By Paul Dale Roberts, HPI Ghostwriter
I have been to Thailand and Burma. I have never been to Vietnam, even though I flew over Vietnam and Laos to get to Thailand. I hope to one day visit Vietnam. Vietnam has become a friend to America and tourists are treated graciously. My half brother Andrew Somprise Soyo remembers a different Vietnam. He remembers being an infantryman for the US Army and fighting in the jungles. He remembers the smell of napalm, the sounds of helicopter blades. He remembers seeing his friends die, he remembers the dangers of the jungle. He remembers a close friend dying next to him, after being bitten by a dangerously venomous snake. I do not know if my brother was exaggerating, but he claimed the snake is known as a one-minute snake, because it can kill you in one minute. My brother left Vietnam and carried back with him Malaria. At nights, he wakes up in a cold sweat as he goes through the symptoms of Malaria. Malaria will always remind him of the jungle. My brother remembers the negative side of Vietnam and the only two things that came out of Vietnam that he considered positive is when he received the Soldier of the Year Award and an R&R trip to Thailand.
With the many wars, suffering, torture, tragedies that this small nation has witnessed, you would imagine that Vietnam has many, many ghosts. I interviewed a close friend of mine. Her name is Thuy Phan. Thuy is refreshing, reverberating and full of life. With big smiles, she can tell you about Vietnam. A Vietnam that she visualizes as paradise. Thuy is 19 years old and has heard stories about the war, but to her, it's like a mere fable that has been told to her, it seems unreal. I asked her if there are ghosts in Vietnam and her response is "plenty".
Thuy remembers the stories about the 'tree ghosts of Vietnam'. Legend has it that wandering spirits around the countryside of Vietnam need a place to live and they take up residence in the trees of the jungle. It is said that if you cut down a tree without asking permission, you will be cursed or you will face bad luck. Usually the people of Vietnam will perform a ceremony asking the entities to leave a tree and to move onto another tree before cutting it down.
Former Lieutenant Howard Pierce who recently went to Vietnam on vacation, stopped off in the jungles of Bach Ma. He claims he saw two pale apparitions staring at him from one tree. As he approached the tree, the apparitions vanished in front of his very eyes. Perhaps Howard saw the tree ghosts of Vietnam?
Another ghost story that Thuy recalls is a story from her sister. Her sister and her sister's supervisor were working out-of-town and were staying in a hotel that was reputed to be haunted. As they discussed how the hotel is haunted, Thuy's sister's supervisor started walking around the hallway and saying..."I don't believe in ghosts, come out and show me that you are here!" She kept saying that over and over again. Finally an apparition actually walked in front of her and went into another room making a loud sound. After that day, Thuy's sister's supervisor believed in ghosts.
Three tourists claimed that in the Phuoc Tuy Province they encountered a phantom soldier that was wearing a hat that was flipped over on one side. He appeared to be bleeding from the side of his neck and holding his neck as if he were trying to stop the bleeding. They could hear the soldier say in an English or Australian accent: "I need help, where am I?" As they watched the soldier walk down the hill, he faded into a thick tree.
People that have explored the tunnels of Vietnam, have made claim of seeing moving figures in the tunnels. Could those moving figures be ghostly tunnel rats? Tunnel Rats of our American servicemen who went into these underground dwellings looking for VC (Viet Cong)? How many tunnel rats died tragically by poisonous booby traps? Those poisonous booby traps being bamboo viper, venomous Krait and scorpions placed strategically in places of the tunnels by the VC. If these biological booby traps didn't get you, then perhaps the shrapnel from a grenade or a discharged projectile from an AK-47 would make its mark. If you were a soldier in Vietnam and you were inside these tunnels, you were facing death. How many people including VC and allied soldiers died in these tunnels? Do I believe these tunnels to be haunted. My answer is "yes".
Vietnam had many conflicts, the Vietnam War was just one of those conflicts. With all of the tragedies of Vietnam, I believe there are many, many ghosts. I will never forget as I walked the Bridge of River Kwai in Thailand. I could feel the pain and suffering that once befell this tragic area. I didn't have to be psychic to feel the deep negativity. So when Thuy Phan tells me that there are ghosts in Vietnam. I have to believe her.