Here we present a chapter from Chinese Ghosts, Charles Emmons’ cornucopia of ghost stories and experiences he collected in Hong Kong in the early 1980s. He updated the book for a new edition last year.


Chapter 9: Anatomy of a Legend

This is a very interesting case that helps illustrate the social processes involved in rumor, and sometimes eventually folklore.

I had been in Hong Kong only two weeks working on this research in June 1980, when I began to hear about ghosts at a certain institution of higher learning, which I shall simply refer to as “the college.” Although there were a few other minor miscellaneous ghosts mentioned, one kept cropping up: “Have you heard about the. . . ?” they would say helpfully. Most people I talked to at the college seemed to have heard of it.

The first version came from a female student attending the college. Supposedly, a Pr