My supernatural encounter started when my son brought back a painting from a play that he had performed in. Cast and crew were allowed to take a piece of the set or a prop from the stage as keepsake. He chose to keep the vintage portrait of a lady. The stage manager bought it from a garage sale from an expat family who were moving back to their home country. The painting, held in place by a simple wooden frame, depicted a Peranakan styled woman staring blankly in front without smiling. The history of the painting and the identity of the woman remained a mystery. Whoever painted it, took effort, you can tell. This wasn't just one of the mass printed art piece.
According to my son, some crew members reported seeing an old lady wandering the stage during setup when there should be no one, other then the workers, around. Cast members would complain that the air-con was too cold in the room even though the air-con was off. Some said they can see shadows moving from the corner of their eyes or just an overall unnerving feeling of being watched.
My son didn’t believe in ghosts or other superstitious things. He said that there’s always some ghost stories floating around in theaters and that it was “normal” for people to react in such ways. He himself wasn’t affected by any of these stories, he said.
The first day the painting entered my house, I didn’t like it already. It was almost as if my sixth sense was trying to warn me. My son tried hanging it in his room but for some reason the 3M hook wasn’t strong enough to hold it up. It would fall in the middle of the night. This happened consistently over the next few nights at exactly 4.44 a.m. My son suggested drilling a screw into the wall but since we didn’t own any drill, we just left the painting in the storeroom in the interim until we found a neighbour with a drill we could borrow. As this wasn't a priority, life got on as usual and the painting got left in the storeroom.
Everyday for the next two weeks since the painting arrived, I had nightmares. I dreamt of an angry old lady standing outside my room door trying to get in. She would try the doorknob, and failing to budge, she would then hover towards the storeroom and disappear. The nightmare would replay itself night after night at around the 4 a.m. hour.
My husband would sometimes sit out in the living room to watch football till late. He would get this sense that someone was standing behind the couch and watching him. It would affect his mood and agitate him. Generally the whole house felt very “hot”. I remember the family arguing a lot during that month but I can’t recall what we argued about. Everyone was just very irritable.
Being the more superstitious one in the house, I decided to remove the painting from our home and see if it made any difference. I had half a mind to dispose of it but I felt that might just anger my son and bring the already strained relationship to another level. So I found one afternoon when my husband and son was out of the house, I removed the painting from the frame, rolled it up in newspaper and left it by potted plants outside. Just as I closed the door behind me and had taken a few steps in, I heard knocking on the door.
I turned around and waited. I didn’t see anyone outside just moments ago, how can there be anyone knocking on my door now? Then the knocks came again. More urgent this time. I looked at the peep hole and saw an old woman outside staring back at me.
I ran to my bedroom and prayed. The knocks came a few more times but eventually just stopped.
That night my son’s girlfriend came by to stay the night. She does this occasionally so it was nothing out of the ordinary. What was strange though was that she came in with the wrapped painting and said, “I think you left this outside.”
I asked why she brought it in but she just shrugged and said that while she was standing at the door she heard a voice telling her that I had left this wrapped item outside. So instinctively she just picked it up.
That night, I finally broke down and told my husband about the experiences I had. I thought he would debunk whatever I said but instead he listened intently and shared what he had experienced too. It was clear that there was something in the house with us and the painting was the trigger. That night my husband and I took the painting out, drove to a nearby park and left it under the tree. We didn’t know what else to do. We just hoped that we dump it far enough so that it won’t come back to us. We thought about burning it or throwing into the dustbin but I was afraid that that might just anger the spirit and cause it to harm us even more.
Now after all these years when I retell the story, my husband would joke that the knock on the door I heard might actually be a live old lady asking for help or one of the PA community members making their rounds and I just scared myself unnecessarily. I really want to believe that is true but somehow in my mind I still can’t shake out the feeling that what I saw was the spirit of the woman in the painting. These days I still do wonder who might have found the painting and if the new owner is haunted by it.
Confessed by Sally Y
SC's Note: And that is why you should never pick up things left under trees. It's quite a common reaction for people to buang (throw) cursed items under trees in public area. We are trying to trace the location of the painting now - so if you or anyone you know who is haunted by a vintage painting please reach out to us with your confessions.
About Painting of Oei Hui Lan (the woman in the cover pic above)
She is the beloved daughter of the famous sugar businessman from Semarang, Oei Tiong Ham whose wealth is well known throughout Asia to Europe. Oei Hui Lan is married to Wellington Koo, one of the Chinese ambassadors and sociable with European noble families ranging from Queen Victoria to Queen Belgium. Oei Hui Lan died in 1992 at the age of 93. Before she died, Oei Hui Lan had written and published a book titled No Feast Last Forever which recounts the journey of her extraordinary life. One of the relics of Oei Hui Lan is this painting which is located in Hotel Tugu, Malang. No one knows who the painter is, but clearly the appearance of Oei Hui Lan in this painting is pretty creepy.
I used to stay in a haunted executive HDB at Teban Gardens. It belonged to my aunt who left it empty for 5 years as she was working abroad. We used it as an interim flat while waiting to move into a second hand unit that we had bought. My aunt's flat faced the Pandan Reservoir. When I first stepped in, I felt an instant chill and tickling sensation on my spine - like the presence of something watching me. Initially, I thought I was being too sensitive because it was after all a new and unfamiliar place. It also didn't help that these old units had huge rooms and were very spacious. Large empty spaces to a nine year old child can play all kind of tricks on the imagination. My mum, two siblings and I slept in one room. There were two other rooms - one with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with old musky books - and a large storeroom that contained a mirror, a rocking chair and single hanging lightbulb, but was otherwise empty. Aunt said the stuff were left behind by previous owners. The items were old but in good condition so she felt it would be a pity to throw them away.
