Places in Singapore with a dark past

Places in Singapore with a dark past
The Old Changi Hospital in Halton Road, left vacant since 1997, is reputedly one of Singapore’s most spooky spots.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Singaporeans, it seems, are not a superstitious bunch. Flats in the upcoming Bidadari estate drew overwhelming subscriptions in the HDB's launch of new flats in November. Bidadari was formerly a cemetery. The Sunday Times uncovers other sites in Singapore with a dark past.

1. Block 12, Lorong 7, Toa Payoh

A three-room flat on the seventh storey of this block is the site of one of the most horrific murders in Singapore's history.

In 1981, medium Adrian Lim, 39, conducted rituals involving blood, drugs and sex in this flat, killing a nine-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy with the help of his wife and his mistress. The trio were said to have also drunk the blood of their victims.

News reports say the girl was drugged, sexually assaulted, strangled and her body dumped in a large bag at the foot of a block. The boy was reportedly drowned and his body was found near a hedge.

A trail of blood led to Lim's flat, which contained crucifixes, blood- stained Hindu and Taoist idols, and a book on witchcraft. Another report said there were also pills and hypodermic syringes, and a newspaper article on human sacrifice.

The trio were found guilty of the murders and hanged on Nov 25, 1988.

In 1987, a Catholic family bought the flat for $28,600 and moved in. They were aware of its dark history, but considered it lucky as they struck 4-D the month they moved in.

One of the family members, Mr Desmond Tan, said in an interview in 1993: "My mum said this house was lucky. Basically, we don't believe in ghosts or things like that."

Property records show the unit changed hands again in 2005. When this reporter visited, no one came to the door.

Mr James Ng, 67, who lives next door, says the current owner had rented the unit out to foreigners in recent years, but it is now vacant.

The retired shipping clerk, who was living there at the time of the murders, says: "Even though we share a wall with the unit, we are not affected by what happened there. What is over is over. Life goes on."

2. Fortuna Hotel

This is the site of Hotel New World, which collapsed on March 15, 1986, and killed 33 people. It was one of the worst tragedies in post-war Singapore.

The six-storey building at the junction of Serangoon Road and Owen Road collapsed due to structural faults and sub-standard construction. The hotel occupied the four upper floors, and a nightclub and a bank were on the lower floors.

News reports say that at about 11am that day, some occupants heard loud sounds and felt a few tremors, but continued going about their business. At about 11.25am, the building fell, shrouding the area in plumes of dust. In less than a minute, it was reduced to rubble and not a single wall was left standing.

A rescue operation with more than 500 staff from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, Fire Service and Singapore Armed Forces, as well as foreign experts, lasted four days, and 17 survivors were pulled out from the rubble.

In 1994, the seven-storey Fortuna Hotel opened on the site and still stands today. Its website says it has 104 rooms and houses an Indian restaurant and a branch of Western Union. Previous reports say the hotel was owned by property company Chng Holdings, which is understood to be defunct.

Property checks show that the hotel is now owned by Fortuna City, a hotel operation and management company.

Ms Aisha Naz, 20, who works at Star Tours, which is located in the hotel building, says she knows about the site's dark past, but is not bothered by it.

"It doesn't affect us. Most of our customers are foreigners and don't know what happened."

3. Bedok Reservoir

The reservoir saw an unprecedented spate of deaths in 2011 and 2012 and it was labelled online as a "suicide destination".

The first death was reported on June 20, 2011, when the decomposed lower half of Chinese national Lin Xiao, 23, was found.

News reports said the apprentice mechanic was depressed after coming to Singapore and had told his mother he would die by jumping into the river.

On Sept 22 that year, the bodies of Madam Tan Sze Sze, 31, and her three-year-old son Jerald Chin, were found floating there. She was said to be distressed over a custody battle with her estranged husband.

Over the next year, at least five other bodies were reported to have been found in the reservoir.

Representatives from the Inter- Religious Organisation held a prayer session at the reservoir in 2011, initiated by former foreign minister George Yeo, who was a Member of Parliament for the area.

In January 2012, PUB installed four CCTV cameras at the reservoir, which is surrounded by a park. It also stepped up patrols, ensured that the lamps were fully lit throughout the night and installed signboards with helpline information for the Samaritans Of Singapore .

The reservoir is a popular spot for water sports such as wakeboarding, sailing, canoeing and kayaking. It was also a venue for the 28th Sea Games in June last year.

Software solution architect Ranjith Vijayan, 37, who trained at the park thrice a week for last year's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, says: "I run alone, sometimes after midnight. I'm not afraid. I like that it is calm and quiet and I can reflect on my day as I run.

"I'm not scared of ghosts, only of stray dogs."

4. Bishan

This is one of the most sought-after residential estates, associated with million-dollar HDB flats and some of the top schools in Singapore, including Raffles Institution and Catholic High.

But before the distinctive red-brick housing blocks sprang up, Bishan was the site of a 155ha Chinese cemetery called Peck San Theng (jade hill pavilion in Cantonese), which was founded in 1870as a burial ground for Hakka and Cantonese immigrants.

The graves were exhumed in the 1980s to make way for the development of Bishan New Town. The area now has a bustling shopping centre and is a public transport hub.

Mr Rickson Chng, 45, a bachelor who has lived in Bishan for 31 years and is the director of food company Ally McBean's Food Supply, shrugs off Bishan's past. He says: "I'm not superstitious. If you've done nothing wrong, what's there to fear?

"When I was younger, there were some areas in Bishan that I'd avoid at night. But now I don't. I'm so used to this place already."

5. Changi

The site of Changi Beach Park is believed to be one of the first massacre sites during Operation Sook Ching, a military operation against those in the Chinese community who were anti- Japanese during the Japanese Occupation.

On Feb 20, 1942, Japanese firing squads killed 66 Chinese male civilians at the water's edge. They were bound by ropes in rows of eight to 12 and instructed to walk towards the sea, according to the National Heritage Board's website.

Japanese soldiers mowed them down with machine guns as they reached the shallow waters. Many died on-site, but some managed to swim away or hide underwater as the ropes binding them loosened.

A memorial plaque has been placed at the site in remembrance of the Chinese massacred in Singapore during the Japanese Occupation.

Changi houses the Old Changi Hospital in Halton Road, which has been named on the Web as one of Singapore's most spooky spots.

Built in 1935, the hospital was used as a prison camp during World War II. The Japanese secret police, or Kempeitai, were rumoured to have used it as a torture chamber.

Left vacant since 1997, the one- time military hospital has long had a reputation for being haunted.

But not every part of Changi has a dark past. The area is home to the world-class Changi Airport, which serves more than 100 international airlines flying to about 250 cities in 60 countries. It has been consistently voted the world's best airport.

The Changi Business Park at Changi South hosts companies, software enterprises, and research and development institutes.

Professor Brian Farrell, 55, head of the history department at the National University of Singapore, says: "Changi has a rich history. It is not surprising that beliefs and folklore have developed around it. In general, a place's dark past has a lingering effect on the present, but it really depends on who you talk to.

"In the case of Changi, a historian can see it as an important site where sad events once took place. But to a young person, it could just mean a nice beach and a ferry ride to Pulau Ubin."

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