Debunking the myths surrounding the ghost of the Hứa family
A visit to the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum is on every tourist’s bucket list when visiting Saigon. And nobody leaves this iconic attraction without learning a tale or two about its former owner – Uncle Hỏa, one of Indochina’s richest men in the late 19th century. Do read his story in the link if you haven’t before continuing with this article about its alleged haunting.
What you will never read from official documents regarding the museum is that it is reportedly haunted by the ghost of its former owner’s daughter – Hứa Tiểu Lan.
For nearly a century, local history remembers this girl as a leprosy patient who died in a room inside that opulent estate with 99 doors, but the real story may be far more complex.
In this article, we’ll remind you of this age-old urban legend that created a buzz in Saigon in the early 20th century, and why we think there’s more to it than that.
Hứa Tiểu Lan – the daughter of a billionaire, with a tragic fate
The wealthy Hui brothers – Huỳnh Trọng Huấn (Tang Huon Hui Bon Hoa), Huỳnh Trọng Tấn (Tang Chanh Hui Bon Hoa), and Huỳnh Trọng Bình (Tang Phien Hui Bon Hoa).
Image credit: Lê Vĩnh Huy
According to the popular legend, which has never been verified, Hứa Tiểu Lan was the youngest daughter of Hui Bon Hoa – Hứa Bổn Hòa, a real estate tycoon in Saigon in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Lan was reportedly a very pretty girl, but suddenly disappeared from the social scene by the time she turned 16.
It turned out that she contracted leprosy, which had no cure at the time. Leprosy was seen as a highly contagious disease back in the day, and thus Uncle Hỏa kept his daughter locked in a room in the family’s mansion.
The mansion of the Hứa family in Saigon
Image credit: @thlinh96
Nobody was allowed to interact with Lan, except the maids who brought her meals daily. They had to leave right after placing her food on her table and were not to look at her face, which had already been disfigured from her loss of her eyebrows and eyelashes, and was awash with swelling ulcers.
Eventually, Lan died a quiet, lonely death in her bedroom.
Missing his daughter dearly, Uncle Hỏa had her put inside a stone coffin, which was placed inside that room. Uncle Hỏa never intended to have the coffin buried, but he had to organize a funeral to make everything look normal.
The insidious funeral was orchestrated in the family’s mansion in Long Hải, Vũng Tàu, and immediately caught the attention of local tomb raiders. Uncle Hỏa was famous for his wealth, and the locals thought that he must have put a lot of valuable artefacts inside the coffin, which was also a traditional funerary tradition.
With this in mind, local tomb raiders raided Lan’s tomb in the dead of the night in hope of finding a fortune in her coffin.
The moment they cracked open her coffin, they were stunned to realize that there was nothing inside it. All that was laid bare in front of them was an empty casket, a secret that puzzles local ghost hunters even until today.
Where was Uncle Hỏa’s daughter?
Before we return to this question, let’s time-travel back to the Hứa family’s mansion in Saigon.
Her spirit returned to the mansion
Image credit: @_vietlinhdangyeu_
As the tomb raiders dug up Lan’s grave in Vũng Tàu, her body actually remained in her bedroom in Saigon where she took her last breath, and was placed in a coffin there.
According to Uncle Hỏa’s orders, the maids were to continue bringing food to the deceased lady’s room daily as if she were still alive.
That spooky routine went smoothly until Lan’s first death anniversary.
On that day, a maid was told to put a white dress, a doll, and a bowl of chicken near the coffin.
A while later, she entered the room and screamed at the top of her lungs.
She ran out and shouted, “The lady is back!”
When other people ran into the room, they witnessed a sight that was frightening beyond measure.
Standing on the coffin lid was the doll that Uncle Hỏa had bought for his daughter for her death anniversary, and the bowl of chicken rice that was half-eaten.
After that sinister event, Uncle Hỏa had the coffin buried immediately.
Since then, rumors about Lan’s spirit returning to the splendid mansion spread rapidly. Some passers-by claimed that they saw a shadowy figure standing by the windows or gliding through the corridors. Some even heard the sounds of a girl screaming or weeping.
This urban legend was adapted into a movie in 1973 and became a sensation
Image credit: Nhạc Xưa
The story grew in popularity for many years even after Uncle Hỏa’s death and the Hứa family’s permanent departure from Vietnam. It got to such a point that a local movie producer adapted the urban legend into a movie called The Ghost of the Hứa Family in 1973, which turned out to be a blockbuster.
