It is a sort of universal pleasure in pain, this need of human beings to put the frighteners into our selves. It is why we go to scary movies, and why we tell each other ghost stories as kids.
Even the skeptic wandering, in the dim evening, the halls of a building they have been told is haunted will pause to peer into the deeper shadows, listen more closely to each small sound, but then feel the rush of returning to the light of the outside world and less ectoplasmic company.
Saigon has its share of such places, and the belief in other-worldly beings is fairly common. Conversation with a random sample of local people will confirm this, particularly in rural areas. These beliefs, as well as countless other superstitions are rooted in the varied and eclectic belief systems that compose local religion.
Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist traditions have all influenced local belief systems, with the latter, in particular, contributing to an acceptance of more supernatural elements.
Academic Te Huynh Dinh, in his book Introduction to Vietnamese Culture, explains Taoism was originally a philosophy of attaining harmony with nature. However, over the centuries, “it [transformed] into a religion with church and a clergy involved in the communication with deities, spirits, and the dead. Taoist clergymen claimed they could cure illness, alleviate misfortune, and predict the future.”