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The Phantom of Pok Fu Lam

February 2006

Pok Fu Lam is an old, spooky and wealthy section of Hong Kong Island. There are dark narrow streets and cobblestones that sometimes hurt your feet if you are wearing tennis shoes while you walk up the hill near my great-aunt's house.

Auntie May must be almost 92 years old now. Her house belonged to her British husband before he died tragically when his ship sank one December night in the South China Sea in 1990. She became the owner of this house, of course, because she had been his wife for more than 65 years.

I sometimes visit her after school because she's my grandmother's elder sister and I especially love her ivy- covered mansion behind the Anglican Church on Des Voeux Road. Trees and bushes surround her house and there's a big iron fence with a creaking gate that she never oils.

But I never thought that this mansion was haunted, or that it had ghosts, or that it made funny noises at midnight...UNTIL...last night!

It all started very innocently. Auntie May telephoned my mother to invite me for dinner on the Eve of the Lunar New Year because she was quite lonely in her huge and empty home. It was also a chilly evening and Auntie May didn't want to light a fire in the fireplace for only one person. She waited for me to arrive and then lit it. So we were both quite warm before and after dinner.

Soon, because this was Hong Kong, the sun set at about 6PM, and shadows started to spread over the thick blood- red velvet curtains which, just a few moments earlier, had been illuminated by the last rays of the sun.

Auntie May was quite tired after preparing our Cantonese Seafood dinner, which included octopus, squid, and eel. She made me eat them even though I protested and explained that it would make me dream horrible things.

Because I am only 14 years old and on the Kung Fu Team at our Secondary School, I had to go to bed pretty early at 10PM after our late dinner.

Auntie May always gave me the same guest bedroom when I visited her home. My mother didn't like this particular bedroom because it reminded her of her girlhood days when she stayed there, too.

I tucked myself into the enormous bed. It must have been designed for overweight people! The red and black quilt felt warm and cozy against my arms and I started to doze off to sleep, feeling tired and full of squid.

Each bedroom in this home, and there were 12 of them, had a small fireplace left over from the days of the British. But the chimneys were plugged up with old rags to keep out the damp foggy weather of Hong Kong Island. Still, I thought, there was a strange whistling noise coming down the chimney in my room!

I stared in the direction of the fireplace and was astonished, even terrified, to see a ghostly shape taking form in the mist that was seeping down the chimney.

Although it was a transparent phantom, it wore a seaman's hat and a blue and gold jacket with four white stripes on the left sleeve. It had a bottle of rum in its right hand and seemed to be singing a sea-faring ditty. "Oh oh oh, and a Bottle o' Rum!..."

Then, the phantom directly looked at me. I ducked under the quilt, hiding my head and shoulders! Suddenly the room became icy cold...even under the quilt...and I came up for air to breathe! He was still there, staring at me and saying,
"If I were 14 years old like you, grand-nephew, I would become a sailor all over again! Let me assure you that your life will be exciting and rewarding!"

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