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 as teenagers, we were repeatedly cautioned about the haunted female toilet (every secondary 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 just 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?
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.”
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, 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.
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.