Ngọc Lan & Ðằng-Giao/Người Việt
Translation: Titi Mary Tran
Editor’s note: Nguoi Viet News reporters Ngoc Lan and Đằng Giao set out to answer the questions regarding the property, and the house, at the corner of Euclid Street and Hazard Avenue in Santa Ana, Calif. Is it really haunted? What are the creepy apparitions? This Halloween season, they tell their story over six days. Today: the finale.
SANTA ANA, Calif. – Reporter Ngoc Lan’s initial intention when she wanted to discover the “haunted house” in Little Saigon was to spend one night there. It was just a thought, and she didn’t know how to make it happen.
No homeowner would agree with a suggestion as odd as that, right? But what a surprise it was when Mr. Anh, the uncle of “haunted house” owner Mr. Nguyễn, voluntarily invited us to stay Saturday night, Aug. 25.
Ngoc: Who will carry out the ‘mission’ to stay in the ‘haunted house’?
While I reported to my boss about the homeowner’s invitation, I also was wondering, “The most important thing now is who will sacrifice.”
Of course, I knew there was no way I would “escape,” but spending the night by myself would not be right. Even though the house has people in it, alone in a room would be very chilling.
I asked fellow reporter Nhat Anh, “Will you go, Sister?” She smiled and quickly shook her head profusely. “No, Sister, I really believe in these things! I won’t go.”
At that moment, Nia, a co-worker from our IT Department, walked in.
“Nia, will you stay overnight with me at the haunted house?” Nia also smiled and said. “No, Sister.”
Are you scared?
“No, Sister, I’m not afraid, but I don’t want to risk it, just in case ‘those things’ follow me to my house; then it would be troublesome to other people.”
On Friday morning, however, a message from Bé Châu, the newsroom’s “grammar fixer,” said, “Auntie Lan, is there space for me to stay over at the haunted house?”
“OK, you go with Auntie Lan; I was about to go by myself because everyone seems to be afraid.”
As it turns out, Bé had been following our reporting and was curious what it would be like to spend a night at the “haunted house.”
I told her to bring her sleeping bag and/or blankets.
Friday night, the day before “fate” day, many people gathered at the home of Thinh Nguyễn, a new staff member, for an eat-and-drink evening. The whole night was filled with “haunted house” stories, and the main character was … reporter Đằng Giao.
When they heard that Mr. Anh asked us to not bring Đằng,” everyone bombarded him with jokes and laughter. Đằng seemed to be upset and determined.
“I’m not scared,” he said. “I will go there tomorrow evening. And even if I’m scared I won’t give up.”
While everyone was laughing, a colleague from the newspaper’s layout department suddenly said, “Tomorrow night is the full moon of July (lunar calendar), the month of the dead! Be careful — ghosts come up a lot!”
“Oh my god, really? What’s a coincidence,” I yelled.
Đằng: My Buddha statue and Ngoc’s ‘hidden treasure’
We agreed to meet before 9 p.m. at Ngoc’s house to go to the “haunted house” together.
That afternoon, I bought beef short-rib barbecue and had dinner with my son. I quietly hoped this would not be our last meal. Horrifying stories about the house in the past several decades kept coming back to me. I didn’t feel ill or suddenly have the urge to withdraw at the last minute, but I was regretting accepting the invitation to stay at the haunted house.
“It was almost 9 o’clock. I didn’t dare say anything to my child, but I quietly lit incense and prayed to Buddha, asking for a blessing so that I would come back tomorrow morning. I didn’t see my son, so I quickly took the Buddha statue and put it in my backpack. I feel more secure with the statue. I got it 15 years ago. I usually bring him when I go to places of “concern.” When I’m on vacation, I let him stay home for my son.
The distance from Ngoc’s to the “haunted house” is only about four minutes. Bé parked in front of the house.
Ngoc brought her luggage to the house first. After our room for the night was chosen for us, it was Bé’s and my turn to bring in the rest of the luggage.
At this time, I didn’t put the Buddha statue inside the backpack but carefully carried it in my hands to step inside the house.
