veteran recounted a story of his time in Vietnam that he was going to take to his grave but opted to put it on r/nosleep instead. For the uninitiated, Army Tunnel Rats were troops who would crawl into NVA and Viet Cong tunnels to eradicate the troops that hid there below the surface. It was one of the war’s most dangerous jobs, crawling around in the dark, avoiding booby traps and trying to kill before they killed you.
This Tunnel Rat was crawling into the deepest tunnel he’d ever been in, along with his partner. When they finally arrived in the main room, they were astonished that no booby traps were set and an oil lamp was still lit. The only thing they found was a tarp, but when they moved the tarp, it revealed a set of stone stairs, moving deeper underground. The stairs were odd, and definitely not built by the VC. They looked centuries old. The two men cautiously climbed down the stairs, guns drawn, when they came upon another tarp.
Cautiously, the Rats moved the tarp with their pistols and fixed their flashlights on 10 or so Vietnamese people, dressed as VC, but with blank faces looking into space, bodies rocking back and forth, eyes a solid color. The men waved their flashlights and weapons in their faces but nothing stopped their rocking motion. Their now-rusted weapons were in a pile in the corner. At the head of the room was a golden icon of a naked woman, except the lower half of her body featured eight tentacles instead of human legs.
The men were tempted to touch the icon, but instead decided to rig the entrance with C4 and bail as fast as possible. As they were leaving, a woman’s voice called out to them. Read the rest of the story on Reddit.
A veteran comes home
On a Notre Dame alumni website, on alum remarks about his chance encounter with a guy he had known since grade school. He was working a construction job in 1967 and was on his way home after work one night. He was coming around the corner when he walked by an old funeral parlor. He noticed the man was his old friend Jerry, a guy he hadn’t seen in two years. The construction worker was tired and not really in the mood to rehash old times, so he put his hat down and walked by his old friend unnoticed.
When he got home, his mother was on the phone, talking to one of the construction worker’s friends. She immediately stopped her son to tell him that his old friend Jerry had been killed in Vietnam and his body was at the funeral parlor down the street.
Ghouls of the jungle
Marines in Vietnam would often try to recruit locals to help guide them in their area of operations. In some areas, however, the locals were fearful of going into the densest, darkest parts of the jungle. The reason, they found, was the local superstition that phantoms, called ma, occupied the trees there. Montagnards warned the U.S. troops that reanimated corpses awaited them in the trees. The Marines, of course, shrugged the stories off as folklore.
Starting in 1965, it became very real. American troops in the jungles of Vietnam began reporting ghostly figures moving supernaturally through the trees. Others reported fanged creatures with black eyes that would try to kidnap and consume unsuspecting troops. In one encounter, the beasts were found to be bulletproof. It didn’t matter what time of day it was, the corpses lived by both day and night. Since the triple canopy jungle kept the sunlight from hitting them, the military’s top brass decided to get rid of it.
That might be the real reason the military developed Agent Orange and napalm. The Marines would then roll in with flamethrowers to finish the job.
Feature photo: Catherine Leroy, in background, center, during a jungle operation by the 173rd Airborne Brigade in A Shau Valley in 1967. Flickr/Creative Commons