Fire Poltergeist in Long An Province, Vietnam

In early 2012, I visited Ho Chi Minh City to investigate the curious case of the ‘Supernatural Girl’.

A Tan Binh district family told me of a spate of mysterious fires in their house, all centred around their 11 year old daughter. It was an impressive report that Tony and I covered in some detail in Australian Poltergeist.

A similar pyro-panic is now underway in Long An province in the Mekong Delta region, according to reports in the Vietnamese media. A good summary appeared on the Motthegioi news site and with their permission I’ve included a translation of their June 4 story.  Copyright for the text and photographs are Thanh Anh/Motthegioi.VN:

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Self-burning furniture in Long An: Residents haven’t believed initial conclusions from relevant authorities.

Self-burning wet clothes on 29 May. Photo: Thanh Anh

Relevant authorities told that the cases of ignited furniture in Mr. An’s house occurred because someone had deliberately used chemicals to burn it. “However, the authorities didn’t specify what those chemicals were and who burnt (the items), thereby making the people feel so worried”, said a resident living nearby.

Continuous and inexplicable fires

Objects made of plastic, cloth, etc. in the house of Mr. Nguyen Van An (born in 1954 and residing at Area A, Rach Dao Hamlet, Thu Thua Town, Thu Thua District, Long An Province) have continuously burnt without any known cause over the past many consecutive days. Ms. Nguyen Thi Mong Tham, his daughter, said that there were 1-2 fires happening in some days, and 3-4 fires occurring in other days.

Although her family took precautions and was watchful after about three weeks of witnessing the burnt furniture made of plastic, cloth, etc. without any known causes, fires still happened in an unexpected manner. “Only when my family saw the burnt smell of plastic furniture, we ran to find, detected ignition locations, and then put out fires”, said Ms. Tham.

According to Ms. Tham, there were three total fires of Styrofoam boxes and clothes on 30 May. Among them, the most dangerous fire was the ignited sedge mat and blanket, the place where her child had just got up.

Ignited plastic-woven sedge mat and blanket, the place where her child lay down to sleep on 30 May. Photo: Thanh Anh

Ms. Tham told, “After more than two weeks of all burnt kinds of furniture, I brought a plastic-woven mat to the yard in front of my house. At noon on 30 May, I saw my child sleeping on an indoor wooden plank without any linings below his back, so I took pity on him. Afterwards, I brought the mat indoors so that my child can lie down on it, and put a cloth blanket over it.

Her child only slept in about 30 minutes, then got up and washed face in the back of the house. Meanwhile, everyone saw the burnt smell of plastic objects in the front of the house. When the whole family ran to the front of the house, they saw the nylon mat burning and the flame spread to the cloth blanket.

Mr. An’s house, the place of self-burnt plastic and cloth objects, has confused public opinion. Photo: Thanh An

After Ms. Tham and her family put out fires, the mat and blanket were damaged. Ms. Tham said, a number of clothes hung on a pole in the back of the house were suddenly burnt. However, what made her family get panic-stricken is that the burnt clothes were still wet because they were washed and hung on the pole not long ago.

Even on 29 May, the cloth blanket placed in a wooden cabinet suddenly ignited; whereas, the cabinet was not burnt. All the things happened from 10 May when a jack was suddenly burnt.

Is there someone using chemicals to burn them?

In her opinion, in about three weeks when her family’s house was caught fires without any unknown causes, there were more than 30 fires in total, and asset-related damages cost tens of million Vietnam dongs. Nonetheless, the whole family could not explain any causes of occurrence, so they were panic and anxious.

Her family’s fear is increasing when rumors that a bad person used “Cha Va ethnic group’s charm” for Mr. An’s house have recently appeared, so there were mysterious fires like those.

After Mr. An’s family had reported such events to the local authority and concerned agencies and suspected of someone with their hatred, the authorities mounted a security camera system for home-based surveillance in the daytime and nighttime, but not detected any strangers intruding and setting fire.

A suddenly ignited fan. Photo: Thanh Anh

Meanwhile, on 30 May, Mr. Le Quoc Dung, the Director of Long An Province Department of Science and Technology sent an official document to Thu Thua District People’s Committee, giving initial judgments by the Department on self-burning furniture in the house of Mr. An.

Mr. Dung said, “After receiving a document from Thu Thua District People’s Committee dated 25 June proposing to find out causes for self-burning furniture in the house of Mr. An, the Department assigned a group of qualified staff in collaboration with Thu Thua District People’s Committee to conduct field inspection and find out causes for combustion.

Initial judgment by the staff from Long An Province Department of Science and Technology is that object combustion happened in the daytime only, but not in the nighttime. The burnt objects detected by family members are mainly made of plastic and wet cloth. Whereas, objects made from wood and paper are not ignited.

The burnt objects are not close to sources of fire, and scope of combustion is within the house and garden in the back of the house. Moreover, adjacent houses have not experienced these events.