Ngoc remembered, “I was surprised when I saw my co-worker with his backpack in one hand and the Buddha statue in another obnoxiously walk in from the outside, straight to the room that the owner determined. Mr. Anh smiled and didn’t say anything. Mr. Nguyễn, the young homeowner, quietly said: “Oh my god, do you really have to do that!’ before turning his face down to hide his laughter in surprise.”
This was a complete surprise; never was it part of Ngoc’s imagination. But before she went, Ngoc put on a red necklace with a jade Buddha statue she received as a gift from a former boss.
The bottom line: Both Ngoc and I brought a “hidden treasure” and didn’t tell each other.
Ngoc: White face in the night
Inside the house at night, Mr. Anh and Nguyễn sat and spoke to everyone. Mr. Anh was especially talkative; he always wanted to scare us that “this or that” would happen.
Đằng said his body was floating, and he didn’t understand why. His ears were ringing and his eyes couldn’t focus in one place, and everything was blurry and whited out.
Believing in Nguyễn’s words that he was afraid of ghosts, Mr. Anh kept making fun of him to make him less tense. But there was no way to turn around a person who has been ingrained with rumors about this house.
“To be honest, I can’t remember what Mr. Anh told me to help me,” Đằng said. “My ears couldn’t hear anything. When we were sitting at the dinner table, my body froze, and my heart jumped out when I heard (a noise) behind my back. My mother! I immediately turned around, and a woman opened the door and calmly stepped in. I was petrified. I think
Mr. Anh said she was his wife. Anh, I think everyone thinks I’m jumpy.”
Around 11 p.m., the home’s owner went to bed.
“I’m in the next room; call me if there is anything,” Nguyễn said. “My door is open; feel free to go home anytime you want. If you can, please tell us how you feel after staying a night here.”
Mr. Anh told us with sincerity before leaving that we had the freedom to “do whatever we wanted — film, take a picture, anything.”
The three of us went to the room to discuss what we needed to do. I decided to go to the “ghostly” fireplace to talk about our entire report on the “haunted house.” Bé was the videographer.
Everyone agreed and brought out the equipment. Outside, Nguyễn turned off the light and it got very dark. We tried walking and looking for the light switch at the same time.
Đằng didn’t forget to bring his Buddha statue, putting it on the fireplace mantle, facing him.
While waiting for Bé to prepare the video equipment, I suddenly heard a noise from a dark kitchen corner. While I had yet to determine what it was, Đằng suddenly turned around.
“Oh my god!”
One person dressed in white, with a face as white as powder, slowly walked out of the dark corner. Both hands were wavering, dapping on the white face that left black holes for two eyes, mouth and nose. Taking a few seconds to calm down, I said: “Is that you, Nguyễn?”
“Yes, Sister, Nguyễn here. I intended to come in to scratch Brother Đằng Giao,” Nguyễn answered while continuing to put on the face-moisturizer mask he was applying for us to take pictures.
The owner had played us, and he quietly went back to his room.
Finished with filming, it was almost midnight, “the spiritual hour.” Đằng suggested that everyone go back to the room to avoid bothering the owner. Of course, he hugged his statue before returning to the room, putting it next to where he was lying.
Looking at Đằng’s frightened manner, I couldn’t hold back laughter, to the point I forgot that I also am afraid of ghosts. I’m also not brave, because I was still wearing a necklace with a Lady Buddha hidden inside my shirt.
I phoned the boss, Thắng Đỗ, who was following the reporting process.
Đằng said, “Ngọc Lan called Brother Thắng Đỗ, managing editor of the Người Việt Daily News, to say something, and when she gave me the phone, Brother Thắng encouraged me to be brave because this was a rare opportunity in a reporter’s life.”
“Even if you give me gold, I would not dare to go home at that time, around midnight,” Đằng added.
After each of us took a corner of our room for the night, it was time to turn off the light to sleep. How else would we see ghosts if the light were on? But the light switch was paired with the fan switch, so when the light was off, the fan also was. It was too hot to bear. We had to open the window. But if the window were open, the window blind must be down. Otherwise, what if eyes were open and someone was standing there?
