Singapore’s Most Enduring Ghost Stories

The smoke from the burning of incense, the noise of the busy getai and wayang, and the offerings by the roadsides tell us that the annual Hungry Ghost Festival is here. According to the Chinese beliefs, the first day of the seventh Lunar month signals the opening of the “Gates of Hell”. The festival, practised by many local Chinese, has been a traditional custom in Singapore and Malaysia for decades.

In addition to The Top 10 Haunted Places in Singapore, RemSG sorts out Singapore’s 11 Most Enduring Local Ghost Stories, or at least in the past 30-odd years, where these hugely popular stories were passed down word-by-word and generation-by-generation. While some of the stories may have become over-exaggerated, others are favourite topics in chit-chat sessions or chalets. But one thing for sure, these favourite ghost stories will not go away easily in the next decade or so.

1. Tekong’s Three-Door Bunk

This might be Singapore’s most popular army ghost story ever, spread by batches after batches of national servicemen since the eighties. The story had several variations, but the most popular version goes like this:

The recruits from Charlie Company were having a tiring route march on Pulau Tekong. One of the recruits was feeling sick but he pushed himself to continue. The night was falling and it began to drizzle. Finally the recruit could not catch up with the rest and fell out from the company. At about the same time, another recruit who had reported sick earlier joined the route march. The sergeant did not suspect anything after a headcount check.

Concerned that the sick recruit did not catch up after some distance, his buddies decided to inform the sergeant. The route march was quickly called off and two search parties were dispatched to find the lost boy. But the search proved to be unsuccessful. It was not until the next morning when the recruit’s cold body was found sitting by a tree near the track, with his fullpack, helmet and rifle lying nearby neatly.

After the incident, other recruits from the Charlie Company started to experience sightings of the dead recruit in the bunk. A medium was consulted after several complaints to the officers. The medium proposed the opening of a third door in the bunk to allow the trapped spirit to escape.

The old bunks, including the “special” three-door bunk, had since been replaced by newer facilities in the early 2000s.

2. Hell Money for Taxi

While the Filipinos has their fair share of ghost stories of the notorious Balete Drive, where a female ghost in white scared the hell of taxi drivers, we have our own supernatural stories whispered by our local taxi uncles too.

For years, the story was almost certain to be one of the talking points during a kopi session. It usually took place after midnight at an ulu place such as Old Tampines Road, Punggol Road, Mount Pleasant Road, Old Upper Thomson Road or Lim Chu Kang Road, where a lady in white or red flagged down a taxi.

Her destination was always the cemetery, which made the innocent taxi driver wondering why on earth would someone visit the cemetery at such an ungodly hour. The journey was eerily silent even though the taxi uncle tried to strike a conversation.

punggol road bus stop

Upon reaching, it seemed nothing was wrong when the lady paid her fare, but after the taxi driver finished his night shift, he received a big scare when hell notes were found among his daily income.

3. Oily Ghost

Not to be confused with the delicious and crispy you zha kueh (油炸鬼), the story of the oily ghost or orang minyak (known as 油鬼仔 in Chinese) was rife in the old kampong days in the sixties. Said to be a ghost, covered in thick black oil, who went around violating unmarried women sleeping alone. His power would increase if “it” succeeded in raping 40 virgins in a week. The method to counter orang minyak was to bite its left thumb and cover it with batik.

However, the more rational theory is that orang minyak was actually a human rapist who soaked himself in oil so that others could not catch hold of him. The legend of orang minyak has slowly faded away in Singapore of modern era, but it is widely believed that the oily ghost still occasionally disturbs the villages in Malaysia.

4. Selling Salt in Cemetery

Only a brave or a desperate man would do this. It was rumoured that selling salt in a cemetery was one of the easiest ways to earn money. Ghosts need salt, lots of salt, to preserve their decomposing states.

The courageous one first had to pack the salt in many packets for his business, so that his supply would not run out. Before dusk, he would make his way to a suitable spot in the cemetery. There he sat down comfortably with his head bowed, and waited patiently for his “customers”. There were two important rules for this business; he must never look up at all times, and he must never fall asleep or leave his spot before the dawn. Any violations would endanger his life greatly.

