Pre-schools, condominiums, MRT stations: Here are 8 'normal' places in Singapore that have a sinister past

The Red House in October 2008.
PHOTO: Google Maps

The commencement of the Hungry Ghost Festival means a resurgence of ghost stories and what's more exciting than exchanging tales about supposedly 'haunted' places in Singapore?

One may assume that only cemeteries and abandoned places are hotbeds for supernatural activities, but surprisingly, some spooky places in Singapore may be right under your nose.

Would you believe us if we told you that an old haunted house now serves as a clubhouse for condominium residents? Or that your favourite jogging route at MacRitchie Reservoir may have been the site of some pretty gruesome historical events? Here are some 'normal' places in Singapore that may not be as innocent as you think.

Odyssey The Global Preschool

Some of you — especially frequent chalet goers — may remember the legendary Pasir Ris Red House.

The pre-school that has replaced the Pasir Ris Red House. PHOTO: The Odyssey

It's surprising to know that despite its sinister history, the house has since gone through redevelopment and been converted into a pre-school.

The abandoned property was rumoured to be brimming with supernatural activity, making it a popular destination for ghostbusters, thrill-seekers and people staying in the nearby chalets — in the 1990s, local paranormal groups even nominated it to be one of the three most haunted houses in Singapore!

The Red House in October 2008. PHOTO: Google Maps

Those who have dared to enter the premises have told stories of the infamous old rocking chair and doll in the middle of the house. Others even insist that they have seen the two stone lions manning the front gate move.

A Treasure Trove Condominium

Another well-known haunted house that has gotten a facelift is the Matilda House at Punggol Walk.

If you're a supernatural enthusiast who is keen on visiting this eerie property, you're about a decade too late. In 2010, the land surrounding the Matilda House was sold to a property developer and turned into a clubhouse for a condominium called A Treasure Trove, giving it a new lease of life.

The property now is a clubhouse at A Treasure Trove. PHOTO: Facebook/David Tong

In its grander days, the house belonged to a rich family before being acquired by the government in 1985.

Before the plans to develop Punggol into a waterfront town were announced in the 2000s, Matilda House was left abandoned for many years. During this time, the house fell into ruins and became the inspiration for numerous ghost stories.

The Matilda House left to ruins. PHOTO: The Straits Times

One of the more well-known tales that surrounds the house is that of three construction workers who passed away during its scheduled demolition, causing the developers to abandon the site.

Others claim to have seen a lady with long hair in the nearby trees who would guard the house from uninvited guests.

Orchard Road

Singapore's most popular shopping district is the place to be at during the weekends, but did you know that our favourite hangout spot sits on a string of former graveyards?

The plot of land where Ion Orchard and Ngee Ann City now stand used to be part of a cemetery called Tai Shan Ting, which used to have 25,000 to 30,000 graves that were cleared in the 1950s.

While there is no longer any sign of the exhumed cemetery, there have been claims of ghost sightings and supernatural activities — especially in Ngee Ann City, which some say bear an uncanny resemblance to a traditional Teochew headstone.

Sentosa

Sentosa is another hot destination for Singaporeans who are looking for a place to unwind — in fact, its contemporary name means "peace and tranquillity" in Malay.

PHOTO: Facebook/sentosaofficial

However, did you know that it actually used to be called Pulau Belakang Mati, which roughly translates to "island of death from behind"?

This isn't surprising because back during World War II, Sentosa was the execution site of a large number of Chinese that were suspected to be involved in anti-Japanese activities.

One especially eerie site is Fort Siloso, which is Singapore's only well-preserved coastal fort. There, people have claimed to come across the ghosts of soldiers who died during the war.

Fort Canning

This popular nature park is another place that used to have an eerie name — it once was called Bukit Larangan, which translates to "forbidden hill". It is believed that ancient kings were buried here and the site was considered holy ground.

Graves at Fort Canning. PHOTO: Roots.gov

The outdoor concert area was also an old Christian cemetery and Europeans were buried here from 1819 to 1865. There are still remnants of the cemetery but the rest of the tombstones were moved to St Gregory Armenian Church.

Visitors to the park have reported having feeling the uncomfortable sensation of being watched while others have seen white hooded figures.

MacRitchie Reservoir

Another well-loved nature destination that has a dark history is MacRitchie Reservoir.

While the park is known for its scenic hiking trails and TreeTop Walk, hidden away in its lush greenery is an abandoned Japanese shrine called Syonan Jinja.

Syonan Jinja in its glory days. PHOTO: Kanagawa University

The Shinto shrine was built to commemorate the Japanese soldiers who died in Malaya during World War II and it was an important place for public ceremonies and celebrations of Japanese traditional festivals. There were even grand plans for it to become the second greatest shrine after Tokyo's famous Meiji Shrine!

In 1945, the Japanese burned down the shrine as they feared the returning British would violate the sacred place.

Apart from Syonan Jinja, MacRitchie Reservoir is also home to several water graves that are only visible at low tide.

Even if you don't believe there is anything supernatural lurking in the park, you still should be careful while exercising here, especially in the densely forested areas. Back in 2008, a jogger actually got lost in here for 18 hours and even had to spend the night!

St John's Island

Thanks to the pandemic, more people have been making trips to St John's island for a short getaway from the city. However, the rustic island has a chilling history.

Before it became a popular spot for island-hoppers, St John's island was a penal settlement, drug rehabilitation centre and a quarantine island. Additionally, it also was the site of mass executions during World War II.

Many of these hair-raising stories revolve around its infamous giant human-sized chessboard and rumours are that captors used to play games of chess using prisoners of war. 'Chess pieces' that didn't last the game were said to be beheaded on the spot. Yikes.

Apart from that, people have also reported hearing the sound of marching boots belonging to ghost soldiers.

Various MRT stations

Bidadari Cemetery. PHOTO: National Library Board 

Woodleigh MRT sits atop the former Bidadari Cemetery and between 2001 and 2006, around 126,000 Christian and Muslim graves were exhumed to make way for housing developments. It isn't surprising that there have been alleged sightings of pocongs, a Malay ghost that is said to be the spirit of a dead person still wrapped in burial cloth.

Then, there is Bishan MRT which took over the space of Pek San Teng Cemetery. The graveyard was not just a burial place — during the Japanese invasion, a fierce battle took place here and eventually, the area was also bombed by the Japanese. Definitely a hotbed for supernatural activities.

Dhoby Ghaut MRT too is another station that replaced a graveyard and prior to its construction, the space used to be a Jewish cemetery.

Have a supernatural encounter of your own that you want to share? You can tell us about it here

This article has been edited for clarity.

melissateo@asiaone.com