S'porean owns 'Johor's most haunted house'

First, Villa Nabila - a dilapidated bungalow in Johor Baru - was listed as one of the top five haunted houses in Malaysia by US-based travel portal Expedia.

Then a Malaysian boy, 16, was reported to have gone missing after entering the villa last week, giving the place an added layer of spookiness.

It turned out to be a false alarm - the boy was sleeping over at his girlfriend's house that night - but the publicity from the media coverage has turned Villa Nabila into Johor's latest tourist attraction.

On Thursday, the Johor Baru City Council put up a notice at the front of the house, revealing the owner to be a Singaporean named Low Sue Heng.

The notice in Malay required the owner to repair and clean up the premises within 14 days. If this was not done, the council would take over the job and bill the owner.

Malaysia's The Star newspaper quoted a council source on Wednesday as saying the 248,000 sq ft lot on which Villa Nabila stands was bought in 2008 by a Singaporean, who is reportedly paying more than RM18,000 (S$7,000) in quit rent for the place.

When The New Paper on Friday visited Villa Nabila in Danga Bay, a 10-minute drive from the Causeway, the main entrance leading to the house was boarded up with metal sheets, with the council notice pasted on it.

But this did not deter visitors from getting into the estate from another road that leads to a rear entrance. They then had to walk about 200m on a dirt path to reach the villa.

Along the way, another building in disrepair also had a notice requiring the owner, who was also named Mr Low Sue Heng, to fix up the place.

ONLY WAY IN

Once at Villa Nabila, the only way in was through a window at the back of the property.

In the two hours that TNP spent combing the bungalow, which is about the size of a football field, for signs of paranormal activity, we encountered at least 50 visitors, mostly locals.

Mr Zharif Isa, 20, an undergraduate in Johor Baru, drove there with four friends. They had read "a lot" about the place in newspapers and on Facebook. "We wanted to see how creepy it was," he said.

He had heard tales of the villa from his friends and family.

"One such story was about how Nabila, a young girl who lived here, was murdered by her stepmother. That's how it became haunted," he said.

What greeted Mr Zharif and his friends was a building in ruins, enveloped by ferns, weeds and overgrown shrubs.

Every step on the wooden floorboards, many of them rotten, emitted loud creaks. Though it was daytime, the building was almost shrouded in darkness because of the overgrown trees and bushes that have enveloped it.

In front of the building is a pond filled with green algae-covered stagnant water and home to an entire ecosystem of water insects. It might once have been a swimming pool.

As we made our way through the premises, Mr Zharif and his friends were heard muttering "scary", "wow" and "yucks".

They were not the only curious ones. Another visitor, who wanted to be known only as Michael, had taken his two young children there.

"We've come here just for fun after so many people have been talking about it," he said.

But nearby residents were not pleased with the crowds.

One of them, who declined to be named, said: "Over the past week, there have been so many cars parked by the road and there's so much noise. It has become a problem for us.

"One of my neighbours even called the police in an attempt to (quell) the disturbance. But the police said we can only hope for the craze to die down."

Clean up in 14 days

A notice pasted on the front of Villa Nabila in Johor Baru lists its owner as a Singaporean named Lim Sue Heng who lives in Ridley Park in the Tanglin area.

The notice by the Johor Baru City Council requires the owner to clean up the house within 14 days, otherwise the council would do it and bill him.

A check with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority here showed that a Mr Lim Sue Heng was appointed the director of a now-defunct company in 1973.

When The New Paper visited the Ridley Park house, a double storey bungalow, on Friday, a man who looked to be in his 50s opened the door.

The man, who had a greying crew cut, declined to identify himself. When told about the notice by the JB City Council, he said angrily: "Let them go in, I don't care." He declined to comment further.

A neighbour, who gave her name only as Doris, said an elderly couple and their son live in the house. She said: "The couple look to be in their 70s and they are still strong."

The JB city council's public relations officer, Mr Abdul Aziz Ithnin, told Malaysian media that a lot of clearing work has to be done as trees were growing inside the bungalow and there was thick overgrowth in the compound.

The Star quoted Mr Abdul Aziz as saying: "The owner has been paying quit rent prior to 1998 and has never failed to pay assessment charges. It is his responsibility to clean up the place."

The mansion, which sits on a sprawling 2.6ha of land at Jalan Skudai, is near the tourist attraction of Danga Bay.

Spooky tales of Villa Nabila

Villa Nabila earned its 'haunted house' reputation with tales of murder and death.

Here are some of the versions Malaysian newspaper The Star reported on:

1. A family with a daughter named Nabila once lived in the villa. One day, their maid killed Nabila and her family, and buried their bodies in the compound.

2. Out of greed, a relative of the family living there hired two hit men to kill all of them.

3. A wealthy Caucasian family who lived in the house was murdered.

4. The New Paper also found a blog posting that seems to be a variation of the "hit men" and "Caucasian family" versions.

In this version, a Caucasian businessman built the villa and named it Christine Palace after his wife.

But when he reneged on his promise to divide the land with his siblings, they sent two men to kill the couple and their daughter.

The villa has been abandoned for almost 70 years.


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