The brave man had to resist any urge to peep at his “customers”, who would place the money on his hands after taking the salt. When the first light arrived, the man must quickly pack up and leave with his stack of cash, which would not turn into hell notes, unlike the poor taxi driver.

5. Black Magic (Gong Tau)

Black magic, or gong tau (降头), was a popular topic for discussion especially in the Southeast Asia. Scorpions, centipedes, snakes, spiders, corpse oil, strands of hairs or bits of fingernails were often the items associated in making powerful charms for revenge, love enhancement or simply a change of luck.

Likely to be originated from Yunnan of China; some said it was the work of Maoshan Taoist priests, black magic flourished in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Indonesia. Many locals in Singapore also believed in black magic, especially when things in life went wrong. It was said to be extremely difficult to heal a person suffered under a strong curse, and the one who placed the curse usually had to pay a high price in the end.

Interest in black magic reached its peak in Singapore in the seventies, thanks to the influence of many scary gong tau movies made popular during that era.

6. Toyol (Gui Kia)

Toyol, on the other hand, was a child spirit used to create mischief or steal money from others. It was also known as qi gui kia (养小鬼) in Hokkien. In the early days, there were consistent rumours that the hardcore gamblers would keep toyols to help them win money in chap ji kee.

The way of creating a toyol was gruesome. The bomoh would get his human foetus, usually just died from abortion or miscarriage, from the cemetery and placed it in a jar. After the some rituals, the spirit of the fetus was revived, and it was sold to anyone who wanted to keep it for his own personal gains. He would then need to feed it everyday, sometimes with his own blood.

It was not uncommon to hear stories that the toyol would later become too rebellious and uncontrollable. Or it simply went berserk after the owner forgot to feed it regularly. In the end, he was killed by his “money-making tool”.

7. The Haunted East Coast Yellow Tower

Many years ago, a loving couple was taking a stroll at East Coast Park at night. They arrived at the quiet and isolated Amber Beacon Tower near Carpark C. Suddenly a group of thugs appeared and knocked the guy unconscious. They brutally gang-raped the poor girl, and proceeded to stab her to death after that.

Ever since then, passers-by claimed to see sightings of a female apparition near the yellow tower. Others heard screams of help, but found nothing when they searched the tower. It was said that the criminals were never caught and the spirit of the girl was weeping about her ill-fated life every night.

8. The Banana Spirit

The desperate man heard a story on how to control the banana spirit to help him strike 4D, so he went and struck a needle into the trunk of a banana tree, tying a long red thread between the needle and himself. The man then waited patiently until the night fell. Soon he heard a wailing sound. It was the banana spirit pleading him to remove the needle as it hurt her terribly. Having the bargaining chips, the man asked for the winning 4D numbers in exchange for her freedom.

banana trees at lorong terigu

Weeks after weeks, the man’s greed grew and he kept asking for more winning numbers, failing to keep his promise to release her. Soon, he became a rich towkay. Arrogant and unscrupulous, the man soon offended many people. One of them found out the source of his wealth and subsequently removed the needle from the banana tree.

The next day, the man was found dead, in a horrible manner. The banana spirit finally had her revenge.

9. Haw Par Villa Statues

Today, it is a sad plight to a former popular place of interest and tourist attraction, but Haw Par Villa is more than a place that showcases Chinese mythology. Its lively statues, and the famous Ten Courts of Hell, are the source of nightmares to the young kids who used to come here for school excursions during the eighties and nineties.

haw par villa statues

It was once rumoured that Haw Par Villa was the location of the gates to Hell. Security guards would tell their stories that how the place became alive when nights fell. Others had heard painful screams from the statues depicting gruesome punishments in the Ten Courts of Hell.

Ghost stories had plagued Haw Par Villa for decades. There were whispers that some of the statues were actually dead humans covered with wax. And on a small deserted hill within the theme park existed a dumping site where several unused statues were abandoned for many years. Old staffs claimed that these unwanted statues were possessed by wandering spirits.

