According to the Chinese calendar, the gates of hell open this month.A retired ghost hunter gives us the low-down on the ghosts said to be haunting our island.
As Singaporean millennials, we know a lot more about ghosts than we think. After all, most of us had our noses in a Russell Lee book as a kid, and in secondary school, we were repeatedly cautioned about the haunted female toilet (every school seems to have that one spooky bathroom).
Then there were the chilling Tekong tales we’d hear a lot about when our guy friends enlisted for National Service, and the countless times a friend of a friend supposedly “saw something” in the dark of the night. All of this points to one thing: for a young and tiny nation, Singapore seems to be home to a disproportionate number of tales of restless spirits. But why?
Noel Boyd, Retired Ghost Hunter
Why so haunted? Noel Boyd, a retired ghost
hunter with over nine years of experience investigating the paranormal, believes it’s because many grim events have taken place here.
“Usually, a place becomes haunted after a tragic incident happened there. It could be a traffic accident, murder, suicide or even soldiers who died in battle a long time ago,” he says. He’s released multiple videos and a book detailing his eerie experiences.
It’s no secret that some terrible things has happened in Singapore over the last century. Several areas around the country were once killing fields or graveyards.
“During World War II, the number of deaths per square mile here was higher than in some other nations. It’s because we’re such a small country,” says Noel. But he’s quick to say that a place doesn’t only get haunted in the wake of a tragedy. “We believe lost souls can also occupy abandoned buildings.”
And Singapore has no shortage of those. Many of us have heard spooky stories about Old Changi Hospital, Tanglin Hill Brunei Hostel, Istana Woodneuk and Neo Tiew Estate.
As if that’s not alarming enough, Noel thinks that ghosts can reside much closer to home. “I believe ghosts can live anywhere. They can live in trees and in antique objects such as an old cupboard or a grandfather clock. You should be careful if you have dolls in your house because I believe ghosts love living in them,” he adds.
Bump in the night
According to Noel, ghosts aren’t the only supernatural beings. He says demons can cause the same damage, if not worse, and believes that they can destroy personal relationships, businesses and careers.
“Sometimes, ghosts show themselves to you out of playfulness. They want to get a reaction from you,” he says. “Other times, it could be because they want you to leave a particular area.”
“You should be careful if you have dolls in your house because I believe ghosts love living in them.”
Spooked? Here’s what to do...
If you think a ghost is bothering you, Noel advises that you remain calm and see if there are logical explanations for the situation. For example, could the strange noises be from a faulty electrical appliance or wild animals? But if you still feel that it could be a ghost, he recommends simply telling it to leave you alone in a firm but non-aggressive tone.
“You shouldn’t show fear. Most of the time, they’ll leave you alone unless you’ve provoked them or entered their territory uninvited,” he adds.
A word of warning
Unless you know what you’re dealing with, Noel says it’s best not to get actively involved with paranormal activity.
“While I don’t know of any fatalities, I have come across people who are no longer the way they used to be [after a paranormal encounter],” says Noel. “Their personalities changed a lot, and they not only lost jobs and friends, but also started speaking in languages they weren’t previously proficient in.” Basically, he says you shouldn’t mess with things that just can’t be explained.
You may be more aware of the possible existence of ghosts during the Hungry Ghost Festival because it can be a lot quieter at night during this time. But Noel believes that they’re always around and says he’s heard of hauntings that happen in broad daylight.
Noel’s scariest encounter…
This ghost hunter has had several sinister experiences, but the scariest one took place at a cemetery in the east.
“I was really hostile and kept provoking the spirits because I wanted exciting footage. I didn’t expect the repercussions to be so severe. I couldn’t breathe or speak for what seemed like forever. I was literally brought to my knees. Eventually, I spoke to a traditional healer and he warned me to never go back there again.”
The most common types of ghosts in Singapore
While the existence of ghosts has not been proven, there are some you’ve definitely heard about. Noel shares his take on some of the most common ones.
According to Noel, they can be found at old battle sites. Most of them don’t know they’re dead and think that they’re still fighting the war.
"My team and I communicated with a ghost soldier at Labrador Nature Reserve using a spirit box, a gadget we use that uses AM frequency to get answers from supernatural entities that may be trying to convey a message. ‘Bob’ said his name more than once and answered a few simple questions. And when we asked him if he knew that the war is over, he said ‘no’.”
Road accident victims
Some Singaporeans are convinced that some roads are haunted, such as the “Devil’s Bend” at Old Upper Thomson Road. Noel points out that many drivers have reported seeing a car vanishing into thin air and the ghosts of road accident victims trying to flag down vehicles.
"If you think you see a ghost here, you may panic, lose control of your car and get into an accident. While the general belief is that these ghosts want you to join them in the afterlife, in my opinion, it’s because they have unfinished business and genuinely want to seek your help. I’ve conducted a paranormal investigation at ‘Devil’s Bend’ and the results were off the charts.”
Victims of unnatural deaths
Noel says these ghosts may not necessarily want to harm you – he feels that they just wish to seek closure or convey one last message.
"Some places here have a very dark history of murder and suicide. I’ve carried out numerous investigations at alleged crime scenes and the air always felt very heavy. I could sense sadness all around me.”
You’ve probably heard of these female vampiric ghosts in Malay mythology that appear with long black hair and a white dress. They’re said to be bloodthirsty and are capable of gruesomely torturing men. They usually take on a beautiful appearance at first so they can bait and prey on those who don’t know better. Noel believes he’s almost met them.
"I’ve never seen one, but I’ve heard high-pitched laughter as well as singing at a certain kampong area. For the longest time, I wanted to meet a pontianak and tried everything possible to make it happen, but to no avail. Now, I’m thankful that I didn’t. Who knows what would have become of me?”
Noel is a retired ghost hunter who enjoys sharing his knowledge to help those who believe they are haunted by spirits. However, not all who claim to be in touch with the spirit world have good intentions.
Unfortunately, there have been cases of conmen posing as mediums to trick people into giving away money in exchange for warding off evil spirits.
If you believe that someone in your family is a victim of such scams, you can call the police hotline at 1800-255 0000. For more information on scams, visit www.scamalert.sg.