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Ghost in a can – ma lon – children ghost summon

Okay, so, as I was talking about Vietnamese games and the like with one of my friend, she mentioned a game called “ma lon” (ghost in a can) which seems to be popular for children in the countryside in the South Vietnam (since none of my fellow Northerners have any idea what it was). It is something similar to Ouji board but in a more innocent and harmless (kind of, if you don’t put the ghost mark and the rule breaking penalty). It is alike to a tag game between living children and dead children. Usually players have to be 10 or younger for the game to function properly, the location have to be a deserted place (such as a cemetery) and cannot be seen by non involve party. (about the time, I don’t know if it would actually works under the daylight since not many people did state the time due to the fact that the last time they could play it was years ago, some said it should be at night, especially full moon time for it to be 100% working). However, if practiced or participated in the wrong way, the ghost might appear hostile ( there were examples of players who used insult instead of chants to call on the ghost and got attacked, but dead people also have emotion so I don’t find it surprising.) In case of insult, adult ghost would be summon (that was a case of a teenager bunch who tried their own luck on the case and ended up being attacked by a female ghost.), but if the game was treated seriously by children, a child ghost would take control of the can. (During the two wars in Vietnam, many children were massacred in South Vietnam so as children, despite no matter how many year it had been, they still love to play tag games) . The game should be play by minimum 2 people ( 1 chanter/ performer of the ritual, the other observe.) but some can play alone. A barrier or off limit zone should be specified (or have no need to be, usually the terrain itself specified the boundary), if any of the player break the rule by crossing the barrier, the ghost will haunts them for real as a penalty.

What you need:

– A cigarette

– Three incenses ( which act as a timer for ghost calling)

– Treats (sweets such as candies and cake)

– an empty can (metallic type, like an aluminium can or your usual milk can)

– the chant


One of the players would approach the can and put the treats around the upside down, light the cigarette and the incenses ( all three in the same time), and chant something to call the ghost

Now, I had a little hard time to find it due to many variation of the chant but since it is a children game, one was quite simple, the words were ” Ma ơi mày hãy ra đây chơi với tao” which means ” Ghost, please come out and play with me/ us”

Game occurrence and how it ends

As the chant was done, the observer would look at the cigarette, if it was burning as if someone was smoking it in a non windy day ( because guess what? lighting incenses and cigarettes are not for windy day), the can would start to move and the game start. The goal of the children is not to be caught by the ghost (like every tag game). If a can caught someone (usually end up as the can only hitting on the player’s heel), it will leave a little bruise mark (which will be heal after a day ) indicating the loser (and loser still can’t get out of the boundary until the game end). The game would end as all of the players were caught or all of the incenses burned out (in whichever case, the case would stop moving). However, players have to be serious about this game, for ghost summoning are no jokes.

Usually being compared to the Ouji board (which many had tried but considered it to be a dangerous game), Ma lon represent a strong spiritual bond between children and the world of the dead in Vietnam. And in with many, ghost apparition wasn’t something too strange. The nation had lost many during wars for it’s own liberty, especially during the French and the Americans. The amount of souls apparition, despite being popular, usually meant for others to pint point their and their friends remains for their peaceful rest than actual harm (unless you’re involve with curse like the one in the To Lich river, those are grudging souls that should not be there, nor should anyone have any involvement with them). Well sorry about me being wordy, I shall go back to my work. See ya all in the next post (if anyone want me to)~


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