Written by Eugene Tay
Peace Centre, situated in the Bugis Bras Basar district and at the arse end of Middle Road, is one of Singapore's oldest surviving mall that has not been upgraded since it was first built.
The floor tiles, wooden hand rails, and faded pastel green coloured walls are all reminiscent of the 70s decor. Back in its heydays, Peace Centre was home to an eclectic mix of shops selling anything from bespoke tailored outfits to Kachang Puteh* . Over the years it housed dodgy businesses that catered for all manner of vices - sex trades, alcohol, gambling, drugs; and these are the ones that I personally know about. I'm sure there might be other more nefarious and darker deeds going about that place that are only privy to those in the industry.
*Kachang Puteh literally translates to White Nuts. These are roasted nuts covered in white sugar. It was a popular snack that one would buy to eat in the cinema. Peace Centre might be the only place left in Singapore with a Kachang Puteh seller.
I was a tenant of that building from 2007 to 2012, and had forged very close friendship with the neighbours. Even the lady boss who was in-charge of property management would sit with the tenants at the third floor cafe to chat during the slow weekday afternoons. Ghost stories, especially in Asia, is the one conversational topic that creates an immediate bond between the different races and cultures, and for an old building like Peace Centre, the stories were endless. Many of these tales, though as scary as they are when narrated, often times were urban legends - someone who had heard it from someone who had heard it from someone else.
The 7th Floor Haunted Management Office
This story is slightly more believable because it came directly from someone who worked in the management office herself. T is not known to be someone who joked a lot. Besides my mother, T is the only other person I know who can smile with a frown. I have a love hate relationship with T. She's my landlady and each month when I see her, it's usually to pay rent, but there are also times where she and I would just sit down and gossip about the events that took place next building at Peace Mansion.
I remember in one conversation where I was due to renew my rental agreement and I asked for a cheaper rate, she offered her 7th floor office as an alternative. It had bigger floor space, and she was practically giving it away for free. So I asked her what's the catch.
"It's haunted," she said. Just like that. No set up, no preamble. "Things can move around. Cupboards can open and close by themselves."
"But you were in that office for many years, aren't you afraid?"
"This place quite common. You can see spirits walking around the corridors at night. It's not harmful. They are like our tenants. We are used to them. That's why you see some offices will leave packet drinks and sweets outside their doors."
"Then why move out?"
"Last month the haunting in the office started getting violent. Got one new staff said he don't believe in all these nonsense. Around 5pm, before we knock off, he heard the office chair rolled around. He went to check but most of us had already left for the day and there's no one in the adjoining room. He decided to scold the spirit.
He went to check but most of us had already left for the day and there's no one in the adjoining room. He decided to scold the spirit.
That's when the glass partitioned shattered and a large piece of glass cut his neck. He didn't die of course but since then, many of us in the office don't feel safe anymore. The energy got a bit darker. So we moved to third floor."
"Any ghost there?"
"Yeah have, That one quite interesting. The room used to be rented by a church for their congregation, but then they moved out already and we used it as a store. There's a timid child spirit there, and I think over time, the place attracted other children spirits to that place. The shifu [a holistic movement practitioner] on the fourth floor said that these are aborted child spirits. They got no where to go. But the mood is a lot better than on the seventh floor. They like music. Anytime of the day, our office radio can turn on and play on its own. Sometimes they even change the channel on their own. If you walk past and you hear music, that's not for us; it's for them."
Do Not Deny The Beggar
This one was shared with me by the security guard who swore that he got the story from the father of the kachang puteh seller. This urban legend started in the 80s when Singapore still had beggars that sleep at street corners. As the story goes, there's a old indian man that would only appear during dusk to ask for food and money. There was one young man who would often take pity on this beggar and bought him food and offered him money. Though this young man wasn't wealthy himself, he had a kind and generous heart.
One evening, when the young man had delivered food to the old beggar, the beggar reached out for his hand and asked him to stay. The young man did.
"Young man," the old beggar said. "You have a kind heart. It is my turn to return you a gift."
"It's okay, uncle, you don't have to give me anything," said the young man.
The old beggar just chuckled and palmed a dirty old coin in the young man's hand. "Keep this in your pocket at all times, you will never be lack of money," the old beggar said.
In that instant, the young man saw a shift in the old beggar's face, for a split second, but in that time the young man thought he saw the form of Bhikshatana. Bhikshatana is an aspect of the goddess Shiva in Hindu mythology.
In that instant, the young man saw a shift in the old beggar's face, for a split second, but in that time the young man thought he saw the form of Bhikshatana.
That was the last time that the young man saw the old beggar but he did remember to keep the coin in his pocket at all times. In fact, the young man prospered during the decade and owned a few business that operated out of Peace Centre. The rumour about his unnatural success was cemented when his businesses outlived his competitors. In the later part of 2000s, most of his businesses folded and he moved out of the building. No one has heard of him since.
