Imagine this: It’s 1am and you are the only one awake. You’re chasing deadline for work so you’re focused on your laptop on your dining table, typing the night away. Suddenly, you felt a gush of cold air. You checked the air conditioning, but it’s off. The hair at the back of your neck starts to stand and at the corner of your eyes, in the dark hallway…
That got you gripping your seat, huh? For the uninitiated, Hungry Ghost Festival falls on the 7th month of the Chinese Calendar, also known as the Ghost month. In this month, the ghosts of Chinese ancestors are let out of hell – and some spirits may be out to look for vengeance. It is said to be the scariest month of the year! Yes, even spookier than Halloween.
To commemorate the festival, which is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th month (that’s today!), here are 7 most chilling true ghost stories of Malaysia and Singapore.
1. The Agreement
I was a new lecturer in a well-known local college that was known for its spooky stories. It was built on the grounds of the previous Japanese occupation, and it was a popular rumor that the buildings were built over the deceased bodies of the war. In our buildings, there was no 4th floor – only 3, 3A and 5, and my students and I used to laugh and say that the college was way too superstitious.
Then came a day when I was hanging back late to finish marking assignments. The lower floors of the college were brightly lit, but the offices above the 3rd floor were darkened as most of the lecturers had gone home. I looked up when someone tapped the glass of the office to see my colleague beckoning for me to come out. She made a hurried eating gesture, so I assumed she wanted to eat dinner together, and proceeded to pack my things and join her.
As we were going down the lift, my colleague asked if I stayed late often, to which I replied no, not really. She then looked around her nervously, as if there were more people in the lift that could hear our conversation.
“It’s not good to stay late. Next time go home by 7,” she said.
“Why? I don’t mind staying late,” I said.
My colleague shuffled her feet. “There is an agreement,” she said, with a tensed smile. Her eyes did not meet mine, even as we exited the lift. Confused, I shrugged it off and assumed she was talking about our contract with the college, and how working hours were flexible. I didn’t bother thinking too much of it as I was hungry, and immediately forgot about it by the next day.
The following week, I stayed late once again to look through more student assignments. The office was quiet and dark except for the light I had on above my desk, and the distant music of the college’s dance club practicing downstairs. As I marked assignment after assignment, I failed to notice that the light through the windows were fading, and that I was the only one left in the office.
Eventually, the first thing I noticed was the cold. I looked up in bewilderment, checking if the air conditioning was still on. Then it hit me that I was the only one in the darkened office, and the cold was seeping through my clothes, down my neck and spine as I slowly turned in my seat.
It felt like I was being watched.
I looked back at my work, and even though my eyes moved across the words on the paper, my mind seemed to be unable to absorb anything. In that instance, I saw something move at the corner of my eye, but something told me to avert my gaze. But it was too late – I swore it was a figure, with an undiscernible face and features that seemed to shift even in the darkness.
With shaking hands, I swept my belongings into my bag and hastily left, stumbling towards the exit of the office. When I looked back through the glass, it seemed like all was quiet – the darkness of the room seemed to mock me, and I wondered for a moment if I had just imagined it. But the longer I looked, the more uncomfortable I felt, so I made my way to the lifts and went downstairs to leave. That night in bed, I had a hard time falling asleep.
The next day when I entered the office, my female colleague looked at me hard, as if scrutinizing my expression. She gestured to me to follow her outside to the hallway, where she spoke to me in hushed tones.
“Were you still in the office after 7 yesterday?” she asked.
“How did you know?”
“You had a weird look on your face. I told you not to stay after 7! You probably made her angry because you stayed late.”
I felt that chill again. The confusion and fear were likely evident on my face as my colleague proceeded to explain further hastily –
In the early days of the college opening its grounds, the staff had some troublesome experiences of the otherworldly sort. Some mornings when lecturers and staff entered the office, it would be in terrible disarray – chairs upturned, papers strewn about, books torn and tables on their sides. No matter how many times things were set straight and fixed, there would eventually be one day where staff would walk in to see the office in a mess. Cameras would glitch out, cellphone reception would fail, and things were reported missing constantly.
