The Mysterious Tale of the 'Hua Family Ghost' Haunting Saigon

There is a rumor that the ghost of Miss Hua Tieu Lan weeps every night on the roof of the mansion, terrifying many.


Located at 97 Pho Duc Chinh Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, the grand, ancient mansion of Mr. Hua Bon Hoa (1845-1901), now the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum, has been associated with rumors of a ghost for over a hundred years, linked to the only daughter of the wealthy Hua family.

It’s not just a rumor; before 1975, the famous director Le Mong Hoang even made a movie titled “The Hua Family Ghost” (produced by Dia Ly Huong Film Studio), screened in cinemas in Ho Chi Minh City, attracting the curiosity of many for years. To this day, this story remains a mystery.

Mr. Hua Bon Hoa (real name Huynh Van Hoa – Huang Weng Hua, often called “Uncle Hoa”) was of Chinese descent, originally from Fukien province. Around 1863, his parents left China and migrated south, settling in Saigon – Cholon. Starting with nothing but a shoulder pole and a load of glass bottles, Uncle Hoa built a glorious career, becoming one of the “Four Great Tycoons of Old Saigon” celebrated by the people: “Nhat Si, Nhi Phuong, Tam Xuong, Tu Hoa” (Huyen Si – Le Phat Dat, Governor Do Huu Phuong, Tycoon Xuong, and Uncle Hoa).

Although ranked fourth, Uncle Hoa left the most lasting impact. He was considered a prominent businessman in shaping the early appearance of Saigon – Cholon and the community up to the present day.

His wealth is associated with many mysterious legends, and his name is linked to many famous and massive constructions, such as the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum, Majestic Hotel, Minh Duc Secondary School, Saigon Emergency Center, Tu Du Hospital, Binh Tay Market, Ky Vien Pagoda, many bank headquarters, government guesthouses, and the Palace Long Hai Hotel (Ba Ria – Vung Tau) – all built by the “Hui Bon Hoa and Sons Construction Company,” which also owned around 20,000 other street-front houses across Saigon. The reputation of the Hua Bon Hoa family shone brightly in Indochina from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.

There are countless rumors about Uncle Hoa’s sudden rise to wealth. All of them praise and honor Uncle Hoa and the hardworking, diligent, far-sighted, and astute Hua family. The truth is, Uncle Hoa’s family began their journey with a shoulder pole and glass bottles. Many reliable documents, both domestic and international, have recorded this fact. In 1901, Uncle Hoa and his wife returned to their homeland in Tu Minh district, Fukien province, where he passed away at the age of 56. All three of his sons studied in France and returned to Saigon – Cholon to continue their father’s legacy, living there until the end of their lives.

Among the properties left behind by Uncle Hoa, there was a row of three interconnected mansions on an area of thousands of square meters, facing 97 Pho Duc Chinh Street, District 1 (now the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum). Tradition has it that he divided these mansions among his three sons, who later renovated and rebuilt them.

One of the three mansions was where Uncle Hoa and his family lived. This magnificent and sumptuous building had a unique feature: 99 doors, symmetrically designed and installed across four floors. Over 100 years later, this mansion still stands proudly, harmoniously blending the two architectural styles of Europe and Asia, unwavering against the test of time. It is within this mansion that rumors of a ghostly presence were born.

The rumor goes that aside from Uncle Hoa’s three successful sons, he also had a beautiful daughter whom he doted on. When the daughter came of age, the family noticed a change in her demeanor. She was no longer cheerful but rather somber and irritable. Then one day, she disappeared from the house.

From then on, on quiet nights, cries and whispers could be heard within the mansion. People who ate and lived there were perplexed but dared not ask their master. Friends and business partners of the Hua family inquired about the girl but received only dismissive gestures and shaking heads. Everyone was left with a lingering sense of doubt.

One day, Uncle Hoa posted an obituary announcing the passing of his daughter due to a severe and incurable illness, a departure that left everyone in Saigon bewildered. Because she passed away at an inauspicious hour, the funeral arrangements were hasty, and the deceased was laid to rest near the family’s vacation home in Long Hai (Vung Tau).

From then on, whispers of a ghostly girl spread. Some said that, because Uncle Hoa was wealthy, two thieves secretly dug up her grave one night, but when they opened the coffin, it was empty. People speculated that perhaps Uncle Hoa’s daughter had died, but out of love for her, he couldn’t bear to bury her, so he used an embalming technique and left her in a room to remain with the family.

The ghostly presence of the girl returned night after night. Some claimed to have seen a young girl standing by the window, weeping bitterly. Others saw a white figure flickering in and out of the mansion’s window frames. Then, one day, there was news that an electrician working at the house discovered a locked room on the top floor, with only a slight opening. Inside, he heard intense crying and shouting. Uncle Hoa’s family brought meals to the room. The electrician’s account left many believing that Uncle Hoa’s daughter had not died but had a severe mental illness.

Many years later, a book titled “The Ancient Tomb of the Hua Family” appeared on the blogs of Vietnamese writers abroad, authored by Pham Phong Dinh. The book included a passage that read, “Uncle Hoa’s daughter’s real name was Hua Tieu Lan. She passed away due to a rare illness and was buried in Bien Hoa. Every night, a girl wearing a white dress, slender and delicate, sits by the grave, combing her hair, crying and lamenting.”

Some speculated that, during that time, leprosy (also known as hui) was an incurable and rapidly spreading disease, defying both Western and Eastern medicine. Despite his wealth, Uncle Hoa was helpless because doctors and physicians refused to treat her for fear of contagion. He was forced to lock his daughter in a room with only a small opening for meals.

From a beautiful girl struck by a rare and painful disease, Hua Tieu Lan and her family were deeply traumatized. She cried and destroyed things day and night, causing great agony to Uncle Hoa and his relatives. To make matters worse, her condition deteriorated rapidly. Her body was covered in sores, her hands and feet decayed, causing her immense pain and suffering.

Then, one day, the girl passed away. Uncle Hoa was tormented both physically and mentally. Unable to bear to bury his daughter, he preserved her and placed her in a stone coffin, made of granite, with a transparent glass top, inside a room. One day, a servant fainted and, upon regaining consciousness, revealed that she had seen the girl standing up, crying, and laughing foolishly in the room. Uncle Hoa was forced to secretly bury her.

Rumors and legends about the ghost of Uncle Hoa’s daughter continued to evolve over time. When Uncle Hoa passed away, his three sons continued the family’s illustrious legacy in Saigon – Cholon – Gia Dinh. However, by 1934 and 1951, all three of his sons had also passed away. The next generation of the Hua Bon Hoa family immigrated to France, leaving the mansion abandoned and desolate for several decades.

In 2014, a blog post titled “The True Story of Hui Bon Hoa and ‘Uncle Hoa’s Mansion'” revealed some information. It was based on materials provided by the Hua Bon Hoa family currently residing in Paris, France, shedding light on Uncle Hoa’s real name and his life, his three sons, and his grandchildren. However, it notably made no mention of him having a daughter.

Today, the mansion has become the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum. Both the security guard and two tour guides who have worked there for under 10 years share the same sentiment. Many tourists, both local and international, inquire about the ghostly girl, but they have no concrete evidence to confirm or deny the existence of this “ghost.”

“We’ve only heard stories and rumors, which are very intriguing, but I don’t think they’re true. The atmosphere here is warm and peaceful. Generations have worked here since 1975, and no one has ever claimed to have seen a ghost,” confided one of the tour guides.

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