Real or just urban legends? Only the brave will attempt to find out.

10. Pontianaks

The pontianak was perhaps the most famous supernatural being in Singapore and Malaysia. In Malay folklore, it was the vengeful spirit of a woman who died tragically during childbirth (or pregnancy). Long haired and dressed in white, the pontianak flew around between trees, sometimes taking forms of birds, looking for pregnant women to kill for their foetus.

In the early kampong days, young pregnant women were particularly concerned about the legends of pontianaks. Unusual wails or sounds of scratching at nights were signs that a pontianak was nearby, ready to prey on its next victim. Long nails were kept within the house as pontianaks were afraid of sharp objects.

There was a well-known story about pontianak in Malaysia, in which a couple travelled on the North-South Highway (NSHW) at night. Halfway through their journey, their car broke down, beside some ulu plantations. The husband decided to find help elsewhere, while his wife locked herself in the car. After a while, a police patrol car passed by and stopped some distance away. The policemen rushed out of the car and screamed to the woman, urging her to get out. The wife obliged and ran towards the police car. When she eventually turned back to take a look, she saw a pontianak eating the flesh of her dead husband on top of her car.

11. Spiral Staircase at the National Museum of Singapore

The Victorian-styled spiral staircase is reputedly the most haunted part of the century-old museum, first built in 1882. Sightings of the spirit of the former museum director, British doctor and zoologist Carl Alexander Gibson-Hill (1911 – 1963), were repeatedly reported. A diabetic and heavy smoker, Gibson-Hill suffered poor health in his latter years and was rumoured to have committed suicide in 1963.

Standing at the corner of the room, flanked by two large windows, the staircase, leading to the rooftop, is now inaccessible to the public. However, witnesses claimed that in the past, any daring souls who attempted to climb it were said to be stopped by an invisible force.

Even after the restoration of the museum in 2003, the spiral staircase still gives visitors a chilling feeling, or is it due to the aircon?

Published: 17 August 2012

Updated: 23 April 2014

This entry was posted in Paranormal. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Singapore’s Most Enduring Ghost Stories

  1. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    Most of the local ghost stories I heard originate from Malay folk lore. Other than toyol and the banana spirit, I also heard of water ghost and big-breasted ghost who would prey on children playing by the river or late at night. Perhaps it was parents way of discouraging their children from playing too much but those stories did make me think twice about fishing alone when I was younger.

    • I guess army camps produced the most ghost stories.
      Howling dogs at chin-up bars, ghost platoons marching across the parade square, the famous Jacobs ladder spirit, and many many more…

    • Jon says:

      Hi big breast lady that plays with children at night is hantu neknek forgot the pronounciation.. but its a tale that was said a woman who was killed and gave her no chance to live with her child.. so every night she would roam the place in search for her kid.. this spirit is more of #10

      And pontianak is originates from the banana spirit.. the one that drink the blood of a virgin and the victim grew sick is kumkum..

  2. rufino1995 says:

    Ah, the famous tower 2, called the magazine guard in the 70′s at SAFTI, where the story goes, a soldier on tower guard shot a coporal coming up the ladder to check on him as he taught it was a ghost…… and I had the ‘opportunity’ to do that tower 2 guard, fortunately nothing to report…. Phew…

  3. Anonymous says:

    The East Coast Park Yellow Tower is a real police case, not a story. I remembered watching it in Crime Watch during the 80s.

  4. nick says:

    from what i was told during my time in NS, the charlie company 3 door bunk does exist. its not a story

  5. sgdevilzz says:

    I actually trespassed to the restricted zone at Haw Par Villa (Small Hill with Dumping sites). I went further in and discovered a small open space temple. There was a security room just right outisde and there were old TV monitors, which i believed it’s from the 90s. There were stairs going up the temple and there were at least 7 giant statues. The place is very scary, my friend felt uncomfortable when she entered. truly a place worth mentioning. :)



    • ashri says:

      Do u know that there used to be a muslim cemetary (former pusara aman) right behind haw par villa near where they store the statues which was exhumed in late 2008. Been trying to find any write ups on it but couldnt find any. If any one has any old photos or web links do refer thanks.

