A foreign guidebook says a Saigon park is haunted, but locals have never heard the story.
People walking at the Tao Dan Park in Ho Chi Minh City. The park has recently been listed as one of the World's Most Haunted Spooky Places by the UK tourism website Rough Guides. Photo by Diep Duc Minh
UK travel guidebook Rough Guide has published a list of the world's 27 most haunted places that includes Tao Dan Park, a fact that surprised many locals who have never heard of anything spooky happening at the Ho Chi Minh City park.
Here is what Rough Guides published about Tao Dan: "With 10 hectares of gardens shaded by tall trees, Tao Dan Park gives residents of Ho Chi Minh City a chance to escape from the frenetic traffic. But when the sun goes down, some locals have a hard time relaxing. It's said the ghost of a young man who was killed in a vicious attack still prowls the park, looking for his lost lover."
The park is located in District 1, and is bordered by Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Huyen Tran Cong Chua, Nguyen Du and Cach Mang Thang Tam, and split by Truong Dinh Street.
Park authorities denied allegations that the ghost of a young man is prowling the park.
A member of the park management told Vietweek there were several petty robberies in the park over the last few years, but "absolutely no murder."
He said the story about a ghost in the park was totally false, and no one has ever reported seeing ghosts there.
"Tao Dan is one of the safest parks in District 1," he said.
Local people usually come to the park early in the morning for exercise. The park also has security guards on duty around the clock.
Hong, a vendor in the park for 10 years now, told Vietweek she had never seen a ghost there.
A man named Tr. said he and his wife come to the park every evening for exercise, but they too have never seen a ghost.
"The park is always lighted and crowded, how can a ghost be seen here?" he asked.
Upon questioning from Vietweek, city police said that the only reported murder in the park happened 24 years ago and involved three men who killed another man to steal his motorbike.
In late June 1989, T. of District 10 asked a friend named Hung to look for people who might like to buy his red Yamaha.
Hung asked his friend named Thien if he would like to buy it, but Thien suggested killing Hung's friend to take the bike instead.
Hung agreed to the vicious scheme. After scouting locations, the pair chose Tao Dan Park as the scene of the crime. They also asked another man named Vinh to join the murder.
On the evening of July 5, 1989, Hung made an appointment with T. to meet the buyer at the park.
When they met, Hung and Vinh asked T. to go for a walk first.
They walked to a deserted area where the pair weighed T. down and strangled him to death.
They then took his wallet and motorbike key and drove the bike away.
T.'s body was found next to a garbage heap the following morning by a man who was exercising in the park.
While local police were investigating the case, T.'s sister accidentally saw someone driving T.'s bike on the street and screamed out loud for passers-by to catch the driver.
The driver turned out to be Hung. The two other accomplices were arrested soon afterwards.
Tran The Bao, a local resident in HCMC, said before 1975, people used to consider Tao Dan Park and the Binh Loi Bridge as common places for suicides.
"There were two suicides at a big tree in the park before 1975," he said. "Anyway, maybe Rough Guides just wanted to promote tourism in Vietnam."
Googling for a ghost
On Tuesday (October 15), Rough Guides said in a statement to Vietweek that it named Tao Dan Park in its list of most haunted places based on information on the Internet.
"Firstly, we used the Internet to research some of the world's most haunted places for interesting ghost stories. In various searches, this story about the man looking for his lost lover in Tao Dan Park came up repeatedly," said Lottie Gross of Rough Guides.
Gross said the relevant websites include: www.alltop10list.com/top-10-list-of-haunted-place-in-asia, www.theshadowlands.net/places/vietnam.htm, www.spookycorner.com/832/top-9-most-haunted-places-in-asia, www.unexplainable.net/ghost-paranormal/haunted-places-in-asia-i.php and blog.asiahotels.com/nine-haunted-places-in-asia.
"Secondly, please note that we are by no means suggesting that this story is completely accurate we are simply reporting on what others have suggested. The matter of a ghost haunting the park is completely down to belief and interpretation," Gross said.
Nguyen Minh Trung, a tour guide in HCMC, said most tourism websites publish "shocking" information to attract visits so they can sell tours or advertisements.
"Many people often search on the Internet to study about a place before visiting," he added.
Nhan, a HCMC resident, said he just considers it a move to promote tourism.
"Just consider it a real story to make it scary but interesting. There are stories about the vampire at some castle in Europe to attract tourism.
"Many tourists nowadays want to come to scary places. It's up to you to believe it or not!"