Grave Marker

There’s an article today in one of the weekly papers here in Santa Cruz which contains an interesting story about a Chinese grave marker that was rediscovered when a treehouse next to a cemetery was dismantled. The story is at the very end of the article:

For the many Chinese who lived and labored in Santa Cruz starting in the mid-1800s, it was an important custom that their remains return to China. They were buried for 10 years, with a redwood plank used as a temporary grave marker, before their bones were collected and sent to their ancestral village in China.

“When they couldn’t make it back to China and died here, they felt unfulfilled, cheated and angry, so they came back as hungry and angry ghosts,” explains George Ow, Jr. in a missive for the Museum of Art & History.

When Ow’s uncle, Chin Lai (also known as Mr. Mook Lai Bok), died around 1949, “there was no one to take care of his bones,” writes Ow. The redwood grave marker eventually began to rot where it was stuck in the soil and, at a date unknown, local kids found it and used it for a floorboard in their treehouse.

Intentionally or not, the treehouse’s creators placed the redwood board face down so that, throughout the fort’s many years of use, the inscription on the grave marker was preserved. This made for a pleasant historical discovery.

“We suspect Chin Lai’s spirit, who was roaming, made it so that his grave marker was found and could be exhibited,” reads Ow’s story, which is on display at the MAH. “I see his spirit smiling.”

Though the article says of the children who played in the treehouse, “Little did they know they might have been messing with an angry Chinese ghost,” it doesn’t actually include any anecdotes that suggest that Chin Lai’s spirit did in fact do anything malicious to anyone, unlike the story about the ghosts in Nevada City’s haunted museum.

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