As assignments go, this one was a bit strange. I had read about visitors to haunted house events assaulting the scare performer.
My editors had, too. So with the hope I would not end up a spooky punch bag, they sent me to see if I could survive as a scarer at Sentosa Spooktacular, an annual Halloween event organised by Sentosa Leisure Management and GMM Tai Hub.
Reaching Fort Siloso in the afternoon, some of the performers were already getting ready.
Mr Ray Ng, 19, an event intern, took me to my scare venue.
The theme for this year's Spooktacular is Asian horror movies and my haunt was based on the Thai chiller Alone.
My task seemed almost too simple: Hide inside a piano, wait for visitors to wander past, jump up and scare them.
There would be someone playing the piano - in a slow, sinister off-key style, of course. I was to be the element of surprise.
As Mr Ng gave me pointers, I asked him what would happen if I were to laugh at my "victims" reactions. He reassured me that laughing is okay, as long as it was done in an "evil" style.
After "training", I felt ready to terrify.
I just needed to look the part. It took me 15 minutes to get into character. A quick look in the mirror startled me. My face was caked in white face paint with black eye rings and lipstick. Indeed, I looked like the Joker.
At 6.30pm, we were deployed to our assigned areas. Then the doors were opened. Enter the public...
Crouched inside the piano, I could feel the nerves. Not least about someone possibly punching me as a reflex action.
My first victims were two middle-aged women. They seemed terrified and held each other's hands tightly. I could not help but feel some pride in successfully scaring them. Score one for me.
My next victims - a young couple - set off my worry about laughing.
I had been told that one technique to scare a couple is to "target" the girlfriend, as she would be the one who more likely to get frightened.
Not for this couple, as it was the guy who seemed more freaked out.
His face wore a horrified expression and he clung onto his girlfriend for dear life. Disappointingly, she did not seem that affected.
It wasn't all failure.
During my stint, I managed to scare a satisfying number of visitors.
I garnered a number of blood-curdling screams, surprisingly less swearing than I expected; and strangest of all, some appreciative comments like "Nice one, man". I even made two women scream so loud, I thought they would need help.
Most important of all - I did not get hit.
This article was first published on October 27, 2014.
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