One more time, Đằng slowly moved the Buddha statue to where the window was open.
Ngoc: A night unlike any other
Bé brought an eye mask and earplugs for her sleep, because, as she said, “I also do this at home; I can’t sleep without them.”
Đằng, looking stressed, had his back to the wall, and his face directly faced the room door. He had carefully blocked the entrance because he “didn’t want to see footsteps walking back and forth.”
After reviewing the video clips Bé made, I covered myself with a blanket and tried to sleep. But I couldn’t because it was too hot. However, I didn’t have enough courage to uncover the blanket and turn on the fan. Let’s consider it a sacrifice while listening to the regular breaths of my two co-workers, cars sometimes running outside, and the feeling of myself soaking with sweat.
With Đằng, sleeping in “the haunted house” was too much to bear, but I didn’t want to sleep because I wanted to verify if the old ghost rumors were real. So I tried to keep my eyes wide open in a dark room.
He said, “I told myself I would stay up all night, but because I’m only human, around 2 a.m., I was too tired, and I snoozed off.”
After I turned a few times because of the heat, I opened my eyes slightly when I heard the noise of a car running outside. It was getting busier. I reached for my phone, and it said 6 a.m.
We’re safe. My two co-workers were still breathing regularly, meaning everyone was still alive.
A little before 7 a.m., I saw that Đằng seemed to be awake. I asked, “Did you see anything?”
“Complete disappointment. There was nothing,” he said. His face lit up strangely, very differently from last night and the past few days. Later he said, “Never before I was so happy like on that day when I realized I could still wake up.”
I saw Đằng open his backpack and put in the Buddha statue.
With Bé waking up, we asked if she saw anything.
“Didn’t see anything; didn’t feel anything, either,” she answered nonchalantly.
We washed our faces and filmed the last part of the “haunted house” video clip in that room.
Hearing the noise outside, and guessing one of our hosts was awake, we gathered our luggage and thanked Mr. Anh while Nguyễn was still sleeping. We left and took a few pictures together for souvenirs in front of the house.
A final word
Đằng Giao: “I confidently announce to readers far and near that nothing happened on that night at the house at Euclid and Hazard. Maybe because of my Buddha statue?
Everything I tell is everything I still remember from that night, with all the courage of a person who respects the world on the other side.”
Ngoc Lan: “I have always felt excited since I started this reporting, with a string of luck, one after another. There was no pressure nor worries, nor any particular fear.”
The only thing the two reporters still argue about is the painting of a woman inside the home of the neighbor of “the haunted house.”
Ngọc thinks the only thing that made her a bit scared was the moment she stepped inside that house and saw the painting.
But Đằng was adamant: “There was no painting. None!”
Said Nguyễn, who was there with us: “I didn’t completely pay attention; I only noticed the stairs, because they were so beautiful.”
So what does this mean? Is there a painting of a woman’s face with very sharp eyes and a few hairs drooping over half of her face?
While Đằng said, “For as long as I know, I still believe the scariest thing about ghosts and devils is that they have hundreds of thousands of ways to make people believe there are no ghosts or devils in this life. Perhaps because of that everyone related to that house said there was nothing — even me. And, who knows, those who are in the underworld intentionally made us believe there was no ghost in the haunted house. But if there was no fire, why there was smoke? Today, while sitting in the Nguoi Viet newsroom, I still can’t forget the chills to my brain both times I entered Nguyễn’s house.”
Ngoc seemed calm: “Didn’t feel anything strange; very normal.”
However, after writing this series, exactly two weeks after that “special” day, Ngoc was the only one of the three people at the “haunted house” sleepover to get a “severe skin allergy,” according to the doctor’s diagnosis.
Ngoc said maybe it’s because she was lying on the floor.
Regardless, as she said, “I am satisfied with everything my co-workers and I did when reporting on the project, ‘Discover the most famous haunted house in Little Saigon. The rest is … small things.”