After an internal agreement, the college sought the help of a local exorcist, who told them that there was the unrestful spirit of a woman lingering in the office.
“She refuses to leave,” the exorcist said solemnly. “She used to stay here years ago, and she is still looking for her child.”
While the exorcist managed to assure the spirit that the college staff meant no harm, she was apparently adamant on staying. She insisted that if she stayed, she could find her child again. So the exorcist convinced the spirit to strike a deal. During the day, the staff and students could roam about, unharmed and safe from any spiritual activity – however at night after 7, it would be her domain, and she would have the area to herself.
“I honestly don’t really want to believe it,” my colleague admitted sheepishly. “Some people say it could have just been people messing with us. But it’s become a norm, so I just respect the agreement. Good reason not to work too late anyway.”
Ever since that day, I took great care to pack my things and leave by 6pm. Regardless if people believed it or not, or if it was just my imagination that night, I told myself to ‘respect the agreement’, and leave the office before night fell.
Story by Lang*.
2. External Possession
Everyone talks about possession in similar ways – a spirit enters a person, and that person then acts in a strange way. Movies, documentaries and all usually end with the person being exorcised, and most likely having no memory of the entire incident. Some people scoff and wave it off as a medical issue, not willing to believe in the supernatural. However, my story is rather unusual, and far from medical, as I got externally possessed.
When I was 13, I frequently felt like my back was weirdly heavy and tense. Even if I was bigger than average as compared to other pre-teens, it constantly felt like I was carrying a bag of very heavy books. One day, my right arm started twisting itself to my back, as if someone was pulling it – it wasn’t forceful or painful, but I knew I had no control over it. At the same time, it felt really ticklish, and I would end up having a laughing fit for no particular reason.
For obvious reasons, my parents grew concerned and decided to take me to a neurologist. Their main worry was that I was experiencing seizures, hence the strange laughing fits and the loss of control of my body. After various tests, the doctor diagnosed me with Frontal Lobe Seizure, and put me on rounds of medication, even epilepsy pills for a while.
The entire time after that, my mother took care to record my ‘episodes’ whenever it happened, to show the doctor during our checkups. Being a typical mother, she shared these videos with the rest of our extended family to tell them about my issues, and to ask for help or recommendations.
This was where things got creepy – my aunt had a young son who was sensitive to the supernatural and claimed that he could see things that others couldn’t. Some took him seriously, and some brushed it off as a child’s nonsense, but he was probably the reason I could live until now. While watching the video with my aunt, the young boy pointed at the screen and said –
“Mama, there are people on his back.”
After prodding him for further information, the young boy described that he saw two small figures – almost child-like – riding my back while pulling and twisting my arm. One even waved at my mother, who was recording the video! While his parents found hard to believe, my parents did not want to take any chances. They arranged for a priest, who then performed an exorcism ritual on me.
Before anyone asks, no, it was not like in the movies – there was no yelling, no blood, no spirits screaming and tearing the house apart, and my face did not contort into different shapes. I remember the whole procedure clearly, in fact; all they did was sit me down, calmly read out a few verses from the holy book, and told me I was good to go. I distinctly remember the only difference I felt was that my back gradually felt lighter, and my shoulders loosened up.
As to the children who were possessing me, no one knew who they were, or why they even chose me. The priest told my parents that it could just be two lost children, who wanted to have a little bit of fun. The spirits were not strong or malicious, and disappeared immediately after the ritual.
I am 23 now, and while the experience was a whole ten years ago, the story is still fun to recount during late-night parties or sleepovers. Not many people can say they’ve been possessed, let alone by two spirits, right? Although it still creeps me out when my aunt’s son – now also grown up – stares weirdly at me, as if he was still picturing the two children waving at him from behind my shoulders.
Story by Patrick*.
3. Paranoia of a Stewardess
The job of an airline stewardess comes with many perks – you get to travel all around the world, stay in luxurious hotels, eat all kinds of food and buy just about anything you ever want. People envy the lifestyle of airline crew, and some even call us ‘glorified waitresses’. They don’t see the job for what it is – long hours standing in a plane rattling several thousand feet in the air, while having to babysit hundreds of cranky passengers. My husband has grown to fear the line ‘chicken or beef’ as sometimes I even say it in my sleep.
