Do you believe in ghosts? Things that creep in the night, out of the corner of our eyes, have captivated our imaginations and have taken a life of their own—in books, on TV, on film, and on the Internet. In Asia, local lore tints these hauntings until they bear their own names. Arabic and Islamic folklore have the “Jinn” (genie), Malay mythology has the “Kuntilanak” (a female vampiric ghost), and the Philippines has the “White Lady” (a female ghost dressed in white), to name just a few. Behind these fearsome ghouls lie a story that tie wayward spirits to our world. Sometimes, it's the atrocities of war, sometimes it's the humble hurt of heartbreak. Not for the weak-willed, these places invite you to discover if there is truth to the tall tales.
Sunny days at this gushing waterfall in Shuen Wan, Hong Kong are for refreshing dips and idyllic picnics by the pool—a far cry from its haunting origins. Legend has it that this natural attraction earned its name through a tragic death in its waters. The story goes: The slippery rocks and strong downpour claimed the life of a bride on the way to her wedding The footmen who carried her litter misstepped and into the water they went! From hopeful bride to a “Sui Gwai” (水鬼, spirit of the drowned), Bride’s Pool draws wandering souls of all kind—both living and dead.
Bride's Pool Road, Shuen Wan, Hong Kong
Mangled branches drape and crawl over this red-bricked mansion in Chiayi County, Taiwan. It's nothing but a hollowed-out shell now flanked by trees reclaiming the land. As the light seeps in through the canopy of trees and naked window frames, this abandoned house is almost beautiful in a sad, forgotten way. Two old tales still dwell in this home. The first is of an affair between the master of the house and its servant girl. Incessantly tortured by the master’s wife after discovering their relationship, the servant flung herself down a well. Trekkers are told to be careful around the well as a ghost might follow them and they might be struck with bad luck. Legend has it that some people who had visited died because of this. The other tale is of Japanese soldiers during World War II who sought refuge in the house—only to be driven to kill each other in fear overnight. Tales of a mysterious mist surrounding the mansion suggest that the ghosts of the Japanese soldiers are marching through the area.
621, Minxiong Township, Chiayi County, Taiwan
Drive by at your own risk! Balete Drive in Quezon City, Philippines, is the last place you’d want to pass when you’re alone at an ungodly hour. This lane was once dotted with Balete (Banyan) trees—a kind known to invite spirits. The White Lady of Balete Drive is unmistakable in the dark. She stands out wearing a white dress, long dark hair flowing behind her. In a blink, she’s on the road; in another, she appears in your back seat. The namesake tree in the middle of the road is now gone, but the vengeful spirit has remained, even inspiring several Philippine films.
New Manila, Quezon City
Locals describe voices, music, and perfume wafting from this crumbling stone fort. In Indian lore, there are two legends that possibly explain Bhangarh Fort's mysteries. The first is that an ascetic known as Bala Nath permitted the building of this fort on the condition that no part could ever cast a shadow over his own abode. The second legend is about a dark magician who tried to bewitch a clever princess to fall in love with him, but to no avail. Both legends end with a curse that doomed Bhangarh Fort to a fate worse than death—being haunted by ghouls.
Gola ka baas, Rajgarh Tehsil, Alwar, Bhangarh, Rajasthan, India
This palatial fort, with its hidden paths and tale of heartbreak, was abandoned by the Bangladeshi royal family before it was ever finished. The project was then passed from the Mughal emperor’s son to a general, Shaista Khan. While he was at the helm of the project, Shaista Khan’s daughter, Pori Bibi, died. The project was abandoned once again, and for the final time. It was believed that every full moon, Pori Bibi returns to fill the unfinished fort with her singing and dancing.
Lalbagh Road, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Forty children haunt Koh-i-Chiltan Peak in Quetta, Pakistan. A barren couple sought the help of magic to conceive a child, but were blessed with more than they were ready for. With 40 children and the capacity to provide for only one, they abandoned the other 39 on the peak of the mountain. After some time, the guilt-ridden mother decided to return to the peak to collect her children’s remains. Miraculously, she found all the babies alive. She ran back to retrieve her child to have it meet its siblings; but, instead, she discovered that her husband had disappeared. Upon returning to the peak with her child, she discovered that the 39 babies had also vanished. Bizarrely, the mother left her remaining child on the peak one night. When she came back, she found that it, too, had disappeared. It’s believed that, to this day, they haunt the mountaintop.
Sulaiman Mountain Range, Quetta, Pakistan
The historic Amidaji Temple in Hakone, Japan, tucked away in a forest, has persisted quietly for hundreds of years. In its days of glory, a skilled musician named Hoichi played his “Biwa” (Japanese stringed instrument), filling the temple with the tale of the Heike and Genji clans. Though he was blind, he played with such skill that it touched the hearts of those both living and dead. Eventually, spirits (presumably those of the Heike clans who perished in the battle) came to him every night and put a spell on him to play. When it was eventually lifted, Hoichi’s ears were torn off by the spirits who sought him. It is said that, until now, the spirits could still be heard calling Hoichi’s name, and, in some instances, music from a Biwa could be heard playing.
24 Tonosawa, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa Prefecture Japan
By day, this abandoned building in Jawa Tengah, Indonesia, is a stately landmark of the country's history; but, at night, the darkness brings back the reality of imprisonment, torture, and executions that took place underground. In the early 1900s, the Dutch built this building as HQ to The Dutch East Indies Railway Company. By World War II, the Japanese had taken over the building where it made its bloody history. Today, stories tell of headless ghosts and vampiric ghouls (known in Indonesia as “Kuntilanak”) roaming the halls of the building where they now dwell.
Komplek Tugu Muda, Jalan Pemuda, Sekayu, Semarang Tengah, Sekayu, Kota Semarang, Jawa Tengah, Indonesia
Known locally as Ghost Hill, this open-air museum in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia, was a fort built by the British, invaded by the Japanese, and haunted by war victims. According to the museum, prisoners of World War II were tortured and executed on-site. Mannequins lie in dimly lit bunkers and barracks, displaying the atrocious acts. Instead of shying away from its reputation as a haunted fort, however, Penang War Museum has embraced it with overnight ghost tours.
Jalan Batu Maung, Batu Maung, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Beyond being an idyllic paradise in Vietnam, years under brutal French rule have brought restlessness to Côn Sơn Island. The remote area hosts not just one, but several prisons built as early as 1862 and abandoned only after the end of the Vietnam War. The most jolting feature of the prison complex is a series of concrete “Tiger Cages” where Vietnamese prisoners were crammed into and tortured. If ghosts fail to get to you during your visit, then you’re sure to be haunted by the skeletal figures that were installed. Locals still come to pay their respects to the lives of activists and all those lost at the camps. Ghosts still linger, unwilling to be silenced, even after death.
Con Son Island, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Vietnam