Whether or not we believe in them, we know a lot more about ghosts than we care to admit. For one, many of us had our noses in True Singapore Ghost Stories as kids. And as secondary school students, we were repeatedly cautioned about that haunted bathroom on the fourth floor—every school seemed to have one.
Then there were the chilling tales about Tekong we’d hear about when our guy friends enlisted for National Service, and the countless times a friend of a friend “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 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.
And it’s no secret that some terrible things has happened here 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. Hw however adds that a place doesn’t only get haunted in the wake of a tragedy.
“We believe lost souls can also occupy abandoned buildings.”
And we sure have no shortage of those, like Old Changi Hospital, Tanglin Hill Brunei Hostel, Istana Woodneuk and Neo Tiew Estate. And if that’s not alarming enough, Noel thinks that ghosts can reside in places 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.”
Spooked? Here’s what to do
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. Other times, it could be because they want you to leave a particular area.”
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, you should first check if the strange noises are from a faulty electrical appliance or wild animals. If you still feel that it could be the doings of 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.”
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]. 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, don’t mess with things that just can’t be explained.
And while 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, Noel believes these spirits are always around and says hauntings can happen in broad daylight.
Curious to know more? Check out the day trip we took with him to Kampong Wak Hassan below.