Three-Skulls Tree of Móng Cái

(This is the 3rd, in the series of Haunted Trees in Vietnam.)

By now, you must think that every old tree I come across, I point to it and say, “That tree is haunted.” After all, didn’t I say all old trees are haunted in one of my posts?


My answer to that is, “…well…to a certain extent, and I’ll explain that later, but for now, I’m trying to point out the fact that some trees are really strange. Stranger than the relatively normal trees.”

What in the world does strange mean? Ok, let’s parse this out.

There are many trees all over the world, some of them super old and some of them super strange. But what makes them strange is not that the trees are old.

They’re strange because strange things happen around them and no one knows how those things occur.

There is a decandra tree (cây thị) in Móng Cái, Vietnam that is so powerful, it resists all efforts to be removed or relocated. Allow me to explain.

Stubborn Decandra Tree

Over ten years ago, this area was a dense forest filled with ancient wizened trees. The forest grew around the outskirts of a small village named Móng Cáiin the region of Quảng Ninh. It was sparsely populated and remained that way for much of its history.

Over time, the village began to grow and many large projects were planned to turn Móng Cái into a business and tourist destination.

To construct the new buildings, the workers had to remove large trees to make room for roads, buildings, and homes. Scrub brush and dead trees were removed and turned into chips while the larger more valuable trees were relocated to more suitable places.

When the construction workers reached the area where this tree was rooted, they noticed that there was an ancient shrine built under the tree. Furthermore, the tree had a daily caretaker.

Unfortunately, when they got close to this decandra tree, the construction crew hit a snag.

For some strange reason, their equipment kept failing or break down as soon as they neared this specific tree. If it wasn’t one thing, it would be another.

The engine on a bulldozer would suddenly die and wouldn’t restart, or the chain would suddenly break on a heavy piece of equipment.

All bulldozers and excavators that ventured near this tree inexplicably stopped working. No one knew what the problem was so they would try to fix the equipment or bring a new machine in to replace the broken equipment.

They also tried to change drivers, thinking perhaps the issue was the driver’s inability to operate the equipment, but to no avail.

The foreman stated that he eventually realized after many failed attempts that the equipment would only stall or get stuck if it came close to the decandra tree.

“In 2011 alone, we tried to move the tree three times, once at the beginning of the year, twice in the middle of the year, but every time the same thing happened, every time we got close to the tree, the machine would suddenly stalled,” said Mr. Cuong, the foreman of the construction site.

In desperation, they contacted the caretaker of the tree and asked for help.

Ms. Hoàng Thi Long, the caretaker for the tree. Photo from Challenge Me.

The caretaker for the tree is a woman named Hoàng Thi Long, and she had been doing this since she was a young girl. (FYI: At the time of this writing–April 2023, the woman is around 91 years old).

Each time a vehicle got stuck, Ms Hoàng would have to go to the tree and ask for leniency so the construction workers could take their heavy equipment away. Only then would the bulldozers and excavators be allowed to restart so they could leave. Once they took the heavy equipment to another area, it would start up again without issue.

In due time, the crew was able to clear out most of the trees around the area, but nobody could get their equipment near the decandra tree without issues. Unable to use heavy equipment around the area where the tree stood, they decided to bring people in with axes to cut the tree down by hand.

Unfortunately, nobody dared to go near the tree with machetes or axes, even with offers of high pay and threat of unemployment. Eventually, they paved a brick area around the tree and left it in a corner of the parking structure, looking out of place and frankly, a bit creepy.

What’s up with the decandra?

The history behind this tree began to be revealed when it became known that this tree was part of an expropriation due to the process of eminent domain (the process of the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use). This meant that the family who owned this tree had no choice but to give up the land with the decandra tree standing on it.

Mr. Hoàng Xuan Tham, a resident of Hoa Lac ward, is one of the few people who has knowledge of the story behind the tree.

This specific decandra stood on a piece of land that once belonged to a neighboring family of his wife’s parents.  At the time when it was still part of private property, Mr. Hoàng would often see the property owner burn incense and offerings under the tree.

Although this tree always produced a huge amount of fruit that was unusually large, perfectly round, and grapefruit-sized. Its beautiful fragrance would permeate throughout the entire neighborhood, lending a scented charm that is no longer present.

However, no one never saw the owner picking this fruit or cutting its branches.

