The disappearing car and the history of the haunted house

"For Sale" sign of the "Haunted House." (Photo: Ngoc Lan/ Nguoi-Viet)

Ngọc Lan & Đằng-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. Part 2.

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Haunted by “haunted house” rumors over the past several years, reporter Đằng Giao — on the day he started to report on the house at Euclid Street and Hazard Avenue– was met with an anomaly, making him want to stop working on the project.

Đằng’s car ‘disappeared’ in broad daylight

On Tuesday, July 24, at about 5 p.m., I turned to fellow reporter Ngoc Lan and said, “I’m going to the haunted house.”

Late afternoons in Southern California in July are as bright as they are at noon. So despite the horrifying memories of stories collected on the house, located in Little Saigon, I wasn’t too afraid. I turned my car toward North Hurley Street, a small street near the target house, to find a parking space.

Stepping out of the car, I looked at the plumeria flower vase on the fence in front of a nearby house, placed as if to help distract me.

I hastened my steps toward the haunted house. As expected, a “For Sale” sign was still there. I called the phone number on the sign and no one answered. I left a message for a real estate agent in my effort to find out more about the house.

At that moment, I nervously stepped onto the property. I suddenly felt short of breath, but I couldn’t figure out why. I quickly took a few pictures and turned back toward my car.

As I walked, I looked at the darkish window upstairs, worried a large face would appear.

There was nothing.

I quickly walked to my car. Asking myself, “What would have happened if someone had appeared at the window or a woman wearing a skirt (a popular ghost story at the house) had stormed out of the door and dragged me into the house?”

I had yet to exhale before I said to myself: “My God!” Where is my car that was just here?”

Hurley Street is short and very quiet. I couldn’t see any tenns who would be mischievous and borrow the car for fun. But where was my car?

I gazed at the plumeria flower as if it were laughing at me for being a coward. I looked back and forth. Clearly, I had parked here. But now my car was gone. What happened?

The only thing I could think to do was to walk to the end of the short street and return to the same spot, hoping I was mistaken and that I had parked in a different place and not in front of the house with the plumeria vase on the front fence.

I was walking and hoping, but I also was preparing for disappointment.

I arrived at my perceived parking spot, but there was no car. I defeatedly sat on the curve, took out my phone and called my son, asking him to find the paperwork for the car so I could report it missing to the police. My son was at the gym, so I had to wait a bit.

I was thinking of calling Ngoc to ask for reimbursement since she had dragged me into this weird story. I also criticized myself for being stupid and for not denying her request from the beginning.

I was livid about what was happening, so I took a deep breath and analyzed the situation. Before I had stepped out of the car, I saw a man mowing his lawn. The grass bag was still there. Once outside the car, I saw a wall on the other side of Hazard Avenue. I saw the exact wall.

I was in the right place.

Frustrated, I recalled the words of a woman who sold fish cakes on the streets years ago: “I don’t know if it’s ghost or devil that (all previous residents) couldn’t bear, so (those residents) had to move out.”

Then I wondered how I would get to work without my car, which I had been making payments on for only a few months.

My son finally sent me a message along with pictures of the car registration. With that information, I could call the police. I looked for the house address so they could locate the place easily. But wait … my car was there again! I held my breath and looked. My white Toyota Prius was in the same place where I couldn’t find it in the past 45 minutes as I paced back and forth.

On the wall of the fence, the plumeria was still there. On the other side of the street, the grass bag was still there, and everything was exactly as I had remembered when I stepped out of the car to approach that infamous house.

After I drove home, I lit an incense thanking Buddha and heaven, and I drank a couple of beers because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night.

From that point on, I didn’t want to be involved in this project anymore. Belief in “mysterious science” quickly permeated my being. But I couldn’t say “I quit.” I quietly prayed the real estate agent would not return my message. At the same time, I wished Ngoc would give up on the story.

The next morning in the newsroom, I was debating whether I should tell the car story to my co-workers. Rethinking the story, I also felt its ridiculousness. Even I couldn’t believe my own story. But why not just tell it to lighten the mood?

