This year, the seventh Chinese lunar month, also called the Hungry Ghost Month, falls from Aug 11 to Sept 9. During this period, a common sight will be roadside offerings of food, candles and joss sticks, to fete the wandering spirits. Makeshift tents are set up for the same purpose.
Chinese elders advise the young not to offend these spirits of the nether world which will be set free to roam the earth for a month. And everyone is advised not to stay out too late.
Ghost from the mortuary
In mid-February 2015, writer *Eddy R, 51, went to a mortuary to look at a body after getting a lead on a rape and murder case. Later that evening, he felt a strange presence whizz past him in the office. He had the goosebumps but quickly finished his work before driving home.
Feeling uneasy that “something” from the mortuary had followed him home – possibly the spirit of the dead girl – he had a bath outside his home, wet his clothes, towelled up and entered his home. (It is believed that one can ward off spirits with water).
He then performed another cleansing ritual. He warmed his palms over the stove fire and put them to his face and then his shoulders.
The face of a ghost
Photographer *Yeop, 48, had a ghostly encounter in 1995. He was riding his motorcycle home from Petaling Jaya to Taman Sri Gombak in Kuala Lumpur, after the graveyard shift.
It was 2am and drizzling when he drove past a deserted stretch with big and shady trees in Sentul.
“I saw a long-haired girl dressed in white sitting on a highway guardrail with her head facing the ground. I stopped my bike to find out what she was doing at such an ungodly hour,” he recalled.
“Suddenly, she lifted her head up, I freaked out and sped off.”
The girl’s face was horrific – corpse-like with bloodshot eyes.
He said: “I had fever for three days! My neck, hands and thighs had long scratches as if someone had clawed me!”
Three weeks later, he spoke to some people at a kenduri (feast) near the vicinity where he had seen the ghost.
“Residents told me that many people had seen the ghost of the girl, a hit-and-run victim, who was waiting for her boyfriend,” he said.
Retired wholesale manager C.B. Chiew, 79, related how he and a group of nine primary school boys had a bizarre sighting at their school in Kampar, Perak, in the early 1950s.
The sighting came after they heard three mournful calls by a bird, which they thought was a crow.
“We stopped playing basketball to investigate after we heard the bird. We saw a black shadow under a mango tree. It then moved towards a lit office where it vanished. The boys ran helter skelter when someone shouted, ‘Ghost!’”
The next day, the boys told a teacher.
“We were told that the office was a military police office during the Japanese Occupation. A short distance away, anti-Japanese captives were executed by hanging from a mango tree. The shadow was probably the ghost of a dead captive,” said the teacher.
The shaking tree
In 2005, a teacher and ghost researcher Augustine Towonsing, 49, was conducting ghost research for the first time on a calm and quiet night in a cemetery in Sungai Petani, Kedah.
“While walking around, a tree nearby suddenly started to shake very hard even though there was no wind. I felt a bit scared when the tree continued shaking. After I had apologised and introduced myself, the tree stopped shaking. I went to check out that tree and found a nameless tombstone.”
Towonsing’s scariest experience as a ghost researcher was at Bukit Hijau in Baling, Kedah.
“It was midnight and I was at the place for just five minutes when I heard a movement nearby but saw nothing. Prior to leaving, I took a snapshot at the place where I felt the movement. When the film was developed later, an elephant apparition was captured on it.
In 1956, Chiew and some boys from Malaya went to study in Singapore. In October that year, a Form One classmate died from head injuries during a clash with the guards sent to disperse student protestors during a demonstration. Soon after a month long curfew was imposed and some of the boys returned to Malaya.
When the curfew was lifted, Chew was the first among his classmates to return to Singapore.
“That night, around midnight, I was woken by a chilling wind in our rented room. The wooden windows creaked and I wanted to close them, thinking a thunderstorm was brewing.
“When I opened my eyes, I saw the silhouette of my dead classmate sitting next to me on my mattress on the floor. I spoke to him with my inner voice urging him not to disturb me and went back to sleep.”
The mischievious dwarf
In 2015, student *Nadia Sufi, 22, and her family experienced paranormal activities in their home in Delhi, India.
She said: “I was in the kitchen heating and stirring two pots of food on the stove for dinner. When I heard my mum calling from the hallway, I turned around to look. When I turned back, the pots were empty!” Her mother later found the food in a dustbin.
A few days later, Nadia was in her room studying. When it was getting dark, she got off her bed to switch on the light.
“I saw a man staring at me through the window. He was a dwarf, very short, and had a beard. After a few seconds, he walked away. It really freaked me out because my room was on the first floor.”
The previous night her mother woke up at 2am to make tea.
“While in the kitchen, she heard a sound behind her and turned around to find a man standing in the doorway – the same dwarf I had seen outside my window!” she said.
The family also had other scary encounters – the stove fire switching on and off by itself, plates and jugs being thrashed against the walls, seeing a family member in two different locations and writing on the walls close to the ceiling!
It took four months to cleanse the house. Nadia and her family moved to Malaysia soon after and “things have been good!”
Twenty years ago, a former cafe owner *Sammy Yen, 51, went on a family trip to Bali. Soon after returning, Yen’s husband, a paediatrician, experienced blurred vision, pain and tearing of the eyes under sunlight. Eye doctors and specialists could find nothing wrong with him. So, Yen’s late mother took him to see a medium who said that he had stepped on something “dirty” (and was thus under an evil spell).
“At night, I placed a talisman across both his eyes and a towel over it to secure it. That night I could see him panting as if he was fighting with an evil spirit. I grabbed a broomstick and flicked the talisman away from his eyes. Shortly after, he woke up and his vision was clear again.
Five years ago, Yen’s two sons bought a family holiday package to Bali. Spooked by what happened to her husband on a previous vacation, Yen’s sister told her to burn incense to cleanse the resort home they were staying in.
“Just before sleeping, we heard the shower turn on. When we went to check, it stopped. It started again after we walked away. Then, the air conditioner began switching on and off. Annoyed, my husband shouted at the spirit to stop it and we went to sleep.”
Soon after, Yen could hear the crackling sounds of a plastic container (in which she stored the incense) being opened and closed. Feeling bushed, she too, fell asleep.
At breakfast time, Yen, her husband and her two sons, in their 20s, were in the hall when they heard foosteps scrambling up the staircase. They also heard the sounds of food storage plastic bags near them being opened and closed. Feeling scared, they decided to move to another place to stay. The resort’s driver later told Yen that the spirits were angry as she had burnt incense to drive them away.
Some 33 years ago, graphic artist *Kay Bee, 51, heard children’s voices outside her chalet while holidaying with friends in Johor.
“We were playing gim rummy at night and I heard children laughing and playing by the waterfall. I walked towards the window and peered out. The voices stopped and there was no one at the well-lit waterfall,” she said.
After she walked away from the window, she heard the children’s voices again.
“The next day, I confronted my friends – all of whom had heard the children’s voices. They may have been spirits of children who drowned at the waterfall,” she said.
Ten years ago, account executive *Kelly Ho, 29, said her friend’s roommate woke up because she felt choked.
“I saw an apparition kneeling over another student who was asleep, trying to strangle her. The apparition jumped from bed to bed trying to strangle the other girls sleeping on double-decker bunker beds,” said the friend’s roommate of her spine-chilling experience in a school hostel in Kuala Lumpur.
* Names of the interviewees have been changed on request.