Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Vietnamese Students Association tells of scream-worthy folklore in time for Halloween

The event discussed all things Vietnamese horror 
Photo of VSU E-Board courtesy of @umavsa

The Vietnamese Students Association at the University of Massachusetts hosted a virtual event on Oct. 15 which tiptoed into the more eerie side of Vietnamese legend and folklore, unlocking a diverse, chilling catalog of both age-old and contemporary stories.

In observance of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Halloween-themed occasion took place virtually on Zoom, but was open to the general UMass community and free to attend.

“Tired of regular trick or treat?” the VSA advertised in promotion of the event. “Come join VSA for a spooky night of exploring different yet scary Vietnamese myths and legends.”

Regular trick-or-treating is among other Halloween festivities that are unlikely to happen in this year due to COVID-19, but the VSA ensured that all who attended would at least receive a good scare saying, “Be careful” of the event, “we all know Asian paranormal stories can haunt you at night.”

Once they were granted entry into the Zoom event, attendees were greeted by a social, conversive waiting room. Initial conversations were accompanied by campy, Halloween-appropriate songs such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Ray Parker Jr’s “Ghostbusters” theme.

Treasurer of the VSA and senior computer science major Khoa Nguyen orchestrated the majority of the presentation — with intermittent help from other readers.

“During October, we often hear about Halloween legends or ghost tales in light of the spooky season,” Khoa Nguyen said. “In our presentation, we wanted to elicit the same feelings from Halloween with our own cultural ghost legends. We found a few scary stories to tell and found out how fun it was to try our best to scare the attendees.”

Moments before the presentation, Nguyen announced to the group, “Fair warning: this might be spooky for some people, so please proceed with caution.”

“Hồn Người Chết” was the Vietnamese word of the day that coincided with the event, translating to “ghost” or “dead person.”

A dramatic reading of tales such as the “Operation Wandering Soul” and the “Meat Eater” were among the scary stories that were then read aloud to the group.

The former tale was revealed to be less of a tale and more of a real-life horror story. As the presenters explained, “Operation Wandering Soul” is based off of the strategic playing of eerie sounds by American armed forces in the Vietnam War.

The title derives from the traditional Vietnamese belief of the “wandering soul,” which upholds that the dead must be buried in their homeland, and if they’re not, their souls aimlessly wanders in pain and suffering.

Exploiting this age-old notion, the U.S. armed forces broadcasted eerie sounds from loudspeakers to scare its listeners and deter the threat of Viet Cong attack. It remains both a creepy and culturally relevant piece of Vietnamese history.

“I loved scrolling through the participants in the call and seeing the horror on a lot of faces,” said Emily Nguyen, VSA secretary and a senior Spanish and communication disorders major. “It was a really fun way to get in the Halloween spirit, while still keeping in mind our connection with all of our members.”

One student referenced Krasue, a mythical entity that originates from Southeast Asian folklore. As the legend tells, the spirit of Krasue is nocturnal, and usually manifests itself, gruesomely, as a young woman with her internal organs hanging below her head. Over the years, many tales and legends have described encounters with Krasue in horrifying detail.

“[The VSA’s] mission is to spread Vietnamese culture in the UMass community,” Emily Nguyen said. “So I am glad that we could take a typically Western tradition and put our own spin on it by adding relevant elements from our culture.”

Serving dramatic effect, the sound of a scream played aloud as one story transitioned into another.

The event then transitioned from ghost folklore to a playthrough of the trendy mobile game Among Us, as the attendees were subsequently placed into breakout groups.

In addition to this event, the VSA also hosts bi-weekly movie nights, with the showcased films decided communally. These events are held via a Discord channel — a screening of the 2019 film Furie took place on Sept. 25. They encourage any who may be interested to participate in further events.

Cameron Gibney can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @HayesGibney.

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