Chợ Rẫy Hospital’s House Of Farewell

Nondescript, grim, and full of mystery, a mortuary is probably the only place on earth that can make the skeptical start believing in the supernatural. 

A mortuary marks the end of a person’s journey into this world, and in the eyes of spiritual people, the beginning of a new one in the afterlife. For this reason, a mortuary is also believed to be home to supernatural events such as strange orbs of light, creepy sounds, and shadowy figures.

The mortuary of Chợ Rẫy Hospital is no exception. Aptly named Nhà Vĩnh Biệt, or House of Farewell, this is one of Saigon’s most renowned mortuaries, where paranormal events are regular occurrences.

The history of House of Farewell, Chợ Rẫy Hospital’s mortuary

Cho Ray Hospital
Image credit: Vietnamnet

Situated on Thuận Kiều Street in District 11 is the House of Farewell, Chợ Rẫy Hospital’s mortuary. Chợ Rẫy Hospital was built in 1900 as Hôpital Municipal de ChoLon and is one of Vietnam’s oldest medical establishments. Rumor has it that its mortuary, House of Farewell, was built around the same time.

Unlike other hospital mortuaries, the House of Farewell is not inside the hospital but rather situated about hundreds of meters away.

Chợ Rẫy Hospital
Image credit: Vietnammoi

Spanning 300 square meters and operated by only 5 staff members, House of Farewell exudes bleakness and quietness at all times.

Nobody pays a visit to this place except forensic technicians who are experts in the quiet rites of death, and family members of the deceased bidding their last farewells.  

Chợ Rẫy Hospital
A staffer cleaning the altar
Image adapted from: Tuổi Trẻ Đời Sống

The doors of the House of Farewell open to a silent hall with an altar dedicated to the Buddha in the center. 

The presence of such a religious symbol adds a touch of dignity and respect to a dead person’s last journey. Besides, it also helps to put the visitors, most of whom are family members of the dead, as well as the workers, at ease. 

Many Vietnamese people are superstitious to a certain degree, so knowing that a force higher than the dead and the living is present makes us feel protected. 

To jazz up the place, the mortuary staff built a fish pond and grew plants inside its yard. 

Chợ Rẫy Hospital
Image credit: Thanh Niên

Connecting separate parts of the mortuary is a long and dimly lit corridor. 

As you make your way into the corridor, the first sound that you hear is the humming of the refrigerators and the first smell that hits you is that of cleaning agents. 

This smell comes from parts of the mortuary where bodies are handled, such as the operating theatre, the embalming and refrigeration room, and the body washing venue. The house also has a small area where the ashes of cremated bodies are stored and a funeral home.

Chợ Rẫy Hospital
Image credit: Nld

Nobody witnesses more deaths than mortuary workers do, and they can all confirm that deaths come in various shapes and forms. 

People who die peacefully look as if they were merely asleep, and minimal effort is required to touch up their appearance before their funerals. 

However, those who die of AIDS, road accidents, or bloody fights often suffer a lot of changes in their bodies. For these cases, staffers have to perform reconstruction techniques to disguise scrapes and disfigurements before putting makeup on them.

Chợ Rẫy Hospital
Image credit: Thanh Niên

This practice aims at giving the dead the last dignity of looking tidy and comforting the grieving family members.

However, not every dead person has family members to come pick them up. 

When a deceased person is brought to the mortuary, the staff members will wait for a family member or acquaintance to come over to recover the body. If nobody comes over to pick it up after 30 days of refrigeration, a staff member will have the body cremated. All of the expenses will be paid for by the mortuary. 

Chợ Rẫy Hospital
Image credit: Thanh Niên

A 20-year-old nurse’s suicide inside Chợ Rẫy Hospital

Chợ Rẫy Hospital
Chợ Rẫy Hospital 
Image credit: Wikipedia

A mortuary is, of course, home to deaths of all kinds. However, there were some deaths that took place here that frightened everyone, including the residents living nearby. 

In 2013, a nurse named Hanh, who was 20 at the time, went to Chợ Rẫy Hospital to visit a family member. All of a sudden, she went to the 4th floor of the hospital and jumped to her death, according to Tuổi Trẻ Đời Sống.

Immediately, her body was transported to the House of Farewell for storage, awaiting her family members to come over to identify her. One day after her death, her family members came to collect her body for burial. 

A 20-year-old nurse’s suicide at one of the city’s biggest hospitals caused a sensation at the time. Since her death, rumors of the paranormal events inside the hospital and its mortuary have persisted. 

People have reported seeing the ghostly visage of the deceased nurse mourning on the 4th floor, and sometimes in the front yard of the House of Farewell. 

According to M., a worker at the mortuary, this report was no surprise. 

“This place has been home to a plethora of paranormal sightings. The ghost of the nurse is only one of them. There are things that are so much worse than that,” he said. 

A TV possessed by those in the afterlife

Chợ Rẫy Hospital
Picture for illustration only
Image credit: Huỳnh Đạt

The residents living near the mortuary have reported seeing ghosts, some of whom were headless, inside the yard. 

“I’ve heard many stories about this mortuary. Some people said that the mortuary emits strange sounds at around 12AM. Maybe those were the crying sounds of spirits whose bodies were not collected by their loved ones or buried properly, and they were fighting with one another for food,” a resident shared with Tuổi Trẻ Đời Sống.

Chợ Rẫy Hospital
Image credit: Vietnammoi

For this reason, the mortuary workers set up a Buddha altar. However, the incense burners on the altar kept disappearing for no specific reason. 

Others have reported seeing electronic devices turning on and off by themselves, especially the television at the end of a corridor. 

For a very long time, this TV never stopped broadcasting traditional Vietnamese folk operas. 

M. shared with Tuổi Trẻ Đời Sống, “At first, I didn’t know why the TV was like that, so I just turned it off because nobody was watching. However, my co-worker stopped me immediately and asked me to let the TV run 24/24. He said that this TV belonged to those who live in another realm. Even if I turn it off, it will switch on by itself. Besides, we’ll encounter a few mishaps once I turn it off, such as electrical blackouts or water cuts. Plus, this TV could switch channels by itself.”

Every place has a story 

Whether the House of Farewell is haunted or not, only those who have heard or seen anything that’s paranormal inside can say. However, I believe that every corner of this world has had its fair share of macabre events.   

Many people see a mortuary as the place where the boundary between the realms of the living and the dead is blurred. Major scenes in horror movies are also set in mortuaries, for no other reason than to convey the message that there is an afterlife, which usually starts in a mortuary. For this reason, spiritual visitors always walk on eggshells while they’re in a mortuary, lest they offend a lingering spirit and get into trouble. For those who don’t believe in ghosts, the next life is just a theory that those with a low threshold for grief devise to provide some comfort in the face of our mortality. 

People have different views regarding this matter, and one day we may each find an answer for ourselves.  

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Cover image adapted from: Vietnammoi, Huỳnh Đạt and Thanh Niên

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