    • I had a glimpse of this place when I revisited Haw Par Villa last weekend



      The huge mask is still lying there

  6. Sydney Fong says:

    Yes, the Har Par Villa dumping ground is very spooky, I’ve been there, I am sure at night will be worst…

  7. Devil says:

    many place on this tiny island is haunted, heard so many but came across one of latest on TV documentary, a former Rifle Range Gun Club, anyone got more informations about this place ? was reported on TV about a mysterious hand ??

  8. Chelsea says:

    I actually climbed up the haunted east coast tower without knowing it was haunted! No wonder a guy who saw me think I was crazy.Luckily I did not saw or hear anything.My mom’s classmate’s husband was the guy who was unconscious and the dead girl was actually his ex-girlfriend. He never got over the incident till this day…….

  9. Melvin Hansa says:

    When I was doing my military service, my friends and I went to old Changi Hospital a couple of times for exploration. Those were such awesome times. Once, we even head to the Red House in Pasir Ris. Unfortunately or rather fortunately (depending on which side are you from), we did not encounter anything strange.

  10. Pingback: Yesterday.sg » Blog Archive » True? Singapore Ghost Stories?

  11. Aizat Sharif says:

    Remember, the ‘Makcik Keropok’ story, two years ago – an old woman selling keropok at night at many HDB flats and would bring along her ‘Pontianak’ on her back. The story (which is yet to be proven) have spread so fast across the island from Tampines to Jurong and scares people at that time.

  12. Will says:

    My classmates were the batch after the tekong recruit incident, something did definitely happened. Some truth and some made up along the way. I experienced sounds coming out from locked cupboards and knocking sounds late at night while everybody was sound alseep at Safti Safincos camp. Scared at first but got used to it, was too tired to be bothered by it after a while.

  13. It’s a pity that this “oily ghost” got away in the end..

    Frankel Estate gripped by ‘oily man’ jitters
    16 November 1959

    Women in Frankel Estate spent the night behind bolted doors, in order to hide from an “oily man” who had attacked a girl in a playground off Changi Road.

    A man smeared with oil and clad only in swimming trunks had tried to drag his victim into a bush as she was crossing a field. She cried for help and several passers-by chased the man, who disappeared into a housing estate.

    Local residents said they had seen a scantily clad man in the neighbourhood during the past week.

    (Source: Chronicle of Singapore: Fifty Years of Headline News 1959-2009)

  14. michael says:

    Has anyone ever video-taped a ghost in any of these sites? All talk of feeling uncomfortable and people say this say that… The only ghosts are in your imagination.

  15. marcs says:

    I heard a slight variation of the 3 door bunk, where the 3rd door was actually created because the first 2 doors always had an invisible force blocking, especially when they want to exit the bunk during emergencies, like fire drill or heads out. Bunk mates also reported having someone sleeping on them at night.

  16. Bek says:

    Hi! As for the army 3 door story,how real I don’t know but my hub has recently told me abt it too.. It’s quite creepy..
    Ghost is something I believe and have experienced it myself 3 times.. But if you stay close to someone who…. I dun know how to describe that word.. Luckier? Better luck?
    Anyway,with these lucky ppl ard you,no ghost would come near..

  17. sgparlay says:

    the shortest horror story ever :D

    “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”

  18. sgparlay says:

    i’ve encountered a few times when i came home late at night…

    when i entered the lift and pressed my floor number, the lift door closed halfway and opened again, as though there was someone outside pressing the “door open” button

    i pressed the “door close” button, the lift door closed halfway and opened again… had to do this twice or thrice before the door closed fully, and the lift could proceed

    not sure what triggered the sensor, but i tried to shrug it off everytime i encountered it, thinking it’s a mechanical fault or some misalignment in the lift door

    • wacky foodie says:

      When I approach the lift lobby of my HDB flat, I have on several occasions had the lift suddenly open its doors for me. It has happened even on my own floor before. One thing I do is always to say “thank you very much”. Maybe that will help, must be “someone” open the door for you before but u never bothered to say thank u…SO RUDE. LOLz

    • unknown says:

      ghost pressing it

  19. Peter Carson says:

    I lived in 194 Wing Loong road Changi for 4 years. (Before the new airport was built)The house was haunted by a Malay girl who was often seen and heard. There was a lovely calmness in the house when she was around. She was raped and murdered by Japanese soldiers during second world war.

