If there’s anything Malaysians love discussing other than politics, food and celebrity gossip, it’s ghost stories. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, you’ve heard stories of paranormal encounters.
As it turns out, our neighbours throughout Asia have their own stories to tell about places with things that go bump in the night.
1. Old Changi Hospital, Singapore
Almost every Singaporean knows the dark tales that surround the Old Changi Hospital that has long become the topic of urban legends and paranormal investigations.
Built by the British Royal Air Force in 1935, the Changi Hospital was taken over by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore.
During the occupation, the hospital was said to have been used as a torture facility by the Japanese secret police, Kempeitai.
Before and after its closure in 1997, visitors and hospital guards claim to have seen phantoms resembling nurses and soldiers roaming its corridors, as well as hearing unexplainable hellish shrieks.
The horror film, “Haunted Changi”, was filmed on site and the crew reported strange occurrences, with unexplainable sounds, disembodied voices and sightings of ghostly figures.
2. Lawang Sewu, Indonesia
A landmark in the Javanese city of Semarang, this building’s name means “Thousand Doors” in the local language.
During the World War II, the Japanese used the former railway office as a prison and occasionally, an executions ground.
The building itself would see some fighting and death on its grounds, with the tunnels beneath being used by Dutch troops to sneak into the city held by Indonesian nationalists.
With its dark basements and tunnels with an appropriately dark history, it is unsurprising that the locals tend to view the building with a sense of dread. Some even believe a kuntilanak (the Indonesian Pontianak) resides beneath.
All these rumours tend to serve as a perpetual annoyance for the local authority though, which has since refurbished the building and turned it into a tourist attraction.
3. Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand
In a case of tempting fate, this international airport was literally built atop a former cemetery. During construction, workers reported strange incidents, including eerie chanting and wailing, and a string of fatal accidents.
When the airport opened, its officials organised an exorcism ceremony with 99 Buddhist monks to appease unhappy spirits.
A blue spectre named Poo Ming, the aforementioned cemetery’s caretaker, is said to wander the hallways.
Even today, shrines are littered around the airport, serving as a means to placate unhappy spirits lurking in the area.
4. Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts, Vietnam
In addition to being a valuable gallery of artwork and relics, this museum’s ornate colonial-era building has a rather morbid tale behind it.
Built as a residence by a self-made Chinese real estate tycoon named Hui Bon Hoa, the man had many sons but just one daughter whom he treasured dearly.
However, when an epidemic of leprosy struck the city, she vanished from public view, and citizens reportedly heard heart-wrenching sobs coming from within the mansion. This was followed by an announcement of the girl’s death.
However, it is said that she did not actually die but was instead sealed off in her room to hide her disfigurement from leprosy.
Local speculation regarding the continued presence of the unfortunate girl’s spirit would eventually become the subject of a 1973 film “The Ghost of the Hua House”.
5. Ghost House of Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia
Should you ever happen to pass this place while visiting Cambodia, there’s a good chance your driver may stop to pray or make an offering.
Known to locals as “the house the ghost bought”, local legend states that in 1993, a young couple residing there were offered US$3,000 in gold from a spirit which wanted it.
They agreed and sure enough, they found gold on their doorstep the next day, but they reneged on their deal and refused to leave.
Eventually, the spirit grew tired of their shenanigans and one morning, the couple found themselves waking up in a nearby field with their belongings placed neatly around them.
While some call the tale nonsense, the house still attracts many Cambodians seeking supernatural favours and good fortune.
6. Balete Drive, the Philippines
A street in Quezon City, it gained its name from towering balete trees that line the road.
Some Filipinos believe that these trees are dwelling places for supernatural beings and unsurprisingly, Balete Drive is supposedly one of the city’s most haunted sites.
Since the 1950s, local legends have spoken of “The White Lady of Balete Drive”, who attempts to hitchhike with passing motorists and disappears mysteriously from their vehicles.
Many theories abound about the identity of the female spectre, with one stating that she was a hit-and-run victim. Another states she is the product of a bored journalist’s imagination.
Rather comically, in 2005, a practical-minded barangay official suggested that the city use the rumours for monetary benefit by hosting Halloween parties there.
7. Chaonei No 81, China
Despite Beijing’s attempts to keep trespassers out, this supposedly haunted house still draws thrill-seekers hoping to see something spooky.
The lack of records makes it hard to determine what the building’s original purpose was, but it is currently owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.
For a brief time, the building was occupied by Communist Red Guards, who left quickly afterwards, supposedly scared away.
A mysterious disappearance of a British priest is also alleged to have taken place here.
One legend says that a trio of drunk construction workers broke into No 81 from the adjacent building and were never seen again.