But enough about my job and what I have to do, these are just part and parcel of the experience. Fear is like a second emotion to me at this point – flying in a plane that could go down due to problems, bomb threats on board, unruly and violent passengers, and now in the pandemic, literally everything is a risk. What I don’t talk about often enough is my own personal fears that kick in after I land in a different country, and check into a hotel.
Whenever we are assigned a hotel on duty, we usually have the privilege of getting our own room. You may think that it is a luxurious experience – having a big room, a king-sized bed, a large bathtub and television all to myself, but there is an unspoken reason as to why most of the time, we crew end up sharing rooms with each other. It is also the same reason as to why most hotels have a holy book in the dresser next to the bed.
From the biggest, most luxurious hotel in the heart of Vegas, to the tiniest, dingiest room in the alleys of Glasgow, the paranoia was all the same. Every time I stood in front of my room for the night, I would tap the door firmly three times before entering, just like how my mother taught me to. As I entered, I would say ‘thank you for letting me stay’ as I turned on the lights and took off my shoes. The next thing I would do is to open the doors of the bathroom and draw back the shower curtains, my heart beating rapidly as I prayed no one would be hiding back there. Then would be the bed, the window curtains, the closets and anywhere else that could hide a person.
Looking back at it, I confess that it might have been just my young, naïve mind playing tricks on me, telling me that there could be a man waiting in the tub holding a knife, ready to end my life just in 1960’s Psycho, or blood would seep out from under the closets as I opened them. At the same time, I’ve heard too many spooky tales from my seniors in the airline that got under my skin – figures standing around them as they slept in bed, blood pouring out of taps instead of water, experiencing sleep paralysis at night, body parts hidden in the lining of the bed, etc. These stories practically lived rent-free in my mind and replayed themselves frequently as I slept alone in large, dark hotel rooms.
But despite my fears, I’ve never had any paranormal experiences up till a time where I stayed in London years ago as a young stewardess. It was a brightly lit hotel room, with a big bed, wide windows and a marble bathroom with soft fluffy towels. I had a nice dinner with the other crew, came back and took a shower, then made myself a hot cup of English tea – in true British style – before I tucked myself into bed. All seemed fine and well, and I closed my eyes and felt myself drifting off to sleep… until I heard the kettle bubbling.
Confused, I sat up blearily and looked towards the electric kettle, trying to remember if I had forgotten to turn it off after I made my tea. I slid out of bed to turn it off, making sure the kettle’s light stopped blinking before I went back to bed. Once again, I closed my eyes and felt myself slowly sink into sleep.
The next time I jolted awake, it was because the television came on. The laughter from a variety show blared out, echoing around the room. I squinted in the dark, trying to make out where the remote was – could I have accidentally slept on the remote and turned the television on? Eventually I found the remote right next to the television, and I grumpily turned it off, wondering if it was one of those fancy televisions that turned themselves on and acted like an alarm clock. Either way, I was tired and jet lag wasn’t helping, so I crawled back to bed and closed my eyes once more.
While a few good minutes had passed, it seemed as if I closed my eyes for only a few seconds before I heard water slushing in the bathroom. This time, I groggily dragged myself out of bed, thinking if I had been so tired that I forgot to turn off the tap. Turning the bathroom light on, I then realized it wasn’t the sink tap that was on – it was the tap in the bathtub, and I hadn’t even taken a bath in it yet. The showerhead that I had used earlier was still slightly damp, but the tap that I had yet to touch was spitting out jets of water.
Feeling spooked out, I hastily turned off the tap, feeling the chill from the cold water run up my arm. I did not feel as sleepy as before anymore, and I was starting to get scared. Slowly, I walked out of the bathroom and turned on the lights of the hotel room. It felt like my heart was pounding in my throat as I looked around, but I could see nothing out of the ordinary.