At this point, you might already find this urban legend riveting enough and settle for the fact that the mansion, now the museum, probably houses the ghost of Hứa Tiểu Lan.
Wait for it! Our local ghost hunters might beg to differ.
Where did Uncle Hỏa’s daughter really die?
Uncle Hỏa’s mansion in Long Hải, Vũng Tàu has remained abandoned for many years
Image credit: Vietnamnet
The urban legend about Uncle Hỏa’s daughter never fails to fascinate local paranormal investigators, who have made trips to both the family’s mansions in Saigon and Vũng Tàu to find out.
If you have been to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum, you will find that the estate is too spacious for a comprehensive exploration within just a couple of hours. Besides, many rooms are off limits and there’s no way you can find the exact location of the room where Lan died.
The only way to find out – according to paranormal investigators – is to invoke her spirit, which is unlawful in such a public venue and impossible because the museum is filled with security guards and visitors.
Bearing this in mind, most modern-day ghost hunters travel to the Vũng Tàu mansion to conduct a seance.
Contrary to the well-preserved one in Saigon, the holiday home of one of Saigon’s wealthiest families in Vũng Tàu is now an abandoned and ramshackle estate.
Nobody can find a logical explanation to why it has not been repurposed, given that it still retains its stately structure and is located in a very touristy location.
Yes, this is the place where, nearly a century ago, tomb raiders came to dig up Lan’s grave.
Today, supernatural enthusiasts are still coming over, not for artefacts, but for the truth.
Among them were the professional ghost hunters and Youtubers of a Vietnamese group called Ghosthub TV, who conducted a seance here with an ouija board.
Inside the anbandoned mansion
Image credit: Ghosthub TV
Before venturing into the haunted estate, the group was heard talking about their adventure with a street vendor. She warned them that some ghost hunters had come into the estate and were chased out by a supernatural force.
Still, the group entered the mansion and walked around, only to find out that most of the rooms were empty. All they saw were burned-out candles and incense sticks that must have been left behind by previous ghost hunters.
In this experiment, the group recorded themselves laying out the ouija board and lighting candles on the floor of a dark, empty room on the second floor of the mansion. They also set up cameras around the corners of the room in order to capture images and movements that may have escaped their notice. The two participants put their fingers on a coin and started their seance.
Image credit: Ghosthub TV
After praying out loud, a spirit allegedly made its presence known and the group started asking questions.
“Are you the daughter of the owner of this mansion?” a participant asked.
The coin moved to the “Yes” corner of the ouija board, meaning that the spirit was the highly sought daughter of Uncle Hỏa – Hứa Tiểu Lan.
The participant continued to ask, this time with a trembling voice.
“Which room in this mansion did you die in?”
Almost immediately, the coin moved around the letters and formed the word “Basement”.
Alarmed by this response, the participants looked at one another and said, “Basement? There’s a basement in this mansion?”
“Let’s go down there and search for the basement!” a participant added.
Intrigued by the response of the spirit, which matched the urban legend, a participant came up with a request that turned the whole thing around.
“Can we see you?” he asked in an excited yet quivering voice while the rest held their breath.
Reflexively, the coin moved and formed a short text that terrified them to no end.
To find out what happened after that, we recommend you to watch the clip for yourself and come up with your own opinions. On a side note, many netizens pointed out in the comments section that they saw a dark figure standing in the corridor looking in at the boys at 25:57.
We only share this account to propose a theory, which has been tested by several ghost hunters, that Uncle Hỏa’s daughter might have lived and died in the mansion in Vũng Tàu.
For your record, Ghosthub TV is Vietnam’s most famous ghost hunting group, which consists of members who are all equipped with basic ghostbusting skills.
Don’t get carried away by an urban legend
As famous as this urban legend is, it’s never been verified or addressed by anyone from the prestigious Hứa family.
It’s amazing to see younger generations still fascinated by this age-old story and embarking on journeys to discover the truth about Uncle Hỏa’s daughter.
If this urban legend inspires you to learn more about Vietnam’s history and culture, that’s great. The only advice that we can offer is not to get carried away and venture into the unknown for it. Even if you actually do find the ghost of Uncle Hỏa’s daughter, either in the family’s mansions in Saigon or Vũng Tàu, what do you think you’ll do next?
Also check out:
- Hui Bon Hoa: from a cardboard collector to real estate guru
- Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum: home to 99 doors & an urban legend
- 6 traditional Vietnamese ways to summon ghosts
- 13 ghost stories in Saigon hospitals & morgues (part 1)
- 13 ghost stories in Saigon hospitals & morgues (part 2)