Reporter Quốc Dũng said, “Why didn’t you call us instead of your son?” Reporter Thien Le suspected, “Maybe you were forgetful, parked at one place and remembered another?” Ngoc laughingly asked, “Is it for real? It was bright out at that time.”

The sidewalk of the “Haunted House.” (Photo: Ngoc Lan/Nguoi-Viet)

Ngọc Lan looks for the ‘haunted house’ origin

While sending Đằng to the house to find whatever contacts he could, I was searching to see if anyone knew anything about the house.

Uncle Linh Nguyễn, an older co-worker, told me: “I know a guy who used to be an agent for the haunted house. His name is Tom Võ.”

As if I had struck gold, I called Tom on the phone.

I learned from him that he was the agent for both the seller and buyer several years ago, when the house was an old, broken structure sitting on a big piece of land.

“The seller was not Vietnamese, and the buyer was Dr. Phùng Na Vang,” Tom said. “He bought it for $320,000, I think. I sold that house in only two weeks. The seller couldn’t believe it was that fast either, so he was very happy.”

“Was there any rumor that the house was haunted?” I asked.

“One time I asked my wife to let me stay in that house just to see, but she wouldn’t let me,” Tom answered.

I continued, “You have worked as a real estate agent for a long time; do you hear a lot of rumors about houses being haunted like that?”

Without hesitating, he said: “I have worked in this industry for several decades, but this is the only house I heard of being haunted.”

Tom said he couldn’t remember the year he was the agent for that house, but he promised to locate the old escrow files for me.

Since I had the new buyer’s name, I started to search for Dr. Phùng Na Vang to ask if he had seen any “ghosts.”

After questioning several people, I found out the doctor had passed away years ago. My hope sparked and died quickly.

Meanwhile, there was no word from Tom about the escrow file for the house, so to gain more information, I posted on my personal Facebook page, letting friends know I was reporting on the “haunted house.”

I asked a friend who works in the real estate business to search for the house’s origin, but the friend said information from only the past 20 years was available.

“Twenty years ago, was there a rumor the house was haunted?” I asked.

“Yes, haunted long before then,” the friend answered. “But in this file, there was someone who died while he/she was the owner of that house.”

The friend’s words sent a chill up my spine.

“Died right in that house?” I asked with fear.

“Don’t know,” the friend said, adding that the paperwork was unclear about that answer.

What the paperwork did say: The real name of the person who died while owning the house was Pung Navann, not Phùng Na Vang. Ownership of the home was transferred to his wife, Pung Julie, in 1998, after her husband’s death. Pung Navann and his wife had held the house’s title since September 1989. It is unclear how long the wooden house had sat on the lot.

So deductive reasoning postulates that Tom referred Dr. Pung to buy the house in 1989. And until 1998, the house wasn’t sold, bought or transferred to anyone. It was leveled in 2002, and a new house was built on the land in 2005.

According to the file’s archives, in May 2002, the Pung family sold the property for $265,000. At the same time, the land the house sat on was divided into two pieces: Lot 1 and Lot 2. The “haunted house” has the address of Euclid Street, Lot 2.

But there was one confusing thing: Why do public records show that Lot 2 was transferred to a number of different family members every few years from the time of the subdivision until it was sold In May 2016? The buyer then was a man named Van Tai, who paid $645,000.

Van was the owner who listed the house for sale — for $598,880 — when we started reporting on this project.

After listening to my questions about the history of the property, my real estate friend said: “It’s because it’s haunted, that’s why!” My friend suggested I find Mrs. Pung, the previous owner.

“She sold that house a long time ago,” my friend said. “If there was something, she wouldn’t hesitate to tell you.”

Although I had heard Đằng’s “ghost-hid-his-car” story, and although I didn’t dare stay up at night alone after doing internet research on all those ghost stories about this house, I didn’t see a reason to stop the reporting project. Though I am afraid of ghosts, I never once thought Đằng made up the story to scare me.

Next: Part 3

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