As I was about to reach for the lights, I heard the merry bubbling of the kettle once more. This time, I was positive that it wasn’t some fancy, self-boiling kettle, as I had turned the main plug off. At the same time, the television flickered, filling the room with the same, echoing laughter of the late-night variety show.
I did what any scared person would do – I fled the room.
I spent the night at my fellow stewardess’s room, too afraid to return to my own until the next morning. She was understanding enough not to scoff or laugh at me, and kindly told me to stay until I felt comfortable enough to go back to my room. Even so, I gathered my stuff and spent the rest of my time in London staying with my colleague.
As an airline stewardess, that was just one of my various spooky encounters. Over the years, I’ve grown to learn how to respect the spaces I stayed in, and to always stick with my fellow crew the moment I felt uncomfortable about where I was. The countries and hotels may have differed, but my paranoia stayed with me until I resigned from being a crew, and even now when I go on holidays with my family.
Story by Angie*.
4. The Awaken Spirit
It was a normal morning in school and there was nothing particularly memorable about it. After the regular morning assembly, we all made our way back to class and that’s when I realized a group of teachers surrounding someone who had fainted. I was a first aider in school, and I had access to first aid kits, so I decided to bring it down for the teachers. I wasn’t planning to help as I was already late to my first period of the day.
Once I got there, the teachers instructed me and another first aider to assist with bringing the girl to the sick room. We complied though somewhat hesitantly. Once we arrived, we started trying to get her conscious. After a few attempts of tapping on her shoulders and calling out her name, she snapped awake. No, it wasn’t the usual drowsy and weak waking up that one would expect from someone who had just passed out.
She literally sprung up from the bed and sat up. What made me froze was her eyes. They were far from human. This was when I felt the other first aider cling onto my back, she must have seen it too. For a moment, we were both lost and confused but deeply terrified. The girl suddenly became hysterical and 4 men had to hold her down. The teachers eventually called an ustad to perform prayer. This was when I grasped the situation – the girl hadn’t passed out; she was possessed by a spirit.
We had to stay in the room while the prayers were carried out and we were instructed to avoid making eye contact with the girl. After 15 mins of relentless screaming and struggling, the teachers eventually dragged her out to the surau. Upon making sure both my friend and I were okay we were dismissed to class. This experience is one I would never forget as it was the day, I woke up a spirit.
Story by Sherly*.
5. The Haunted House at the Fair
I was in standard four when I went to my sister’s Canteen Day at the high school beside mine. I brought along a friend as I didn’t want to be left alone, knowing that my sister was tasked to act as a ghost for her class’ ghost house. We spent the entire day walking around, buying food and playing games, strictly avoiding the ghost houses. However, at the end of the day, one ghost house could not be avoided – my sister’s.
Her friend had found me and said that she was looking for me, leading us to her classroom right at the top of the building. “That was the last customer! We have to close up” I hear from inside the classroom, and I let out a breath of relief. “Wait, is that Fiona’s sister? It’s okay lah we’ll do this one last time for them” Damn it.
I take a glance at my friend and she looks back at me, visibly scared. Holding her hand, we enter the pitch-black classroom. Right at the door, my sister’s best friend dressed as a pontianak greeted us and acted as the host, guiding us through the haunted house to make sure we don’t divert from the designated path. A zombie, a scary doll, random painted white cloths, we came across all of them with eerie music playing in the background before we got to a dark corner in the room.
Out of the blue, the song changes to a sound of a baby crying and I see movement under a desk placed right by a window. I nudged my friend and she seemed to notice it too. It was a long-haired lady dressed in white cloth, another pontianak sitting underneath the desk in a fetal position, rocking to the cries playing in the background with her head pressed into her knees. I bite my lip to stop myself from making a sound while my friend lets out a scream. My sister’s friend, the host, brought us over to another area in the room where I easily spot my sister on the floor, crawling. “Kakak?”
She rolls her eyes and stops crawling, annoyed that I spotted her before she could scare me. We moved around the room for another while, my friend screaming at every ghost passing by while I surprisingly kept calm, mostly because I recognise them as my sister’s friends dressed up as ghosts. Not long after, they turned on the lights and started packing up, my friend and I staying back to talk to my sister.