  20. ergocakes says:

    Reblogged this on Ergocakes and commented:
    :: Loves it! ::

    • crystal says:

      Once i saw a ghost with my cousin and so did my helper/maid familiy except for her and her 3 rd brother
      and her friend was nearly killed by a ghost

  21. crystal says:

    I once saw a ghost when i was 5 and so did my cousin who was with me and her friend saw her dead uncle’s ghost.
    My helpers/maid,sister’ 2 brothers and mum and dad have all seen a ghost except for her and her 3rd brother anyway one of her friends was nearly killed by a ghost

  22. This is the Malaysian North-South Highway hantu story (or something similar) that remains very famous among Singaporeans

    I think I have heard it since I was a teenager!

    http://www.hungzai.com/highway-nightmare/

    Along the North-South highway in Malaysia, there are various spots marked with sign alerting drivers of crosswind. The dual carriageway is one of the world’s most advance expressway and hence, when designing it, one would assume that the planners would not have built it with crosswind sections. The expressway is open for 24 hours and thousands of vehicles use it everyday. However, there is hardly anyone who has seen the wind indicator marking the presence of such claimed crosswind.

    I found out later that these sections are actually black spots for ‘mystery accidents’. As all these sections are neither winding nor slippery, the authorities could not find any explanation of those accidents. A study revealed that those areas are either cemetery sites of the local tribe before the highway was built, or they were the so-called ‘dark’ areas by the local tribes. Therefore, those crosswind warnings were put up just to warn drivers so that they are more alert and careful as they were driving along those stretches, especially at night since the highway is not lighted.

    None of the accidents are, however, worth mentioning here. No one has ever reported seeing a ghost or spirit driving them away from their senses or any sort of unexplained phenomena happening there.

    Nevertheless, there is an incident that happened on the highway that has caught the attention of a lot of people. This incident does not happen along any of those crosswind sections but, instead, near the tunnel on the northern section of the highway. Before approaching the tunnel, drivers will go through highly areas with the hill on one side and a sharp cliff on the other. The sharp bends caused the authorities to put the speed limit down to 80kmph (110kmph for most of the highway).

    This story went public the first time when someone called in to the radio during a ghost story programme. What make this story even more interesting are the several calls later from witnesses and relatives to verify that the story is true.

    The incident happened on a Malay couple with a small baby. They were driving along the expressway on a late night. It must have been past 2am then and there aren’t many private cars at those hours. As they got near the tunnel, their car broke down. Perhaps it is the hilly road, which put a lot of stress on the car, that caused the car to broke down more than anything else.

    The man stopped his car along the emergency lane and got off the car to see if there was anything he could do. His wife was sitting at the back of the car with their baby then. He got off the car, opened up the engine and apparently was doing something there. The wife just waited in the car with their baby since she is the type of people who has the slightest idea about cars.

    As the engine cover was turned up, the lady could not see what her husband was doing in front. Then, there was no noise at all. She started to get worried. Perhaps more worried about not being able to get out of there than if there would be anything wrong with her husband. Then the baby started crying. She carried her up and tried to calm her down. However, the baby kept crying and crying.

    Afterwards, she noticed two police cars drove by. They slowed down as they past her. As she thought they would stop, the police cars suddenly sped off. Then she heard a shrieking break of the police cars ahead. Apparently, the police stopped their cars under the lights of the tunnel about 100 metres ahead.

    Then, she started hearing the policemen shouting at her. They shouted at her and asked her to get out of the car and run towards them. She got panic upon hearing that. Then, worry about her baby’s and her own safety, she grabbed her baby, got out of the car and started running as fast as she could towards the policemen. As she was running, they kept shouting at her to hurry and asked her not to look back. As she almost got to where the policemen were, she suddenly thought of her husband. She turn her head back to take a look while continued running.

