There are probably thousands of ghosts in Saigon alone, what with the horror and atrocities that took place in this country. And the building where I live, the original back part of it, is at least 80 years old. The last time my Hanoian landlady was in town, I tried (through an interpreter) to ask questions about the previous tenants - I didn't want to alarm her, so I just inquired about the architecture and if she knew anything about the history of the building. I did study architectural history in college, so it's not like I am uninterested in the subject. She says that prior to the war, an American captain resided here, followed by a Viet Cong captain after the fall of Saigon. After that, she claimed to not know. Until a few years ago, this building housed the Chilean Consulate, which would have been great fun; can you imagine the wine-laced dinner parties? (okay, that's my vivid imagination at work, as I would like to hold an epic wine-laced dinner party here). The landlady says the front part of the building is rather new. The whole building is a bit quirky anyway, so I figured there was something lurking here when we moved in.
|back in the day, the chilean consulate had wine flowing a go-go|
I don't claim to "sense" things (though I know people who do) but I know there is something here. I've not seen objects move, heard cries in the dark, had doors open and close involuntarily, or had my hair pulled. The ghost in my room simply watches me sleep.
The idea of ghosts, in general, freak me the fuck out. I remember house hunting with my ex. One older ranch-style home in Decatur, Georgia drew me in completely. The minute I walked in the door, I envisioned myself living there. It was wild. I was suddenly overwhelmingly, inexplicably happy. We walked into the bedroom and I went to inspect the tiny bathroom as my ex backed out of the room and walked right out the front door. A few minutes later, I came searching for him. "Someone died in that room", he said, taking deep breaths. "Someone died really, really horribly in that room. I was overwhelmed with the biggest sense of sorrow and despair, and then someone physically pushed me out of the room". "Well that sucks balls, because I really like that fucking house", I retorted. Then I pouted the rest of the day, as if it was all his fault that we couldn't live there. But I've seen enough episodes of A Haunting to know that people who gleefully move into haunted houses usually run away screaming in the night later on. I don't want to be one of those people.
To be safe (safe from what, really?), on my very first night in the house I had a little chat with the ghost in my room. Well, it was a one-sided verbal conversation, but I informed him, in both English and French (for good measure) in a few carefully chosen words along the lines of, "Hey dude, you freak me out, so let's make a deal that you won't bother me, and I won't torment you, and we'll get along just fine".
And the bathroom lights flickered.
Instead of being freaked out, this calmed me down. I am satisfied that we understood each other completely. Except I've seen him twice now. I say "him" though it's not so much a human male form, it's more of a metallic shape. I know, I know, it sounds improbable. But both times I've seen it have been when I was jolted awake from a really horrible dream. Both times I saw a rectangular metallic shape standing at the foot of my bed, as though keeping an eye on me. I blink, and it's gone. Side note: I've been affected with war-related dreams since childhood, so moving to Vietnam was probably an unconscious decision to exorcise my demons, if you will. When I first came to this country and flew into Hue, as I emerged from the plane and looked towards familiar-looking hills, I said to myself, "I've been here before". But that's another story for another time.
|this is what it looks like. it's actually a bit more rounded and less like Batman.|
I don't know why I know that this ghost doesn't wish me ill will. He just keeps an eye on me to ensure I'm okay and wakes me when the dreams are bad. It's kind of nice, in a way. Though I do give thanks to it, in the dark, for waking me up, but to kindly fuck off because anxiety is kicking in and I want to go back to sleep. And it fucks off, and I sleep.
Apparently there's a ghost in one of the back bedrooms too. I don't know whether or not Z, the current tenant, is making this up (he might; he's known for inventive fictional tales), but he says that the ghost pulls his covers off at night and laughs at him. When we moved in, one of the rooms had a tiny bust of Ho Chi Minh, which Z liked, so he took it with him into the back bedroom. One night it inexplicably flew off the desk and broke into a hundred pieces. Evidently, that ghost doesn't like Uncle Ho.
In Vietnamese culture, ghosts are spirits whose bodies have not been given proper burials. Once the bodies are finally laid to rest, the spirits move on. Ancestor worship is very important here. Over 40 years after the war, human remains are still being found (in rice paddies, in fields), and I've read that DNA research has finally progressed in this country (not to the level of the US, but it's getting there), enough to identify and return some remains to grieving families. So my two ghosts are unrested. I'm not sure who they were, or what they seek (but hey, they speak English and/or French). As long as they don't mess with me too much, I'll be just fine.