Remains after fires. Photo: Thanh Anh

At his house, staff from the Department of Science and Technology have recognised that power and electric equipment are switched off and not used anymore. There are not any igniting chemicals in his house and the family has never traded chemicals before. The inspection group has also acknowledged that there are not any self-burning materials and equipment in his house.

More importantly, the inspection group has identified that the house is free of natural combustible gases such as methane (CH4), ethane (C2H6) or white phosphorus emitting from the underground. Furthermore, there is no radiation and convergence of luminous energy leading to self-igniting plastic materials.

After inspection and survey of the event and field, Long An Province Department of Science and Technology has given its initial judgment: the causes for combustion don’t come from natural factors such as natural gas, radioactivity, luminous energy, as well as incidents related to gas and short circuit.

Burnt clothes hung on a pole. Photo: Thanh Anh

Therefore, it is possible that someone has intentionally used chemicals with strong anti-oxidative activities to make fires when exposing oxygen in the air. From this judgment, Long An Province Department of Science and Technology has requested Thu Thua District People’s Committee to instruct the concerned authorities for investigation and clarification.

In response to the judgment given by Long An Province Department of Science and Technology, the residents are so worried. A resident watching such event from the beginning said, “If the concerned authorities strongly think that burnt furniture in the house of Mr. An comes from someone intentionally using chemicals”, what those chemicals were, who burnt and why the security camera system they could not detect, etc.

Whereas, Mr. An said, rumors that he self-burnt home-based furniture to create pressure have recently appeared because of disputes between family members at the house, the place of fire occurrence.

Mr. An told, “People say that I have made up such story because I want to sell this house. However, if there are any disputes, they will be resolved and arbitrated by the local government and court. Therefore, I do not have any reasons to burn up furniture worth tens of million Vietnam dongs. Moreover, some people with their spiteful tongue think that I have done so to prepare the sale of house entrance tickets for curious people”.’

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An earlier news report quoted a reporter who had observed a fire at the house:

‘While we were sitting down and chatting with each other, someone suddenly screamed “burnt smell”. We looked around and discovered that at the end of the house, there was a spark accompanied by a small smoke on a clothesline. There was not anyone or sources of heat nearby possibly causing fires. Clothes quickly burst into flame, so Ms. Duyen (Mr. An’s daughter living in the same house) promptly used a water bucket to pour into the flame.

Before going to his house, I suspected of causes for “self-burnt” furniture”. It is possible that someone with their hatred want to burn and destroy his family. In general, I strongly think that “self-burning” can be man-made for some reason. Nevertheless, when witnessing self-burning clothes, I think that it must be such a magician highly capable of making these fires. “Self-burning” is like a “magic!”

Furthermore, the back of the house was equipped with a security camera system for daytime and nighttime surveillance. Therefore, it is impossible that strangers will suddenly break into the house and cause fires.’

With widespread Vietnamese media interest, there have been several videos posted of the Long An house:

The idea that mysterious fires were caused by an invisible and untraceable chemical has been proposed in other fire poltergeist reports, but as far as I’m aware it’s never been proven in a single case.

Interestingly, fire poltergeists appear to be relatively common in Asia, Africa and the Middle Eastern countries but rare in the West. I’ve personally investigated fire cases in Malaysia and Turkey and there were certainly similarities with the Long An case. The Kota Bharu report from Malaysia in 2011 also involved wet items bursting into flames.

With our skepticals on and wearing our favourite flame-proof trousers, let’s keep a close watch on this case.

One Reply to “Fire Poltergeist in Long An Province, Vietnam”

  1. Just another “poltg”-type fire in a long long line of similar spontaneous fortean fires that remain unexplained and in large measure wholly ignored by mainstream Fire Science. Congrats to “Cropster” for bringing this recent case to a wider audience, and to the Thu Thua District authorities and to the Director of Long An Province Department of Science and Technology for not quickly endorsing the super-clever arsonist whose diabolical presence eludes all victims and investigators but, rather, conducting a rational consideration of possible external ignition sources – and then publicly ruling them out. While so many curious combustions of this nature seem to center around an (often female) adolescent, no age is given for Ms. Nguyen Thi Mong Tham’s daughter. Pre-teen? Teenager?

    This case appears similar to the spon-com in 1983 in Wharncliffe, WV, which centered around the Rev Gene Clemons family and that we investigated. His teenage son was present at a few of the outbreaks but absent from many of the more dramatic ignitions, including ones witnessed by Gilbert Fire Department first-responders. And of course, Charles Fort chronicled similar combustion conundrums in Wild Talents, among them the 1895 case at the Colwell residence in Brooklyn, NY. As the Fire Marshal said, “I have no explanation to offer.” And police Captain Rhoades added, “The more I look into it, the deeper the mystery.”

    Someday, maybe, both forteans and scientists will understand the force(s) undergriding these pyro-phenomena. For now … we personally will welcome any/all suggestions other than an adept arsonist with a chemistry set.

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