We spot the wig my sister’s friend used to dress up as a pontianakand started playing with it. “Hey, where’s the other wig?” My friend asked me, I looked around the room, but I couldn’t spot it. I tug on my sister’s shirt. “What?” she said. “Where’s the other wig?” “What other wig?” My friend and I looked at each other. “For the other pontianak.” “What do you mean? There was only one pontianak.”
Story by Lisa*.
6. The Nightmare
Nightmares are seldom welcome in our sleep. Most leaving us gripped in fear and a reminder of moments that hurt us deeply.
So, when I say that a nightmare may have saved my life from harm, would be a difficult story to be believed.
It was a cold midnight as I was up in my room, laying on my bed, my laptop balanced on my lap, typing away on an assigned project in my pyjamas of an old red and white shirt and red shorts. I lost track of time and how many minutes has passed, but I was shocked out of my focus when I heard insistent soft scratching above me. Looking up, my eyes met with another pair of bloodshot eyes, hovering above me. Except the eyes belonged to a woman, in a tattered and bloodied white dress, hands outstretched with her long nails towards me. Her face mangled, bones and blood dripping down her pale face and eyes bulging.
As our eyes met, her lips stretched into what resembled a maniacal grin… and started to drop towards me from the ceiling.
Gripped by fear, I jumped off my bed and dashed towards my room door. My attempts to open the door was futile, as no matter how I twisted the knob, it wouldn’t unlock.
The last thing I felt was intense fear for my life, fear of what would happen to me when that creature gets to me… before opening my eyes to bright sunlight streaking through my window.
I was no doubt shaken, but quickly tried to brush it off as a nightmare caused by stress. However, the entire day my thoughts kept revisiting that scene. It was not easy to forget such a vivid nightmare, even more so that it happened in my very own room.
That night, my parents went to bed early and left me with my laptop in my room and an essay to write. Settling in my bed, I fired up my laptop and begun typing. The feeling of Deja vu nestled into my mind as my fingers tapped on the keys, but with an essay and tight deadline to meet, I brushed it off.
It only took a familiar soft scratching to kick my entire body into high gear. Looking down, I realized I was in the very same position, wearing the red and white shirt paired with red shorts from the nightmare.
I made sure to not look up, setting down my laptop on my bed and immediately diving for my door, twisting the knob, praying it is not locked.
Thankfully, the door swung open and I dashed into my parents’ room as quickly as I could.
Story by Chang*.
7. The Child
When I was in the first grade of primary school, I never went a single day without crying in school. I never understood why I was crying. But all I knew was if my mom was in my sight, I would feel better. Thus, my mom had to take care of me in school from 7:30am – 1:00pm daily. Every time she wasn’t around, I would just start crying over and over again. Till this day, I never knew what I was crying about or why. I never felt any sort of fear, in fact I liked being in school.
But after a while, my classmates started hating me. My teachers hated me even more. My dad would bring me to the zoo every other weekend in hopes that I would feel better in school. He would pray for me and he would do just about anything just so that I would stop crying in school. But nothing worked. It went on for almost a year. He couldn’t stand it any longer.
Then one day, my parents decided to bring me to see a spiritual healer. As we sat down, she did not ask us anything nor talked to us. She started talking to an invisible figure behind us and we simply thought it was part of her ritual. Then after a while, she turned her attention to us. She told us that a spirit has been following me around for almost a year now and we had to perform a ritual at a specific location to get rid of the spirit.
My parents couldn’t figure out how we even come across a spirit in the first place. Then the spiritual healer revealed the specific location. When I was 6 years old, my family went for a picnic at a secluded location on the local beach. We were having a great time until a major commotion broke out among the villagers. Me and my dad approached the villagers and we found a boy lying on the sandy beach. He had drowned and passed away on the spot. His spirit followed me home after. He was the reason I had been crying for no reason in school. The very next day I went back to school, I did not cry.
Story by Jayden*.
*Names were changed for confidentiality.