Da Lat: A Haunted City
In honor of the beginning of Halloween season (April), I want to tell y’all about some special grisly fun stuff going on up there in Da Lat!
Da Lat: An isolated city, once a year, experiences a full month of pure darkness, at which time the city is attacked by soldiers of the dead, who feed on human flesh. (See also: “30 Days of Night”)
Actually, no, the population of Da Lat is not massacred and the town razed to the ground once a year. Instead, it is bedeviled year-long by spirits who haunt the mountainside, ghosts of tragic victims, and conjurings of evil.
The city is comparably small, seemingly lost in the hills and rises, and is unusually cold for Vietnamese standards. The silence throughout the hillside can be seen as tranquil or unnerving, depending on whether or not you think you’re being followed at that moment.
The real ghost pièce de résistance are the large villas, built in the French colonial era, that sit alone in the woods.
It’s no surprise the original owners chose the middle of the forest, seeing as they came to a city known for people wanting to get the f$%k away from everyone else. These ornate, dilapidated houses sit, attracting nothing but the wear of time, old vagrants, and cute tiny animals.
Stories surround so many of these houses. A girl, brutally murdered and thrown down a well. Two lovers, running off to commit suicide together. A man, killing children and burying them in the mountain soil. Every single story surrounds a tragic death.
Except for the story about the ghost alpaca.
The elders speak of it. Wandering in the woods, on a clear, quiet night, you’ll hear an eerie alpaca sound, far off in the distance… And sometimes, when the moon is full, you’ll swear you just felt alpaca spit on the back of your neck, but when you touch it, there’s no spit at all….
Approaching the House
When I heard that Da Lat was a ghost town, it was at about 8:30 at night, the night before we were supposed to leave.
Naturally, at 9:30, I’m driving through the mountains, looking for a ghost house.
I know what you’re thinking, but going out to look for a deserted, secluded house in the middle of the mountains in the pitch-black night in a foreign country is actually a bit difficult.
I spent over an hour driving through the Prenn Pass, which is a two-lane road that is the main road to Da Lat from the airport. The road has no street lights at all, and is full of extremely sharp curves. Full-sized tour buses roar down the road with what is almost a hilarious disregard for human life. I won’t include photos, but feel free to Google “Prenn Pass Crash” if you’re feeling morbid.
A delightful “crash-free” day on the Prenn Pass
After combing the roadside for an hour, I finally see a dirt driveway angling off the main road. I’ve never been so happy to see the site of several alleged murders in my life.
Pulling to the base of the driveway, I get off my bike and see THIS:
It was very dark
I walk farther up the driveway, the road disappearing on my left, a steep hill overlooking the valley on my right, and I come face to face with THIS:
There we go that’s better
Beautiful no? This is the kind of place I’d like to get tormented by the voices of the dead. I could really see myself sliding into insanity and plummeting to my death from an attic window here.
I can really appreciate why someone would decide that this place is a haunted house. It’s exactly perfect. It has a really foreboding feel about it. Sitting at the top of a large hill, it feels as though the house itself is waiting for you. It felt like a classic horror movie, climbing the steep driveway while the facade looks down at you, with those empty window like dark eyes.
Standing out in front of the house, all my senses were heightened. I stood still, trying not to be startled by my own movements. If there wasn’t any real fear in the house to begin with, the decades of frightened visitors had definitely left some bad energy here.
Mind you, I am alone here. All I can hear is the wind in the trees, and it’s so cold. The only light is coming from my camera. My skin is crawling by this time. I turn, ready to hurry back to my motorbike.
And then I hear her.
The sound of a branch snapping in the woods next to me. I whip around, pointing the light shakily into the trees.
“Hello?” I call. “Who’s… who’s there?”
I can see nothing but the trees, dusty blackness between them. The dark seems to close in around me, as though I was about to be attacked from any side, and there was nowhere safe left to run.
Suddenly, I see it.
A flash of white disappears behind a tree trunk. White, like a long white dress. At the bottom, a ghostly foot.
I gasp. “Come out of there!” I yell. “I saw you!”
Silence, for a moment. My light is focused on the tree trunk.
And then, I hear it:
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes I did,” I say. “I saw the long white dress you’re wearing, and your ghostly foot.”
Laughter, light and distant, like the mountain breeze. “That was not my foot you saw. That was a disposable plastic bag.”
“I don’t think it was a plastic bag,” I reply. “I’ve seen a lot of plastic bags. This looked more like the foot of the ghost girl, who comes out of the well over there.”
“What well?” the voice snaps back. “I don’t see a well.”
“There’s a well next to the house,” I point out helpfully. “A girl comes out of it sometimes. She wears a long white dress, and haunts anyone who walks this ground.”
Another silence. “Oh. You meant that well,” says the voice.
“Are you the ghost girl?” I ask.
“Uhhh….. no.” the voice says. “I’m… the.. regional building inspector. I’m here… to make sure this property is up to code.”
“Are you sure?” I point the flashlight around. “I don’t see your toolkit anywhere. Shouldn’t you have voltage meters? Or gas detectors?”
The voice behind the trees curses quietly. “I left them… at the office.”
“So,” I say, “you’re the regional building inspector who wears a long white dress and no shoes, and you forgot your tools at the office but still came to the abandoned house at night, even though the house is abandoned and a building inspector wouldn’t even be here to check it?”
“Listen,” the voice says roughly, “I’m really busy tonight with inspections, so could you just get going please?”
“I’m sorry,” I say, “just your story has so many holes in it, I can’t help but point them out. It’s much more likely that you’re the apparition of the young girl who died here, all those years ago.”
“Yeah,” says, the voice, sounding a bit exasperated. “Well, I’m not, and I think you’ve been pretty rude to me, so just, like, go away from this place and never come back, please.”
“Okay, you’re right,” I say. “I didn’t mean to criticize your profession. I know building inspectors work hard and merit their respect. And besides, you can’t be the ghost girl. I know she stands in the top window of the house to stare at trespassers before vanishing mysteriously. She never wanders the woods around the house.”
“Actually,” says the voice angrily, “I stand in the window AND walk the grounds around the house, so check your facts before you — DAMN IT!!”
“Ah HAH!” I say. “I knew it!! You are the ghost girl!”
“I am NOT,” she shrieks, “I’m the BUILDING INSPECTORRRRR!!!”
As she screams, she runs out from behind the tree, waving her arms in the air, totally looking like the ghost girl, to disappear down the well from whence she came.
As dawn broke over the cliffside, I walked to my bike, the otherworldly chill vanishing as the mists evaporated from the valley below.
And I knew, these cursed lands would be safe again, if only for a short time.
(If you or anyone you know feels they are being haunted by spirits, and would like the assistance of a professional ghost hunter, please feel free to contact me. My method includes playing word games with the phantom, and/or tricking it into admitting it’s a ghost so it gets pissed off and goes away. You can find my information in the Contact section of the site.)
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