This led many of the neighbours to believe that he must have lost his magic coin.
To this day, the older tenants would advice their staff who are working late to never deny the beggar asking for food if they met one at Peace Centre.
Now the next bit might be entirely a coincidence but I cannot help but think back on this urban legend and wondering many times later in my life if I had indeed came face to face with the aspect of Shiva.
I knocked off around 10.00pm one night and I was taking the side stairs down towards middle road, The only light illuminating this stairwell was the light from the street lamp nearby. As I walked down towards the second floor landing, I met an old Indian man making his way up. At this time of the night, there is no reason for anyone to be going into the building, and for us tenants, we pretty much knew most people by face. This man however, was unkempt, clearly hadn't showered in a while, and I think he might have been drinking. He curled his fingers and brought it to his mouth in an action that most people would interpret as "eat". He rubbed his stomach with the other hand and repeated his actions.
I fished out for my wallet and as luck would have it, for him, I only have a ten dollar bill in my wallet and no smaller change. Remembering the urban legend shared by the security guard, I did not hesitate to part with my money even though that would mean I would have to skip dinner. The man took my money and happily made his way upwards. I walked away feeling conflicted. Half of me feeling stupid, and the other half consoling myself that I've done a good deed.
Later that night, I found a folded fifty dollar bill in bus number 65. How would you explain that?
The Girls of Peace Mansion
Come evening time, that place is a sight to behold. Many fine ladies in the tightest and tiniest of dresses, tottering around on the highest of heels would make their way down to have their meals before starting work at their respective nightclubs and karaoke bars in the vicinity. Danny and Anthony were two well known characters who would hang out everyday at the foodcourt area of Peace Mansion. They consider themselves entrepreneurs who truly understands what customers want, namely vices. The drinking and smoking tables at the food court are limited so we always end up sharing tables. As regulars, it is inevitable that bonds are forged and especially over common interest like booze and girls.
That was how I got invitation into house parties and saw the human side of Peace Mansion. It is easy to look at these working girls, pimps, and colourful characters and pass our high society judgment upon them, but when you had the opportunity to speak with them as a person as I have, I found that they are no different from my conversations with investment bankers, the traders, and the get-rich-quick "coaches". They all just want to make as much money as they can. Greed is the name of the game; It is a cut throat industry and respect is measured in dollar bills.
And with greed, especially in Asia, spirituality comes into play. I have heard stories of magic needles/beads that were surgically inserted under the skin in necks, cheeks, foreheads, and genitals, all in the name of business improvement. The ticket out for some of these girls were to snare a rich man who would keep them as a mistress. When that failed, magic is also used to take down a rival; and this was what, in my opinion, led to Peace Mansion having the haunted reputation it did.
Initially the bulk of the working girls were from China, but Thais, Vietnamese and even Mongolian girls started flooding the scene. Each bringing with them their own spiritual beliefs. Some of these fights can lead to bitter ends and if these tales were to be believed, magic was responsible for some of the suicides and sudden death cases. While the law could not catch them, it is said that blood debt requires blood sacrifices. These girls would use the lives of their unborn fetus as payment.
Any place with a high concentration of negative energy will attract spirits and entities from around the place, and over time, I was told, portals will form. For those dabbling in vices, they welcome such portals in their place of operation.
"The more spirits, the better. Then we can bind them to our will and ask them for favours," said Danny.
"The more spirits, the better. Then we can bind them to our will and ask them for favours," said Danny.
"But don't get us wrong. We don't use these spirits to do bad things. We also dedicate merits back to them. So everyone wins," Anthony added. "You think these KTV places all don't play with such things? I tell you this entire block has more ghosts than humans ah."
"So it's haunted?" I asked.
"Everywhere also got ghost lah," Danny replied. "You don't disturb them, they don't disturb you. But if you need help you can ask, but then you need to give them something too."
"Like that, isn't it easy to get rich? Just ask ghosts for help can already," I asked.
"It's that easy. The more greedy you are, the more you ask, the more you have to pay back. For me, I just ask for small blessings. Make me better looking so people will like my face and want to do business. Anthony here always asking for bigger cock. That one need miracle. Ghost also cannot help."
The table erupted with raucous laughter and exchange of generous expletives.
Danny continued: "But seriously, making money is not hard - if you dabble in the spirit world - it's keeping your money and knowing how to keep your promises that's."
This is a featured story based on my interaction with some interesting characters in Peace Centre. Personally, the scariest thing about Peace Centre is the toilets. The area around Peace Centre also have pretty interesting stories - Mount Sophia, Park Lane and the Old Cathay Cinema. Perhaps you might have some confessions of your own to share. We would love to hear from you.
Confession Journal is a collection of stories and reviews submitted by the public.