Golden apples from a decandra tree (cây thị). This fruit is very fragrant and looks similar to persimmons except they are yellow.

Another neighbor, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Bau, said that this tree was once part of the garden estate belonging to an overseas Chinese family.  After they returned to China, a Vietnamese family occupied the house and land, and that was when strange things began to occur.

According to Mrs. Nguyen, no one in that Vietnamese family was healthy or normal.

“They are sick all day. Some have terrible deformities. The old mother has a very large hump in her neck, and as a result of that, her mouth is crooked. The niece has deformed legs and can barely walk. Especially the father who coughs all day, as if his lungs are going to explode.”

Mrs. Nguyen recounted. “They took all sorts of medicines, and for a long period of time. They even set up a shrine and offerings with incense sticks to the tree, but instead of getting better, their diseases progressed, and what’s worse, it began to sow fear and confusion throughout the entire village.” 

“I don’t understand if their strange diseases were caused by their close proximity with the strange tree, or if they were just unlucky and got sick. No one dares to touch the tree even though it still bears a lot of fruit every year,” the old man thoughtfully recalls.

Ancient History

None of the local people know how old the tree is. 

Mr. Kham, another villager recalled several strange stories regarding the scrawny tree.

“I don’t understand what causes this tree to have all these mysterious happenings, but surrounding this tree are many stories and situations that are hard to explain”.

He went on to recount that during the years of French colonization, there was a French mayor who, along with a small group of his henchmen, would go around committing atrocities such as robbing and killing innocent people, and raping and killing women. 

This group of degenerates heard the local folks talk about some ‘sacred tree’ growing on the other side of the river and sneered, thinking that it was just a rumor that cowards and weak people had made up. 

To prove their manly devil-may-care attitude was more than skin-deep, one of the frenchmen climbed up the decandra tree and broke off a large branch. Then, he climbed down, unzipped his pants, and urinated at the base of the tree.

The next morning, the French soldiers were in a commotion because the frenchman was nowhere to be found. They tore through every street, every house, in search of the man but they could not find a single trace of him. 

It took several days before his lifeless body would finally surface on the riverbank not far from the cursed tree. 

“No one knows whether he died because of guerrilla-warfare, assassination, or a stray bullet. They just knew that that night, the wind howled and shrieked in long wailing gusts over the decandra treetop, as if exacting its revenge.  After that night, the French army forbade all the soldiers from approaching the tree,” the old man recounted.

Of course, something that happened a hundred years ago is ancient history and may not even be worth repeating since no one can corroborate its veracity. There is, however, a very recent situation that occurred, and it also involved this very tree.

Modern History

It was around the later part of 2009 when a group of bored young local kids decided they were going to “prove their bravery” by testing the limits of the tree.

They drove their car to where the tree was and then climbed the tree to pick fruit. Then they headed out to spend the day at Trà Cổ beach not far away.

Mind you, these kids were locals. They had been hearing the folks living around the tree warning everyone, “don’t be foolish; don’t bother the tree.”

That very night, a successive wave of calamities hit them all at the same time. The youths were beaten and robbed of their vehicle. One of them suddenly developed a raging fever for no apparent reason. Everyone began to panic.

After their families heard about the way that the kids had disrespected the tree, all the relatives gathered with haste at the foot of the tree with huge plates of food and gifts as offerings.

They also procured the assistance of a high-level sorcerer to help them with prayers and the burning of incense, ghost money, paper horses, paper boats, and candles.

The ceremonial burning of offerings lasted half the night. The relatives thought that after having spent that much money on placating the tree, they would be allowed peace. 

Unfortunately, less than two months after the event, the driver of the car on that fateful day, lost his life due to a freak traffic accident. This concluded the final act of deathly revenge. 

Of course, this could all just be coincidence. No one can verify that the tree enacted revenge on this group of young people. It could just have been a dangerous accident that sometimes happens in a person’s life.

However, there is one thing about this tree which few people know, but was revealed by the caretaker during one of her most recent interviews by a Youtuber named Nam.

Under the base of this tree holds the skulls of three young virgin females.

The Three Skulls

The caretaker, Ms. Hoàng stated in the interview conducted by Mr. Nam that there was a grave marker under the roots of the tree. Under that stone marker were the remains of three skulls, along with the entire fortune of the Hoàng family who had been the ancient holder of the land upon which the tree now stands.