Strange things started happening almost immediately. My mum was cleaning the house and when she got to the storeroom, she suddenly felt her goosebumps rising. Instinctively she looked up at the mirror and saw in the reflection the single light bulb started swaying even though there's no wind. She looked closely in the reflection and saw the light bulb was twisting itself out of the socket! She turned around in time to catch the lightbulb just as it was falling.
Subsequently, my belongings started going missing. The peculiar thing was that the items that went missing were all white in colour - a tee, girl shorts and white velcro sandals. At first we thought maybe it was blown away by strong wind (SC's comment: When something supernatural happens, it's always easier to blame the wind). So my mum started securing my clothes with raffia and tape when she hung them up to dry in the kitchen. Again, some of them went missing. Here's the other weird thing: only my items were targeted. None of my siblings had their stuff go missing even though they were hanging on the same pole.
One night, my older sis’s boyfriend stayed over. We didn’t tell him anything about the strange occurrences. At that point, none of us rationalised any of these incidents as supernatural encounters yet. We just thought we were rattled by the sudden move and having our lives disrupted unexpectedly. We just didn’t put two and two together to think of these encounters as hauntings.
My sis's boyfriend slept in the spare room; the one with the old bookshelves. Around 3 a.m., he was rudely awoken with slaps to his face. He opened his eyes and saw an old lady standing over him, asking, " ni chi zhuang le mah?" Which translates from Mandarin to, “Are you awake or not?” He rubbed his eyes and the apparition was gone. He got out of the room to look around the house and saw no one. None of the other family members fit that description of the old woman. He thought maybe he had dreamt it and went back to sleep.
In another incident the following week, I locked myself in that same room after a fight with my sister. I can't remember what the fight was about but It was probably something lame that children, especially siblings, usually fight over. I sat in the farthest corner of the room and cried. To my surprise, through the sound of my sobbing, I heard the "tock" sound (It's the sound of the typical HDB bedroom door with a push button lock unlocking)! Then the doorknob turned and the door crept open slowly.
My first thought was - "those idiots found the door keys", but no one was there, and when I went out again, I found my siblings glued to the TV. I guess they could have faked it, but the time lapse between the door opening and me looking out the door was too short for them to have pulled that prank. Later, we found out that no one had the keys to the bedroom door, not even my aunt.
From that day on, I started feeling a sense of crippling fear. I can't explain why or what made me feel that way. Maybe it's my intuition trying to protect me: I was beginning to feel scared for no apparent reason. I wouldn't want to be on my own. Even when I was taking a shower, I would force my sister or mother to sit with me in the toilet to accompany me. Also, I witnessed, on multiple occasions, the rocking chair in the storeroom would move slightly at times, though to my naive kiddy brain, I always just thought it was the breeze.
Then my dad came back from an overseas deployment and stayed in the house for the first time. The next day he suggested to mom that the kids should stay over at another aunt’s place for a couple of weeks under the convenient excuse that it was the school holidays and we can spend our days playing with our cousins. It was only after we had moved out of the haunted flat that my parents told us what had really happen.
Dad always could sense "such things" his whole life. The first night he stayed with us, he was already able to sense an angry entity in the house. Although he couldn't see ghosts, he was able to feel them or catch glimpses of them from the corner of his eyes. The following morning when he came back from breakfast, he couldn't unlock the door with the keys. From the gap between the door and the floor, he could see a shadow moving behind the door, but the strange thing was that there's nobody home! He got angrier and angrier and scolded the “ghost”, demanding to be let in. He then stuck his talisman, the one that carried with him all the times, on the door. He felt the entity retreated from the door and then suddenly his keys could work again.
For the three months that my family stayed in that house, my dad and mum knew about the haunting but kept it from us because they didn't want to scare us. My two older siblings didn't really seemed to be affected very much. Perhaps I have inherited some of my dad's ability to sense spirits. Ironically, this experience increased my passion for anything ghost-related.
Confession by Rachel Y
It was back during my time in BMT, during the confinement week (first 2 weeks). I was appointed to BTMC school 1, Bronco company. Platoon 1. My bunk was located at level 2 of the building. As I was a new recruit, during the night water parade, I didn't think twice and drank the specific amount of water which my commanders ordered us to.
Little did I know, it led to my first supernatural encounter.
In the wee hours of midnight (3-4am), due to the amount of water I drank earlier on, I felt the urge to urine. Originally, I was supposed to call my buddy to accompany me, but being gung-ho I didn't wake up my buddy and went to the toilet alone. Quickly, I walked to the toilet from my bunk which was located right at the other end of the floor.
Upon entering the toilet, I walked past the cubicles and remembered seeing that all the doors were opened. It was clear that nobody was in the toilet except me. Hastily, I went to the nearest urinal to do my business. Once completed, as usual i went to wash my hands. It was this moment that something happened. The toilet cubicles were facing the basin area, so I'm able to see the reflection of the cubicles from the mirror. The first cubicle toilet system was the old flushing mechanism, those squat type toilet with the flush mechanism that requires you to pull the lever in order to flush. It was at this moment when I was washing my hands, suddenly the toilet at the first cubicle flushed. I didn't manage to see if the lever had been pulled. However, from my sight, I can hear and see water been flushed in that cubicle. Immediately, my fight or flight mode kicks in and I ran back to my bunk, covered myself in my blanket.
Since then, during the rest of my BMT days, I only drank a slip of water during night water parade, to prevent myself from going to the toilet in the middle of the night. Up til today, whenever I recall back this encounter, it still gives me a bad vibe and spook me.
Confessed by Lucian
Confession Journal is a collection of stories and reviews submitted by the public.