The Ghosts of Happy Valley Cemetery

My mother told me that there is a folk belief among tram drivers in Hong Kong.  Whenever a tram driver passes along the Happy Valley cemetery on their route at night, they stop their tram regardless of whether or not they see people waiting on the sidewalk.  This is because of a fire that occurred in the area:

“Many years ago, in Hong Kong’s Happy Valley, there’s a horse racing track.  Back then Hong Kong didn’t officially build stands at the race track, so they’d often make stands out of bamboo.  So every time there’s horse racing people would watch in the stands as others race horses.  One time there was a fire, and there were too many people who couldn’t escape.  Many people burned to death.  Now, across the horse racing track, they’ve built a Happy Valley Cemetery, you’ve passed it before, haven’t you?”

[“Yeah, I’ve passed it before.”]

“The victims of the fire are buried there.”

The Cantonese name for Happy Valley is 跑馬地 (Pao ma dei), which literally means “horse racing grounds.”  It’s interesting to hear about the story in English – the name “Happy Valley” makes the story of the tragedy and the existence of ghosts even more eerie.

My mother emphasizes that the fire itself took place a long, long time ago.  It surprises me that these legends of ghosts still remain.  The cemetery has contained many people not related to the disaster since then, but the circumstances surrounding its construction continue to haunt it.  My mother noted that she would hear a lot of colleagues talk about these ghosts along the cemetery; the tragedy still resonates with many Hong Kong residents, even if it’s been decades since the accident.

Trams are considered relics of the past in Hong Kong (they’re kept running for their penchant to attract tourists and retain a sense of nostalgia), so I also find it interesting that it is the tram drivers who keep this tradition alive the strongest.  Perhaps trams are the primary vehicle that still remain from that era, and the belief is that ghosts would recognize it.  It’s really interesting that my mother made sure to point out it was tram drivers, not taxi or bus drivers (who operate more modern modes of public transportation).