She also said that she, along with her grand-daughter, were the latest among the ancient lineage of caretakers for the tree. She is what is known as a shrine maiden to this particular tree. All shrine maidens were hand-picked among the numerous female children of the Hoàng family for this position. Their only job was to care for the tree.

This makes sense from what I know of this sort of sorcery. I wrote about the details in one of my previous posts ‘Black Sorcery and the Maiden Bùa Thiên Linh Cái‘.

Here is a short excerpt:

One of the most powerful, most evil black magic known to man is called the Bùa Thiên Linh Cái.  Forget using plants and animals, or even dead fetuses.  It uses living people, but once they have been used, they are dead.

They are dead because their heads have been severed.

Thiên Linh Cái is…a kind of black magic talisman that uses real humans as the active agent to attract wealth and power, guard monetary possessions, and even harm competitors. 

In order to wield this type of magic, the talisman that must be created requires a host, and that host is always the detached head of a virgin girl between the age of 13 and 15.

The various different types of Thiên Linh necromancy schools and sects extend from the lowest levels of basic black necromancy to the highest levels of powerful dark magic, and all of this belonged in the hands of the aristocratic families and the wealthy landlords.

Three-thousand years ago, every wealthy family or royal lineage had their own resident necromancer.  They were part of the household, like cooks and gardeners, and their one job was to prevent the theft and robbery of their extensive property holdings. 

Smaller family dynasties only needed small-scale necromancy, but the royal class needed power that was strong enough and reached far enough to cover entire regions. 

Let me be perfectly clear.  When I say family group, I mean an entire lineage, which could be anywhere between a handful of families to an entire town filled with the various groupings of a single family dynasty. 

Most royal castles and family groups had solid bunkers built into the sprawling compounds where they lived, and here was where they buried their treasures.  These basements or vaults are solidly and secretly built.

But this was feudal times.  Solid secret vaults were hardly enough to ensure that their contents would not be taken, so to increase the security of these buried structures, they turned to black magic. 

These landlords and warlords and aristocrats bought virgin female slaves between the age of 13 and 15 and took them to the compounds or palaces. These children would then be given fruit to eat for a week. 

They were then dressed in fancy royal garments and carried on a litter to the basement hatch.  Ginseng would then be stuffed in their mouths (most likely to stifle their screams) and they would be blindfolded. 

Then, depending on what was required of them, the girls would then either be sealed up inside the basement or buried alive immediately outside the basement.  Those buried outside would be in charge of protecting the area immediately outside of the vault.  Those inside would make sure anyone who managed to enter would not be able to leave. 

Only the necromancer(s) and the owner of the secret vault would have been able to safely enter. 

The Treasure of the Hoàng Family

This would fit right in with the woman’s statement:

  1. She was a caretaker, the latest in a lineage of the Hoàng family.
  2. There was family treasure buried under the tree.
  3. There were three skulls of virgin girls buried there.

You must understand. Nowhere in Vietnamese custom is it prescribed for girls’ heads to be severed from their bodies and buried alongside treasures EXCEPT under the dictates of the Thiên Linh Cái.

These skulls were there long before the Chinese family lived on that land fifteen years ago. They were already present when the French soldier climbed the tree over a hundred years ago.

These skulls were even already in place long before the tree took root, because it was never the tree that the skulls were trying to protect.

They were placed there to protect the ancient moldy, rusted, tarnished, buried treasure still lying undisturbed underneath that tree.

No wonder the woman said that the Hoàng family’s treasure was buried there, without a single worry that someone might decide to dig for it.

If my guess is correct, there is no one left alive today who can enter that vault without suffering dire consequences up to and including loss of life. Two of the skulls would have been buried immediately outside the main vault, and the third would have been inside the treasure vault.

All the strange happenings and the deaths were most likely the works of the two skulls buried outside the vault. The far more powerful one within the vault––that one has yet to show itself.

The three Thiên Linh Cái skulls have been protecting that vault for hundreds if not thousands of years, and it looks like it will be there to continue its work, far into the future.

  1. Lạ kỳ cuộc chiến cây thị tiêu diệt mọi xe ủi mon men lại gần
  2. Challenge Me: The Holy Decandra Tree that No One Dares to Cut

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