    To her horror, she saw three ‘pontianak’ (see notes) with lots of blood on their mouth. She saw one of them holding her husband’s head and licking off the dripping blood while two others were busy sucking the blood from the man’s body.

    Two policemen, fearing that she may stop running upon seeing that, rushed to her and dragged her into one of the police car. They shot off as fast as they could after that. Seven policemen witnessed this incident. When the police got there, the man was lying there headless and ‘bloodless’. The police, after interviewing the widow and the seven policemen who witnessed the incident, decided to close the case.

    In the radio programme, someone called up later to say that he was one of the policemen there at that time while another called up claiming to be the victim’s uncle. He said he refused to believe the story and had applied for the case to be reopened for investigation. He believes it was a murder case. Another caller said his sister, the widow, was distressed after the incident and he appealed to all listeners to believe that the story is true and be more careful on the highway.

    Notes on Pontianak’:

    Otherwise known as ‘hantu kuntilanak among the Indonesians’. There are many stories of the Malay vampire, commonly known to the locals in Malaysia as pontianak. They have long hair and are usually thought of as females. They kill their victims and then suck their blood. There are, however, different opinions on the origins of this pontianak.

    The most common belief is that the pontianak is usually the ghost of a woman who died during childbirth, and she returns as a vengeful spirit who hates to see other women have what she couldn’t. So these spirits would seduce men by appearing to them as a beautiful woman, and once they’ve lured the unsuspecting males, will proceed to suck the life out of them. They are also known to turn up at a childbirth and ‘steal’ the new-born baby away. They do steal young women’s life too as it is believed that the latter’s blood will keep them going.

    An Indonesian friend of mine told me that hantu kuntilanak are actually victims of road accidents who had lost a lot of blood in those accidents. Therefore, they transform themselves into bloodsucking ghosts.

    Perhaps the only reason they are called vampire is because they suck blood. Otherwise, pontianaks do not have characteristic of the Western version of vampire. They have more characteristics possessed by ghosts but are much more violent. Hence, in my opinion, the term ‘vampire’ may not be such a suitable term to call them but ‘pontianak’ should be a more appropriate term.

  23. Interestingly, there was a Pontianak Sultanate in Indonesia in the past

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontianak_Sultanate

    Pontianak Sultanate or Kesultanan Pontianak was a state ruled by a monarchy in the province of Pontianak, Indonesia.

    The Pontianak Sultanate was founded in 1771 by explorers from Hadhramaut led by al-Sayyid Syarif Abdurrahman al-Kadrie, descendant of Imam Ali ar-Ridha. He did two political marriages in Kalimantan, first with the daughter of Panembahan Mempawah and the second with the daughter of the Sultan of Banjar. Once they arrived in Pontianak, they established the Kadariah Palace and get the endorsement as the Sultan of Pontianak by the Dutch East India Company in 1779.

    The city was formerly the capital of the independent Sultanate of Pontianak and was founded in 23 October 1771 around an old trading station on the Borneo coast. It is built on swampy ground that is subjected to regular flooding by the river, requiring buildings to be constructed on piles to keep them off the ground. It has its name due to the story that the founder had seen an appearance of Pontianak ghost at the place to be built for the palace, which he fought to save the people.

  24. An interesting ghost story 40 years ago… it was in the newspapers’ headlines dated 23 November 1970

    Bomoh ends Taman Ho Swee “haunting”

    A famous bomoh laid to rest a spirit believed to have been haunting residents of Taman Ho Swee. The spirit was thought to be that of Ong Tiong Lye, a 17-year-old newspaper vendor killed in a gangland slaying on 26 September.

    Several residents said they have seen the ghost, who appeared as a bloody apparition. Many others, including the boy’s mother, said they heard his moans and weeping. Following the visit by T. Samy – also known as Bomoh Taha – residents said they no longer heard the eerie noises.

    (Source: Chronicle of Singapore Fifty Years of Headline News)

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